I wanna be like you, I wanna walk like you, talk like you

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This is where I now live: the library. I leave every so often for essentials but to be honest, if there is any mail for me please address it to

Peacock,
Bibliotheque
Université Jean Moulin 3
Lyon
France

The library here is very different from the library at home. First of all it’s tiny. I understand that I have been somewhat spoiled by the 12 floors of books in the library back home but honestly, 4 floors of desks, minus pretty much any books, cannot reasonably be called a library!

Change of scenery is always good on the studying front so off I trotted to have lunch with a new friend. A new French friend.

In order to get a clearer understanding of what was going on in the French lectures I had offered to swap English language practice for lecture notes from French students. I had had an unprecedented number of offers and eventually picked one girl with whom I was having lunch today.
Judging by the nature of the exchange I assumed that I would simply be chatting for a couple of hours in English, having a nice little afternoon to myself. Instead I had been invited to a tandem, not what i was expecting.
A tandem is essentially a language swap, French girl spoke in English, I had to reply in French – yeah, this wasn’t what I was expecting at.all.

It was great, tough but great. The fact that my tandem-partner’s English is near enough fluent maybe makes the whole process a little useless for her but hey, I’m learning tons!

Other interesting points today: somebody came on the subway today with a set of ladders. This occurred at 5pm. It was not necessarily appreciated by those in the carriage but hey, it was impressive all the way!

There’s a party going on right here, a celebration to last throughout the years. So bring your good times and your laughter too

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We are cake fiends.
More specifically we are beautiful, French Patisserie cake fiends.
We now have rather exacting standards on the cake front – not sure a M&S Colin the Caterpillar cake is ever really going to suffice again :/

Today was Miss Laura’s birthday, otherwise known as Operation Chocolate Cake.
The plan was simple: to go uni for 8am lecture, pick up the cake in a nearby bakery, go to the 2pm lecture, head to the restaurant for pizza 😀 Easy right?
Hmm, we’ll see.

1. After getting the lovely 7.15 bus into town I am chilling at the subway, you know, just a’waiting for my train. Announcements are made. It’s in French, it’s 7.30am, I’m not listening. On the metro I hop.
One stop, two stops, stop.
Yep terminé looks pretty damn close to terminate for a very good reason. Out we all go.
Fantastic, guess I am walking to uni this morning.

2. Lecture finished (more than a little confused about the content of the lecture but hey, more important things on my mind, namely, cake). Meander along to the bakery I had been eyeing up as birthday cake provider. I looked in the window, then in the shop, in the cabinets, on the shelves…
Nothing.
Nothing that could reasonably be described as a “beautiful chocolate cake” (these were Miss Laura’s words so this is what she had to have 😛 )

3. On to the subway I go, bound for another bakery, hoping for better luck with this one.
Train is tooting along nicely….then nope, train doesn’t want its passengers to be vertical, let’s brake suddenly and send them all flying one way…oh we’re coming to an immediate stop, that means sending all the passengers flying the other way.
Great.
And we wait.
And we wait.
And the lights go out.
Also did I message that it was like 25C today?!

After a fair amount of waiting the train was finally on its way again. Hmm, this has made things a little tighter on time than originally anticipated.

4. Find the bakery.
In the window sits a chocolate cake to beat all chocolate cakes. It is beautiful.
Finally we have a cake – it is in my hands! We are almost complete!
The trip back to university was like the journey that new parents make as they drive back from the hospital; nothing could happen to this cake. Every bump or nudge, I made sure I took it, guarding the cake with my own body.

5. I had just bought a chocolate cake to serve 6 people.
I was on my way to a lecture with 250 other people.
It was 25C out.
The lecture theatre is glass down one side.
I was about to take a work of chocolate art into a greenhouse :O
Phone calls/text messages/ Whatsapp messages and Facebook messages later the cake handover was initiated: it was now out of my hands.

The Dinner:
After demolishing some pretty damn amazing pizzas it was time for the grand reveal.
The string came off.
The lid unstuck.
I just hoped that it was ok, please let nothing have happened in transit!
The box was opened.
Gasps….
It was beautiful!
A cake of pure chocolate decadence containing the purest, silkiest chocolate mousse known to man.

Mission Complete!

I’m gonna call and make a reservation for me. Gonna ride a blue train, gonna ride a blue train.

