La fin

Everyone’s getting up to board, we will be too soon.

The final leg is nearly over, after missing the original flight to Darwin, Flippa and I spent the day in a hotel room. Caught in a kind of limbo in two senses: not yet home, but no longer in France; but also in between asleep and awake, exhausted but over-excited.

Mostly I am over the moon at the prospect of seeing my family in under 5 hours. Of seeing my friends the day after. Of being home, in the town and country I’ve come to appreciate from afar. Of going back to everything I know and love.

But I’m also incredibly sad at the prospect of leaving France, of leaving my family who came to be a second family for me, of leaving friends with whom I’ve become very close, of leaving a town and a country which became for me a second home. Of having finished the adventure of a lifetime.

But I know I’ll go back, back to my second family, my second home, my friends.

And adventure is never really over. Life never fails to provide adventures, as we was proved this morning when we encountered just another hiccough.

From this end of the tunnel, every inch of me is more than glad that I made the leap and went on exchange. If you can and want to – do it. Take the leap, it’s nearly always worth it in the end.

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Bonne Année

Happy New Year!

One week ago I was receiving Happy New Year messages from Australian friends and family, and couldn’t help but wonder when time grew pelagornis sandersi wings. How could I have less than a month left? How can I have, today, only 2.5 weeks left! It fills me with both an enormous amount of excitement – seeing my family, my friends, my Darwin, my Darwin life, for the first time in five months makes me nothing but overjoyed. But at the same time, over these past (almost) five months I have developed a life here, a family, friends, habits, I have fallen in love with my town, with Lyon and with France. I know I will miss them all. Especially my family.

But back to New Year’s Eve…

The afternoon I went to Grand Parc Miribel Jonage with Dom, and we went for a lovely walk there. It looked very different to the last time, so much more harsh and ‘wintery’, the kind of place I’d expect a good old heart chilling detective story to take place.

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We weren’t sure where we were, but that was part of the adventure.

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We saw far more birds than we did people (less than 15 in an hour), which only helped to make the hour or so wonderfully serene.  ny blog post-3 ny blog post-4

The sun was almost gone when we got back to the car, noses cold, but hearts warm as always after immersing ourselves in nature.

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That evening we went to friends of my host parents’ house. We ate four courses over two hours – chips, nuts and champagne; foie gras with jam; salmon and leek tart; finishing with an ice cream and sorbet cake.

At midnight we wished everyone Happy New Year, including cheek kisses, and then, a bit sadly, we all pulled out our phones and tapped away…I mean sure we all have loved ones who are elsewhere…but what happened to making the most of the company you’ve got? I’m as guilty as the next.

The phones were eventually put away, and we spent the next four hours playing board games! Jungle Speed, Pictionary, and Brainstorm. It was great fun, we had a great laugh, and it was a great way to start what I hope is and what looks to be the greatest year yet!

Happy New Year! I hope yours is also the best yet. Or at least one of the best.

Joyeux Noël

xmas blog post-19The good old saying “life gets in the way” works well here…but anyway, JOYEUX NOËL! Or if we’re going for the more politically correct version, JOYEUX FÊTES!

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We had a real pine tree!

Like in Australia, Christmas in France revolves around food, food and more food.

For me the holiday spirit really kicked in when I went to the boulangerie on the morning of Christmas Eve (of which there are at least 4 in this town of 12 000 people!) to buy some baguettes for lunch. The line was long but I wasn’t bothered because it gave me more time to gaze at the delicious looking desserts and breads. Plus it was Christmas time – how can you be impatient at Christmas!

IMG_2294 IMG_2293 IMG_2292We arrived back and the household had grown by three people – Nicole’s sister, Monique, her husband, Gilles and their granddaughter, Maëlys. They were all delightful, and great company for the next few days!

For the French, or at least in this household, Christmas Eve evening, there is a massive meal which we all dressed up very nicely for. So in between lunch of Baeckeoffe of Alsace, and the large meal to come, we went for a wander around Genas, and I found another lovely street I hadn’t explored. I mucked around and had a great time with Maëlys (almost 6).

Later Dom went to pick up his Mum, and his son, Romain arrived sometime in the early evening.

We were finally a band of 9, and started the starters around 10pm.

That was followed by foie gras de canard, eaten with a type of salade green (called mâches) and homemade bread…I have to say that whilst most of the table was in love with the foie gras, I was not a big fan. Neither the texture nor the taste rocked my boat. I did, however, quite like the sweet wine that went with it.

