Thursday, March 20, 2014

I'm Moving

Not me personally mind you, just the blog.
You can find it at :

Monday, March 17, 2014

La Passerelle de la Paix

La Passerelle had its long awaited Grand Opening today after two years of construction. Today's warm, sunny weather was a big change from the last time I posted about this back on a freezing cold, foggy day in December. At that time it had just been installed over the river and over the past three months the deck and lighting were installed. This pedestrian bridge links Caluire-et-Cuire (you probably know it as Shake & Bake) to the 6th arrondisement of Lyon at Cité International. It has a wide main deck for walkers and cyclists and also a set of stairs on one side that joins the deck at the top and then descends again to the other side.

The Mayor of Caluire-et-Cuire (left), the Architect Dietmar Feichtinger (center) and the Mayor of Lyon (right)
The Mayor of Caluire speaking while the Mayor of Lyon waits his turn

A drawing from the neighborhood elementary school students, who were included and involved throughout the entire passerelle project
A chocolate fountain and cotton candy - there was a feeding frenzy at the kids buffet table

Seating on the deck -I know exactly which old men from the neighborhood will hang out here every afternoon. There were a couple of them up there today trying to figure out if they could fish off of it.  

As a side note, when I walked the dogs past the construction site in the mornings I would see a group of old guys talking to the site manager and the workers every day. Today, as per usual, the Mayors and dignitaries were up on the stage and the worker bees, including the site manager, were in the crowd with the rest of us. Before the speeches started I saw one of the old guys walk up to the site supervisor, shake his hand and say "hey boss, nice job". I thought that was cool especially after seeing all those guys slog it out day after day in the cold, the rain, the wind and the mud. I think the old guys are going to miss their morning "meetings" with the construction crew.
Everyone one was so happy to see this passerelle open today. It links the Saint Clair quartier to the restaurants, shops, hotels, businesses and 14-screen movie theater at Cité International as well as to the Parc de la Tête d'Or. It's not like we couldn't walk over there before but it took much longer and it was necessary to walk across bridges with cars, buses and trains blowing past. What used to be a pedestrian unfriendly 30 minute proposition is now a pleasant 5 minute stroll.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Municipal Elections

Left and Right: The old stacks of the Sucrière warehouse in Confluence

Municipal elections are coming up later this month throughout France. The last municipal elections were held in 2008. Election days in France are on Sundays and there are two rounds of voting. The first round will be March 23rd and if a candidate does not win a majority of the vote, another round will be held on the 30th. The fields are also narrowed down after the first round as candidates with too few votes are eliminated. As to all the other ins and outs of elections I am blissfully ignorant. It's been interesting observing the process in these last few months running up to the elections and in particular following the Mayoral race here in Lyon.

Unlike in the US, there are no political TV or radio ads though there are debates and interviews on the news and political programs. I also haven't seen many campaign posters except in a few odd places. Lately though candidates have been out "pressing the flesh". I have been approached twice in Shake & Bake by candidates seeking my vote and handing out their brochures. Barking up the wrong tree, I tried to explain since I can't vote, but one candidate talked to me anyway about how Americans are welcome in Shake & Bake and did I live with any registered voter and maybe I could pass the brochures on to him. Ugh, they're all the same. By the way I'd like to take a poll to see exactly how many Americans live in Shake & Bake. I bet less than 10.

Anyway, the Le Point website posted some of the weirdest campaign posters (none from Lyon). There is one of a woman named Clémentine posing in front of a bunch of clementines, a couple of handwritten posters with the caption "apparently the till is empty" and my personal favorites, one of a candidate holding a ferret and another of a guy sitting on the beach in his marinère T-shirt, unfortunatley one has to guess he's also wearing a Speedo since it looks like he's pantless. Good times. You can browse through the posters HERE.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Historical Smoking and Catching the Vapors

I saw a poster advertising the movie Monuments Men and read the synopsis online. Then my eye fell on the rating description "rated PG-13 for some images of war violence and historical smoking." That's silly. And yes, this is being ridiculed by the French press, calling the movie "Version No Smoking" and asking "are movies rated for "non-historical smoking too?" I think kids are being heavily influenced by images that are much more shocking and damaging than a couple of soldiers lighting up on a battlefield.

But this isn't what I wanted to discuss, it's just a convenient segue to the real topic: Current Day Smoking All Over the Place in France. Believe you me the French population is not looking at smoking from a historical context. Oh no, it's not something that's getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror. In fact smoking has  increased in France over the past years despite the widely supported public smoking ban that took effect several years ago. Although you can't smoke in restaurants, cafés, theaters, etc. you still see a lot of people smoking on the street and especially at restaurants with outdoor seating. 