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There are times when I am kicking about the city and almost forget where I am. Obvivously there are the little food shops that you don’t get at home, the impeccable French style and maybe the fact that everybody is speaking in French (!) to make me click that I am most definitely in France. On the other hand, there are some areas where I go to where I really could be anywhere.

For example, today I went to a shopping centre. As far as I can tell shopping centres are the same the world over. It is a little odd – I walk in to an air-conditioned, white-walled maze of shops with the odd food stall dotted around for good measure. It is clean, it is efficient, it is sterile. In some ways it is almost like removing the cultural identity of a place in order to impart shopping efficiency. I mean, I can’t knock it, the shopping centres/malls are brilliant here but there is nothing that screams French to me.

You walk around the shopping centre and you see basically see the same shops from home, selling the same clothes and the same music from home. Everything is so much more accessible now but purely through the mass production of the same things.
To add insult to injury we had lunch at a noodle bar. A noodle bar that could have been anywhere in the world (probably apart from Asia though!). As we had lunch we could see these little brightly coloured huts, almost felt like we were at the seaside…not quite what I meant when I meant the place should be more French but hey, it’s an attempt :/

Other points to note today: me and Miss Laura bought our railcards and tickets for Geneva today, exciting times!
– Understood a point made in my lecture as it was vaguely like a word we came across looong ago in Scots law back home, maybe all that feudal law stuff will be useful, who’d a thunk it?!

Last and most important point:
Today I had popcorn for dinner #spotthestudent
This isn’t overly interesting in itself: I had eaten a big lunch and wasn’t really in the mood for food after returning home at 8.30pm. What was interesting was the fact that my flatmate had never seen cook in the bag microwaveable popcorn before!
To be fair it had been quite difficult to track it down (had to go to the French equivalent of Waitrose to get my hands on any) but just assumed that the French preferred cooking the kernels to the microwave stuff.
Evidently I was wrong!
Furthermore made a lovely French mistake which actually worked in my favour:
What I meant to say, “yes it is difficult to cook popcorn in a pan because it burns easily.”
What I actually said, “yes it is difficult to cook popcorn in a pan because it makes a lot of noise.” :l

The words brûler (to burn) and bruit (noise) are annoyingly similar for non-native speakers!

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours

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I am a coffee drinker. I’ve not been a coffee drinker for very long, maybe about 15months but I am very definitely a coffee drinker and not a tea drinker.

To emphasise the point, I even crossed town with Miss Laura after a cancelled lecture simply to sit in a favourite coffee shop of ours and drink coffee. I’m sure there are plenty of coffee shops nearer to us but we are yet to find one that serves a better cup of coffee.

So for my birthday my present from Miss C Light? – A tea strainer with a rubber ducky. It is very cute and works by placing the infuser thingumy into the boiling water, the rubber ducky which sits on top of the mesh container with the tea bobs on the water and after enough time has passed you simply remove the ducky and voila – tea.

But I like coffee….I’m not a tea person :/

I didn’t understand.

The next day the mystery became even greater. In the post arrived a little red bag of tea. Yep, I’m still confused. I’ve been sent tea and a teastrainer, that is me the coffee drinker who has been sent this.
So I sat down to read the card (with a cup of coffee of course!)

And that is when it all started making sense.
There is a teahouse in Glasgow which sells maybe 50 different types of tea. I went once and vowed that the tea had been so good that I would try every tea.
Being in Lyon makes it difficult to drink the teahouse tea – so Miss C Light sent me some 😀
Neither of us know what it is or what is in it but all I can say is that it smells and tastes like vanilla and it is delicious!
So delicious I may even trade it for my cup of coifee….maybe! :p

Row Row Row Your Boat

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In my home town the highlights of the year are the horse racing weekend in September, a 2 day flower show where people come to buy floors and finally a 2 day festival in name of the national poet. It’s hardly a hub of excitement to put it mildly. Here on the other hand there seems to be goings on every week, every weekend, every day almost.

On the bus into town this morning Pepe commented on a couple of rowing boats on the Rhone. A few people out for a Sunday morning row, how quaint. Then there were a few more, boats with 2, boats with 6, with cox or without, boats with the rowers standing up, kayaks – there were literally hundreds of them. At a wild guess we estimated 250 boats but that could easily be too low. It was very pleasant standing with a loaf of bread from the market, watching the rowers go past.
We are yet to find out what this actually was though in some way the not knowing makes it even more pleasant through its obscurity.

