November kicked off with 25°C sunshine in sunny southern France, and is ending with sub-Arctic temperatures here in Lyon. The leaves in the park have gone from lush greens to fiery oranges and reds to non-existent; the streets are now bedecked with fairy lights, an enormous Christmas tree complete with giant bears is the new centrepiece of the Part Dieu shopping centre, and the Christmas markets have opened. Christmas is well and truly on its way – and the festive-themed lessons have begun before it’s even hit December.
For the Vacances de la Toussaint (essentially the French equivalent of the October half-term, centred around yet another bank holiday) I headed south to Marseille. Laurence and I spent five days consuming pastries and ice creams galore, taking in the gorgeous views of the Mediterranean and soaking up the sun. Besides Marseille itself, we also ventured out to Martigues, Cassis, the neighbouring Parc National des Calanques and Aix-en-Provence. It was a much-needed break before the colossal piles of marking began to accumulate! I’ll post in more detail in due course, though likely not until next year at the rate I’m going.
A week after returning from Marseille, my lovely little sister (who’s actually taller than me) came out to Lyon. Unfortunately, the day she arrived I was working until 6.30pm, but luckily she kept herself busy in the afternoon exploring the Mémorial National de la Prison de Montluc, located a stone’s throw from my workplace. Vicki then met me on campus at the end of the day, armed – much to my delight – with a fondant au chocolat! After a fairly late night by my standards, we had a bit of a lie-in the next morning before setting off to hunt down some croissants. As it was Armistice Day (a national bank holiday in France), this proved rather difficult, but eventually we tracked some down at a local chocolatier.
Mur des Canuts, Lyon
We spent the morning exploring the Croix-Rousse, before warming up with a hot chocolate and heading up the hill to Fourvière. After admiring the panoramic view of Lyon, we bought a few postcards from a nearby shop and headed inside to admire the opulent interior.
View of Lyon from the Croix-Rousse
We detoured via the Théâtre Gallo-Romain de Fourvière on our way down the hill to Vieux-Lyon, where we ventured into a number of foodie stores. After a hefty number of samples, we concluded that Le Comptoir de Mathilde was a gourmand’s heaven, with its delicious chocolate-based spreads, confectionary and liquors. After exploring Presqu’île, we headed home to make a black forest gateau, complete with lashings of blackcurrant coulis, almost a whole jar of cherries and delicious chocolate buttercream. Unsurprisingly, this cake didn’t sit around for long… We had tea at a quaint little crêperie in Vieux-Lyon called L’Eau Salée – hardly traditional Lyonnais fare, but we both fancied a crêpe-fest. I’m already looking forward to a return trip with Laurence when he visits in December! On Saturday morning, we went for a brisk walk in the very misty Parc de la Tête d’Or, then warmed up with a cuppa and a wedge of cake at mine before Vicki had to head to the airport.
Cathédrale St. John, Vieux-Lyon
After dropping Vicki off at the tram stop for the Rhônexpress, I then decided to take a trip to the Mémorial National de la Prison de Montluc myself. Whether you take them up on the free guided tour or simply explore at your own pace, it’s a fascinating place to visit; check out this post for more details. Due to the timing of my visit I even managed to purchase a ‘Bleuet de France’, the equivalent of a remembrance poppy, just in time for Remembrance Sunday.
Mémorial National de la Prison de Montluc
A couple of weekends ago, I signed up for another hike with the assistants de langue; this time, a small group of us took the train to Ambérieu-en-Bugey before hiking up to three hilltop castles – Château de Luisandre, Château des Allymes and Château de Saint-Germain. Again, I’ll post in further detail in due course.
Hiking near Ambérieu-en-Bugey
The past few weeks of teaching have been punctuated with hefty piles of papers to mark – whilst ninety is terror-inducing, this week’s hundred and sixty odd have really tested my concentration levels (which are now close to non-existent!) Fortunately, every now and then there are some absolute gems which save me from going completely insane – such as “to triplicate” (to triple), “baked chicken” (roast chicken) and an all too literal translation from the French expression garder son sang-froid resulting in “I always try to keep my blood cold” (to keep calm). Several weeks ago, I finally got to grips with Moodle, Lyon 3’s answer to the VLE; ironically, the students who wanted the resources to be put online aren’t the ones who actually use them. C’est la vie… On an unrelated side note, JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Michael McIntyre’s “Americans don’t understand English” sketch proved to be a winning formula for my first-year students – it’s no easy feat to maintain students’ interest in English until 8pm, especially when they’re not there out of choice, but a lesson on Americanisation seemed to go down a treat.
As this post goes to (digital) press, ten hours of teaching stand between me and the much-needed Christmas break – roll on les vacances!