In an effort to discourage people from smoking the French government has increased the price of a pack of cigarettes - twice since I've lived here. So a pack of cigarettes costs around 7 (about $9.50). As a result lots of people roll their own cigarettes, something I rarely saw at home (and it's still somewhat strange for me to see) or drive to the Spanish border to buy them there since they are cheaper. 

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are also wildly popular here. There are "boutiques de cigarettes electroniques" all over the place. I'm confused by these things. I can't figure out if people use them as a device to help wean themselves off cigarettes or if they have become an alternative to smoking "real" cigarettes or if they are addictive as well and creating yet another kind of crutch. 
 E-cigarette atomizers and "e-liquid" in the shop window

They are tobacco-less but the liquid contains nicotine. Instead of inhaling smoke users inhale vapor. Ils vapotent.

According to a recent article in the Guardian, there are 1.5 million e-cigarette users in France. Looks like the French have caught the vapors. So ahead of your time Biz Markie, I hear your little song in my head every time I see e-cigarettes...

Friday, March 7, 2014

L' Île Barbe : Island in the Saône

After yesterday's topic I was badly in need of escaping to a quiet, natural, beautiful place. I decided it was high time I made my way to L'Île Barbe, a small island in the Saône river that has been inhabited for centuries.  

There is one reason why I haven't gone there before: a very old rumor. It seems that when my boyfriend was at university here a looooong time ago he heard that Île Barbe was a hangout for weirdos and lunatics and that notion has always stuck with him. My guess is that the people living on the island probably started that rumor themselves to keep people away. Judging by what I say today I would have done the same thing to try to keep it all to myself. I packed a lunch, hopped on a bus and finally made it to the Île Barbe bridge....

There is a public park at the entry end of the island so I sat there and ate my simple lunch on this warm, sunny day...

And then I went for a walk around the rest of the island which is open during the day...
This is a fine restaurant in a 17th century building called Auberge de L' Île - would be very romantic at night....and look at the creative metalwork above their sign. The monk represents the abbey that has been on the island since the 5th century.

I think this is someone's private garden

My report: no weirdos or lunatics! There were a few families having lunch or playing in the park and a few people walking around and admiring the beauty of this secluded place that has seen the centuries come and go.

 I had to get a shot of the cute Île Barbe bakery delivery car....

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Waste Management

It's time you saw the entry to my building. A few of you already have and I was sort of hoping: 
A. the rest of you would never come visit me anyway, 
B. I would be living somewhere else by the time you did come to visit, 
C. this "look" may one day be cool, like living in converted warehouses or shipping containers.
There it is, baby. The Dream of Living in France; that "high standard of living" you read about in all the highbrow magazines. Oh yes, it's all "la vie en rose" in my quartier. There's much to focus on here but I will address only the garbage cans today as I just don't have the strength to talk about anything else.

It's not that I didn't think about writing about this sooner, it's just that I had so many other pleasant things to talk about. But the trash situation here had gotten to the point of being unbearable UNTIL I took control and appointed myself Trash Czar.

Obviously, it's unfortunate that the garbage cans have to be directly inside the front door. Alas, the other residents must feel that there is no other place for them to be. The glass door you see at the end of the hallway goes out into a courtyard and just to the right of that doorway is a covered alcove where things like garbage cans would fit nicely. 

I cannot believe the garbage cans were always inside the front door. They must have been back in the alcove at some point and then for some ludicrous reason an insane person moved them to the Welcome Mat position and there they have been ever since. No one is bothered by this but me, therefore I realized it's my problem. To cope I have adopted an outlook not unlike that of Genghis Khan - Follow the Trash Czar rules or suffer the consequences.

As it is, the garbage cans must stay where they are. So then everyone in the building needs to adopt my standards and when it comes to executing the proper waste management procedures they must all, as the kids say, have it on lock. But in French, so more like, "je suis un cent pour cent sûr, mon sauce." Whatever.

As I see it the problem with the current system is threefold:
1. There are only two garbage cans for garbage, one of which is inexplicably half the size of the other one, so effectively there are 1.5 garbage cans for a 15 unit apartment building.

2. There is one can for recyclables and almost no one knows what recyclables are even though there is an each-one-teach-one guide with pictures affixed to the lid of the trash can as well as another one stuck on the wall above the trash cans.

