Hallo! It’s hard to believe it’s been two and a half weeks since I moved to Lyon (!) Apologies for the incredibly delayed update—a week ago I made the rookie mistake of not saving and ended up losing the entire post. Needless to say I probably ruined my chances of being a regular in that particular café as I sat there muttering under my breath about technology.
Anyway, moving on. The first full week of school was such a blur, I barely had time to eat dinner each night before falling into bed exhausted. And there was that time on Tuesday I got on the right bus but going the wrong direction. Still, I can’t believe I’m here! It’s crazy how fast the whole thing happened but I always knew I’d be back. I’m just now starting to settle into my new place and shift back into school mode but let me back up…
I arrived the last week of August with an incredible amount of luggage that I somehow managed to wrangle through the Charles de Gaulle airport and two train stations. I hit the ground running (literally) to apartment visits at all times of the day, to the bank, the grocery store, everywhere. And I learned how to prepare a dossier for all of the above. I was lucky enough to connect with Michèle’s daughter Lilas before I got here. She moved to Lyon with her boyfriend Joan about a year ago and absolutely loves it. I stayed with them for the first few (or five) days and I shudder to think where’d I’d be without them! According to Lilas, “Trouver un appartement en France, c’est la guerre.”
I knew it would be hard but I had no idea. Those first few days, all I did was search on leboncoin.com (aka the French Craigslist) and send out an embarrassing number of emails. I called places only to hear “C’est déjà loué” (it’s already rented). Then, when I finally managed to secure a visit on the second day, I was so excited I agreed to be there within the hour, nevermind the fact that I had no idea where it was or how to get there. I managed to find the place but mistakenly took it for the laundry room when I arrived. I tried not to panic at how small 18 meters squared actually felt in real life. Hitting my first low point, I started to wonder if this was all I could afford and if my budget was realistic.
Three apartment visits later (including a horrific dorm room situation where the landlord insisted that the microwave circa 1985 with a broken knob still worked), I found my place. In our furious search, Lilas had managed to find some obscure post with no photos. I almost didn’t go (no photos is usually a red flag for me). In the end, I went, out of sheer desperation and fear I would never find an apartment. I made my way across town, squinting at the directions on my phone and eventually turning onto a road that was in fact (surprise!) a staircase. After climbing a ridiculous amount of stairs, I again questioned whether I should bother with the visit. I kept going and finally arrived at a charming old building in a quiet neighborhood. I soon discovered the landlady, an 84-year-old French woman, lives in the apartment below. I would later find out that she used to own the café-bakery below with her husband before he died.
By some miracle (and a LOT of help from Lilas), I managed to convince the propriétaire that it was a good idea to rent her studio to an American student with no current income to speak of.
Madame Blot took a while to warm up to me but I think I’m making progress. After giving me a lesson in how to cook potatoes versus zucchini ("ce n'est pas pareil!"), she insisted on taking me to the market last Sunday. If you ever find yourself in la Croix-Rousse neighborhood of Lyon, I’d highly recommend it. Just make sure you go early or be prepared for a crowd. Also, most of the stands start packing up around 1 pm and it’s closed on Mondays.
Normally I would have been overwhelmed, even annoyed by so many people but I was too amused by my companion. She dodged the crowd like a seasoned pro, showing me the best stands to buy lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, even chicken. “C’est moins cher ici et c’est de meilleur qualité.” Cheaper here, but better quality. As we were leaving I mentioned that I also needed to buy bananas (of course). “Ces producteurs, ils sont loin, ” she said, referring to the fact that bananas are not in fact grown in France. I’m all about eating local but I have my exceptions!
Like I said, I’m still settling in here, but it's already starting to feel like home.
My apartment (under budget!) is situated on a hill in the first arrondissement of Lyon. If you lean out the window and crane your head to the left, you can (almost) catch a glimpse of the river through the trees.
La Croix-Rousse, also known as la colline qui travaille, dates back to the days of the silk workers who used to live here. Now it’s a vibrant part of the vieux Lyon with amazing views around every turn. The views! I can’t even tell you.
Okay, c’est tout pour maintentant.