The start of December heralded the end of term – or rather the end of teaching, for there were still piles of marking to come and several surveillances (sleep-inducing invigilating – which ironically derives from the Latin word vigilare meaning ‘to stay awake’). Instead of toasting the end of term with a glass of Côtes du Rhône, I celebrated by binge-watching The Crown (which in my defence I had almost finished anyway), Paranoid and Luther on Netflix.
After a weekend recuperating/ in hibernation, I decided to commence planning for the next term – otherwise known as educating myself on X, Y or Z so that I can then educate eager (or not-so-eager) undergraduates on said topic. Roll on lessons on the Great Famine (featuring a create-your-own rap activity), the Easter Rising, the Irish War of Independence, the Irish Civil War, Slavery (resulting in me getting totally side-tracked and reading most of 12 Years a Slave as “background research”) and Prohibition. I’m even braving Brexit – by having my postgraduate group take on roles of British and EU leaders and then negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU. Songs proved a winner last term, and it seems there’s one for every EFL context; ‘Grace’ by Jim McCann and ‘Michael Collins’ by The Wolfe Tones have made the shortlist for upcoming lessons on the Easter Rising and the Irish Civil War.
On the 7th December, the English department held its annual Christmas Carols gathering – and as an Anglophone, I got roped into singing. Although there were a few songs I didn’t know, I didn’t make an idiot of myself – all those years of door-to-door carol singing with Vicki paid off! Being France, the festivities were supplemented with copious amounts of cake, biscuits and drink. Deck Lyon 3 with platefuls of biscuits, and all that.
A fortnight ago, Laurence came out to Lyon for the Fête des Lumières (more on that here) and we had a lovely few days wandering Lyon’s various arrondissements. After dropping his stuff off at my flat, we set off for the Croix-Rousse. Though it was a hazy day, this didn’t deter us – though the insane number of steps called for a few breathers on the way up!
We stopped off at Le Mur des Canuts, before heading down the slopes towards Place des Terreaux, picking up lunch at La Broche en route.
After eating our lunch on the steps of the town hall, we set off for the Marché de Noël. We passed some adorable piglets and super-fluffy goats en route – though I wasn’t interested in the eucalyptus sweets this charity were selling, the animals were ridiculously cute. As a Christmas market enthusiast, it has to be said that these were not the best; somehow, the festive ambiance was rather lacking. We enjoyed a plastic cup (no souvenir mugs here, sob) of mulled wine/ hot apple juice (or was it cider?) before making our way back to mine for tea.
On Saturday morning we ventured into Les Halles de Paul Bocuse. With polished counters selling everything from praline brioches, artisan chocolates, and macarons to cured meats, Valencian paella and fresh oysters, this food hall is a gourmand’s heaven. It’s also eye-wateringly expensive, so we contented ourselves with window shopping!
Having promised Laurence a roast chicken, we then wandered across Presqu’île to Quai St. Antoine to browse my usual Saturday morning market – which is much more budget friendly! Roast chicken purchased, we crossed the Saône and plonked ourselves down on the edge of a pavement in Place St. Jean. We must have looked quite the picture munching our baguette and bag of semi-chopped roast chicken, potatoes and assorted vegetables with our fingers. Not our classiest moment, but enjoying it hot was clearly the priority. Having polished off our lunch, we filled the afternoon with a wander up to Fourvière (no funicular for us) and a thorough exploration of Vieux Lyon’s famous traboules – secret passages which run through buildings and were used to transport goods to the river in the olden days. I couldn’t tell you for the life of me which traboules we went in, but they were a lovely way to escape the hustle and bustle of the surrounding streets. If you’re ever in Lyon, do spend some time trying to find them as you’ll be rewarded for your efforts.
Feeling rather weary after two late nights, we spent Sunday morning wandering round the Parc de la Tête d’Or (and warming up in the greenhouses!) before heading over to Vieux Lyon for lunch. We had no difficulty getting a table at L’Eau Salée and thoroughly enjoyed our traditional Breton fare. The only downside to the weekend was the absolute chaos of the Rhônexpress when Laurence departed – despite having allowed plenty of time, he arrived at the airport fifteen minutes before the gate closed for his flight. A close call to say the least – and one I hope I don’t have to experience myself!
Last week I had a couple of afternoons of invigilating – and had my first glimpse into exams à la française. Phones buzzed away in bags, coats could be worn in the exam room and dozens of students forgot (or ignored) the simple instructions to write their seat number/ room number/ name on their paper. I spent the weekend marking nigh on a hundred translation papers – seeing ‘la grippe aviaire’ (bird flu) translated as ‘pig fever’, ‘flying disease’ and ‘crazy cow scandal’ amused me no end, though the top prize had to go to ‘the California’s [sic] roast’ for ‘(la) sécheresse’ (drought). I imagine my lecturers had an equally amusing time marking my translation papers – I still remember translating ‘shed’ as ‘bâtiment jardinier’ (garden building) in my final translation exam.
On Monday, I spent a lovely (albeit foggy and extremely cold) day in Grenoble with Carole. After purchasing my ticket to Grenoble I was then informed that the train I had planned to catch had been cancelled, leaving me with an hour to kill at Lyon Part Dieu. Fortunately, I found a copy of Les Contes de Beedle le Bard in the FNAC, which I purchased and read while waiting for the train. Once in Grenoble, I met up with Carole and we spent the day browsing the Christmas markets and wandering the narrow, winding streets of the city centre. Although the fog never lifted as was promised, we took ‘Les Bulles’ (Grenoble’s jazzy bubble-shaped cable cars) up to the Bastille – still very foggy but nice to be out in the fresh air – and then walked back down the hillside to the city centre.
One of the highlights of the day was the Jardin du Thé – imagine an English old-fashioned sweet shop and swap the jars of sweets for tins of tea and you’ll get an idea of it. Boasting around three hundred different teas from all around the world, this is a tea-lovers dream. I came away with a sachet of ‘Noël à Québec’ (a maple-syrup flavoured infusion) and a taster packet of ‘Noël en Alsace’ (a citrus and gingerbread flavoured tea). Opposite the shop is its café, where we had tea and a bite to eat – the chocolate tart was divine. I’ve vowed to return in late spring to see the Capital of the Alps in all its glory (i.e. in the sun with blue skies and alpine views – fingers crossed!)
Today, I’m flying home for Christmas – bring on the mince pies! (Blogging will resume in the New Year – so Merry Christmas à tous and thank you for tuning in this year!)