La Vie Lyonnaise #6 | Last Christmas

You can take a Brit out of Britain, but you can’t take Britishness out of a Brit. In other words, as Michael McIntyre astutely noted, complaining is our national sport – be that whinging about the weather (wholly justifiable here, it’s -7°C in the mornings), lamenting the lack of cheddar cheese in the supermarket (sorry, but emmental is just rubber masquerading as cheese) or fussing over the French aversion to queues (a near-constant source of frustration). The highly-anticipated Vacances de Noël were a welcome respite from all of the above: England was positively balmy compared to freezing France; cheddar cheese was in steady supply; and queues formed naturally. (This is all intended in a very tongue-in-cheek manner; for all my complaints, I do still love France.)

Flybe have a slightly irritating policy whereby you can’t check in online for flights departing from Lyon – but had it not been for that, I would never have been witness to this rather amusing little dialogue:

Child: (looks at neighbouring check-in desk for a flight to Birmingham) Bir-ming-ham

Father: No, Birmingham

Child: (with glee) That’s where the Queen lives!

Father: No, the Queen would only go to Birmingham on official visits. She lives at Buckingham Palace.

On the 22nd, I met up with my Chester friends for our annual Christmas meal; we tried Chez Jules, but unanimously agreed it wasn’t the best place we’d tried over the past few years. It was lovely to catch up with everyone after being away for nigh on four months – and musical chairs round the table ensured we caught up sufficiently!


At the crack of dawn – well, before – the next morning, I caught the train to Cambridge to see Laurence. A combination of sleep and reading killed the time, and before I knew it the train was pulling into Cambridge; just past the ticket gates, Laurence was waiting for me with a pain au chocolat and a hot chocolate. We spent the day meandering through the narrow cobbled streets of Cambridge, pottering around the grounds of a few of the colleges and rounded the afternoon off with a slice of cake at Tom’s Cakes (my doorstop-sized wedge of carrot cake was divine). In the evening, after a mandatory trip to Nando’s, we went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It was a glorious revival of the wizarding world, and the magpie-esque niffler was utterly adorable.


Christmas Eve rolled round, bringing with it a pre-Christmas present opening session with Laurence and another train ride further south. A relatively low-key festive period then ensued, punctuated by food (and yet more food), presents and a Boxing Day walk along Camber Sands. Christmas dinner is my favourite meal of the year, and this year’s was no exception: turkey, ham, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes and other veggies, followed by mincemeat tart, cheese and a sliver of Christmas cake. Needless to say, I was feeling as stuffed as the turkey by the time I made it to bed.

Camber Sands

After a mammoth journey home (post-Christmas traffic, need I say more?) I had another brief catch up with friends before Laurence came to visit. Aside from touring the sales, we visited Chester Zoo, West Kirby and Parkgate, spent NYE watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I and made a delicious owl-shaped cake for Dad’s birthday.

One of Chester Zoo’s new baby elephants; another was born just after our visit
Chester Zoo
West Kirby
Happy Birthday Dad! (Inspired by BBC Good Food)

All too soon, it was time to fly back to Lyon and the sub-zero temperatures of the Rhône-Alpes region. Having agreed to assess speaking exams for a colleague’s module (Économie et Société Contemporaine), I spent my first day back studying the relevant sections of the module myself. It was all about the special relationship between the USA and Great Britain, and a lot of it covered issues I’d heard of (e.g. the Suez Crisis) but knew next to nothing about; fortunately, all went smoothly when it came to the exams and there were no calamities. The same cannot be said for the pile of third year Langue et Affaires papers I ploughed through that weekend – as over half of the students had simply left 50% or more of the paper completely blank. Whilst it made marking significantly quicker, I couldn’t help but gawp in disbelief – what sort of final year student leaves an exam paper blank? It was the first, and I hope only, time I gave a student zero for a paper.