On top of this our entrance to the main square was blocked due to road closures. BMX yesterday, marathon in 2 weeks, what other reason could they have to close the square today? The answer?
A roller blade race.
Of course – why did I not assume that a pack of competitive roller bladers were closing thr square to use it as the end leg of their race?!

I love that about living in a city – there is always something going on if you go look for it. The activities give a greater sense of community here, everybody is competing together, everybody is spectating together. Everything is obviously planned with such meticulous detail yet it all seems so spontaneous as things randomly pop up across the city.

After a very chilled last afternoon in Lyon with Pepe we headed out to the tram. Checking my bag to ensure I wouldn’t be holding any of Pepe’s belongings hostage in Lyon I realised an absence of my own – where were my flat keys?!
I looked and looked.
Nope, keys were in other bag – I was locked out :/

It’s fine my flatmates will be in….few facebook messages later, nope, everybody is out.
Great.
After saying good bye to Pepe it was off to Miss Laura’s to kill a few hours before the return of the flatmates.
I feel like there must be some award due for me; I’ve locked myself out 2 different ways (with keys and without keys) in the space of 4 weeks, that is impressive!
So eventually I am home, now to tackle on my ticket stubs etc and create another Wall of Stuff!

And you’re singing the songs, Thinking this is the life

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It’s a very chilled out place here. Back home it feels like everybody is rushing, everybody has somewhere that they should be. Here people have places to go but they take their time getting there.
I’m trying to adopt this French/Lyonnaise chilled attitude, I feel it will make me seem more French and for sure improve my French….. :p

Anyways, this morning I practiced this relaxed way of life and didn’t get out to have lunch with Pepe until about 2.30 maybe even later.
The restaurant/cafe we went to was the one we lost yesterday (stupid guide book) and it specialises in quenelles. Quenelles are like dumplings. Not dumplings like Dim Sum but more like the eggy, starchy dumplings that you get at home was stews. These dumplings aren’t quite do heavy but they are delicious. The quenelles that I tasted previously were flavoured with Pike, this seems to be the traditional method of making quenelles.
This restaurant however was not restricted simmply to Pike, instead there were quenelles made with cuttlefish ink, various cereals, pronvencal flavourings or other fish.

Being a cheap student (see Thursday’s post!) I decided that the soup, quenelle and pudding was definitely the best priced lunch offer available. Faced with all the choices me and Pepe decided to play it safe, Highland Soup (essentially Cullen Skink – haddock chowder) with a quenelle dumpling followed by a chocolate fondant for me and raspberry for Pepe. Having tried quenelles before I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be to Pepe’s liking but thankfully the meal was fantastic 😀
Now I just have the rest of my year abroad to (a) understand what all the flavours of quenelles are and (b) try them all!

From here we decided that it a visit to the park was in order. Having lived in Glasgow where it feels like there is a park in every neighbourhood it is quite strange here that you can’t just go and sit somewhere green for a bit. Having said this I felt that a trip to Parc de la Tete d’Or was definitely needed!
Plans were scuppered though; bus was packed, not a snowballs chance in hell we were getting on it. Oh well, park another day then.

Instead we headed to the river and walked along the banks. And walked. And walked. And walked.
It was great watching the cyclists, skateboards, long boarders, roller bladers, scooter users (don’t think you call them scooterers!) out for a leisurely jaunt along the river 🙂
And then before we realised, we had walked a good 45 mins and ended up at the huge beautiful gates of the park.

Inside the park it was evident that it was worth the walk. The park has everything: a lake where you can rent rowing boats/pedallos, little islands you can wander to, rose gardens, green open spaces, an open air velodrome, miniature railway, zoo and many other things. Know where I will be spending most of my year! :pAfter a quick detour for pain au chocolat blanc when we left the park (they are officially the best sweet treats here – squidgy par baked white dinner rolls stuffed with white chocolate, warm and gooey they are Heaven!) we headed for our last dinner before Pepe’s departure.
I decided that when in Rome and all that, it was time to try steak tartare. I don’t know what I was expecting raw mince to taste like but whatever it was, the real deal blew it out the water – it was delicious! Once again, bit of an obscure experience but hey it was an experience!!