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For mains we had guinea fowl, cooked apples and cardoons (aka artichoke thistle, aka a totally new vegetable for Becky) gratiné.

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Next the cheese platter marched up from the cellar to the dinner table, beautifully presented, and containing 11 different types of cheese – a camembert from Normandy, cheese from the Pyrenees make from ewe’s milk, from goat’s milk, from cow’s milk, and from a mix of ewe and goat’s milk, Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Nectaire, Tomme de Savoie, and two types of blue cheese. I tasted every single one of them between Christmas Eve and today, the day we have finally finished it!

Of course, there was another wine specifically for the cheese. And it was a red, as anyone who knows anything about wine in France would know (i.e. not me).

But my favourite new found thing on the cheese platter was the black cherry jam from the Pyrenees which we ate on homemade bread, topped with any of the 11 cheeses.

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Bûche de Noël (Yule log) fait maison! What winter Christmas would be complete without at least one sponge cake rolled with butter cream (ours had a few tablespoons of cocoa powder added)? It was great fun to make, and almost as good to eat.

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Around 1am the Cognac and the chocolate crept not-so-discretely onto the table. One tiny drop of the Cognac and I was safely back on the boat of water-drinkers. But I was completely and utterly convinced by the chocolate truffles, which made music in my mouth, with their perfect balance between sweet and bitter, soft and crunchy. And what’s more, they were a riot to make. Chocolate ganache, rolled in melted chocolate, then cocoa powder, then left to harden at room temperature (you can do that here!!!). If you’re not convinced, I will make you some and you will be.

Around 3am, after some dedicated BuzzFeed video watching, I fell asleep, my heart sparkling with anticipation for later that morning.

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Hot chocolate, pain au chocolat – what a delicious breakfast. I started by dipping my pastry in the hot chocolate like everyone else was doing with their tea or coffee, but discovered that soggy pastries don’t light up my taste buds like crispy ones do, so I stopped immediately.

At 9:30am I Skyped my family! It was absolutely wonderful to see them all again, to talk to them face to face, I am so thankful that the technology exists to be able to spend a bit of Christmas with my family no matter how far apart we are.

We finished up as the presents began to unwrap themselves. I gave my host family a few tastes of Australia – a billabong t-shirt for Audran, a eucalyptus leaf necklace for Nicole, a Gurrumul Yunupingu CD for Dom, and an indigenous print tablecloth and a Paul Arnold book of stunning shots of the Territory for all of them.

I got all sorts of great things, including jewellery, recipe books, pot holders with 3D chicken heads, perfume, a Zaz CD, and a few beautiful cards from friends and family.

Before we tucked into the tucker, we went out for a brisk walk in the wintery air, which did a lot of good. We even encountered an old tank, and a dog who followed us all the way to the last corner before home, then scampered away.

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With the seafood outside in the cold, we could get started on the aperitifs – wine, olives, white sausage, mushrooms, cauliflower, mayonnaise, tomatoes, cheese, and an unidentifiable but yummy white dip. xmas blog post-14 xmas blog post-15

Next we got into the seafood, starting with the oysters, which we good on their own, with lemon juice, or with rye bread and salted butter.

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Two more bûches de Noël appeared on the table, and we certainly weren’t going to let them go to waste!
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Chocolate in many forms – base of brownie, mouse, cream, crunchy balls of chocolate and a powdery outside.

xmas blog post-18Mandarine, cream, sponge cake, meringue made up the second bûche. I have to say that the chocolate won my heart more than the mandarine.

With lunch finished a bit after 4pm, I fell asleep on the couch watching Ice Age with Maëlys (I only had 5 hours of sleep so I think I earned it, plus, you know, the good old parasympathetic nervous system). I am almost certain I was not the only one to have napped a bit. About an hour later I awoke feeling strange to have napped during the day, and started writing up the past two days in my journal.

We had a simple vegetable soup for dinner, then played a game similar to Trivial Pursuit. Nicole won by miles, and in only two turns, we just couldn’t pick out a card that would trip her up! It was great fun.

We watched a film that obviously didn’t really capture me because I can’t remember for the life of me what it was, then headed off to bed around midnight.

The next day I went into Lyon with Nicole, Monique and Maëlys. I assumed it would be nuts, with Boxing Day sales everywhere. But man was I wrong. It was almost ghostly how few people there were, and there were sales here and there but nothing like the crazy Boxing Day ones I expected. Apparently the sales start in two weekends here.

It was horribly tedious, but the next few days were spent being forced to finish the delicious feast we started on the 24th and 25th December.

