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Friday, March 31, 2017

Les Aventures de Madame Beaubien: Le Dictionnaire

Sister Marie Phillippe encourages me in my French language skills.

Ahhh, the dictionary. It's my best friend when I'm at a loss for French words, which is a constant experience.

Taking a language is a long, hard slough and it takes two basic requirements: (1) you've really got to want it; and (2) you really need to be patient with it. The first requirement is easy for me. I have wanted to become fluent in French since high school. This spring I got my chance to learn the language--in France, no less. It's the second requirement that is so difficult: being patient. Learning a language is hard, disciplined work. It doesn't just come to you. You've got to practice, practice, practice.

Learning French is a constant barrage of rules, pronunciations, conjugations, and exceptions to the rules. At times I think I'll never learn. However, one of the sisters assured me that I AM learning; it's there somewhere in my head; and there IS a logic to the language. One day it will all come together. 

My image of this hallowed moment is the scene from "The Miracle Worker" where young Helen Keller finally understands the connection between objects she feels and the "finger game" that identifies and names them. "She knows!" the teacher says. 

Meanwhile, I will continue to make mistakes like confusing derriere (rear end) for dernier (the end). Not to worry, Pope John XXIII made the same mistake. Or when I wanted to say after a sumptuous dinner: J'ai eu assez (I've had enough) and said instead:  Je suis plein (I'm pregnant). Or when I was offered les pêches for dessert and wondered why it was sinful (le péché).

 And there it is: taking the risk of speaking when you haven't yet got it right yet. Learning a language takes a certain courage because nobody likes to look dumb when s/he is interacting with another. Yet, only by making mistakes do you learn the language.

During my month of language learning I met students from all over the world who also want to learn French. They came from Korea, Japan, Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Finland, Syria, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, USA. We were all there in the struggle of learning French. And, as we struggled, we learned together, which made it all worthwhile as we worked together toward our goal. (By the way, all of these students also spoke English, and we would sometimes get caught translating our French from English, which the school discouraged.)

Actually, there's nothing less encouraging than to have just heard a French recording about some subject only to discover that no one in class could follow it. This actually happened on my last day of class!

"Was the speaker speaking in French?" I asked the teacher. She gave up exasperated on that lesson and turned the page to another. Meanwhile, we all laughed, relieved the tension, and became a little closer as a learning community. We exchanged photos, Facebook addresses, and blogs. We were becoming friends. Isn't that the point of language: to allow people to communicate and thus bring the world together?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Les Aventures de Madame Beaubien: Sunday Mass

I've been going to Sunday Mass with the sisters at a parish about 5 short blocks from our apartments. It's called Holy Sacrament Parish. 

There are stained glass windows all around the church and based on the theme of the Blessed Sacrament. Look at the following windows. See the priest consecrating the host just below the crucifix:

Here's a view of the inside with its beautiful Gothic arches over the main altar.

It is a magnificent thing to attend Mass in these old churches. I can feel the history in them.  also think about the people who made the church the center of their lives.

 I also think about Ken Follett's book, Pillars of the Earth, which tells the story of a medieval cathedral builder and his life.

And, much to my surprise, I thought the French were largely non-practicing Catholics and that the church went empty. Wrong! These churches are filled with people on Sundays. One church I often visit during the week, St. Bonaventure Church is filled, especially on Fridays! One of the reasons is that we are in Lent and the church provides an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament after the 4 p.m. Mass. The people process behind the priest who carries the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance and then places it on one of the side altars so that the people can pray in front of it. 

Here is Saint Bonaventure's Church, which is near my language school and on my way home.

 Construction of St. Bonaventure Church was begun in 1325 and completed in 1494. During the French Revolution in 1790, the church was spared from destruction but it was turned into a granary. The building was re-established as a church in 1806. 

Here's the interior of St. Bonaventure. Sometimes I sit in the pew and imagine piles of grain. I also think about how this church's history is a reminder that the Church endures even when things look bleak. We have to thank God for that--and for tremendously beautiful buildings like St. Bonaventure's!

