I’m not really sure why I stopped writing. I really enjoy it, and I was hopeful it was becoming a habit I’d continue even after I finish my year abroad. And then 4 months went by in the blink of an eye and I haven’t written a single line.
Like I said, I really enjoy blogging, sharing my experiences, and I have lots to tell you. So Hopefully I can motivate myself to get some new posts on here, and hope that people still want to read them! I’ve got some great photos from my travels around the Rhone-Alpes region, and I’m also hoping to get some Year Abroad advice posts on here, to share the wisdom my months here have granted!
Last weekend my best friend from home came to visit, and of course I showed her the Lyonnais staples of Fourviere, saucisson brioché and tarte pralinée, however on the Sunday we were also able to discover a part of the city I had yet to discover: la Croix-Rousse. We went on a tour organised by the Erasmus association, and even though I think I missed quite a lot of the well-meaning Italian guide’s French, even more so because I was also translating for Letty as we went, it was still really interesting.
La Croix- Rousse is another very old part of Lyon, which was originally not even connected to the old central city, and thus has it’s own style and some very pretty old buildings. Yet it is also a modern and “arty” area so you can see lots of street art and cool looking cafés- it seemed like every five minutes we were pointing to a bar or café making plans to go there, wondering how we went the whole of last semester without really knowing all this was there. There is also the traditional Lyonnais street art: “Les Fresques” which are paintings covering the whole sides of buildings which trick the eye because they look so real. One that we saw portrays famous people of Lyon, another is meant to show everyday life in Lyon and has been updated over the years, with the characters ageing and growing up, and the addition of things like Velovs (Lyon’s Boris bikes) and smartphones!
We also got some great views from a different point of view of the city, as we did a fair bit of hill-climbing and came out quite high up. It was great to have a different perspective on some of the great landmarks of the city, and also what struck me was how colourful the city was, even on a gloomy grey day.
All in all this trip, even though it was cold and wet at the end, and probably gave me this cold, reminded me that Lyon is huge and I have in no way finished discovering all it has to offer! I’ll leave you with some pictures of a bear and a bird.
I guess a Christmas silence was to be expected, but now I’m back and determined to catch up and save my poor blog from abandonment! In my defence, I have been pretty busy…
Exams were a definite mixed-bag, with some being ridiculously simple and some being so confusing and difficult I gave up all together. But regardless of the results, they are over now and semester two starts on Monday! There’s definitely a reason we only have to pass 50% of this year though- it’s so difficult to predict how a module is going to turn out when you pick them at the beginning of term!
Christmas in England was a lovely, friends and family-filled affair, and despite contracting the cold my Mum brought home from work, I managed to see so many of my loved ones. Being away really has made me appreciate where I come from!
I squeezed in a fair bit of theatre, seeing The Nutcracker in Lyon just before Christmas (Tchaikovsky is my fave, and it was a lovely Christmassy treat!), then seeing my lovely boyfriend Sam in Panto on Tuesday, and The Book of Mormon on the West End with my brother on Wednesday, which was a lovely sibling treat!
I’m briefly back in England, having made the most of my extra week by spending about half the time on trains, planes and buses travelling up and down the country between the Midlands, Bristol and London, but I’ve managed to see all the things and people I needed to see, get a house sorted in Leicester for next year, and generally have some extra fun in good old England before another 5 months away.
I’ve got lots of travel plans this semester. so I’ll be sure to keep you updated on whatever I’m up to!
This is a festival of lights held every year in Lyon for four days on the weekend around the 8th of December. It’s a uniquely lyonnais tradition and stems from a story involving the Virgin Mary, who is said to have saved the people of Lyon from the plague in 1643. The tradition of putting candles in every window on the 8th December comes from 1852 when a storm prevented the long-awaited golden statue of Mary being placed on the Basilique de Fourvière, inspiring the people of Lyon to light up their windows and shout “Vive Marie!”
Nowadays, people do still put candles in their windows on the 8th December, but the festival has expanded into a city-wide display of incredible light displays and installations. It’s a really brilliant thing to see and attracts millions of tourists to Lyon over the weekend. This does mean there are enormous crowds everywhere, and taking the metro becomes nigh on impossible, and even though I managed to choose the absolute worst night to go in terms of crowds- we had to wait nearly and hour and a half to see “Le Petit Prince des Lumières” at Place Terraux, one of the most popular installations, I think the pictures speak for themselves when I say it was worth it!
It was a really brilliant night, the city was transformed into something completely magical, and every where you looked there was something else to see. To anyone planning to visit next year: plan in advance and wear good walking shoes! You’ll get around a lot easier if you ditch the metro altogether!
As for me, I’m already planning next year’s visit!
