Dijon, Day 3

Have I mentioned that all the museums in Dijon are free? Well, except for Musée Magnin, but our Pass Education, which grants teachers free entry into certain national museums, took care of that.

Our museum-hopping began with the Musée des Beaux-Arts, though I confess it was too religious for atheist me—I have no interest or knowledge whatsoever in Christianity, as evidenced by me placing my hand on Madeline’s shoulder and whispering, “What the hell is Leviticus?” during Women in Religion fall semester of senior year. Instead of looking at the endless pieces of crucification and the Virgin Mary, I proceeded to get distracted by the window views.

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Musée Magnin was next on our list, and it housed paintings and even some of the original furniture from the 1800s.

We wandered into the église Saint-Michel next (how many churches and cathedrals does this city have?), and then entered the Musée de la vie bourgignonne, which was simultaneously my favorite and least favorite museum of the day. I had to nope my way out of the first floor because it was full of wax figures, and anything 3D that resembles humans just freaks me out. The second floor was much less terrifying, with incredible reproductions of 18th century storefronts.

Afterwards, I absolutely did not go into the Musée d’art sacré just to see the inside of the domed church rather than the religious items on display. Finally, A and I hit up the Musée archéologique, which is pretty self-explanatory, and then we took a quick peek at the marché de Noël during the evening.

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Thoughts on Dijon? I love it. We didn’t even originally plan to come here at all, but I’m so glad we did. The city is full of historical charm, and all of the natives are so friendly. 10/10 would live here (and in Lyon, too).

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Dijon, Day 2

Under the pleasant surprise of blue skies and sunshine, A and I explored the farmers market in Les Halles as well as the stalls lining the surrounding streets.

After giving in to our American roots and lunching on bagels and cream cheese, we dropped by the cathedral and then headed to the tourism office since we’d reserved spaces to go climb tour Philippe Le Bon–the student price was only 1.5€/person, and they never bothered to check our student IDs. Perks of looking young, I guess?

The climb to the top of the tower consisted of 316 steps, but the result was so worth it. Hopefully the gorgeous view of Dijon from atop the tower distracts from the fact that I’m hardcore squinting. (No, Iszi, I am not being racist; there was too much sun.)

We chatted briefly with an American man who was wondering what on earth two fellow Americans were doing in Dijon, and then we ventured into dangerous territory: the bookstore Gibert Joseph, where I had to tell myself that no, I do not need any more books.

After escaping from the bookstore with unscathed wallets, we explored the marché de Noël.

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Next, we hopped onto the free, cute little Navette buses for a brief, free tour of the city (seriously, Laon, look at how on point Dijon is; where’s your free transportation?). Our last stop before defrosting in our Airbnb was the Cathédral du diocèse–I guess the trade-off for sunlight is freezing weather, though this time my hands didn’t freeze off because I finally managed to find a pair of warm gloves.

Dijon

After our BlaBlaCar from Lyon, Dijon welcomed us with warm, gray arms. After lunch, including a tartelette aux framboises that was so delicious I almost cried over it, A and I delightedly took all the flyers and brochures that promised free entry into museums from the tourist office.

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Dijon’s a charming little place, and the fact that we stumbled across a little free library with a copy of Le Petit Prince inside only cemented my love for the city.

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After checking into our adorable Airbnb (where I was greeted with the lovely surprise of a bichon frise trying to lick my face), I pretty much spent two hours wandering through centre-ville and its various shops, and although I failed to find warmer gloves for my child-sized hands, I did get to drink in the quaint architecture and cobblestoned streets under a sheet of fine rain.

A and I met up at the H & M, and then had our dinner highlight: while paying for our food, the restaurant owners went, “Oh, you’re from the United States! We were wondering why you were speaking such good English!” They were super nice, and now I feel kind of bad for lying about being a student to get the discounted menu price…

Peanut salary struggle aside, we haven’t even been here for a full day and I already want to live here. Why is France like this?

Christmas Adventures in Lyon

Enticed by the sight of a blue sky from the sole window of our Airbnb, I moseyed back to the Parc de la tête d’or, because the park was too pretty to resist and I hadn’t seen the entire place yet.

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When I finally found the lake, I eyed a pair of ducks as I descended to the water and left a paper boat for a certain someone–hopefully it doesn’t count as littering because paper’s biodegradable. And hopefully a duck doesn’t eat the boat and the quote I tucked into its mast.