It’s my party I can cry if I want to

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It was my 20th birthday so what better excuse to get all the international students together for a get together/good night. I was a bit stumped on what we were actually going to do; clubs aren’t really my thing so decided to steer clear of them, bars are fun for a while but can get quite boring quickly. I wanted to pick something that everybody would like…
First thing that came to mind?
ICE-CREAM

I mean really, who doesn’t like ice-cream?

So there we were, 20 or so students from Scotland, England, USA, Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria standing outside my favourite ice-cream parlour eating delicious ice-cream.
There were so many choices of flavours….and it was my birthday party…..therefore it was completely reasonable to have a cone with 4 scoops of ice-cream in it xD
Balanced precariously in my cone was white chocolate sorbet, white peach sorbet, marscapone ice-cream and gingerbread ice-cream – it was sensational!

After much ice-cream chat it was time to head to a bar. To be honest, I didn’t care what we did for the rest of the night, I had ice-cream so I was content!

It was a nice end to a busy day. The Lyon sky-line is dominated by Fourviere, a huge white and gold church on the top of the hill. It is a must see in Lyon so off we went, me and Pepe, to explore.
The church itself is incredibly beautiful yet it is almost overshadowed by the spectacular view of Lyon that it gives.
Walking back home after ice-cream and drinks, walking up to the church, I can say for sure that the night time view is just as spectacular as the daytime view.

Points of note today: we collected conkers in the gardens of the church – because I am so mature now that I have entered my 20s :p
The main square, Bellecour, was pretty much closed off today for the some extreme sports championships. It was quite cool seeing the heart of the city fenced off and a course constructed for BMX riders to perform on!
Pepe and I tried to find a restaurant that was described in the guide book. The map is wrong in the guide book…..always useful!

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin, Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in

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As a student I am always tempted by cheap things. I am like a Magpie accept I am physically drawn to the reduced things instead of the shiny things! Unfortunately I am also the daft student who see something cheap and decides to buy it simply based on the fact that it is cheap, complete disregard for the fact that I had had no intention of buying said thing anyway so in fact I am dong anything but saving money!

Sometimes though this can lead to trying something that I probably otherwise wouldn’t have bothered with.
Today? – The ballet.

So after my second 8am start in a row we headed out to the Opera House to see Limb’s Theorem.
The Opera House is a very striking building in the 2nd Arrondissement. It is a pretty cool place even if you are not going to see a production as you can simply sit outside and watch the break-dancers practice/perform in front of the mirrored glass 🙂

To be honest I have a rather typical view of ballet, all tutus and men in tights. I also think of ballet as telling some sort of story through the medium of dance.
Tonight though I was very much proved wrong, on all fronts.

First of all there was no story as far as we could tell. The production was a fusion of modern ballet and contemporary dance and though there were a few common themes between the 3 acts, namely the contrast of light and dark as well as the use of light as a prop/environmental aid on the stage, there was no narrative.
To be completely honest this made it slightly harder to follow yet did encourage you not to try and understand it but simply to admire the grace/strength and skill of the dancers.

Furthermore there was no tutus.There was also no tights…
Instead there were shorts, leggings, jogging bottoms, onesies and ribboned trousers.

It was a pretty surreal yet enjoyable experience and for 10E it was 3 very interesting hours!

Success of the day: managed to get the washing machine to work! Clean clothes again, yay 😀

For it’s a grand old team to play for

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First thought of the day: do I particularly look like a smoked and that is why so many people ask me for cigarettes or is it just a given here that people smoke so they assumed I do too?

National stereotypes can be frustrating, sometimes offensive and often largely inaccurate, hence why I try to steer clear of them the majority of the time. However, the stereotype that all French smoke is by and large fairly accurate. Smoking seems to be a national pass-time here and rolling your own cigarettes is a national sport. In every café or restaurant most tables will have some sort of smoking paraphernalia on display on the table. I also know for a fact that there is a rather extensive ban here on smoking in public, a ban they are currently seeking to extend to include parks and beaches. To be honest though, it isn’t like anybody really follows the ban in the first place so it’s not as if further legislation is going to do much good!

It is an interesting part of French culture though. One thing that it makes you wonder is how much pressure the health care here is really facing due to the health concerns caused by smoking and by passive smoke inhalation. Smoking isn’t something reserved for any particular class or type of person, it is probably one of the most inclusive activities in France! If everybody is doing it then surely a fair number of them are going to experience some form of negative effect?
At home you see health campaigns almost on a daily basis from subjects ranging from alcohol consumption to smoking yet here I have seen none. It feels very French, very much a laissez-faire attitude, the people can do as they wish, it is their lives in their country. The question is though, for how long can the government afford financially to turn a blind eye to smoking when it surely is causing a great burden on the health care system?

