Tag Archives: Lyon

Just pedal and breathe, pedal and breathe.

I have always enjoyed bikes. It use to be a family tradition when I was a child. I still have visions of my mum leading the way, my brother in front of me and we would just pedal away through Krug Park and Lovers Lane with it’s overlying trees and flowers abloom. As I got older, there were no longer any bikes. I mean who rides a bike in the USA unless you are in Seattle or Denver or any other more “earthy” city that appreciates them and will actually construct a bike lane.

My trek to work is not an easy one, I live on one of the largest hills in the city and I work on another intense hill. So it’s a big hill to work and a big hill back home, but going down is always the nice part. A past coworker was moving out of France last June and graciously donated her bike to me, hat and all. The bike was too small for me, had a flat tire, clicked and clacked, but I thought that I could raise the seat and it will get me from point A to point B and this it does quite well.

I started off slow throughout the summer. Building up my lungs, bulking up my thighs and tackled those hills bit by bit. Lidl had a bike week and I loaded up on biking shorts, gloves, seats, you name it, I was able to get it next to nothing. I had a goal in the beginning of twice a week to work. The gas for the car is astronomically expensive, it cost me 60€ to fill it up and will last about 2 weeks if I am lucky. I don’t have a big car, but it is not the smallest and finding parking for it’s size (Peugeot 208) can be quite the challenge. My biggest factor is just facing french drivers or their lack of driving skills. You really have to be driving here to understand this comment. There are no rules and there are rarely manners, but worse off is that the roads are bumper to bumper during peak hours. The French would rather totally side swipe your car, without hesitation, just so they can get to where they need to be and in the meantime giving you the finger as they have just been guilty of bumping your car and cutting you off. Quel culot!!!

With this said, I can bike home in less time than it would be for me to drive home while fighting traffic and my blood pressure skyrocketing. Now comes to what I like to call the revelation. One crisp automne morning, the moon was full and incredibly bright, I had Bananarama’s Greatest Hits in my ears, a fresh cup of delicious coffee running through my veins, not a soul on the road except the market trucks loading fresh produce into the restos, and the same group of older men having 6:30 a.m. coffee at a side café. I was zooming down the hill at top speed (not crazy of course) and I had the most peaceful feeling come over me that I have not felt in the longest time. I made it down to the riverfront and I stopped my bike and just looked up at Fourvière church with the light shining up onto it, the moon glistening off the river, and simply listened to the quietness of the city.

Then one day after work, at the end of an exhausting day with 5 and 6 year olds and back to back meetings, the one thing that I looked forward to was being back on the bike. It was a bit crazy and I thought, “What is wrong with me?” I zoomed back down the hill, I cruised past all the bumper to bumper cars giving each other the finger and honking incessantly at each other. I did nothing but feel the glorious sun on my face, listen to Whitney sing personally to me, and calmly pedaled home. In the beginning, I dreaded my Montée de la Boucle hill. It is incredibly steep, but today I just tackle it with a smug grin on my face and it completely and utterly energizes me for the martini that awaits me at home.

My message in this blog is that something as silly as a bike taught me such a life lesson. To slow down. I see everything now. I know where the smallest of potholes are in the road, I see something different in a building every day, I discover new roads to explore, I find Life itself. In a world that pushes and pushes us, in a society that just never slows down, I found a way to come full circle and appreciate the small things and the beauty of just being alive. Simply through being on a bike. During this sort of metamorphosis I have since quit smoking after many years of socially doing so, I now get in my car, put on Sade and rarely let anything get to me with the mantra of, “I refuse to get frustrated because you cannot drive.” I even come home and now try not to sweat the small stuff that normally I would create silly issues over. I am on vacation this week and not biking much and just yesterday I was thinking, “I absolutely cannot wait for my 6:15 bike ride on Monday. Me, the city, my bike. We just pedal and breathe. Namaste.

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Ode to Seven

A little over 2 years ago, I stumbled onto a quaint little café nestled along the Saône river. In the beginning, I went there because the prices were really great for such a perfect location AND the rosé was Bio. Who could ask for more? After but a matter of weeks, I didn’t even have to order. Whether it was noon, 15h, 21h, the pot just arrived. Though occasionally, I would switch it up depending on the weather. For me, it was more than just a “place to go”, it was a tiny piece of home.

Many might laugh at this concept and find it a bit sad, but this café had a much more special meaning for me. This meaning was Marc and Joy, the owners. Joy is this lovely canadian woman with the most gorgeous red hair one has seen and a smile that lights up a room. We rarely spoke English together, but when we did, it was a bit like home in France. Marc is the man who worked his 15 hour days nonstop and rarely could you not hear that laugh of his filling up the room.

I could be in the worst mood but if I was walking down the sidewalk with the taste of rosé piercing my lips because of my day and I would happen to see Marco outside laughing with a customer or Joy always cleaning something, I knew that everything would be just fine. Ease just came to me. They knew more about my troubles and frustrations about trying to make it in France than anyone. Even though, I knew, that day after day after day, they had to listen to people whine and complain about their lives on a regular basis, they still always listened, offered me advice, and made me laugh. They just always made things better by being who they were.

I could never possibly write all the memories Café Seven has giving me. I met countless upon countless of people there. I never met, but yet knew so well, many of the regulars who went there,  just with our nods of hellos and a smile from across the room. The phenomenal after close soirées where Marc would close the curtains, crank up the music, and new friendships began till the early hours in the morning. Oh yes, the Chartreuse, oh the Chartreuse. Aka Marc’s fault for introducing it to me! For me, the best was simply lighting a cigarette, sitting back with the sun on my face, hearing the laughter of the people who loved being there as much as I did, enjoying the rosé, and seeing Fourvière in the background. There are no words.