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My excursion resulted in two wholly different encounters with strangers. Stranger #1 asked me in Chinese if I was Chinese and whether I could speak Mandarin, and she seemed trustworthy because she had a toddler-sized child with her, so I said yes.

Turns out she wanted to borrow my phone to call someone, and even offered to pay me–and my brain could not find the proper words in Chinese, so I hastily reassured her in French that no money was necessary. After making two calls, she thanked me profusely and told Léa, her daughter, to thank me too, but the girl just smiled at me because she was shy.

We had a bit of small talk–whether I was born in France, what I was doing in Lyon, and then the inevitable “You’re already working? You’re so young. Are you in your teens?”

Me, somewhat despondently: “I’m actually 22.”

The mother then made sure that I knew how to get back to my apartment before saying goodbye, which was super sweet.

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Stranger #2, unfortunately, was nowhere near as sweet. On my way back to the Airbnb, I passed a guy rearranging persimmons outside a corner store. He said bonjour, so I simply assumed he was being friendly and returned the greeting–then he asked, “Ça va?”; I replied “Oui, et vous?” and continued walking.

He shouted, “Wait, wait,” and actually chased me around the corner, so I turned confusedly, and he said, “Can I ask you a question?”

After I mumbled “Oui…?” he went straight for the jugular and asked, “Are you single?”

I immediately lied and said “Non,” to which he responded, “Me neither,” which didn’t make sense so I promptly lied again and said, “I have a boyfriend.” (Maybe I should’ve said that I have a girlfriend just to see the look on his face. Oh no, the gays are ruining the dating life for straight people!)

And do you know what this guy proceeded to do? Ask if he could give me his number. So I casually walked away instead of deigning him an answer–I don’t have patience for men who think women are objects.

Okay, enough saltiness–if anyone’s still reading, happy holidays!

Lyon, Part IV

Day 5 (Dec 23):

The statue of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the Lyonnais author of the renowned Le Petit Prince, served as a nice literary start to our day.

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A and I then embarked on a journey to see the Musée des Confluences (and by see, I mean stare at the outside, not actually look at the science and anthropology exhibits–hey, even my nerd has limits). The museum, located in what appeared to be the modern, industrial area of the city, was also situated right at point of the peninsula, thus granting us a lovely view of the rivers.


Like the experts we are, we then tried the bus system–and proceeded to get off too early, wait in the middle of nowhere, get off at the correct stop but then have a man help us because we were clearly peering around in pure bewilderment, and finally find the Fort de Bruissin…which was unfortunately closed. But hey, we got a nice look at the Croix Rousse district via bus.

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We decided to finish off our day in the picturesque Vieux Lyon, where we managed to finish the majority of our souvenir shopping for ourselves and friends/family.

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Day 6 (Dec 24):

I’m starting to think that I haven’t seen blue skies in days because Lyon probably knows I’d cry over how pretty the city is when it’s drenched in sunshine.

My point: look at the Parc de la tête d’or. How is this city real?

After I folded up a French quote and left the resulting origami bird atop a chair for someone very dear to me, A and I stocked up on groceries (we’re not about to starve on Christmas when everything’s closed), we explored the Part-Dieu mall, where I decided to add a 5€ shirt from Primark to my flannel collection.

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Final verdict on Lyon? Don’t make me leave this place, it’s too pretty. How do I move here permanently?

Lyon, Part III

Day 4 (Dec. 22):

Today’s to-do-list: the Fourvière area, which is situated atop a hill overlooking the entire city. We took the cable car up and then entered the Basilique de Notre-Dame, which was…breathtakingly beautiful to the point that A and I were both rendered speechless.

After finally kicking ourselves out of the basilique (What even is the English word for that? Welcome to the French major struggle), A and I stumbled across an equally stunning sight: a sprawling view of Lyon.

The Gallo-Romain ruins were next on our list, but as incredible as they were, it was simply too cold to remain outside any longer–we hurried back to our Airbnb in the 6ème arondissement to defrost.

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We did, however, scurry out again at night, back to la Fourvière just to see the view of Lyon again at night, and it was well worth the frozen fingers and noses.

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Why is every part of this city so ridiculously photogenic, regardless of time or weather?

