Something Truly Special


How much more blessed can I be that I'm given this opportunity to live in such a wonderful place? Well, I'm even more blessed to share this experience with those that I love.

Last week, Mark Ratto, my boyfriend and partner in crime for 3 years, visited me here in Lyon. We spent 3 days in Lyon with great friends to celebrate my birthday. Then, on Sunday, we headed to Dublin to visit my old roommate and good friend, Claire Bermingham for 4 days. I have to say: this birthday was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. To spend it with people so close to my heart, then jetset over to Dublin with a local was so awesome and surreal.

When Mark flew in last Thursday, I had butterflies in my stomach like a crazy person! The class I had before meeting him was the slowest and when I finally saw him at the train station, the world around me stopped. It had been 3 long months of Skyping and emailing so it was great to be able to hug or even hold hands again. Ok...ok, I'll stop with the mushy gushy stuff for now ;-)

Anyway, the next 3 days were filled with activities--sightseeing, birthday dinners, delicious meals, walks in the park, trips to the zoo, etc. Mark came to Lyon, suspicious of the French because of their reputation of being mean, bitter people. But he left with a refreshed outlook on France and the francophone lifestyle. I think a lot of people are surprised at how beautiful Lyon is and how friendly and open the locals are. Lyon is what I'd like to call "my hidden gem" even though I have no grounds for claiming it as my own. I like Lyon more than Paris for multiple reasons and perhaps many of those reasons are bias, but there is no denying that Lyon is absolutely breathtaking.

[At the park]

[Watching the OCD elephants for 30 minutes]

Anyway, for my actual birthday, Mark and I started out at the outdoor market where we bought some ingredients for lunch. He bought me purple tulips (my favorite) as a thoughtful way to say "happy birthday." Then, that evening, we went out to dinner with my friends and then, we all headed back to my apartment where a bunch more people came. After about an hour or so, we made our way to this boat club, called Sirius, for some "serious dancing" as they'd like to say, but the music was so terrible, we all left. Regardless, it was a really fun night and I had so much fun enjoying it with great people.

[Where did I have my birthday dinner? Asian buffet :)]

[Thanks for coming <3]

On Sunday, Mark and I had a flight to catch to Dublin at 4 pm. We arrived in Ireland around 6 pm and took a shuttle to Claire's apartment, which is located inside of Trinity College (the most beautiful campus I've ever seen). She and her Australian roommate, Alice, had dinner waiting for us. We sat and talked the entire evening, catching up on the last year and our experiences.

Monday, Claire had class for a couple of hours, so Mark and I went to the National Art Gallery, walked around downtown, and had lunch at a gourmet burger joint. Claire met up with us shortly after to show us around campus, Christ's Church, the Long Room and the Book of Kells (located in Trinity College). We went grocery shopping later that evening and Mark cooked up A LOT of carrot and leeks pasta for her and Alice's amazing hospitality. We stuffed ourselves with food, got food coma, and all crashed very early.

[At Trinity College]

[Christ's Church]

[I don't know what this is but I love the lighting]

[A rainbow over Christ's Church! Pretty magical]

[The sun was shining in our faces!]

[Dublin at sunset]

[At the Long Room to see the Book of Kells...I'm such a rebel]

[I wish I could have taken a picture of the whole room! Very Harry Potter-esque]

Tuesday was probably my favorite day in Dublin. Claire had voice lessons in the morning so Mark and I headed out to explore downtown a little more. We shopped a little, had some coffee and tea and just enjoyed the beautiful morning in Dublin. When Claire met up with us a couple of hours later, we (including her roomie Alice) took a 30-minute train ride to a coastal town called Killiney, where Enya and Bono both live. We walked up this huge hill to this breathtaking lookout point where you could see everything. I've never seen anything like was stunning and just absolutely beautiful. After spending about 2 hours there, we headed back down and had dinner at a local restaurant there.

[Our hosts: Alice & Claire]

[Beautiful Killiney; first time I've seen a beach in 4 months]


[Almost at the top of the hill]

[Last leg of the hill and very excited!]

[It was sooo worth it!!!]

[Running to the very, very top]

[Can words do justice? I think not]
We took the train back to the center of Dublin at around 6 or 7 pm and went back to Claire's apartment to get ready for her friend's birthday party. We got to meet all of her friends who were so fun, lively and very, very animated. Mark and I danced the night away and enjoyed it with new friends! :)

Sadly, Wednesday was the day to say "goodbye" to our AWESOME hosts who knew so much about Dublin. We were so thankful to stay with Claire and have her show us around, as she obviously knew the best places to see, eat and hang out. It was sad to say bye but we knew that we're going to be reunited again.

That evening, we came back and had a birthday dinner for my friend, Cyan's 19th birthday. We went to Le Nord (a famous restaurant that world-renowned chef Paul Bocuse opened; he and one other chef are the two who really established Lyon as the gastronomic/food capital of France!). The food was so delicious--I had salmon, Mark had veal and some other girls had lamb. That night was quite interesting because Algeria had beaten Egypt in soccer so there were tons of riots, cheering, and just pure chaos as all of the Algerians in Lyon crowded the streets, lighting fireworks and honking.

On Thursday, our last day together, we went to the basilica Fourvière and the ruins of the Roman theaters. Then, we had a delicious 3-course lunch at a traditional Lyonnais restaurant. I had beef bourguinon and Mark had pork. Yummy!

I had class that evening so we decided to watch a movie and keep the evening mellow by just enjoying each others company. That evening he took a train to Geneva where he was flying out of at 7:45 am the next morning. It was sad to say "bye" but not that difficult, considering the fact that we're going to see each other in just a few short weeks upon my return.

But really, it was such an amazing week. All the girls in my program who made my birthday so special, Claire and Alice for being such awesome hosts, and of course, Mark for coming to visit and sharing this experience with him made this week one of the best I've ever experienced. It will always stay close to my heart :-)

Until next time!


Simply Tanya said...

I got butterflies in my stomach just reading this! I can't imagine how great that feeling was to finally be able to hug Mark for the first time in three months. This post made me especially happy because it was focused on friends and loved ones. I'm glad your birthday was special. I can't wait to see you in a month! :)

eileen said...

sounds like you had an amazing birthday! :)

Susan said...

Could you at least pretend and make SOME attempt to LOOK happy to see Mark? Yeeeesh.