Home at last

20 June 2011

Before I start blogging about the above, I have to share a dirty little secret with you. I just tried to make coffee in our trusted little coffee maker – the carmencita. Today, I wasn’t making purist coffee: I forgot to put water in the coffee maker, so I have just been roasting the ground coffee a second time. No wonder really, that it seemed to take forever to get ready and I noticed that something was wrong when I got a whiff of campfire from the direction of our cooker. I cooled the thing down and have just had another go at making coffee, using the doubly roasted ground coffee. Not to save money, but just to see if you can further enhance an already seriously strong café. I shall drink it now and carry on writing. I will report any effects in real-time.
So, back to what I was going to say.
A few weeks ago, I realized that my memories of England may not be fading, but they seem to become a bit outdated, (I haven’t been to Britain in about a year now) and I have stopped missing England completely. This is strange, because I didn’t notice this happening, I just woke up one day with the realization. Boy, that coffee is strong and it tastes like it smells — burned wood! It’s certainly different!
So, to celebrate the successful completion of my transition from GB to France, I decided to make a list of 10 things I love about France and Lyon. This is a real-time thing too, so I don’t know if I can actually come with ten, but I’ll try:

1. The weather.
Long summers, cold winters and in between a lot of additional sunshine and the occasional thunderstorm with sometimes hours of spectacular flashes of lightning and torrential downpours. This is wonderful in the summer when it’s been hot and dusty.

2. The Alps
… and the lakes. It’s great that they are only a good hour’s drive away. (The really spectacular places are further away, but you get to see some nice nature if you drive for an hour and a bit. And some really great lakes for swimming)

3. The Food
That one is obvious, I guess. Need I say more?

4. Taking your time
I have slowed down so much since I moved here. And this is good. People in England will remember me as running around like a headless chicken on occasion… Obviously, this is partly to do with not working and juggling university and family plus social life at the same time, but also with the fact that people here take the time to go to the market on a Sunday morning to buy their fruit, vegetable and meat or fish there. They also take time to prepare and eat their food. Then there is always time for a petit café or even to slurp some oysters. This I haven’t done yet, and I kind of dread the mouthfeel that oysters probably give you, but I am determined to try it one Sunday. My man has agreed to accompany me, maybe it will happen this next Sunday? If I don’t write on Monday, I might have dysenteria, so watch this space. (Just for the record: I may be German, but the EHEC thing has never freaked me.)

My coffee is giving me some strange feeling in my heart. I will carry on drinking, though, because I am also getting plenty of inspiration 🙂

5. Enjoying the good things in life without feeling guilty
This is something I really appreciate. I find that people here don’t show off their wealth to the same extend as they do for example, in London. Really flashy cars tend to have Swiss or German registration plates here. The typical French car is somewhat older, with bumps and maybe a speck of rust here and there. Parking is not such a big issue, one can push until the car fits the space ;). Having said that, the French park admirably well. They zip into parking spaces with amazing speed and precision. I will not get there during this life.
But I am digressing. Enjoying the good things in life is really okay here. Having a good meal in a restaurant, going on holiday, being sociable, going to wine tastings or cooking a very nice meal for friends… things like that seem to be important to the people we know here, and it’s perfectly normal to treat yourself and your loved ones without any guilt attached to it. The attitude seems to be: You deserve it, but don’t need to brag about it, because your neighbour deserves it too.’

6. The Health service
I have had seriously good and timely treatment so far. So had the children and Rolf.

7. La ville de Lyon
I have just a few weeks ago booked two weeks’ summer camp for Lucy. This means childcare from 9.00 until 17.00 Monday to Friday. Lucy will be doing archery, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, ballgames, etc. with other kids. The whole two weeks cost me 48 Euros. On top of that, we have just bought swimming passes for the local outdoor swimming pool. 25 entrances for 6,60 Euros per child. Isn’t that wonderful? Lyon city council also organize other things which I love…

8. Festivals in Lyon
Just this last weekend, there was a big nature initiative in Lyon, the place Bellecour was lavishly equipped with all things green in big boxes: vegetable patches, trees, lavender, roses, cornflowers, wheat, rye, corn plants,etc. It looked wonderful and it felt completely different to walk across the square.

Then there are the fête des lumières in December, and, tomorrow, the fête de la musique, as every year on summer solstice day for the last 30 years running. We’ll be in town to meet friends and listen to the wild mix of music they’re playing. This takes me straight to point

9. Our friends in Lyon
I have met some very very lovely people here and I am, after almost two years, feeling that some of them will become good friends

10. Some rules are set and not to be negotiated.
Sounds bad? Not necessarily. I am here thinking about mealtimes for example. You don’t eat at all hours of the day. In France, you have breakfast, lunch (between 12 and 14.00), goûter (afternoon snack) for the kids and dinner. That’s it. In Germany and England, it’s so normal to eat at all hours of the day, even a hot meal. Here, the French restaurants will be open between 12.00 and 14.00 and then from about 7pm onwards. No hot dinner in-between. We have gone hungry here on occasion, because we could not find a restaurant that was open and McD is not really an option for us :), but I have come to appreciate the concept.
Set rules also apply to dinner parties in your own home. We had one recently with pretty important people. Before France, cooking a menu for 10 people would have made me VERY nervous. Now I know better, because I have adopted the French formula:
Aperitif — starter — main course — cheese — dessert — coffee. If you stick to this, plus get some advice from your local cave à vin regarding which wine to serve with what food, nothing can go wrong (Unless you drop the plates). And of course, I stick with my Julia Child motto:
Perfect. And even if it isn’t, never apologize. No excuses! No explanations.

Oops, have I mentioned this before? If yes, it’s good to repeat it as your kitchen mantra at least twice a day. Definitely improves the cooking.

That was number 10, right? I could go on. There are more things that I love about being here, but I’ll stop now. I am a bit nervous — due to my coffee, but I survived the experiment. I’m off to the pool now with Lucy so she can to let off steam after a long and hot day at school. The temperature went up to a brilliant 32 degrees Celsius today, so now is the perfect time for a swim.
À très bientôt!
PS: I promise my next post will be shorter. I was on a roll with this coffee… 🙂

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