Lyon, Part II

Day 3 (Dec. 21):

A and I decided to live up to our tourist names and start the day off with the tourist office, where we accumulated a number of brochures, pamphlets, and maps. Armed with that multitude of papers, we looked around a comic book shop and then found our way to a some strange flower tree, a colorful artist project that looked cheerfully and utterly at odds with the rest of Lyon.

We hopped back onto the metro (I adore Lyon’s public transportation; it’s so efficient) and got off again at Vieux Lyon. This time, instead of gawking at the cathedral, we actually went inside. Afterwards, we popped into a few souvenir shops to find presents for friends and family.

Mission somewhat successful, we met with J again for a late happy hour lunch at a traditional Lyonnais bouchon, where we paid 11 euros for an incredibly delicious 3-course meal. I’ll just say that the people who stand outside the bouchons, trying to persuade passersby to come eat their food, are an odd mixture of aggressive yet charming.

After stuffing ourselves with an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, we meandered through a few traboules, passages between buildings used by silk merchants way back in the day, and then sauntered to the Presqu’île and got to see Lyon at night.

 

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I may not remember the last time I saw the sun, but this city is so breathtakingly gorgeous that I don’t want to leave.

Day 1 (Dec. 19):

Uneventful. Arrived from Strasbourg via bus, waited for our Airbnb host to give us the keys, and walked in a huge circle in our search for Thai and Vietnamese food because Google Maps betrayed us.
Day 2 (Dec. 20):

After making plans to meet up with J, an assistant in Dordogne, A and I wandered through Vieux Lyon for the first time, where we were instantly captivated by the narrow streets and vividly painted buildings.

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When we walked into the Musée miniature et cinéma and heard Harry Potter music playing overhead, we knew we’d made the right choice of museum to explore with J. The museum itself was an adventure all on its own, a winding maze through a historical building, and although I was fascinated by the movie props and costumes and intricate miniatures, I noped my way out of the room with realistically stuffed animal and alien props.

Afterwards, the three of us had lunch and then decided to cross the Saône River. There, probably one of the most memorable moments of the trip occurred when I was posing for a picture to send to my mom (she’s the kind of person who will hunt me down if I don’t send her enough pictures of my face)–someone ran up and threw their arm around my shoulders. Luckily, the mysterious photo-bomber turned out to be a chill native Lyonnais dad with an adorable family who kindly gave us directions to the murals we were looking for.

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We located La Fresque des Lyonnais, a mural featuring famous historical figures (I completed the mission a friend gave to me and spotted Louise Labé), and then climbed all the way up to the Croix Rousse area to see La Mur des Canuts, a trompe-l’oeil that made me think the shop and bank depicted in the mural were real. Bonus: we also got to meet Manny the 3-month-old Border Collie puppy, whose name means “precious stone” in French.

Finally, the three of us wandered down to the Presqu’île (the peninsula between the Rivers Rhône and Saône) and sauntered along the incredibly long street until we found and explored the marché de noël.

Strasbourg

This is a rather delayed blog post, but I haven’t really been in the blogging mindset due to unforeseen circumstances that I’ll get into later. Without further ado, bienvenue à the two days A and I spent in Strasbourg:

Day 1 (Dec. 17):

Met up with C, a fellow assistant in Amiens, and wandered through the marché de noël while I awkwardly dragged my suitcase along behind me.

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Highlight: while we were lunching on munstiflette, two guys speaking English walked past us, decided our food looked delicious, and then switched to French to ask us what we were eating.

Eventually, I dropped off my suitcase at the Airbnb where A was waiting for me, and the two of us went to a cat café to meet up with C and wander through the Petite France neighborhood area.

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Back at our Airbnb, I was introduced to the strangeness of beauty pageants because our host was watching Miss France.

Day 2 (Dec. 18):

Museum-hopping because we bought a discounted all-day student pass with our no-longer-relevant college IDs. We hit up the Musée archéologique, which is pretty self-explanatory; the Musée des beaux-arts, which was acceptable; the Musée des arts décorarifs, which was gorgeous; the Tomi Ungerer museum where my poor innocent eyes will never look at frogs the same way and where I read an email that irrevocably changed my life; the cathedral; the Musée de l’oeuvre Notre Dame, where we got to virtually climb the cathedral and have a 3D view of the city via Oculus; and finally the Musée alsacien.