samedi 30 juin 2007


Rest and recuperation are on tap for my weekend.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we are supposed to have a GEE group outing to the Parc de Courzieu, an animal park where you can be introduced to birds of prey and wolves. I strongly recommend checking out their website, if only to laugh at what must be one of the most incomprehensible English translations I have ever seen.

Afterwards we are supposed to go check out a Corbusier building, the Couvent de la tourette. Which sounds right up my alley.

jeudi 28 juin 2007


I had my first real experience with the French health care system, other than the doctor at work, and I certainly do notice a few differences between here and the US. Paging Michael Moore...

First of all, I noticed that in the doctor's office there was no nurse there. There was a receptionist down at the front, but I had been sent to some sub-waiting room, and Dr. Pinelli opened the door himself and sat me down across a desk from him, and said, "Dites moi." There was also no taking of my medical history, no showing proof of insurance, no forms to fill out whatsoever, he didn't even ask me my address.

Further, Dr. Pinelli did not have on a white coat. He was wearing a slim-fitting button-down shirt tucked into tight and stylish jeans. He also sported boots and a one-day growth of beard. If we were in NYC I would assume he was on his way to a nightclub.

After I told him the story, he walked me into the adjoining room and told me to undress. In the US, of course, this is an elaborate process involving handing you a paper gown, closing the door and letting you undress alone, and then a gentle knock on the door when the doctor enters, all of which gives the vague impression of greater hygiene and dignity. In France, the doctors just stand there in front of you, waiting, while you undress. Which in my case was actually kind of helpful since with my shoulder, elbow, and hand injuries it is a little hard to get shirts on and off-- but nonetheless this all is a little jarring to someone used to the American rigamorole. And of course there is no paper for you to wrap yourself in, you are just standing there half naked.

Then afterwards he walked me back to the desk, typed the prescriptions into the computer himself (what-- no lackeys? Doctors do their own typing?) handed them to me, and charged me 30 euros for the visit. Can you imagine spending 30 bucks on an initial doctors visit anywhere, anytime in the US? 100% of which of course (!) will be reimbursed by my insurance company. It was the cheapest thing I spent money on that day, since the prescriptions were 43 euros (they'll also be 100% reimbursed) and my monthly Metrocard renewal was 47 euros.

He was perfectly pleasant, although he had slightly less English than I had originally been led to believe. He did say, "Eeet ees your first veesit to Rome? And your last, non?"

Then I went to the pharmacie, and after several unsuccessful attempts to use the one-and-only credit card I have in my possession at this point-- their credit card reader wasn't working and this being France, they only have one in the store-- the woman at the counter told me to just come back and pay later. I was feeling a bit desperate for the mega-ibuprofen and worried that she wouldn't give me the meds but she handed everything to me anyway with a friendly, "à apres-midi!" And she didn't hold on to my credit card or anything, they trust you to pay. Pas de problem. All in all, perfectly smooth and trouble-free health care.

mardi 26 juin 2007


I saw the doctor yesterday and he gave me prescriptions for various bandages, ointments, and painkillers, so I am feeling much better.

In thinking about what I need to take care of and replace in the coming weeks, I am going to list what-all was in my purse.
  • My wallet
  • Approx 50 euros in cash
  • Credit Lyonnais ATM card
  • Bank of America bankcard
  • Gym membership card
  • My Virginia driver's license
  • My French residency permit
  • Cell phone
  • Camera
  • A return ticket for the Lyon airport shuttle
  • The sunglasses that I got in Australia that I was quite fond of.
  • A cardigan that I also got in Australia.
  • A sugar lip balm that I cannot find in Europe.
  • Italy guidebook
That may be it. Fortunately, the biannual sales are starting, so I can at least go out and get a new purse and wallet. Maybe the cell phones go on sale too, I don't know.

lundi 25 juin 2007

Not such a fabulous weekend in Rome

My weekend trip to Rome was going just great until yesterday morning. I was on my way to see the Vatican when I was mugged by a thief on a motorbike who snatched my purse. I ended up being dragged down the street about half a block. I am OK but have bad scrapes on my shoulder, elbows, hip, knees, thighs, feet, and my left hand in particular is a bloody oozing mess. But no broken bones or internal injuries.