All in all, it was a wonderful Christmas. I wasn’t sure how I was going to go spending Christmas without my family for the first time, but from the bakery visit on the 24th I realised that I was still spending Christmas with my family – my second family here, and my family in Australia who are always with me with their love and support, and whom I am reciprocally always with. I think and hope I will remember this Christmas and be able to go back to the fond memories and new traditions. I certainly have a few to add to ours at home!

I hope you all had wonderful Christmases filled with awesome people, food and times as well!

Bisous,

Becky

A Very Inspiring Blogger Award

very-inspiring-blogger-awardI was flattered Sunday morning to find a comment on my about page, from A year in Périgod, telling me I had been nominated for A Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

First and foremost, a massive thank you to Graham, whose blog is a wonderful smorgasbord of French culture, with a new post every day, since the start of the year!

Seeing as I never imagined getting traffic from anyone other than my family and friends, this came as a great big, but very lovely, surprise.

The award comes with a few tasks to do

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other blogs you enjoy, then comment on their posts to let them know that you have nominated them.

So seven facts about me

1- I am an obsessive list-maker – things to do, recipes to try, places to go, people to email, questions to ask, things to google, lists to make. If it is list-able I will list it!

2 – I am a hopeless foodie.

3 -And as such, I adore books and films based around food.

4 – As well as books and films in general – my (current) favourites being “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, and Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”.

5 – I am obsessed with food blogs, and food photography and writing.

6 – I just finished watching Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” (which, funnily, has the same title in French as in English), which I found a bit depressing, very strange and overall not exactly enjoyable but interesting.

7 – At the moment I basically only listen to Zaz because it’s the only French music I have put on my phone, and I’m (mostly) avoiding English until January 25th 2015.

15 blogs I enjoy:

I follow so many these days, especially food blogs, it was hard to narrow it down to 15, but here they are A-Z:

5 Second Rule – The thing I find most addictive about this blog is the writing. The stories are so wonderfully written.

aime & mange – The food photography and styling of this French food blog are stunning.

 Cation Designs – The sewing blog that inspired me to really learn to properly sew, so thank you for your inspiration!

Chef Nini – Another French food blog, the recipes and photos on this blog are to die for.

House of H – Beautiful stories of everyday life which inspire me to love and live a little more every day. And laugh.

Hummingbird High – Bursting with beautiful photos, amazing recipes, and stories that really make me feel like Michelle is sitting next to me chatting.

Ingénue Me – I love Lauren’s critical thinking, her unafraid opinions that inspire me to speak out, to think critically but compassionately.

Marine is Cooking – Recipes with awesome photos, travel and food-related events, what more could you ask for?

Molly Yeh – My goodness, the photooooos, the stories, the fooooood, there is something about the way Molly writes that just pulls me in and hasn’t let me go. Not mention her personality that literally jumps into the room with me every time I read a post of hers.

My New Roots – Filled with delicious, healthy recipes and photos to make you salivate. What’s more I love the philosophy of the author that she is “a person who eats” rather than a label (eg. vegetarian, vegan, frutarian, etc.)

Natalie’s Lovely Blog – A list-maker as well! An (ex-) Exchange Student as well! A teenager as well! A poet as well! (although a  much better and braver one than me) Honestly how could I not adore this lovely blog.

Smitten Kitchen – Aside from her oh-so-gorgeous photos and recipes and food and writing and blog and everything, this is where I found the recipe for my first ever (successful) attempt at home-made hummus.

Tangerine Zest – First of all let’s just appreciate how awesome this blog name is, then the equally awesome photos, and recipes!

Top with Cinnamon – This fellow (sort-of-)teenaged foodie is incredibly inspiring with her words, her photos and her food. The fact that she is only two years older than me is even more so! What’s more, her vibrant personality that comes bounding out of her blog. All that together makes it one of the blogs I would choose if I were only allowed to read three.

What Katie Ate – A fellow Aussie with one of the most beautiful blogs ever. Especially in terms of photography and styling.

What Should I Eat for Breakfast Today – is question I ask myself so often. I’m so easily bored by the things I usually eat for breakfast. With this blog, my question is always more than satisfactorily answered. With beautiful photos and words to make my tummy rumble too!

One last massive thank you to Graham!

Lyon

More than a month after the event, I bring you the photos of my second day in Lyon with Flippa during the school holidays, mixed with a few from the first in order to make a nice little review of Lyon. Enjoy

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I now feel qualified to say that Lyon deserves a visit.

