24 February 2012

Lyon — Another "Best" City

For the first time ever, QS (you can read about who they are and what they do here) have put together a list of the best cities in the world for students.

As with other best-city rankings, Lyon once again finds itself rather high up on the list, this time at number 14. Only seven other cities in continental Europe place higher, including Paris (no. 1), Vienna (no. 5), Zurich (no. 7) and Berlin (no. 8).

The study claims that Lyon is the most affordable student city in the top 20. Combine that with several top ranked institutions, the best food in the world, a rich cultural diversity, and you have a formidable cocktail with the potential for creating a most unforgettable learning — and life — experience.

The see the full list of the top 50 cities in the world, click here. You can also see this page to read more about the methodology used to develop the list.

If you had the opportunity to be a student in one of these 50 cities, which would it be, and why?

14 February 2012

Sign For The Day

Photo credit: www.lesjetaime.com

This "I love you" image comes from a monument dedicated to love. Click here to find out more.

You might be asking yourself: where can I see this monument?

In Paris, of course.

12 February 2012

New Car Sharing Service in Lyon

Lyon leads the way. Again.

Photo: http://media.daimler.com
First there was Vélo'V. Then there was Rhônexpress. Now it's car2go.

In an effort to facilitate urban mobility while reducing inner-city congestion, Lyon has just become the first city in France to adopt the concept car2go, a car-sharing service that has at its core a fleet of 200 low-emission smart cars.

The idea is innovative, brilliant and refreshingly easy to use.

If you need a vehicle to move about the city center, whether for a few minutes or a full day, simply unlock the car with your personal membership card and drive away. Cars can be located in the city using the internet site www.car2go.com, various smartphone applications or simply when you come across one parked on the street.

Members of Lyon's car2go pay a one-time, inexpensive registration fee of 14.90€ (approximately 20 USD). You'll then be charged .29 euro cents per driving minute and a rate of .09 euro cents to park during stopovers. The driving and parking rates cover all costs for insurance, taxes, parking and fuel.  Discounted rates can be had for hourly or daily use.

It's that simple.

And when you're done, just park the car in any public parking place (admittedly not always so simple) or in a car sharing station inside the car2go business area. There's no need to pay for parking since that's included in your per minute rate.

For more details about using car2go in Lyon, you can visit the company website here (in French only) or this press release (in English) from Daimler, one of car2go's main partners.

If I didn't already own car, I'd seriously think of signing up. It sure would be more economical for short jaunts around town.

Then again, maybe I will anyway.

09 February 2012

Le Goûter

When I was teaching English at an engineering firm in Lyon several years ago, I overheard a conversation between two colleagues that called into question one of my all-time favorite habits — the afternoon snack.

It was morning break time and I had just plunked 35 cents down the slot in the coffee machine. As the coins dropped down into the metal belly, two engineers walked up behind me and were talking about the weekend:

            So what'd you do on Saturday?

            I was home with the kids. Maxime had some school friends over.

            For his birthday?

            No, that was last week.

            Oh right. What'd you do?

            We all played some football out back for a while, then went inside, played             some Wii, then had a goûter.


Then came the question:

            "Est-ce que tu prends un goûter, toi?" (you mean to tell me that you still                 eat a snack in the afternoon?)

The question was asked with an equal mix of surprise and disgust, as if his friend had just admitted to indulging in some socially or morally forbidden act. He could have just declared he still wears diapers.

            No no no, of course not, just the kids, came the quick reply.

I quietly slipped away into the corridor, suddenly feeling like a kid with my hand caught in the cookie jar.

Probably because for as long as I can remember, and despite all modern health and dietary warnings that advise against the practice, I still enjoy, given the opportunity, and whenever the occasion presents itself, taking an afternoon goûter.

The goûter has as much staying power as any other French institution and can rightfully be compared to, say, eating oysters at New Years, taking holidays in August or shaking hands with your colleagues.

Every day between 4 and 4:30 pm, millions of tiny hands (and others not so tiny) reach for their afternoon snack at the end of school. The ultra-traditional goûter is a baguette or roll with chocolate or butter and jam.

But the wonderful thing is that when it comes to goûter, the possibilities are endless. No matter what the combination though, they do tend to share a common trait: sugar and carbs.

Here are just a few variations I've seen (and eaten on occasion) over the past 12 years:

1) crepes with jam, honey or Nutella
2) waffles with powdered sugar or other sweet spread
3) cake, sweet buns or sweet bread
4) spice bread
5) cookies
6) fruit tarts
7) croissants and other pastries
8) candy
9) rice cakes (for the health conscious)
10) fruit (for the really health conscious)
11) ice-cream cones (seasonal)

In fact, anything will suffice, as long as it fills that inner gnawing and holds one over until dinner, which typically doesn't get put on the table until 7 or 8 PM.

I don't know why Engineer no. 1 made it sound like immoral misconduct for adults to have a goûter. My gut feeling tells me that many more people do it than openly admit.

And the critical question is: at what age are we expected to stop the goûter? To this day I have yet to hear or read any authoritative decision on the matter.

But even if there were, it wouldn't hold much sway. Decades of habit — and memories — of young and old alike have seen to that.

No, the French goûter, despite what anyone might say to the contrary, is going to be around for a very long time.