Off with her head!: How I lost my homesick head in the land of Liberté.

Room with a view (St Irenée, France).
Room with a view (St Irenée, France).

France may well be the land of my downfall. Just as it has been for the glory of DSK and the perfumed head of Marie Antoinette. The alcohol is alluring, it strips me completely of my inhibitions and within my first dozen days of being here, I have been publicly witnessed to have done things that that my once-pristine, sober form never dreamed of. Lyon my town, is ancient. Its people are a modernising mass of epicurean colours, blessed by efficient transportation and good food. She is France’s city of gastronomy, the world’s birthplace of cinema, and I’m proud to sample her delights – even though they are served with a dollop of rain and clouds far too often. It’s springtime, and there’s no Sun to show for it.

I shall start by shaking a glimpse or two of Lyon at you. The many alleyways and main streets of Lyon are sprinkled heavily with a motley of quaint French eateries. These are variously called bouchons, auberges, restaurants, cafés, bistrots, and salons de thé, with my favourite being the bouchons which serve heavy, traditional Lyonnais foods. And let’s not forget the restaurants, where the waft of fried frog legs woos hearts to a pitiful state of desire… for more fried frog legs.

There is no lack of free crusty bread in French eateries. It’s inevitable, it’s delicious, it comes in weaved bowls, it’s something to chew on, its crusty crackling starts hunger-fuelled conversations, it’s very French. Much as bread’s a necessity on French dining tables, you’ll do well to avoid having some in Mercuré hotels. They could reel in a hefty fee of 70EUR (that’s AU$91.94). Sent my heart reeling.

Art and importantly, the love for culture flourishes in every boulevard, every nook and cranny. Such passion for fashion, food, and music bloom in everyday conversations, in the oohs and ahhs of mouths gawking at fine masterpieces, in heart strings tugged by the exquisite fingers of cellists (in my case, the fingers of Gautier Capuçon)…

For me, It’s Cookie-Monster-sees-a-cookie all over again. I can’t get enough of the cultural exhibitions and performances, especially where classical music and fashion are concerned. My imploded piggy bank however, oinks ‘NO, OINK, NO MORE!’.  As for the fine arts, I’m just glad my arts professor was highly amused by my odd French expressions and pronunciations that he cut my oral presentation short, dived into a friendly chat about my ethnic origins (trop original, ça!) and sent me off with a ‘bien, très bien!’. I’ve decided that classical arts isn’t for me. No, give me quirky, off-beat modern animation any day!

Consumed... by cookie.
Consumed… by cookie.

These strokes of Lyonnais happiness and colours, however, are constantly rubbed and snubbed by their oh-so-French counterpart, the new nemesis of my life: French bureaucracy and its disturbing obsession with paperwork. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Trees could be sacrificed in the name of fun (ref: origami workshops) but oh no, not in France. Not in France. I’ve lost count of the fines I’ve accrued, the paper cuts I’ve Band-Aided®, the corridor tongue-lashings I’ve endured… for failing to consummate my marriage with paper. A most unhealthy relationship, and I’ve a strong feeling that the abuse of my friends the paper trees will continue when I move to Paris.

Speaking of non-romantic relationships… in France, girls and women are – to the dismay of my British friends – seriously objectified on a daily basis. I probably wouldn’t mind if the guy’s gorgeous, but that is hardly my case. As Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas so eloquently put: “You can look but you can’t touch it, if you touch it I’m a- start some drama, you don’t want no drama, no no drama, no-no-no-no drama…”.

Instead, I’m a magnet for otakus riding high on the Yellow fever. Not my type, because I myself am one massive otaku struck by a perennial variety of the Yellow fever. Yes, witness this public confession from me: I love Takeshi Kaneshiro. Him and only him. Oh not forgetting Godfrey Gao. And heck, throw in Barack Obama to the bucket too. I believe I’m living on the wrong side of the continent in terms of developing my romantic interests. French men and women speak too much French, and for me that’s an inconvenient turn-off. “Oh dear,” shrieks my French Studies degree. I guess you’re now reading the words of a future spinster. This girl here, she is forever celibataire. Pity me not, I will have Mowgli my darling of a Russian Blue kitty back in my life. Reow.