Sometimes I felt as if I went there a bit too much. Me always sitting there on my iPad, day after day, pot after pot, yet I never felt like a nuisance or a pain, I felt that it was my special place and I was always welcomed. I was never needy or loud (ok upon occasion), but I was just able to be me…Erich. With this said, the work owning Seven was hard and long, but I hope that the owners both know how much happiness they brought to so many people from all around the world because they encountered what they created as Seven. It was a place where laughter could be heard, tears could be cried if needed, a good coffee could be drank, a great wine could be drank, and everyone just came together to be happy. This was Seven.

A small piece me feels very empty now because Seven is closing. Again, so silly to many, but so important to me. It is one of the reasons that I love my life in France. Special moments and places like Seven. I wish nothing but the absolute best for Marc and Joy, Lord knows they have earned it. I refuse to say goodbye to them because this I will not allow. But I will thank them for the years of memories, of laughter, and of kindness that they have given to my friends and myself. They are like family to me and as Seven now closes its doors, those memories well never close in my heart. Best of luck Marco and Joy, until our next pot together à un autre endroit and adieu mon cher Seven. Tu me manqueras.

Erich

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To work or not to work? This is the question.

They call Americans workaholics. They work, work, work, work, work and then work some more. Some have to do so just to make ends meet and there is no other option. Others do it because they want to have more and more, bigger and bigger, and be better than their neighbors. Yet, there is no doubting that Americans are hard workers.

Yet with all this work, are their lives missing something? Maybe, a bit of life itself? A moment to sit at a café and feel the sun on your face, a half a day to just have a couple of cups of coffee and play with your kids (aka pets ;-)), or just for no reason at all but to relax. This, I feel, is the mentality of many Europeans. When they drink a wine, they enjoy every tiny sip (or large depending on the beverage). When they eat any cuisine, they really indulge and appreciate what they are eating. When they have a conversation, they are utterly dedicated to this conversation.

They definitely are hard workers but the mentality is completely different. Try finding fresh bread on Sunday……not happening (good bread anyway). Even try finding it on Monday….probably not happening. Then try finding much open in August….probably not happening either.

Sadly, more and more of France is becoming Americanized and stores are starting to open on Sunday and Monday, but they hold true to their traditions. Enjoying life. Taking that hour and a half lunch to really enjoy the food, taking those 3 days off a week (depending on your job) to really enjoy life. Now this is not to say that stores are open on those days, but the rest of us are not in them because we are out enjoying life!

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What it really means to be a proud American.

After a month now, true patriotism has really sunk in. It’s like being Catholic, once a Catholic, always a Catholic. I might belong to Unity church, but deep down, I’m still a Catholic. Especially at Christmas, I want to smell those incense that bugged me as a kid, I want to hear the old-fashioned Christmas carols sung by a large choir, and I want to be surrounded by Catholicism.

After 3 wonderful days in Lyon with friends from the US, it really made me proud of my country. I always knew the USA was vast and huge. It has its problems, which always got to me, just as any country has its problems. After sharing our family stories, getting to speak English for 3 days, and talking about what cities we wanted to still see in the US. I was a bit nostalgic realizing what a grand, gorgeous country I come from.

I simply will never be the type that screams and fist pumps, “USA! USA! USA!” nor will I ever have a bumper sticker that reads, “God Bless the USA!” or have an oversized ball cap with an American flag and cowboy boots. But my patriotism is within. It’s true and deep in my heart and I have never been more proud to be American.

I remember for years and years when the French asked me, “Where are you from?”, I’d answer, “Canada” because they were so against Bush (whether I was or not), if I didn’t say it then I remember the looks I’d get and the under breath comments. It’s kind of like people who have lots of money, they NEVER discuss it or flaunt it. They are classy. That is how I feel about my country. I don’t flaunt it or talk nonstop about it. I keep that love deep within me and now when they ask me, “Where are you from?” I smile slightly and with the utmost pride, I respond, “I’m from the USA.”

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Normal flavored gummi bears, non. Protein bars, non . Chicken broth in a box, non. Plus, Cetaphil for $25.

Adaptation is the key to successful living outside your country and comfort zone. It’s all about your attitude. Yesterday when we went to the larger Monoprix for some specific spices and various odd items, I learned many lessons.

1) My old Cetaphil is about $25 so I quickly changed to a French product called Avène and saved 8€.

2) I’ll have to use cubed chicken bouillon to make my broth because it doesn’t exist in a box. Every other flavor seems to exist, but not chicken.

3) Protein bars or powder for after a workout is hard and expensive to even find.

4) Syrup for my pancakes is about $8 for a little glass jar, which lasts about a week.

5) Gummi bears come in really unique flavors and even Haribo has every type but regular flavors.

6) Always print out a label even if you buy one peach because the line quickly builds up.

When you walk by the gazillion fresh bakeries, butchers, wine stores, open air markets, elderly people passing you by and always smiling with a sweet, “Bonjour” even though you don’t know them. You know exactly that you are where you need to be. All the little nuances that make it different or hard for some people seem to fade away with a limoncello over ice at a local café in the middle of a neighborhood where fellow dog lovers look lovingly at their dogs that are allowed everywhere and enjoy their conversations with friends. So go ahead, charge what you want, there are a million other things that make up for it!