The churches in Lyon are also interesting because there is usually a beggar, a woman, at the door just before Mass. Sometimes she has a little child with her. I usually don't give out money to beggars either in the USA or anywhere in the world where I've traveled, however, the sisters have taught me something. They pick a particular beggar and give to her. They also talk with her a bit and look both the woman and the child in the eye. If the child is drawing or doing something, they usually comment on it. This is a Christian thing to do, so I followed suit. Giving a little money to a poor person at the door of a church is a decent thing to do.

Another church I visited this month was St. Jean's Cathedral. It is the seat of the Bishop of Lyon. St. Jean's is a 12th century Romanesque and Gothic cathedral that took over four centuries to build. Saint Jean Baptiste is famous for its beautiful original stained-glass windows.  

The interior of the cathedral is not as impressive as the architecture outside. However, it is praised for its simplicity and feeling of austerity that it imparts. This is the church where Sister Rose served as a parish minister for 10 years. People still remember and appreciate her and say hello to her personally.

Every week a choir from a different part of the diocese sings for the congregation. The sisters and I visited the cathedral on Week 4 of Lent and had a great choir to listen to for Mass.

Les Aventures of Madame Beaubien: Confluence

In Lyon, the Confluence is the meeting point downriver between the Saône and the Rhone Rivers. The Lyonnaise seem to dwell on the Confluence. Actually, it was a very industrial area and over the past 15 years or so, the city's Chamber of Commerce converted this area into a shopping center and a museum area.

I walked all the way to the end of the point that marks the Confluence (see photo above) and ceremoniously dipped my hand in the water to become "a part of Lyon," a city I have come to love very much over the past month.


Here is an aerial photo of the Confluence.



And, a close-up of the point.


The city erected a sculpture near the Confluence with its motto, "Only Lyon" and its signature lion mascot.  

By the way, the name of Lyon has nothing to do with lions. It is a shortened form of Lugdunum, one of the most important cities of the Roman Empire outside of Rome itself. Nevertheless, the area has been inhabited since pre-historic times. For background on its ancient history, see my blog post on the Gallo-Roman Museum (coming soon).

This very odd-shaped building is Le Musee des Confluences. It is built at the tip of land where the Saône (on the left and the slow river) and Rhône Rivers (on the right) meet: thus, the confluence.

The museum houses very creative exhibits of natural history, evolution, the solar system, anthropology--and even an Antarctica exhibit, which I liked the best. 

Here are some of the other exhibits.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Les Aventures de Madame Beaubien: What's for Dinner?

The sisters organized a good-bye party for Sunday. We went to the top of Fourvière Hill and at at Fourvière Restaurant, a very fancy but simple place. Every dish was not only beautiful, it was cooked with delicious with sauces, local produce, tender meat and fish.

 Here is a special appetizer with a mixture of vegetables put into a paté and served cold on ground tomato and pesto with olive oil.

Fresh bread, sans butter, but extra tasty. Look at the color!

Each dish has its own silverware. (left to right) The larger fork is for meat and the smaller one is for fish. The scooped knife is for fish, the next knife is for pork and the last knife is for lamb.

Here's Marie Phillippe's pork dish with pea pods, polenta, squash.

Here's Marie T's dish: fish, pea pods, squash with a smear of chocolate.

 Rose and I had the same dish: lamb, pea pods, au gratin potatoes, squash. MMMMmmmm good!

Our dessert was rum cake with rum raisin ice cream and strawberries--and whipped cream.
Here is Marie Phillippe and Marie T's dessert: mango ice cream with pistachio, strawberry macaroon, a little cake thing with espresso.

Needless to say, we each ate every bite. In fact, this meal held me for the entire day!! I only had two ladles of soup at 7:30, our dinner time. I have embraced the French diet of eating less--mostly vegetables--and walking everywhere (probably 3-5 miles a day). Even the morning's petite dejeuner of fresh French baguette with sweet butter and a small container of yogurt contributes to a healthy diet. I think I've lost nearly 10 pounds over the past 4 weeks! 

If you are ever in Lyon, go up to Fourvière Hill, face the Basilica go to on the street to the right all the way to the end. You will find Fourvière Restaurant....and, here's the view from our table:

Here is Rose and Marie Phillippe outside at the overlook of the beautiful city of Lyon. (Marie T has to leave early.)