These plaques can be found all over Berlin. They form part of a project to commemorate the murdered Jews who lived and worked in Berlin before the Holocaust. These ones were outside Humboldt University, and they commemorate students of the University. Each stone bears the name, date of birth, date of deportation, and the camp they were taken to. It’s very poignant to come across these when you are just walking around the city, I think it’s an incredible project.
I’ve gotten quite far behind on what’s been going on because the crazy season of exams has hit. I’ve got 2 more to go before the Christmas holidays (and 2 after-boo) but thankfully they are both on Monday, after which I will have 3 days free to finish my Christmas shopping and get all ready for my flight home on Friday! I’m very excited for Christmas to properly begin (i.e., as soon as I leave that exam room on Monday), but my Christmas activities began a couple of weeks ago, with a trip to see my friend and former flatmate Fjolle who is erasmusing in Berlin!
Another former flatmate, Olivia, was also visiting, so it was a lovely little reunion! The picture above is us hobnobbing at the Sans Souci Palace in Potsdam, a little on the outskirts of Berlin, which was really beautiful and filled with gardens and palaces, and our first Christmas market of the weekend.
We had a lot to squeeze in over only a couple of days, so after grabbing some currywurst in the market (a typical Berlin dish… strange but nice!) we heading into central Berlin to see some sights. First we went to the East Side gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall which has been turned into a street art gallery.
Later we also visited the old Gestapo headquarters which has been turned in to an exhibition entitled ‘Topography of Terror’ . A very interesting visit, which followed the holocaust from conception to terrible end, from the rise of Nazism to the fall. It was horrifically interesting.
Later that night, Fjolle cooked for us and some friends of hers, we introduced some French people to English drinking games, and gave Berlin’s nightlife a go. It was a great night but I won’t be posting any pictures on here!
The next day was more sightseeing (although with a much slower start after the night before…). We started with Checkpoint Charlie, one of the American controlled checkpoints between East and West in the years of the Berlin Wall. There you can still see the signs marking passage between the US and Soviet controlled zones, now also marked by the famous images of the American and Soviet soldiers on either side.
We also visited the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust memorial and the Reichstag, the German government building.
The incredible thing about the Holocaust memorial is that it is designed so that when you look across it, it appears that all the stones are the same height, but when you walk through it, the ground slopes beneath your feet and suddenly you are lost among towering blocks of concrete. It’s extremely impressive and touching to walk through as your expectations are overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation you find yourself in the middle of.
The Reichstag was also really impressive: The original building was partially destroyed by bombs so a giant glass dome was erected in the middle. It’s unexpectedly beautiful and absolutely enormous. The transparency of the glass is meant to represent the transparency of German governmental affairs, which is a pretty neat idea.
Our final stop was the magnificent Christmas market in the grounds of Charlottenburg Palace. It was the prefect thing to be doing on the first of December and well and truly put me in the Christmas spirit. We drank gluwein and ate amazing porc and sauerkraut rolls and just soaked up the Christmassyness. All in all an amazing weekend! My first trip to Germany has definitely left me wanting more and it was also brilliant to see my lovely friends and compare Erasmus experiences from 3 different countries! I’ll leave you with some pictures from the market.
It only takes the smallest things to tip the balance from bad day/ week to a good one. This is something I’ve really come to appreciate over the last couple of months; the year abroad experience is one of constant ups and downs, and almost anything can tip the fragile balance between happy and sad. I often find I tend to get the most worked up about the smaller catastrophes, such as losing a make-up brush at a crucial moment, and avoid even thinking about the larger ones, such as the fact that I’m not even sure when some of my exams are, let alone having started studying for them. This probably isn’t the best way to live, but it helps me compartmentalise and deal with stuff in a more spaced-out way rather than getting so scared of the mountain of problems that I can’t even get out of bed. (I tend to make every task ten times more difficult for myself as well, because I’m crazy like that.)
The other side of this constant stress is that silly little things have become the things that save me. Finding friends who are willing to mess about in Ikea for a day or spend the afternoon eating roast chestnuts at a Christmas market has proved extremely useful in keeping me calm! Also receiving post has been absolutely making my life every single time something new arrives. The sillier the better- my Mum made me a sort of advent calendar counting down from mid-November for the last month until I return to England for Christmas, full of silly pictures cut out of the local paper. My boyfriend’s Mum sent a very cute advent calendar which becomes a lantern when you put a candle inside, with the express instruction ‘do not open until Dec 1st’ printed on the envelope. I’m not exaggerating when I say that post makes me as excited as a little kid at Christmas; snail mail is seriously underrated!
My flatmate has also been leaving us little chocolates and advent surprises since December began which is super sweet and making my so incredibly excited for Christmas. I really want to start decorating; I’ve even rediscovered sewing as I was in need of a creative outlet in the absence of choir and theatre, and it means I can make cute Christmassy things in the process!
So basically, to sum up: Exams and things are hard but forgetting about them is easy when you get as excited about Christmas as I am. Not the best approach, but it’s working for now!