Dinner at Lyon

What an extraordinary period we are experiencing! The BLM movement which is happening globally is, for me, a very positive event and I love it to continue growing until racial discrimination is eradicated. Yes, we are still in amidst of the coronavirus crisis. But something as important as this can’t wait because it will be inconvenient for someone else. The tide is taking over all of us…

Now, let’s go back to one evening in Lyon two years ago.

In the past, I visited more than a few largish French cities such as Rennes, Strasbourg, Aix-en-Provence and Avignon, and they never failed to impress me. Unlike their largest counterpart, Paris, their streets were litter-less and beautifully maintained, and I loved their relaxed atmosphere. And if I were pressed to choose one French city I found the most charming, my answer would have to be Avignon. The city was packed with charm – their pedestrian friendly streets, leafy squares with cafes and restaurants, private boutiques with unique offerings, etc. I loved the place because they had everything I expected from a historic French city in one handy package.

A mellow early evening in Lyon

Having said that, I still recall good vibes which I picked in the late afternoon air of Lyon’s city centre. Lively but civilised, sophisticated yet not snobby, I liked the place very much.

‘So what do you fancy for dinner, mum?’ I asked her as we left our hotel room. ‘Anything. I don’t mind as long as it is not too herby or spicy.’, came her usual reply. ‘Well, it’s very helpful, mum.‘, I sighed.

Can I tell you how my mom can be a real pain when it comes to food? she has so many foods she dislikes, and choosing a restaurant in an unfamiliar place can be very tricky. Her most pet hate is Asian herbs and spices in general therefore Thai or Vietnamese or Indonesian are big no-no. With her, there won’t be any culinary adventure. How sad…

‘Let’s check out rue Mercière. It looks like there are lots of restaurants, according to Google!’

The street was lined with many eateries and some restaurants’ alfresco dining areas were already snapped up by early diners.

Too many places to choose from!

Mum started to say that she wanted Moules-Frites with beer and we sat for a while at one of the outdoor tables of A Belgium restaurant. However, they seemed to be not quite open for business yet and we didn’t see much activities in the inside of the eatery. After sitting around 15 minutes, we gave up and started looking for somewhere else.

‘How about Italian, mum?’ We found anItalian bar/restaurant on rue Thomassin which looked inviting.

Lively but not too raucous…

We were swiftly ushered to a table next the open window by a smiley staff and we eagerly ordered well-earned cold beer…

Ahhh, we missed you!

For dinner, we opted for a platter of antipasto and a plate of multigrain and roasted vegetable salad…

Voilà! Bon appétit 🙂

Mum seemed to enjoy her beer and food. ‘Italian is the safest bet if we are not sure what to eat.’, she smiled as she munched on.

After dinner, we made a detour to a mini supermarket before heading back to a hotel.

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière in the distance

‘Look at these apples!‘

We would have bought a couple of them if the season was right…

Best lockdown shopping!

It’s my day-off from training so I am writing another post.

I imagine some of us indulged in retail therapy during the last seven weeks in order to alleviate the hardship of the lockdown.

I was certainly one of those people and treated myself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

Ta-dah!

In fact, I was considering about buying the pair long before this coronavirus business. ‘Do I really need them?’ I was asking myself every time I came across people who were sporting the pairs. Wouldn’t they be another wasted tech gadgets, like my AirPods? (unfortunately, my ear shape wasn’t suitable for Apple’s wireless earbuds.)

Then, I noticed one of my teammates came to the practice with a pair of Beats’ noise-cancelling headphones. He was commuting to the ice rink using public transport and therefore the headphones were essential for his journey. ‘Hey Dennis, can I try your pair? I’m pondering about buying one for myself.’ He handed me his pair and I was blown away by the comfort of the over-ear headset as soon as I tried them. ‘Wow, they are so nice! Much better than on-ear or in-ear types!’ I was sold…

A few days later, I visited a local Currys PC World to sample headphones. My budget was £170 max and as far as I researched the web, Sony’s MDR-1AM2 appeared ideal. ‘Can I see noise-cancelling headphones, please?’ I was led to the far end of the store with a wall a full of headphones. ‘These are MDR-1AM2.’, the shop assistant pointed at one of the display models on a shelf. I duly tried them on and listened to a sample track. Hmm…, they are okay, I thought but not 100% impressed. Then, I tried Sony’s top range pair WH-1000XM3…

OMG! I was amazed. The pair was unbelievably comfortable. The part which sat on the top of my head was well-padded and the ear pads which encased my entire ears were plush. I felt the headphones securely fitted without scarifying the comfort.

‘They are nice, aren’t they?’, the assistant gleefully asked me. Oh yeah, I was sold except about the price tag of £269. I painfully realised what difference £110 could make. I loved the WH-1000 pair the most but £100 more was a stretch. So I walked out of the store empty handed.

Then, the lockdown commenced and my world had become very different from the one I knew – spending far long time at home. Hubbie was busy running his business at home and there were many Zoom meetings and phone calls. Even though we got on well as always, being together 24/7 could be testing as a couple. I tried to get by this “new-normal” by wearing a pair of old on-ear headphones but found they were simply too uncomfortable to wear all day long.

‘All right! I’m gonna buy these Sony pair for myself!’

Since I am not paying monthly subscriptions to our team, I should use the money to pay for the headphones, I reasoned. And it was the best decision I ever made!

