25 March 2010

breathe, drink, read and shop

Here's another store that has become my favorite place to go to: Botanic in Villuerbanne.

As the name indicates, it is a garden shop. But it also provides much more.

In addition to plants and gardening supplies, the store sells organic food, and it has a large selection of home decoration merchandise, mainly tabletop things. I love hanging around in the corner that has soaps and candles.

There is an animalerie, where my son loved watching the neon-colored tropical fish swim. Upstairs, where you can be sure to find me, is the bookshop and cafe.

This store, its location being outside of center-city Lyon perhaps, has a lower price range on pretty much everything it sells. The home decoration products, especially, are all as chic as those you'd see in a posh store on Rue de la République, but are surprisingly inexpensive.

It is a chain store, and there are other locations all around France, two of the closest being in Ecully and in Bron, near the airport. Just a note: I don't think the one by the airport has a cafe. I don't remember seeing a book section there, either.

There is no scientific proof to this, but I'm convinced that one of the reasons why I feel uplifted when I go there is that the store has a lot of oxygen in it. And because the plants are always being watered, there is much moisture in the air inside. I somehow feel that my skin is happy because of it.

I should note that this store does not offer bags for your purchases. So, BYOB. You don't get tissue paper to protect the breakables you buy, either, but there is a pile of cardboard boxes near the cashiers that customers are welcome to use. I didn't know quite how to use them for the cups I purchased, but I always carry a few hankies in my purse, so I improvised with those.

The last time I went there, I wasn't looking to buy any plants (I have a brown thumb), but a small pot of dainty, lace-like ferns caught my eye. It came home with me, and I knew exactly where to put it. Now my dining room has a bit more oxygen in it, too.

A small bit of information: the French use the word "bio" (from "biologique"), pronounced beeo, for "organic." Now when I'm talking or writing in English I keep wanting to say "bionic" instead of "organic". Can you imagine a bionic broccoli? It should make us really, really strong.

21 March 2010

a cup of coffee and a trip around the world

One of my favorite places in Lyon is Raconte-moi la Terre in the Bellecour area.

It's a bookstore-cafe, where the atmosphere is open, worldly and relaxed. The first time I went there, I felt happy and comfortable as soon as I walked in. 

The place feels like a much-smaller, not-so-heavily-marketed version of Barnes & Noble. The books are organized in sections that are clearly labeled, with a separate little area for children's books. The gift items are from around the world, and are unique and stylish.

The airy cafe has a glass roof that lets the sunlight in. I love that I can look up and see the beat-up building next door. I've eaten here three times; the food is good and very nicely presented. Of course you can just have drinks here, too. There are several issues of TIME magazines at the bar to browse while sipping sparkling lemonade.  There is a fairly extensive tea list on the menu.

The people here are friendly, and they don't mind it when I reveal that I don't speak much French. I like this place so much that whenever I need to buy this book (it makes an excellent gift for friends in the U.S. -- the captions are both in French and English) I make a trip to this bookstore although there are many places that sell it that are closer. I tell them it's a gift and they wrap it beautifully for me.

So I enjoy a cup of coffee, and after paying for another copy of the aforementioned book, I walk across the street to buy some candies. Buying bonbons hand-made by monks is my way of participating in a century-old ritual.

It's very reassuring to have favorite spots to go to  -- it makes me feel a little bit more like a local. On some days, when things are a bit uncertain, I can really use that feeling.

17 March 2010

i heart lyon

Found in Presqui'le hidden in a quiet back alley, this graffiti put a smile on my face.

I said "There's our Notre-Dame!", then wondered if "our Notre-Dame" is redundant...

The triangular-shaped thing on the right is the Metallic Tower. The sight of these two buildings together is so, so Lyon.

15 March 2010

looking for spring

The weather forecast gave us hope...

...despite the gloomy, gray sky.

So we looked for, and we did find, the sign of spring!  

Perhaps two more weeks, maybe even just a week, before we can start enjoying picnic on this lovely log bench? (Note to self: Do NOT tighten the rubber cord over the front basket of Vélo'v when there are croissants in the bag. Flattened croissants just don't taste good.)

11 March 2010

when in france

It was so cold this morning I didn't want to go out.

I checked the weather in Fargo, North Dakota, because that's what I do when it feels cold and miserable outside of my apartment, so I can tell myself, "See, there are other places in the world much colder than Lyon. Stop mumbling!"

Except it was actually one degree warmer in Fargo than in Lyon. At least this morning.

I really didn't want to go out now.

Then I remembered that almost directly across the street from where I needed to go was the most famous chocolatier in all of France.

I immediately perked up, put my coat on faster than I thought possible, and was out of the door before I even knew it. You know what they say: When in France, do as the French do. Eat chocolate.  

Finished with my errand, I headed to Bernachon and bought several petits fours along with this bar of chocolate I had heard about -- Jour et Nuit. Its bottom half is milk chocolate and the top half is dark chocolate. There's nothing in it; it's just a very simple bar of chocolate.

Now I don't claim to be a chocolate expert. But you'd better believe that this chocolate is really, really good. It's mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm MMMMM good; it's if-you-get-used-to-this-you-will-never-buy-supermarket-chocolate-ever-again good.

The smoothness of its texture is amazing, and the flavor truly comes out in the mouth because there's nothing in it to distract the senses.

You need to have a shot of espresso with it.

I think it's a relatively small indulgence at 5€70 -- a 150g of solid happiness. After all, it's not like I went and bought a pair of shoes at Ferragamo to cheer myself up.

Right? Right???