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It’s a city brimming with culture, food, and history. Whilst I wouldn’t give it the 3 Michellin star worth-a-specially-dedicated-trip, I will say that if you ever have the chance; take it.

me roman ruins-2Lyon is thought of by many as THE gastronomic capital of France. The food is hearty, and the city too. I’m lead to believe it’s full of great restaurants, and my experiences so far have been diverse and delicious. From the bouchons to the crêperies, the boulangeries to the cafés, the glaceries to the épiceries. What’s not to love?

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Pain au Chocolat by the Saône anyone?

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Flippa was brave and went for the Steak Tartare, and it payed off!

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Chocolate crêpe in the street!

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The flower shape of the ice cream was too tempting

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There is one thing Lyon boasts that very few others do: traboules! Traboules are passageways that cut through houses, or whole building blocks. They’re dark, cool tunnels with smooth, Gothic roofs; but also include the courtyards and staircases with amazing skyward views, and beautifully coloured and textured buildings. They were built for the people of Lyon to access the Saône river for water around the 4th Century, before the luxurious and lazy days of running water, and allowed the silk workers to run between their workshops and the merchants’ shops. Given the time of their creation, the traboules are found in the old areas of Lyon, nearly all of them are either in Vieux Lyon or La Croix Rousse. In World War Two they were also used to move from one dwelling to another without being seen by the enemy.

traboule staircase-1 la longue traboule-3 The thing about the traboules is that they’re very hard to find. Only a few of them are open to the public, one of which is La Longue Traboule, found between 27 rue du Boeuf and 54 rue Saint-Jean. However many of the others are now shut, as they are passages through still-inhabited apartment blocks.

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We pushed and pulled a lot of locked doors before finding ones that were open. It doesn’t help that what exactly defines a traboule is a bit hazy. But we had fun trying to follow the map of blue dots.

And thanks to our adventure we found an amazingly beautiful street in the Croix Rousse. It’s called Montée de la Grande Côte and if you’re ever in Lyon, go there.

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The view of La Croix Rousse and La Fourviere from the street

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The other street which is a must-visit is Rue Saint-Jean. It’s home to many bustling bouchons, more cute boutiques that I can count, the longest traboule in Lyon. It’s cobblestoned and pedestrian, just like Montée de la Grande Côte. And it opens out onto Place Saint-Jean, where we find the majestic Cathédrale Saint-Jean.

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One of the many gorgeous boutiques

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Cathédrale Saint-Jean

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CRÊPERIE!

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Another very unique thing about Lyon, which is another must-see, is the Murals, or Murs Peints. The first we saw was Mur des Canuts, which was also the very first to be made. The goal was to brighten up the otherwise very bleak and ugly backside of a building. I think we can all agree they were very successful. Since the original painting in 1987, it has been updated according to the lives of the people in the painting, who are real inhabitants of the area!

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The second and last that I visited with Flippa was Mur des Lyonnais, which is another, smaller but still enormous mural, depicting famous Lyonnais standing on the balconies of apartments. They include Antoine Saint-Exupery, the Lumiere Brothers, and Saint Irenée (full list here).

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There are several others, which include Mur des Écrivains, another massive mural dedicated to French authors and their books.

Lyon also has plenty of very classy graffiti, which adds so much interest and value to the average street. Here are two of my favourites:jellyfish graffiti-1 cherche encore street graffiti -1

As for some more history, Lyon is also home to Roman ruins:

me roman ruins-2Many beautiful churches, one of which is L’Église de Saint Paul tucked away in Vieux Lyon, another place I recommend visiting. eglise saint-paul-23

Don't you just love stain-glass windows

Don’t you just love stain-glass windows

And Lyon sports some spectacularly magnifique architecture:

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Enjoy this quirky statue from La Croix Rousse, roller-skating like many other French.

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And, to finish, a nice little self-esteem booster found next to the Saône:i <3 myself-1

Weeeeeekend

Wow! Another awesome weekend.

It was filled with great company, my family,

good food,

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My Cordon Bleus

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Followed by my Brownies

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followed (the next day) by Nicole’s Pot au Feu,

followed by Nicole’s Tarte Tatin

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filled with beautiful fresh produce at the local farm and market,

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and magnificent Autumn-ness all over the place

sans titre-19and shopping, for Christmas decorations, and boots, and garden pots

and bowling, and billiards, which were great fun, with all the usual suspects plus Romain, my half-host-brother who lives 40 minutes away

and swimming, only 1.7km this Saturday, and none this Sunday

and breakfast pastries, a croissant for me

and a France v. Australia rugby match, which caused a lot of tension (not!),

and smiles, laughter and love.