Hmm, pardon the pause. I’ve just received a text from an acquaintance/partner/lover/friend/eel? God knows. I’m sticking to ‘eel’ for the moment. Slippery and rarely seen. One minute he’s having a vodka party in Poland, then he gets his shoulders rubbed in Stockholm conferences, and the next, he’s circled by Indonesian police officers. That’s definitely an eel. As for me, I’m chained to my yoghurt-stained bedpost. Not complaining though. For I’ve chosen to avert my eyes from the clouded Sun, and directed them instead at anime, anime and more anime. For those who don’t know what Japanese anime is… I bid you farewell, adieu, auf wiedersehen, sayonara. Return to my blog when you’re anime-literate. I’d probably write some reviews for some of the anime shows I’ve been living on/for. These include: Hataraku Maō Sama! (The Devil is a Part-Timer!), Attack on Titan, Fairy Tail, and Sakura-sō no Petto na Kanojo (The Pet Girl of Sakurasou). My new chorus, subject to change: When skies cry and pockets clink of silence, watch anime. Though I may no longer possess a sun-kissed bod or a viable bank account, happiness will be mine.

Fuck, I think I’m depressed today. It takes a lot of dejection to get me to write even a sentence, I’l have you know. So appreciate this display of sensitive spirits. Bah I’ll quickly finish writing this and hop to bed with my pretty pink Vaio. And click Play. Either that, or I’m stalking Star Trek sensation George Takei again. He has the best collection of internet memes, capable of unleashing vocalisations of “Oh myyyyy!!” from me.

OH MYYYY, the fish swims!!
OH MYYYY, the fish swims!!

A French friend compared me to Anaïs from ‘Henry and June’ by the author Anaïs Nin. Which probably means he thought I was “cool, overly heady, adventurous and sexually liberal” – most mothers would sooner rub rosary beads and kneel tearfully before marble idols in a bid to vanquish such qualities from a daughter. Mine didn’t. My dear mother believes in occasional prayer and in the importance of power-walking. In all honesty, I believe I am overly repressed. Example: If I greet or kiss you, chances are I’m dying to smooch another person near you. Self-demeaning? Probably. It’s better than falling in love though, in my mind. Which is why I’m blogging all over again. The clackety!-clack!-clack!-(crick?) of my keyboard annoys me more than my green-eyed envy for Michelle Obama. And in this I find solace. You should try it some time you know: replacing a frustration with another frustration. It’s quite French.

Clack.

Clack.

Cluck.

Chickens. I miss eating chickens. The absence of a freezer has turned me vegetarian in my French home. My carnivorous tendencies resurface, of course, fast, so fast, faster than you could think up of an answer to “Why did the chicken cross the road?”, when I eat out in Lyon. I am notorious in the House of Choh for my adventurous tastebuds. Needless to say, they eagerly tagged along with me on my year of French exchange and have been treated to the likes of: –

  • Salad of escargots (snails) dipped in a fancy-name sauce
  • Sea snails e.g. the bulot
  • Fried grenouilles (frogsssssss, hurray!). This is now my choice of meat after ostriches and oysters
  • Desserts like crème brulées, and excellent cake creations
  • Specialties from Lyon. Brace yourselves for seizures of envy and horror:
  1.             Tête de veau: the head of a baby cow Believe it or not, it’s worse than it sounds.
  2.             Andouillette: Intestinal things. The Lyonnais love their guts.
  3.             Quenelles: Funny soft loaves of fish, that’s my impression of this Lyonnaise specialty.
  4.             Tartes aux pralines: delightful pink pastry tarts. The pralines are baked with pink sugar which gives it its distinctive taste and colour.
  • Crèpes smothered in a variety of sauces from salmon to nutella to chestnut cream to Spéculoos (the most addictive biscuit paste in the market) to pâté de foie gras. Cruelty is delicious, is all I’d say to the foie gras haters in the galaxy.
  • Foie gras
  • Fruits sourced from all over the globe, with my favourites being cassis (liqueur form of French blackcurrants), clémentines (sweet mandarins), pommes Golden (golden apples), and melons from Dakhla in the Western Sahara
  • Alcohols! A lot of wines, muscadels, rum cocktails (Sex on the Beach and All Blacks, woop woop!), south African Amarula, and unknown spirits. Exquisite beers too! It is impossible for those two words to ever string themselves together, but it is possible – I tell myself – when German beers enter the menu.
France is a fish. Reow.

Okay. Time to wrap up now. For I’ve received my first good news of the day funnily enough from the public transport website www.tcl.fr :

« Bonne nouvelle : les travaux de maintenance sont bientôt terminés, et le funiculaire St Just sera remis en service vendredi 31 dans la matinée !… »

(Translation: “Good news: trackwork will soon be finished, and the Saint Just funicular railway will be back in service on Friday morning.”)

Thus the funicular rides that bring us hill denizens of the fort of Saint Irenée to the Old Town are functioning once more, after the umpteenth delay! This means party tonight. I need to decide on what to wear.

And yes, I live in a French fortress.

Ciao,

Vicki

P.S. As always, a morsel of liquid notes for the ears and soul:

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