Already, it’s been a week since my (delayed) flight touched down on French soil. The old adage of time flying when you’re having fun is, so far, holding true. The sight of Flybe’s automated baggage-drop machines at Manchester Airport was a relief, not least because it meant no-one was ever going to know how overweight my hand luggage was! A hot chocolate and a teary goodbye to Laurence later, and the baggage scanners at security were having the last laugh. My bag was scanned not once, not twice, but three times – by two different machines – before it was hand-checked and my large number of chargers and plugs were deemed to be the culprit.
Off to Fourvière we go . . .
As far as I was concerned, flight time equalled sleep time – so by the time we boarded the flight an hour later than scheduled, I was ready for a snooze. I woke as we were flying over Paris, and ended up spending the rest of the flight chatting to the man next to me who was off on a river cruise down the Rhône. When we landed at Lyon-Saint-Exupéry (named after the bestselling author of the children’s classic, Le Petit Prince) an hour later than scheduled, Flybe were quick to dish out free chocolates to apologise for the delay. Security was a speedy process, so it wasn’t long before I was on the Rhônexpress destined for Lyon Part-Dieu.
Half an hour later, with two wheelie suitcases in tow, I was making my way towards SLO Living Hostel, my home for two nights while I navigated the infamously challenging French housing scene. SLO Living Hostel is one of the nicest hostels I’ve stayed at – light, airy and complete with giant beanbags and a hammock in the outdoor common area.
View from Le Parc des Hauteurs (surrounding Fourvière)
Next up: dealing with the multi-faceted nightmare that is French Bureaucracy. It’s the ultimate chicken-or-egg scenario, whereby you can’t get a bank account if you don’t have a house, and you can’t get a house if you don’t have a bank account. Unfortunately, France, like many other countries, has its fair share of escrocs (frauds) who capitalise on the dire predicament that foreigners find themselves in. To cut a long story short, just before I flew out to France, I had been in touch with a woman about a flat in the 2nd arrondissement of Lyon. The flat was in the heart of Presqu’île, had been recently re-done, and was going for €350/ month, all bills included. This woman then asked me to make a security deposit via Western Union, on the premise that she didn’t want to come to Lyon for it to be a wasted trip. The mention of the words “Western Union” had alarm bells ringing and red flags up for my dad – and, sure enough, when I went to the Post Office to investigate I was warned by an employee that this was a classic case of l’escrocerie (fraud) and that any money sent would likely disparaître dans la nature (disappear into thin air, if you were wondering). So there I was, back at square one – but fortunately having lost no money in the process. Moral of the story: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Feminist graffiti, Montée des Chazeaux
My first evening in Lyon was thus spent Googling other potential options, including the agency Chez Nestor, recommended to me by another assistant at the university where I’ll be working. Whilst housing was proving problematic, I managed to obtain a French carte SIM with relative ease – when they needed an address to register it for administrative purposes, I simply used my former address in Alsace and hey presto, my prehistoric phone was given a new lease of life.
Glorious stained-glass window, Cathédrale St John
My bureaucratic nightmare was fortunately resolved the following day, when I managed to view and sign for a flat in the 6ème arrondissement and set up a bank account all within the space of a few hours.
Jardin botanique, Parc de la Tête d’Or
Since then, I’ve wandered up to Fourvière, marvelled at the stained glass windows in the Cathédrale St. John, spent many hours in the Parc de la Tête d’Or (literally, the Park of the Golden Head) visiting the botanical gardens and the zoo (both free), read Le Petit Prince cover-to-cover, began my quest to see all of Lyon’s famous fresques and moved into my new flat.
Fresque, «La bibliothèque de la cité»
All photos in this post were taken over the course of my first week in Lyon. This series will be updated periodically with snippets of expat life, under the title ‘La Vie Lyonnaise’.
- The Rhônexpress is the fastest public transport link between Lyon-Saint-Exupéry and Lyon Part-Dieu (Lyon’s main railway station). It’s €13.20 one way, if aged between 12 and 25 (inclusive), and takes 30 minutes.
- If you fancy a hotel experience for hostel prices, look no further than SLO Living Hostel (5 Rue Bonnefoi). Both dorms and private rooms are available, the shared facilities are squeaky clean, and there are plenty of events going on throughout the week. Pétanque, anyone?
- When house-hunting in France, beware of the scammers; use sites such as appartager.com and roomlala.com with caution. If you’d prefer the security of an agency, although the initial deposit and fees err on the expensive side, Chez Nestor (formerly known as My French Lifeguard) is worth a look (Lyon and Montpellier only).