3. I highly doubt I have to say this but there is no on-duty housekeeping person so the tenants are responsible for rolling the cans out on the right days and rolling them back in the next day. And it's by shedding light upon point #3 that we've hit upon the crux of the problem, which is:  When something is "everyone's" job, no one does it.

After months of overstuffed trash cans spilling garbage out on the entryway floor and morons leaving microwave ovens and such ON TOP of the recycle can or overstuffing it so that we are awash in plastic water bottles upon entering the lobby, I knew I had to be "everyone".

There was already a system in place which predates the Trash Czar and it is really quite easy if everyone follows the simple rules that are posted just above the garbage cans. But I can safely say that people who have no problem with trash all over their lobby do not pay attention to smeared and faded handwritten signs taped to the wall. Class and professionalism all the way.

I was feeling particularly Czar-ish one day and printed out this graphic from the City's website of what items are not picked up and must be taken to the dump. I taped it to the aforementioned microwave. See how I thoughtfully circled the category that microwaves fit into? I'm like that.

I now maniacally survey the garbage cans every time I pass them which, with having to take the dogs for walks on top of my other daily comings and goings, is about 12 times a day. I used to think that it must be terrible for garbage collectors to have to handle trash all day. Now, it's like nothing to me. I will not hesitate to scrounge around in the cans, separating recyclables from regular trash to make room in them so they don't get overfilled. I dive right in and believe you me when the Cotons and I go out on that last night time walk those cans are spick and span with nary a shred of paper peeping out from the lids. I set them out nearly every night and this alone has solved most of the problem. And, miraculously, others have noticed and have started doing this as well from time to time.

The recyclable can though only gets picked up once a week. Some people are unconcerned about the cleanliness of the lobby and love to overfill the recyclable so that the lid doesn't close. I assume they think saving those recyclables in their flat until the can is empty would be too much of an eyesore for them. Funny and ironic. Very droll.

I daresay that my Czar-like practices may have started to take root. Someone else seemingly now cares as I found out a couple of weeks ago when some wretch propped half of a shelving unit against the trash cans. The next morning it had a note taped to it effectively saying "you need to take this to the dump and not leave it up to your neighbors to sort your trash for you". A possible Co-Czar in the making?? There's hope!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Do It Yourself = BDQ - Bricolage, Droguerie, Quincaillerie

I have been doing a little DIY (called bricolage here) lately around the flat. Nothing big just small projects and tasks that have been long overdue. I have been in need of a plate hanger and went online to try to figure out if they exist here and if so where to find one. Like most searches for anything hardware related the first thing that came up was the hardware chain Castorama. Now, I don't think about a hardware store for an item like this but I suppose it makes sense. I used to buy them at Pier 1 or Garden Ridge back when running everyday errands was easy and I had a car. 

Terreaux Bricolage
So after discovering that plate hangers are called accroches assiette and that I could get them at Castorama, I still had a petit problem: how to get to Castorama. There are three in greater Lyon but none of them are convenient for me to get to on the bus and I really didn't want to devote that much travel time for a plate hanger. The droguerie in the 6ième came to mind but a quick search on their website showed they do not sell accroches assiette. Dommage/too bad.  

I know of one quincaillerie (another kind of hardware store) downtown but thought that the chances they'd have plate hangers were slim. They sell tools and hardware but there are also casserole dishes in their window. I get so confused. If anyone out there can explain the difference between a droguerie and a quincaillerie I'm all ears.  

But wait! I discovered an actual hardware store downtown near Place Terreaux called Terreaux Bricolage. Their website shed some light on the droguerie/quincaillerie gordian knot, bless their hearts. On their homepage there are several tabs including a droguerie tab and a quincaillerie tab. The following items are listed under the droguerie tab:
Ecological droguerie (that means nothing to me)
Floor maintenance
Paint for leather and clothing (yes, that's what it said)
Home maintenance
Fragrances for the home
and the very vague "products of today and yesteryear"
Pretty much every product made fits into that last category. But at least someone somewhere has tried to rein it in.

Now onto the quincaillerie tab which listed these items:
Nuts and bolts

So, I went to Terreaux Bricolage (corner of Rue de la Platière and Rue Lanterne) and found the plate hangers between the nails and the wires. Wonderful and easy! So I guess that the large hardware stores sell everything that drogueries and quincailleries sell. Anyway, between the three kinds of hardware/home maintenance stores, all conveniently found downtown, you can get what you need to bricolage your heart out in the heart of the city.