Kia ora all

Less than a month ago I was writing about how autumnal it was, and now winter has well and truly arrived (before the first of December might I add). Here are some highlights from the past three weeks:

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!

The 19th of November is the launch day of the Beaujolais Nouveau; red wine fermented for just a few weeks before going on sale, from the Beaujolais region a little north of Lyon. Every man and his dog was telling me that it is rather shite wine but it has just become this big thing for the sake of it (although it is apparently extremely popular in Japan and Korea). It starts the night before with a big leadup to the unbottling at 12:01am, then continues the following evening with all the bars serving it. So, with expectations well and truly set, I set off with my flatmate Sarah to partake in the ~local cultural tradition~. Apparently I had beginner’s luck because the vintage this year was not as gross as usual! We headed to Vieux Lyon where there are a lot of bars in close proximity, and there were big crowds of people drinking it out on the little cobbled streets. We chose a bar in a small square where there was a band playing, and the crowd steadily grew as we were there. The bar itself had converted into a chain of stations to pick up your wine and baguette/waffles/crepes/other before paying and heading out the other door. This year there were also balloons and tricolours everywhere – more on that later. Even though we only stayed for an hour or so it was really nice to go and be a part of the community celebrating the tradition. A week later the staff at school also had a big shared lunch, featuring obligatory cask, for the occasion (apparently the guy that organises it every year was away on the day?)

Pérouges

That weekend a group of assistants decided to do a little trip to Pérouges, a medieval town about 30 minutes from Lyon. Well, ‘town’ is a bit generous; village is probably more accurate. We knew there was not a lot to do, but it was a good occasion to get out and do something different. We were not wrong – one hour was sufficient to do the rounds. In summer they have festivals with medieval costumes and masks which is one of the main drawcards. On the day we went it was FREEZING, but on the bright side, it snowed! Made the whole excursion worth it.

Francegiving

The following Thursday was Thanksgiving, which, when shifted to the Friday night and taking place in France, obviously becomes Francegiving. In the end, the two Americans were outnumbered by three Brits, two Frenchies and myself. I took on the challenge of the turkey, and was pretty happy with how it turned out for a first attempt! For the record, when I bought the meat there were only four people attending the event. Luckily with the accompanying staples of mashed potato, green bean casserole, roast sweet potato (or KUMARA as I was dying to say) and of course bread it still went round eight of us fine.

School

School is keeping on keeping on, although I have been up to some slightly more interesting stuff. I have now finished doing lessons on the flag referendum – I’m disappointed to report that out of six classes, four of them voted to change to the red Lockwood design, one to the black/white fern and the last to keep the current flag (I think the red Lockwood still won the first vote). #redpeak! Now I’m working on Christmas/summer holidays in NZ; it totally blows their minds to imagine Christmas during summer. Next week one of my teaching days is dedicated to going to see Suffragette with the students, and then it’s the last week of term before the holidays! We have a full day of training tomorrow so I might actually find out what I’m meant to be doing with this whole teaching business – better late than never…

Paris

I would be remiss to not acknowledge the Paris events in this blog. The news broke around 10pm on the Friday evening and I stayed glued to my computer for several hours before finally deciding enough was enough and I should go to bed, around 1am. Modern technology and social media is great for getting instant news, but I also find it very frustrating when there’s so much speculation and ‘reports’ that you have no idea are credible or not. I got sick of the endless cycle of refreshing and figured there wouldn’t be any sort of concrete answers that night. I still couldn’t sleep till around 3am when I heard that the last person I know in Paris was fine. Thank you to everyone who checked in with me; I have not been directly affected.

Fortunately, the next day I had already planned to go on another tramp with a group of assistants so that went ahead, and it was good to be out of the city and away from everything for the day. Otherwise the rest of the weekend fell into much of the same poring-over-the-news pattern. On the Sunday I went to see what had become makeshift memorials with candles, flowers and tributes on the statue in Bellecour, the main square, and the steps of the town hall. That evening Sarah and I put out ‘lumignons’ (tealights in glass holders) on our windowsills, as is the lyonnaise tradition usually for the 8th of December. On Monday there was definitely a sombre mood at school, and at midday the entire school gathered in the foyer for the moment of silence. There were also photos of the now iconic Eiffel tower peace sign everywhere, and some students had painted a huge banner with it hanging from the mezzanine. There was also a wall of messages which was really touching to see.

In terms of how Lyon has been affected, there was definitely a palpable mood for the first week or so, but otherwise life continues. The Beaujolais Nouveau was only a few days later and it was touch and go for a while whether it would continue. This is why there were so many decorations up – the vendors had banded together to go to a special effort to foster an atmosphere, and that the show would go on. This made the event all the more special – the fact that so many people turned out to have a good time given the circumstances – and I was really glad to have gone.

We are still under a national state of Emergency, which mainly means heightened security in busy public places (including bag checks before going into random shops in the mall), and no large public gatherings, which put paid to the climate marches planned throughout France this weekend, as well as any show of solidarity for Paris. Most significantly, the Fête des Lumières has been cancelled. The Fête des Lumières is easily the biggest event on the lyonnais calendar; a light festival lasting four days which regularly sees 3-4million visitors to the city during that time. Like Wellington’s Lux but on a way bigger scale. It is really a shame that it’s not going ahead but having attended last year I can totally understand the decision – having literally thousands of people crammed like sardines is just not worth the extra risk at the moment. All is not lost though as we will still celebrate the 8th of December, the traditional celebration it all started with, putting extra candles out on our windowsills – 200,000 of them are being distributed to school children. One installation will remain and be adapted as an homage to the victims. The rest of the programme will continue next year.

What’s next?

Tomorrow my friend Sarah is coming to stay! Big fans of the blog will remember her from my birthday trip to Paris. She was coming for the Fête des Lumières, but even though that’s not happening we still have an exciting weekend lined up as Sarah has not been back to Lyon since we studied here in 2013. In three weeks it’s Christmas, then one week later I will be in Paris for New Year’s with another visitor from NZ! So this should all generate some good #content.

A+ as we francophones wittily like to say,

Catherine

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