Thursday, September 30, 2010

J'aime Lyon!

I had no idea what Lyon would be like and had no expectations about the city, my primary objective was to visit and spend time with friends that I hadn't seen in six years.  But the city surprised me and I really loved it after my short 2 1/2 days there.

I grew up in suburbia near trees, water and open space and just never really loved big cities all that much.  But there are moments when I find a city that I start to really enjoy, it feels open and less stuffy and congested and Lyon is definitely one of those cities.  It might be because there are two large rivers that run through it or because there's a wonderful mix of old and new buildings everywhere.

I'm sure a lot of it had to do with the two wonderful people I was visiting.  I appreciate those friendships where even when you don't speak or see each other often it always feels like nothing's changed and that the love is still there.  And a trip to visit N & T wouldn't be complete without home cooked meals!  I had ratatouille for the first time and it even tasted better the second time for lunch when we added this delicious Comte cheese.  I heart cheese!

The few days I was there N took me around to see the sites and of course we ate!  Macaroons, ice cream, scallop carpaccio, and loads of home cooked food.  While we didn't go to a Bouchon (typical Lyonnais food) I did get to try a quenelle!  It's like a fish dumpling of sorts made out of pike and it was sitting in this delicous crayfish sauce (my mouth is watering just thinking of it).  My only regret was that I ran out of stomach space about 3/4ths of the way through, it's really filling!

But my favorite moment in this part of the trip was definitely visiting the market.  We have farmer's markets here in California too but for some reason it's much more amusing when everything is in french.  Plus everything is so pretty!  The fruit and veg look much fresher and they write everything on adorable chalkboards (look I'm a sucker for romanticized images okay?).  Plus you can buy so many other products!  Fresh goats cheese, aged goats cheese, all sorts of ham products, pate (not the goose kind).  It's also entertaining because.. well we got a lot more attention being an Asian girl and a ginger headed British girl in France.

A gentleman stopped to ask me where I was from, first speaking to me in French and after I said I was Chinese, he started asking me questions in English! But the best part was when the man at the fish truck gifted us shark fin!  I was about to tell my friend how buying shark fin from Asia is really bad because the fishermen there cut the fins off the shark, dump the body and keep only the fin.  While I was pointing at it, he came over and started talking to us and we somehow ended up with a shark fin and some shark steak to take home.  I have NEVER cooked shark fin in my life, wouldn't even know where to begin, eaten it sure.. but COOK IT? Well thank goodness for the internet!

After searching a few sites I realized most of them talk about dried shark fin and what to do with it.  Well we had a fresh one!  I finally found one that described how to get the skin off to get to the cartilage that goes into the soup.  Now, keep in mind, shark fin has supposed 'health' benefits, but doesn't actually taste like anything.  It supposedly helps enhance flavors in soup.  So I started boiling the shark fin and was thinking it would take a few hours and luckily checked on it because I almost ruined it.  You can boil it too much and end up dissolving the cartilage.  So it went from a fin in a pot, to this crazy looking boiled mess..

To soup!  And while it wasn't incredibly amazing like some I've eaten before (I no longer eat it for moral reasons).  It definitely tasted pretty darn close to them!  By the way, the entire time I was feeling conflicted because I don't agree with the way sharks are killed for their fins, but I found out that they typically eat all of the shark here so that alleviate most of the guilt.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip to Lyon and I was so happy to see N&T and spend some time with them. :) Can't wait to go back, or somehow convince them to come visit me in California.  Next stop: Brighton!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bonjour Paris!

I'm not sure I like the term wanderlust that much, it makes it sound fleeting. Instead what I think I have is a relationship with traveling that is sometimes passionate and sometimes not. We have our ups and downs and we get into fights, but overall, the relationship is great and we both grow from it.

I decided it was that time again (after all I do pretty much take a trip each year somewhere) and decided this year would be France and England and the entire goal was just to take it easy and see friends (since I had already been to most of the cities I was going to before), particularly a group I hadn't seen in 4-6 years!

Aside from the worse case of delayed flight, leading to other issues, I finally made it to the little apartment we rented in Paris after 24 hours of traveling.

It was a great 3 days in Paris, met up with some of my friends who are doing a fall exchange with another business school and we just took it easy. Every morning started with a cafe au lait and a pain au chocolat, followed by general wanderings.

There were three things I definitely wanted to see while I was in Paris though, #1 was my favorite building, Notre Dame.  I've always been drawn to the architecture of this church and the details of the carvings on the outside of the building.  Plus the view from the top (after huffing and puffing your way up several flights of twisty stairs.. is always incredible!

I also took some friends to Montmartre to see the Sacre Coeur.  It's always fun to see what street performers will be out and about that day.  This trip included seeing some, pretty good (not great) hip hop/breakers.  But much more entertaining was the guy doing tricks with a football (soccer balls for the americans).

On our second to last night we all wanted to get together to see the Eiffel Tower and go up at night.  We were on our way on the metro and trying to change lines when we were ushered out of the station.  Interdit! Bomb threat! In the station!  We thought it must've been a joke and started heading down the Sienne towards the tower.. but then realize there would be no trains running that way since they closed the last station.  So forget the tower, dinner it is!  That's when we heard there was a bomb threat at the tower too!  Good thing we stopped for dinner. :)

The next night we made it out there with no problems whatsoever.  I had seen it during the day and been up during the day but never at night.  It was definitely a beautiful sight from up there and very windy!  

It was a whirlwind three days, staying up until 2-3am and then waking up at 11am, having dinner at 9pm, feeling very parisian, minus the 3-inch black heels, ultra skinny body, and constant cigarette smoking.  We did partake in the baguette, ham and cheese eating though!

Soon enough the time came to say au revoir Paris et Bonjour Lyon!