Ever since the headphones were delivered to my door step, I have been inseparable from them. I just LOVE listening my favourite tunes through them. THEY ARE GREAT! My playlist lifts me up so much and literally, the music is saving me every single day of the coronavirus lockdown. And the comfort, oh my, it is heavenly. I just immerse into music and float. No more discomfort on my earlobes! The money was very well worth spent. That’s all I can say…

I am alive & kicking!

Despite the fact that I had more time on my hands, I was neglecting my blog until this morning and I do apologise for my laziness. It was not that I was being a couch potato, watching Netflix non-stop but I was on my feet most of the time, training or doing housekeeping.

I’m obsessed about my snap shot…

I am always a bit of busy bee and hate sitting around unless I’m ill. So you can easily imagine what this coronavirus lockdown has been affecting my psyche? I feel like I’m a trapped animal and struggling to be free!

Exercising hard and feeling exhausted by the end of day does help to alleviate my frustration towards this house arrest. The fatigue makes me feel like I am getting somewhere and becoming a better hockey player than pre-lockdown me.

There is one image in my head which spurs me on. The image of me chasing a puck along the board, racing with my teammates and beating them. The vision really helps me pedal harder on an exercise bike and motivates me to keep on lifting a barbell.

I am sure all of us under the lockdown hold images like mine close to hearts which give us comfort and help us to look forward to future. Even though no one knows what kind of future awaits us, we have to keep hoping it will be a better one and we will rejoice together.

In the meantime, I will step away from my manic exercise regime time to time and update my blog more often…

Beginner’s luck?

Now, the lockdown is its sixth week and we are not only finding ourselves adopting to the new normal but also facing new necessities such as grooming dogs at home.

Pre-haircut Bella

Since the lockdown started, the weather in London was like early summer and Bella’s coat was a little too long for it. Since her usual groomer was closed for an indefinite period, I had to take up the challenge…

After I bathed her, dried her and combed her, she was ready to be given a haircut.

Lots of hair!

Despite my concern, Bella wasn’t too frightened by the sound of a clipper. It was really funny to discover that she seemed to know who was the real boss in here – she wasn’t very co-operative when Hubbie was holding her – she wriggled and yelped with no apparent reason, but she behaved much better as soon as I started to clip her alone. Hahah!

Much tidier Bella

I wouldn’t never had dreamt of grooming Bella until the lockdown and I kind of liked the idea of doing it by myself from then on.

What was the famous saying? “Necessity is the mother of invention”?

I never gonna thank the COVID-19 ever but without the lockdown, I never knew my new possibilities…

Light traveller

This morning, I saw a traffic warden on our street for the first time since the lockdown has started.

They were standing a lot closer…

While the warden was issuing a ticket, a few construction workers came out from a building site nearby and approached him, protesting about the penalty. At one stage, the distance between them was less than 1m even though the confrontation lasted nearly 5 minutes. ‘Gee, is it really necessary? Where is the social-distancing rule?’ I was biting my lips while I was watching the exchange.

Issuing parking fines to construction workers, who weren’t banned from working but also were discouraged to use public transports, was one thing but also sending out those traffic wardens to the street without appropriate protections was another thing I really wanted to question Hackney Council. Sure, they would want to recoup some revenue they lost during the lockdown. But they must also remember that they had their duty to protect everyone from the virus.

Ok, it’s enough for my corona moaning.

As I mentioned in the previous post that mum and I were not light travellers even though we wished to be one. We would love to travel with a minimum luggage like a small carry-on each, instead of being laden with multiple bags of all sizes and makes like Samwise “Sam” Gamgee in The Lords of the Rings and trudging on down the street.

Sam, you travel in style…

When I fantasise about being an light traveller, one image pops up in my mind is a TV advert I watched when I was a teenager. In it, a guy in a pair of faded Levi’s 501 slipped his passport in to the rear pocket and casually walked towards a departure. Needless to say, he had no luggage to hamper his style. Oh, how we would love to be unshackled like him but sadly it would not gonna happen. Do you know why? Let me explain.

We stayed at Le Boulvardier and this was their reception / bar area.

Funky decor, huh?

We didn’t see the staffs when we arrived because the bar was closed then.

A view towards the bar entrance from the street.

During our road trip, we discovered that the majority of the hotels we stayed didn’t have a coffee maker or a hairdryer in the room. We, especially mum, loved drinking coffee and having no facility to make one in our room was a big headache. I imagined that the hotels expected us to go out and have our caffeine fix at cafes nearby. But mum didn’t like French style coffee (she preferred American style) and also she wanted to drink it and relax in the privacy of our own room. ‘I don’t want to go out for coffee first thing in the morning!’, mum would moan.

So, my solution was storing everything we imagined we would need during the holiday, such as a kettle, a hairdryer and a yoga mat(!) in the boot, and bring it (or them) to our room when necessary.

Le Boulvardier’s room was one of those minimalist kinds with very basic amenities – no coffee maker and no hairdryer.

‘Good job that we decided to bring a kettle and a hairdryer from the car then!’

If the car park was near the hotel, I wouldn’t have minded doing a few trips to transport our necessities to our room. However, the parking at Lyon was more than a few streets away from our hotel and therefore I decided to bring everything, a kettle, a hairdryer, cups, etc.

Shame, we didn’t drink at the bar!

One day, we should try to be light travellers by setting a baggage allowance, like one carry-on each. I bet it won’t be easy but we probably can learn to live with a little bit of inconvenience and even enjoy it as an out of ordinary experience…

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