Assessments aside, I’ve mostly been sitting at my desk (or huddled under my duvet) planning lessons for this term. A fortnight ago, Olivier organised a tour of the traboules of the Croix Rousse; I’ll save that for another post in the (probably very distant) future. I’ve been making a concentrated effort to eat healthily (i.e. less Haribo, more greens), read more (progressing nicely) and make the most of my remaining time abroad (highly weather-dependent at present). Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind – hopefully weekend can be synonymous with free time this term!

12 thoughts on “La Vie Lyonnaise #6 | Last Christmas

  1. I loved that little niffler!!! I almost never go to the movies but I’m so glad someone had the idea to see Fantastic Beasts, I absolutely loved it. That owl cake is seriously impressive. It should be on Pinterest. Can’t wait to read about the Croix-Rousse traboules! Maybe my old apartment building was on the tour 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was adorable – forget owls, that would be my Harry Potter pet! It was the first time I’d been in more than six months – it’s so expensive in the UK that I hardly go, and I’ve found in Lyon it’s much more expensive than it was in Alsace. It’s a BBC Good Food recipe/ design, so I’d hedge my bets on the original already being on Pinterest. Need to get round to sorting through photos and working out which traboule is which – but it’ll be up in due course (usually meaning a couple of months!)

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      1. Nifflers seem like they would be a cuddly pet (when not off getting into mischief). I usually prefer to stay home and watch Netflix for the same reason, but it’s true that there are some movies that are nice to see in the theaters, like Fantastic Beasts.

        A couple months seems like a perfectly respectable blogging timeline to me. (Of course, I’m years behind, sigh. I’ll never catch up on blogging!)

        Liked by 2 people

      2. When not consuming your keys/ jewellery/ other important metal items, I think they’d be great fun. I’m amazed Warner Bros. hasn’t cottoned on to the appeal of nifflers with its range of Fantastic Beasts merchandise though! I never used to watch that much TV (except when the World Cup or Wimbledon was on), but Netflix is a little like a black hole for me – the temptation to binge-watch series is just irresistible. I think being slightly behind on content is just a natural side effect of blogging purely for fun – after all, life takes priority!

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      3. You mean I can’t buy a stuffed Niffler to cuddle with? I suppose it loses some of its charm when it’s not getting into mischief. I have to be careful with Netflix – if I get addicted to a new series I can’t stop. Thanks for making me feel better about my slow blogging 🙂 Life > blogging!

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      4. Sadly not – or I would totally buy one too! Same here – I’ve watched four series of Homeland in the past month, which is pretty shocking for me. Quality over quantity and life over blogging 🙂

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    1. It was surprisingly easy to make – we adapted it slightly and made it with two circular cakes (the instructions called for one circle, one square) but it turned out just fine – and meant some people could have jam in the middle and others buttercream!

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  2. Sounds like you had a wonderful time back home for the holidays! Didn’t manage to make it to Nando’s myself, so it’s on the list for when I’m back in June. Hope this next semester in France goes well!

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    1. A fleeting visit was just what was needed, though it has made me miss home more now! At least for now we’re in safe hands with French and Spanish cuisine 🙂 Hope the semester’s going well for you too!

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  3. Glad to read that you had a very pleasant holidays back home! Not to forget the “Britishness” of it, as you wrote. That carrot cake is drool-worthy and I’ve yet to try Nando’s one day, should I ever return to the UK. I miss mincemeat pies; after trying them for the first time in Scotland, I have to say that they were incredible, even though the name sounded misleading at first to a non-Brit like me! Best of luck with the rest of teaching this term. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There really is something about your home country that no other country can replicate! Nando’s is well worth a try – some people don’t quite get the fascination with it, but as far as eating out in the UK goes it’s a pretty cheap option and tasty too (you can buy the marinades, rubs and sauces in supermarkets now to recreate the experience at home). I can imagine many foreigners would be baffled by that – names can be deceiving! I remember my German flatmate asking me about the British roast dinner, and he thought a Yorkshire pudding was a form of dessert… I found it pretty difficult to explain exactly what one was, since I don’t actually eat them myself! Hope this term’s off to a good start for you too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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