La rentrée: a uniquely French phenomenon which bears little-to-no resemblance to its British counterpart “Back to School”. Otherwise known as administrative chaos, wall-to-wall lengthy réunions and a near-constant torrent of paperwork – but with a few delights from my favourite pâtisserie du coin thrown in to take the edge off it.
When I posted the first instalment of this ten-month-long saga, I was yet to experience an authentic French réunion. It’s not far from the truth that meetings can, and will, go on for longer than the average pause déjeuner and by the end of la rentrée most attendees will be suffering from a severe case of meeting-itis. Since meetings last as long as James Cameron’s Titanic, it takes an Olympic effort to resist treating each reunion as an exercise in power-napping.
Exploring the 6ème
A week after I arrived in Lyon, our flat of four was finally complete; after a meeting-filled Friday, Saturday was spent giving Anselm a tour of Fourvière, Cathédrale St. John and Vieux-Lyon. We also discovered the Marché Quai Saint-Antoine: stall after stall selling everything from charcuterie and Mediterranean olives to fresh fruits and enormous tomes of cheese. Since then, not a Saturday has gone by without a trip to the market, where fresh produce doesn’t coûter un bras.
I’ve also had plenty of time to devote to two of my favourite pastimes: baguette tasting and binge-watching GBBO. By the end of the year, I’ll have a compilation of “best boulangeries in Lyon” up on this blog – after all, someone has to do the market research in anticipation of visits from friends and family, don’t they?
Tartelette aux framboises
The peculiarities of la vie française have surfaced on more than one occasion, like the time a man whipped out his chequebook to pay for a pack of loo rolls in Carrefour. Or the time someone bought fourteen baguettes in Lidl and even the cashier couldn’t believe his eyes. Or, particular to Lyon, the hordes of businessmen whizzing to work on their scooters – yes you read that right, not bikes, scooters.
Parc de la Tête d’Or
Over the course of the past week, I’ve mastered the art of CervoPrint, eventually gained access to the Intranet and am successfully navigating my way round Lyon 3, albeit with the help of a map as numbering the rooms logically appears to have totally bypassed whoever constructed the Manufacture des Tabacs, Lyon 3’s main campus. My first full day was something of a baptism of fire: an 8am to 8pm working day, featuring classes on the NRA, WW1 propaganda, behavioural interviews and Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist. Suffice it to say, I was absolutely shattered after that – but at the same time delighted that everything had more or less gone to plan.
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon (x2)
I celebrated surviving my first week with an afternoon of cake-munching at a colleague’s (recipe coming soon) and exploring Lyon for free courtesy of the Journées du Patrimoine initiative. This nationwide programme of events featuring free (or dramatically reduced) entry into many of France’s finest cultural institutes is a culture vulture’s dream. It’s also an opportunity to get a sneaky peek into a few venues which almost never open their doors to the masses – like Lyon’s majestic Town Hall, which makes Queenie’s residences look somewhat sub-par.
L’hôtel de ville, Lyon (x2)
To round off a somewhat stressful but largely enjoyable first month, I have begun to conquer my nemesis of making phone calls in French – though I relied on YouTube to help me with the “toilet flush button stuck” dilemma earlier this month. I don’t think my degree quite prepared me for explaining the intricacies of toilet mechanisms…