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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Twenty in France: Crêpes and a very pink tarte aux pralines

An absolutely beautiful mural of Chef Paul Bocuse across from Les Halles, the Lyonnais market that bears his name.

01/02/2020: I had a craving for chicken noodle soup today, so after a quick run to the grocery store, I was standing at the stove stirring my pot of broth, watching J. butcher a rotisserie chicken for me. The soup was absolutely perfect – everything you want of a classic, comforting chicken noodle. Deep chicken flavor (thank you, bouillon cubes), tender vegetables, plenty of egg noodles and chicken, and a hefty dose of fresh chopped parsley. J. was so impressed, he had two bowls, and that's all I can ask for.

After our cozy afternoon, we headed out to J.'s friends house to celebrate La Chandeleur, a French holiday dedicated to eating crêpes (oh, and something about Jesus, too). Symbolically, the crêpes are supposed to represent the sun and to mark the happy fact that we're halfway through winter. I certainly felt sunny after an apéro, a board game and probably 20 mini crêpes filled with shredded gruyère, lardons and cured ham (salée) and confiture de lait (sucrée), my absolute favorite French condiment. It literally means "milk jam," which sounds gross, but it's actually their delicious take on dulce de leche. To finish off my half-birthday (!) strong, we shared icy cold shots of banana rum before saying our goodbyes. I swear, I cannot believe that I've made this many friends. Who would've thought? Not me. *insert Paul Rudd gif here*

02/02/2020: This lazy Sunday culminated in Chinese food that made me miss Chinese takeout from home. My sautéed noodles with beef were as skinny as I wish my arms were – far from the hearty lo mein noodles that I know and love, and the sauce just wasn't the same. Of course, I ate it all nonetheless. (Luckily, the shrimp crackers were as familiar as they come.) Ready for another week? I am.

03/02/2020: Today had a fun surprise in store – definitively my worst class of my teaching experience so far (which honestly, at four months in, is a blessing in itself). I accidentally ended up alone with a group of 20 students, including some of the most troublesome in the class, and they caused havoc from the first to the very last minute. Not only that, but the room's computer was also broken, so I had to write the questions and answers on the board by hand. Not exactly the recipe for success. I put on my best angry slash disappointed face and switched into what I call my "Respect Me" French to scold them, which helped, but all in all I was happy to head home at the end of the day. I decompressed with J., Blacklist and a bowl of stove-popped popcorn.

Another beautiful Brunstatt sunset.

04/02/2020: My lessons went much better today, including a mock "town hall" where I gave my more advanced students pro- and anti-gun roles such as "rural hunter," "concerned parent," and more, and had them debate the pros and cons of the Second Amendment. For dinner, I reverted to a tried and true go-to: fried rice with leftover rotisserie chicken and an egg. No shame – I ate it on the floor in front of my TV watching Un dîner presque parfait, my absolute favorite French TV show (it's even better than L'amour est dans le pré, a dating show for farmers).

05/02/2020: Nausea and cramps made for a terrible morning, but things got a lot better after a successful tutoring session and some saucy lamb tagine with the kids of the family chez moi. Sometimes I still feel awkward when I'm eating with them, but the difference between four months ago and now is palpable. The most salient change – I spoke! After dinner, my anticipation started to rise for my trip this weekend (which has already started, since I don't have class tomorrow because the students have a big national test). I'm going to Lyon!

My best friend in France!

06/02/2020: A crazy busy morning of cleaning and packing led to a sunset train ride and eventually to two unbelievably giant meat and cheese plates and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône red wine in the 7th arrondissement of Lyon with my best friend, A. I couldn't be happier to share my country and culture with her, even though our eyes were much, much bigger than our stomachs during this first meal together. We pushed through, though, and finished almost all of the charcuterie, pâté, pickles, baguette and assortment of cheeses, from goat to blue and everything in between. Let the weekend of eating in France's best food city begin! Although we weren't sure that we'd ever be hungry again...

07/02/2020: Sadly, we began our first full day of exploring with a soggy slice of quiche Lorraine for breakfast (as well as my first very disappointing bite of a cannelé). But when we stepped into the magic that was Les Halles de Paul Bocuse, I forgot all about our forgettable start. The indoor market, named after one of Lyon's most famous chefs, who passed away in 2018, had surprises in store for us around every corner, from caviar restaurants to oyster bars to glossy, colorful patisseries. I came to Lyon knowing nothing about the regional specialities, and I left with a pink praline tart in hand and a hunger for quenelles. (More on that later.) A. and I headed to the Parc de la Tête d'Or, France's largest urban park, with our spoils for a little picnic. We munched on grilled squid, marinated asparagus and artichoke hearts on crusty baguette, and satisfied our sweet teeth with plastic cups of wine, the aforementioned praline tart and a caramel chocolate gateau. Even as we fended off a gaggle of vicious geese, I thought to myself how grateful I was that my best friend and I could explore a new and exciting city in France – together. After a lot more walking, a visit to the Botanic Garden, a happy hour beer, a ride on a giant Ferris Wheel and a two-hour nap in our hostel, we finished the day off with a burger and fries from Les Burgers de Papa like we were back in America. A. and I have been friends for 22 years and counting, and there's nothing better than discovering a new place with someone who just gets you.

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