Anyways, I was asked for a cigarette at the bus stop this morning – I said no, seeing as I don’t smoke….end of that story. :p

Today was my specific French law lectures: Droit des affaires and Droit Civil. Droit des affaires was pretty horrendous, comprehension level = minimal. Everything looked up after lunch – I had a lemon meringue pie tartlet, how could life not be good?
Droit Civil was marginally more successful though 200 students, in a predominantly glass lecture theatre, between 2pm and 5pm did not make for pleasant working conditions i.e. the heat was unbearable. Comprehension level = fair.

French lecturing style is very very different from at home. At home it is all about “maximising your learning experience,” keeping the student “tuned in to the relevant content given in the lectures.” Here the lecturer couldn’t really care less how your “personal learning” is getting along. Instead the professor simply sits at the front and talks. They talk for 3 hours…
The students type. And type. And type. For 3 hours the students type verbatim what is said.
For Erasmus students it is nigh on impossible to take notes to that level without the aid of at least a powerpoint or two.
Hence why I decided that somehow I had to get my hands on some of these notes taken by the French students! Posting on a Facebook page designed for the law students I offered the only thing I knew would be of value here in exchange for lecture notes – English practice!

Off to watch the football we went, forgetting about the post, football being way more important.
Champions League tonight, the big one.
It was one of those typical nights that football fans come to expect, especially fans of clubs who are famous for punching above their weight. You start off nervous but there is no expectation, we’re not going to get a result, might as well enjoy the match.
Then the match gets going and the team looks pretty good – you start to believe.
Then you get chances – “we could actually get something here, this mob are for the taking” – that kind of mindset.
Then there is hope.
Then expectation…

And just when you are convinced that it is simply a matter of time before your team sneaks the result the other team score a lucky goal….and then another and that’s it over.
No result, hopes dashed and you question why you put yourself through that again.
The beautiful game eh?

On the plus side I returned home to 10 offers of notes for English – now to decide who to pick!

Life is a rollercoaster just got to ride it

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As much as Monday was my first official start of term I only had one class and it was a French language class. Today was when the real “fun” began – law lectures, in a France, in French, let’s see how this goes….

When it came to course selection there was a number of different directions you could go. You could decide that you wanted a pretty straight forward year and basically study subject you’d already tried, typically the subjects that aren’t country specific, EU law for example. You could decide you wanted to go to the other extreme and take subjects that were purely France specific, Droit Constitutionnel for example.

It is a bit of an awkward decision. If you go for the first option then surely you are just as well staying at home, I mean, I could study EU law or International Relations in Glasgow, why come all the way to Lyon to study them? On the other hand, why study purely French subjects that will have very little application on your return as they are very specific to France?
I decide to circumvent the problem a little with a nice mixture of French law: Droit des affaires (business), Droit Civil (Civil/Property), Droit Pénal (Penal/criminal law); and more general law subjects, Introduction to Comparative law, Histoires des Idées Politique (a subject loosely equivalent to Jurisprudence).

Today was my general law day, Comparative and Histoires des Idées.
After triple checking the venue of the lecture, arriving, doubting myself and going back to check again I was finally ready for the lecture!
Comparative first; first subject of the day, first subject of the year….and I understood it! Result!
(Granted I was constantly checking my notes off of the laptop of the girl sitting in the row in front of me but we’ll just skip over this fact!)

A celebratory lunch was in order with Pepe at Kaffe Berlin (yes I did move to France to go and have lunch in a German café, I’m multi-cultural ok? :p ) The café sells delicious German fare including an amazing selection of filled bagels (you’d have thought that burgers on a bagel really does work?! To my German friend’s disappointment they don’t actually speak German in the German café – all for show I guess :p

Still on a high from comparative law off I trotted to Histoire….and that’s when I came crashing back to earth. This class is hard; I know nothing about Aristotle and Plato in English, I have no chance in French! The fact also that the lecturer takes a deep breath and speaks at a million miles an hour until she has run out of puff doesn’t exactly help.Traipsing out the lecture at 8pm it is hard to accept that I will be back there a mere 12 hours later – 8am lecture tomorrow, let’s see how that one works out :/