Fortunately for me, all this happened outside a convent, and the priests and nuns saw what happened and immediately came out to help. They took me to a hospital and then to the police station to file a report. They were very kind.

I have an appointment with the doctor in the morning so hopefully I'll be further cleaned up and on the road to recovery soon. I must say I was not unhappy to be on my way back to Lyon today.

vendredi 22 juin 2007

Fete da la Musique

Did France have pagans? Whether they did or not, the spirit of tree worship continues today with the Fete de la Musique, the annual solstice festival, which was last night. All over France, bands and DJ's set up on street corners and play all evening, while the crowds wandered around, dancing, and buying crepes, gaufres, or ice cream, or sometimes swigging wine from the bottle.

I was at home last night packing for my trip to Rome today but did walk around the neighborhood to check it out.

Outside my window was a guitar player doing a classic rock set-- in the pic below you can see his guitar peeking out from beneath the awning.
Down the block, there was a group line dancing to some kind of polka music, while a guy shouted out the steps. A gauche! A droite!
More dancing...
On one end of place St. Jean this guy was doing a long drum set....
... and on the other end some brass band was playing.And the sun set behind Cathedral St. Paul on the longest day of the year. Time: 10:18 PM.

mercredi 20 juin 2007

Nice day

I had a good day today. My boss Mia confirmed that there is definitely funding for me to stay the full 2 years in France, so I don't have to scramble to find a new job in the next 6 months. Then, we played poker at lunch-- me and 5 guys, Julien, James, Mazda, Sebastien, and Jerome, and I won everything.

And tonight I went out to eat along the rue Marroniers to a place called Chez Mounier, which was heavy on the organ meat but had a few fish dishes. I had a salade de chevre chaud, l'assiette de lieu noir en beurre, fromage St Marcellin (a common dessert cheese in these parts) and a tarte citron.

Then, the icing on the cake was coming home and finding 2(!) Entertainment Weeklies in the mailbox.

mardi 19 juin 2007


Back in October, I went on a hike in the Beaujolais that had been organized by Lyon International. Zoe just gave me her pictures from that day, which is why it has taken me 6 months to post them!

Along the hike were Jon, Zoe, Ellie, Beate, Steve, Farhad and Farideh. We took a bus out, they dropped us off and announced we would be hiking 5 kilometers to the town of Charnay, which I recall was unfortunate to have not learned in advance, as I would have chosen better shoes. Nonetheless, it was a good hike, after which we had a picnic and tried some beaujolais at a local winery. It was a beautiful and relaxing day.

Here is some wine-related contraption. Along the route. The Beaujolais has many hiking trails, which are marked by signs like a little picture of a dinosaur. We also passed through a fig orchard and helped ourselves to the delicious figs.
When we got to Charnay the mayor gave us a little speech.Then we went down to the cave for wine, where Ellie was extremely popular.

samedi 16 juin 2007

Joe Dassin and Johnny Cash

When I was in Paris with Pardis and Victoria we took a taxi ride back to the hotel late one night, and we had a quite entertaining cab driver who put music on and made us sing along. The first song was Joe Dassin's "Les Champs Elysées," which I hadn't heard before but its pretty easy to sing along to anyhow. Here is a photo of Joe Dassin in his prime-- I particularly like that he is cuddling up to a bobcat.

Here is a rendition of the song from youtube, alongside a slightly blurry Paris montage. In case you are struck by the need to sing along, here are the words from the chorus:

Aux Champs-Elysées, aux Champs-Elysées
Au soleil, sous la pluie, à midi ou à minuit
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées.

The cabbie then put on Johnny Cash, informing us that his mission in life was to introduce Parisians to the man in black. Of course, I already knew the words to those songs!

I don't tip anymore

It used to be that I tipped with a fervor. In New York, the standard went past 15% years ago, and it felt like if you didn't leave 20% they might chase you down the street. I would throw money on the table as if my life depended on it, regardless of the service. (Frankly I have almost never calculated my tip based on the service. Does that truly count in for anyone?)

But times have changed. Service is included here, 15% is automatically tacked on to every bill, and not even carefully delineated out on the check for you to see. But its there. Nonetheless most Americans, including myself, found that the urge to tip was hard to break. I kept tossing down euros, all fall long.

