Sunday, January 31, 2010

Traverser en traboulant

This weekend, we had our CUPA orientation trip to Lyon. It was awesome! We had some fantastic food, some weird food, and some that I feel scared that I ate since I didn't know what I was eating. But, all in all, it was an amusing and tiring two days.

Geography Lesson: Lyon is in the south of France and it's only two hours away using the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, which is French for super fast train!). It is the third city of France, the second being Marseille (you know, where the Count of Monte-Cristo was from!), and apparently the gastronomic capital of France. The food is very traditional, and by traditional, I mean I don't know what I ate for dinner last night, except for the chicken - I ordered chicken in a vinegar sauce. But, I'll get to that later.

We had to meet at the Gare de Lyon (train station) at 8:15 in the morning yesterday, which was hard since I hadn't gotten much sleep all week because of the university visits. The whole CUPA team went (except Cecile), including Nathalie (the housing director), MaryAnn (the one who visited Hopkins after I found out I got in), and Marie and Chantal (the two French students who plan conversation workshops and practical things to do with us). The whole trip ran very smoothly, so I hope they feel bad about treating us like babies for a lot of it. For example, they made us all give them a "caution" of 30 euros before we left, just so we wouldn't forget to come. Then, they told us to meet at the train station a good 30 minutes before the train even got there, so we all just stood around. Basically, we were a big herd of American students the whole time, but at least we were all responsible.

Our hotel, Mercure, was huge and beautiful! The room was big with a flat screen TV, the beds were comfortable (or maybe it was just because I was really tired), and they had a delicious breakfast included in the stay. After dropping off our bags, we walked around for a little bit and they gave us a little over an hour to get lunch. Then, we had a guided tour of "Old Lyon." The city is really cute - it's a really interesting mixture of the old and the new. There are also lots of little shops and restaurants, and passages through buildings from street to street that are called "traboules." These passages just look like plain doors from the outside, so only the real Lyonnais know they're there. That's why, during the Nazi occupation, they used the traboules to plan and hide. To go from street to street using the traboules is called: "trabouler." It's a verb that they only use in Lyon. We had a guided tour, where we saw a church and its mechanical clock, trabouler-ed a bit, and then we had free time, during which we got hot chocolate and saw the second church that's up on the hill. By the way, Lyon has a mini Eiffel Tower. I think it must be a law - all French cities need one to make American tourists happy!

That night, we had the most bizarre meal ever. I'd describe it, but I don't exactly know what I ate. My main course was chicken and I had sorbet for dessert, but that's all I know. I think I also had egg in vinegar, some sort of liver, I tried sheep stomach (tripe), and other stuff that I couldn't recognize. The dinner started with some kind of special drink. I forgot what it was called, but it was some sort of sweet red thing, and then you poured white wine into it. It was sweeter than wine, and I liked it better, but I still didn't really like it. I also didn't like the thing we were supposed to eat with it, which I was told was fried bacon? Then, we had every appetizer in the restaurant, main courses, and then dessert. We were really loud too - the whole meal was about a four hour event, and by the end, I was practically falling asleep. But, a lot of kids wanted to go out. I went back to the hotel with the sensible ones and got a decent night's sleep so I could be wide awake to hear the stories...

Basically, they were at a bar or a club and they saw Marie who was with three random strangers, apparently. Then, when they decided to go home, Marie's shoe broke so they were walking for about an hour in the snow because they got lost and Marie went barefoot. She looked so perky in the morning though, but I did hear her say "mal aux pieds." I'm glad I slept, but that would have been an interesting night. Today, we went to the Lumiere museum. They invented movies and color photography. But, while we got to watch excerpts from famous old French movies, most people just slept. There were some that were pretty strange (bizarre - the greatest French word ever!), including one about a woman and her husband who killed 112 people and made snow men out of them? Then, after that, we went to a great restaurant where we had a meal prepared by Chef Paul Bocuse, who is apparently famous. It was kind of depressing, because it was probably the best meal I will ever have.

Now, I'm back in beautiful Paris, the first city of France! And, I think this blog entry is getting a little too long. But it was for two days instead of one.

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