Drinking with the Colonizer

(hi friends, I’m a little behind on updating my blog. But! I’m back!).

In Lyon, I wore a short skirt with bare legs and pretended I was back in New York. Signs across France proclaimed le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé!, and to compliment our dinner of squid, foie gras, and scallops, my friend and I drank cocktails mixed with the new wine. Then we ordered a bottle, and after that we went to one of the boats on the River Rhone for another pot. The floating bar was filled with women and men mingling, the first time I’d been in a mixed crowd where alcohol was flowing freely in a long time. I felt scared. I felt silly. My friend reminded me that I’d only been away from America for 3 months. Still, I found myself wrapping my scarf around my neck and wishing I’d worn tights. We navigated our way through conversations in French, and I realized I couldn’t speak La Langue without bits of Arabic. Luckily, we’d found North Africans to keep us company: an Algerian and a Tunisian, who, although having grown up entirely in France, knew what I meant when I accidentally said chwiya or bzaf in the middle of a sentence.

from digitaljournal.com


The morning after the Beaujolais Nouveau release, we ate breakfast at a cute café facing a church in the old part of Lyon. We had headaches for hangovers, because Beaujolais Nouveau is actually a cheap red wine after all. Our waiter, an older man who owned the place, wanted us to drink wine with our breakfast. Even when we politely declined, he insisted. We devoured omelets with figs and goat cheese and decided to stick to our abstinence at least until after our first cup of coffee. Over the owner’s shoulder, I noticed a row of Lavache Qui Rit; I thought about Morocco. While the laughing cow’s spreadable cheese is everywhere, in my town you’ll only see alcohol at hotels, or in Italian restaurants. There are a few bars, but I wouldn’t dare go into them by myself. Don’t get me wrong – Morocco has a booming wine industry based out of Meknes – but you’re not likely to see folks openly sipping the sauce with their breakfast like I did in France.

After days of eating and drinking our way through Lyon, we decided to check out the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Croix-Rousse. It was the most beautiful market I’ve ever seen – towers of aubergine, fromage so fresh it was painful, accordion players giving a musical voice to any cliché you’ve ever wanted to believe about France. We got a baguette, ham, and figs and made our breakfast on a park bench. There was a pre-winter chill in the air; I hadn’t felt so cold in months. When we finished we went searching for roasted chestnuts and vin chaud, and decided instead to get cozy inside a café with a pot of Côtes du Rhône.

When we returned to Paris that night, I was delighted to find our cab driver was a Moroccan from Oujda. We spoke a French/Darija mixture and I was so happy to communicate a little more freely than I had most of the week. My Arabic is surprisingly better than my French, especially when giving taxi directions. Still, meeting this transplanted Moroccan served only as proof that my petite vacation was coming to an end.

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Categories: wanderings | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Drinking with the Colonizer

  1. CJ


    i can’t even begin to handle this.

    and the cafe? in the picture? I used to go there ALL THE TIME and eat SO MANY DELICIOUS TARTINES!

    for some reason i distinctly remember that i read through all of ZZ Packer’s collection, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, in that cafe.

    also, your pictures of place bellcour and all of lyon make me want to weep that i was not there with you.

    How I miss you almost as much as I miss Erin Harte.

  2. CJ! You commented almost as fast as I posted. Did you see the lobster I put up for you?

  3. helen

    “towers of aubergine, fromage so fresh it was painful, accordion players giving a musical voice to any cliché you’ve ever wanted to believe about France” — JALOUSE.

  4. Rajaa

    Hi Erin enjoy ur time very well and god bless u inchaalah !!

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