My time in Lyon was full of ups and downs, highs and lows. At times, it felt like a game of snakes and ladders: I would triumphantly ascend a miniscule ladder with each email written in error-free French, only to slide down the longest snake known to mankind two squares later. Living abroad is a steep – and occasionally unforgiving – learning curve, and I’ve learnt a lot from this particular séjour. With that in mind, it’s time for Nine Lessons (and one Carole*) from Lyon . . .
This time tomorrow, give or take a few hours, I’ll be flying home to the UK. I’m simultaneously ready to leave and try something new, apprehensive about The Future (due in part to the ongoing quest to find a job) and sad to be leaving one of France’s most beautiful cities. (That said, the prospect of leaving the humid heatwave behind is an immense relief.) Summer is already in full force here, and I’ve been busy making the most of the new season peaches, nectarines and local cherries on sale at the local market. (Can cherries for the equivalent of €2.90 a kilo be a thing in the UK too, please?) Alongside revisiting some of my favourite haunts across Lyon, I have (of course) found the time to venture out to other corners of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes before my stint abroad comes to an end.
As my time in Lyon draws to a close, it feels as though time has cruelly sped up. I’ve begun to make a dent in the unexciting list of departure-related chores, but I still have a list the length of my arm of places in and around Lyon that I want to see (and of boulangeries I’m yet to try), though the time is disappearing – and fast. Fortunately, I’ve already whipped out the felt markers and drawn up a calendar to hold myself accountable to making the most of the remaining weeks in Lyon.
April has passed in a whirlwind. The last thirty days have been absolutely jam-packed: with job applications; with stacks of papers to mark; with seemingly endless sights to see. I have exactly two months left here in Lyon – give or take a day since I’m yet to book my flight back to the UK – to finish exploring the nooks and crannies of each and every arrondissement, visiting all the municipal museums with my Carte Jeune Musées and eating my way through Lyon’s boulangeries.
Spring has finally put in an appearance and, after January’s sub-zero temperatures and February’s perpetually grey skies, life feels a little brighter as a result. (The fact the end of term is just over two weeks away may also have something to do with that, but I digress.) Grassy verges in the Parc de la Tête d’Or are covered in swathes of golden daffodils, bees are buzzing amongst the blossoms, and primroses, forget me nots and daisies are abound.
Not so long ago, I joked to one of the secretaries – the one who I know on a first name basis – that the tail end of Lyon’s winter is akin to a British summer. On February 1st, it was a balmy 16°C; I could happily have worn shorts, but for the fact I was teaching and that probably wouldn’t have looked all that professional. (The fact I’m often mistaken for a student by administrative staff is beside the point.) Temperatures are climbing steadily upward, and at this rate I’ll be spending afternoons in the park reading my books sooner than I had anticipated.
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.)
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.
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.
Forget idyllic snapshots of the Mer Méditerranéenne, for over the past month I’ve been drowning in the Mer de Bureaucratie – my apologies for the horrendous pun, but the analogy is just indescribably accurate. Practically a cultural institution, the formidable administration gleefully creates more paperasse (red tape) than anyone should ever have to deal with in their lifetime and, more often than not, not even its devout worshippers (read: personnel) can be bothered to deal with it. Fortunately, there’s an exception to every rule and last week the marvellous Mme Goudet resolved 99% of my administrative problems with one swipe of the keyboard. The reason for my problems? There were two Mme Mahers at Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3, and someone, somewhere, had muddled up the details in the system. I’ve never come across someone with my surname before, so imagine my surprise when that turned out to be the reason behind the timetabling chaos!