Finally I asked around of my French friends, and they said, "I never leave anything." And I noticed that whether I tipped or not made no difference in the attitude of any waiters. They would offer me a big "Au revoir! Bonsoir, mademoiselle!" no matter what I did. Plus, if I tried to hand them more money, they would just give it back to me as change. So I tried not tipping. What would happen the next time I went back? Any difference? Non! They would be just as pleasant every time.

So its happened. I have become French. I don't tip.

vendredi 15 juin 2007

The French left tanks again

Last Sunday was election day for the assemblee nationale, and the runoff is this Sunday in the districts where the winners didn't get 50%. It looks like another big ol' swing to the right-- which is of course relative here in France, but still, the poor socialist party is in tatters.

Although it is a little tough to say the people have spoken: Sunday's vote was most notable because it had the lowest turnout on record since the creation of the 5th republic, in contrast to the presidential election, which had the highest turnout in decades.

jeudi 14 juin 2007

Boat ride along the Saône

Last week I went on a boat cruise along the Saône which was sponsored by Lyon International, a group here in town that has events to welcome foreigners to Lyon. Yes, there are actually French people who are interested in meeting and talking to foreigners! Inevitably, the French people that I speak to at these events tell me that they travelled in the US and felt that everyone was so welcoming, etc, that they just want to repay the kindness. Americans? Friendly and welcoming? Whaddaya know!

Here was our boat.Some Lyon scenes...
Here is a castle-like structure that I have been wondering about.And now the video.... the sound is mostly muffled but here and there you can test your French skills.

And another one...

mercredi 13 juin 2007

The Heights

Here is a blog dedicated to my old stomping grounds. Not bad, eh? They are discussing the fear of a Starbucks coming to upper Manhattan. Whether that is a sign of progress or not depends on your point of view! Has the Washington Heights/Inwood neighborhood arrived?

mardi 12 juin 2007

Reception at l'Hôtel de Ville

Last week, the city of Lyon gave a reception at the town hall, the Hôtel de Ville, for foreign scientists who are working in Lyon. I attended with some friends from work. Here is an old photo I took a few months back of the Hôtel de Ville from the outside-- it is the building on the right with all the construction.
I didn't have my camera with me, but my coworker Amy took pictures and just gave them to me.

The Hôtel de Ville was very fancy inside. On the mantel here, note Lyon's symbol, which is, of course.... the lion! Here is my friend Farhad.

Amy took a video of the singers that serenaded us...

dimanche 10 juin 2007

busy week

Mom's surgery for breast cancer went well and she is recovering. Next on the agenda, radiation.

It has been a busy week working with the monograph program. All ethylene oxide, vinyl halides, and butadiene, all the time. But we got our reward last night, eating out together at the Maison Borie, a fancy restaurant in a quite unfancy neighborhood in Lyon. We had gaspacho with sheep's milk cheese and basil, knuckle of lamb with aubergines and figs, Picadon cheese and chocolate cake. To drink was a Voignier 'Coteaux de l'Ardèche' and a Côte du Rhône 'Domaine de la présidente' (Sarkozy?). All in all, yum.

samedi 9 juin 2007

Day Trip to Cluny

Jon, Zoe, Ellie, and I went to Cluny last Sunday. We hoped to see the Cluny abbey, which was built beginning in the year 910. It was once the most powerful Benedictine abbey in Europe and was also the world's largest Christian church until the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Unfortunately, much of the abbey is now gone. According to my guidebook, "During the Revolution, angry mobs set out to sack the building but lost interest (it took them a week just to burn the archives), and the abbey was instead sold to a property developer, who carved it up and auctioned off the stone for building material." We did however, see a medieval library of books from as early as the 10th century. They were very cool to see-- the looked to be mostly historical texts, including some histories of the abbey, many written in Latin.

This is what was left of the church.

Here is Jon, doing his own human sacrifice.
Parts of the cloister were still there, though. It was enormous.

A few carvings were left too. This one is meant to represent the first 4 tones of a Gregorian chant.

Cluny has several towers. This is the 'Tour des Fromages,' or the tower of cheeses, which was once used to ripen cheeses.

We climbed up the Tour des Fromages. Here was the view of Cluny town.

Here I am on the tower.

Zoe, Jon, and Ellie.

samedi 2 juin 2007

Winter wasn't that long ago, was it?

Amy gave me this video of me boarding. Ok, it isn't that exciting, but how many videos does one have of oneself doing sports?