J'adore Lyon!!   J'adore la France!!! 

Les Aventures de Madame Beaubien: Spring Time in Lyon, France

Friday, March 24, 2017

Les Aventures de Madame Beaubien: Crêpe Night

Marie T eats the "nose" of France from her cut-out crêpe

 The "nose" of France is Brittany (western province in fusia), according to a Frenchwoman I'm acquainted with who comes from there.

The sisters had a big surprise for the evening meal--at least I was surprised. We had crêpes!!

They were not like the ones we made in language school where we put jam or nutella inside and rolled them up. These we ate as a flat "pancake" with a choice of four toppings: apricot jam, lemon jam, honey, or sugar. Delicious!


The delicious crêpes we had for dessert today were plate-size.

Marie T paints her crêpe with apricot jam and sugar.

Marie Phillippe paints her crêpe with lemon jam and honey. 

I painted mine with apricot jam and lemon jam for the first one. My second one was plain--and I was happy.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Les Aventures de Madame Beaubien: Place Bellecour

Patty and I went to Place Bellecour earlier this week. She had to go to Decitre, a tremendous bookstore on the southwest side of the square, so I accompanied her. So glad I went because Place Bellecour is unbelievable.

Place Bellecour is a large square in the center of Lyon about 30 minutes on foot from our school.

The square is huge!! It measures 62,000 square meters (15 acres) and is one of the largest open squares in Europe and the third largest in France next to Place de la Concorde in Paris (86,400 square meters) and Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux (126,000 square meters). It has no greenery and is the typical slightly gravelly reddish hard surface you find in French cities.

In the middle of the square is an equestrian statue of king Louis XIV, the "Sun King" by François-Frédéric Lemot (1825). Interesting that Louis is dressed like a Roman emperor.

The square is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Romans used Bellcour for military and commercial activities. In the late 12th century, the archbishop of Lyon put in a vineyard called Bella curtis (Beau jardin in French). In 1604 Henry IV forced the Lyon City Council to transform what was a pasture into a public square, but complications with his hiers didn't allow this to happen. In 1708, Louis XIV became the owner of the square and in 1715 it became known as the Place Royale. Later it was name Place Louis-le-Grand and a bronze statue of the king was erected. Buildings around the square were built. During the French Revolution, a altar was erected on the square on July 14, 1790. The square then became known as the Place de la Fédération. A guillotine was installed in 1792 and the royal statue of Louis destroyed in 1793. The square acquired another new name, Place de l'Égalité. On June 21, 1800, Napoleon I laid the foundation stone for new buildings and the square was again renamed Place Bonaparte and later, Place Napoléon. In 1825 a new statue of Louis XIV was erected. The square was named Place Bellecour during the French Third Republic (1870-1940).     

The architecture surrounding the square is very beautiful. It looks like this one section that I captured in the photo. 

Lyon is an excellent example of urban planning. In the old city, its grid-style streets and  buildings are old, some going back to the Renaissance (like in La Croix Rousse), but there is also a lot of restoration and retrofitting going on for modern things like the Internet as well as new construction.


A pedestrian shopping mall abuts the square. It's filled with people and has anything and everything you could want.

In one corner of the square is the Institute of Paul Bocuse, a famous chef's school. Before I left for France I just happened to see a program about Bocuse on Anthony Bourdain's show, "Parts Unknown."

Anthony Bourdain likened Bocuse to Muhammed Ali. Here's a tidbit from the program.

Bocuse (1926-) is a famous French chef based in Lyon who is famous for the high quality of his restaurants and his innovative approaches to cuisine. A student of Eugénie Brazier, he is one of the most prominent chefs associated with the nouvelle cuisine, which is less opulent and calorific than the traditional cuisine classique, and stresses the importance of fresh ingredients of the highest quality. Paul Bocuse claimed that Henri Gault first used the term, nouvelle cuisine, to describe food prepared by Bocuse and other top chefs for the maiden flight of the Concorde airliner in 1969. 

Near Place Bellcour is the Saône-et-Loire river where there are many traditional French-style restaurants.

The Saône-et-Loire is a tributary of the River Rhône that joins it at Lyon (called La Confluence) and thus is connected to the Mediterranean.