La Rentrée à Lyon: Returning to Lyon as an Expat Family

We arrived in Lyon two weeks ago, mid-August. The city seemed both paradoxically full of tourists and empty of Lyonnais citizens, as is normal here in August. Since we are living in Vieux Lyon, tourists are ever present in this Renaissance neighborhood and UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it has been a relief to see the crowds dwindle and the restaurants re-open as locals return from their summer vacations.

  Two of our children exploring Vieux Lyon

Two of our children exploring Vieux Lyon

My children are very excited to start school. "How many days now?" They ask. They will attend the public school that one of them briefly attended three years ago; now even our third child (three years old) is old enough to attend public preschool here.

  Lion of Lyon, Place de la Basoche, Vieux Lyon

Lion of Lyon, Place de la Basoche, Vieux Lyon

We bought their fournitures scolaires (school supplies) using the same approach that I developed during our stay here three years ago: I take the school lists to Rougier & Plé (Graphigro) because they carry good quality art supplies and their employees know their products well. I'm all for letting my children learn from their mistakes, but I do want to save them from the frustration of erasers that don't erase, pencils that constantly break, and other cheaply made supplies. Their teachers here must feel the same way because they specify buying items "de bonne qualité."

  Early morning at Place de la Bourse, Lyon

Early morning at Place de la Bourse, Lyon

  Our French school supply list (for 3rd & 4th grades)

Our French school supply list (for 3rd & 4th grades)

The last time we bought school supplies here in Lyon, a friendly and knowledgeable salesperson helped me hunt down all the items with quick precision, so I asked an employee to help us this time too. Many of the items I can find on my own, but sometimes I struggle to translate the details, like "une porte-vue avec 50 vues" (a notebook with 50 clear page protectors inside) or un rouleau de scotch avec dévidoir (tape with a dispenser). This time I was confused by "un rouleau de sopalin." The school principal described it as "essuie-tout," dry all, meaning paper towels. I figured out that Sopalin is the brand name that often replaces the item name, like Kleenex in the U.S.. These are the little language details that I continue to learn by immersion.

In the meantime, our French-American friends invited us to visit the Gallo-Romain museum up on Fourvière hill, and it was a good reminder of the incredible history present here. The kids were largely uninterested in the beautiful mosaics and the hundreds of Roman inscriptions that have been unearthed, but they enjoyed learning about wrapping a toga, driving a chariot, and playing ancient counting games, which is a good start to understanding Roman civilization here back when Lyon was Lugdunum.

  Letting our three-year-old drive the chariot at the Gallo-Roman Museum, Lyon

Letting our three-year-old drive the chariot at the Gallo-Roman Museum, Lyon

Lyon seems to be moving into the future well. Part-Dieu train station will be doubled in size by 2023; Bartholdi's fountain at Place des Terreaux (He also sculpted the Statue of Liberty) has just been cleaned and reworked with steam periodically pouring from the horses' nostrils; the industrial wasteland past la Confluence is being redeveloped into commercial areas that will lead to the recently landscaped and updated Parc de Gerland.

  Place des Terreaux and Bartholdi Fountain by Anthony Vollanth

Place des Terreaux and Bartholdi Fountain by Anthony Vollanth

  View of Lyon from Fourvière

View of Lyon from Fourvière

Perhaps just as importantly though, Lyon still feels like a home away from home for us, a place where we can enjoy this last summer weekend simply by buying vegetables at the market on the Quai Saint Antoine, perusing books for sale outside the Cathedral Saint Jean, walking to a local park, and picking up a warm baguette on our way home to prepare dinner. I'm grateful for the memories in the making and for this version of life that is so rich in simple experiences.

  "Paradise" with a view of Cathedral Saint Jean and the rooftops of Vieux Lyon

"Paradise" with a view of Cathedral Saint Jean and the rooftops of Vieux Lyon

How are you enjoying the last days of summer? Does the past seem present to you in these moments?

Related Posts:

* Lyon's Fête des Lumières

* Life in Lyon: Settling in as a Family (our post from living in Lyon three years ago)

* From Exchange Student to Mama in France

* No, No, No--Not in August!