Living It Up in Lyon

We had an early wake up call Friday (well, just my iPhone alarm) to catch the _ AM TGV to Lyon. I promised Rich un café before the Metro, but the café on our corner was still closed. We did find the Le Horizon was open by the time we got to corner for St. Placide Metro though, so Rich was feeling almost human.

At the Gare de Lyon, found a Lonely Planet Guide book to Lyon, a novel in French I wanted based on a movie preview I saw earlier in the week, and grabbed Molly something she could read on the train. Also grabbed a quick coffee and pastries for the train.

Train left exactly on time, as expected. Have never been on a late train in Europe. Promptly fell back to sleep in the comfy seat. Rich was happy I was sitting in seat traveling backwards, as it makes him feel ill. I’m so tired I don’t even notice.

We arrive in Lyon and have some time to kill before meeting Molly’s French teacher, Mr. Daniel. Tried to find the covered market; Les Halles, but was unsuccessful. By the time we figured out where it was? We could see the river, so strolled into the center of town, crossing the Rhone. It all seemed very quiet for 10 AM on a Friday. Walking across the bridge we had a view of the basilica and mini Tour Eiffel. I was immediately thinking that I don’t want to climb that hill they’re perched on.

Walking thru the centre we had to stop for some moving men who were hauling a piece of big furniture out of the third or fourth floor window. Too bad it wasn’t a piano – would have made a great photo. Even an antique armoire. But it was just some ugly chest of some sort – not even sure why they were moving it.

Near Printemps we found a cool passageway with a little art gallery that’s part of a chain with a cool concept. I’ll have to post the name later, as I can’t remember it right now. Molly bought a painting for her dorm room and there were a fea things there that I liked too…very affordable. There was a nice man working there who was very talkative, giving me a chance to practice. M. Daniel calls we’re chatting to give direction au parc and I find myself speaking French to the American because I couldn’t context switch. He probably thinks I’m very strange. Anyway, he wants to meet an little over an hour later and tells us to bring a picnic lunch.

So we stroll somemore, find the Soane, a fabulous suspension bridge for les piètons, and – quelle chance – un marché along the river! While taking a few pictures, I lose Rich, so while waiting I set out to buy lunch. Lots of chatty merchants…I buy cheese (Compte Grotte Sel), patisserie (macarons and tarte au poire), a few of these good looking muffin-like things (Dome de Provence), and some fabulous olives (curry, basil and these fab French black ones). Who knew I could come to like olives. All started last summer in Italy, but these sealed the deal. Molly buys a perfect baguette.

After all this shopping, it’s now a mad rush to the metro…no people work there, machines only take chipped credit cards and coins, so Molly digs in her purse to find fare for the three of us. We leave from Bellecour and arrive at Massena. As we exit the Metro we can smell the bread from the bakery on the corner that has a line around the block.

We get to the Parc de Tete d’Or and find M. Daniel with his charges – a bunch of teens mostly from Californi, but a few other places too. He introduces us to his French partner in crime, Jeremy and we have our pique-nique under the trees because at this point it’s pretty darn hot. So what do do? Visite le Jardin des Plantes and tour the greenhouses. Insane, but lovely at the same time. In a lily pond we come across a heron that looks like statue, but turns out to be real. There’s also the turtle deposit pond…apparently the French imported over 4 million Florida turtles…you know…the ones sold in pet stores when they are three inches long and three ounces, but grow to be five pounds. Anyway, the park apparently has hours where frustrated parents can come leave them behind without guilt. There were hundreds lolling around in the pond looking to be fed.

The other big park attraction is the guignol – French Punch & Judy. The kids were screaming and laughing from the show. When we got back, the American teens were playing a pick up game of soccer with a bunch of French kids. This French girl fell for Sam and within the hour, young love was born, phone numbers were exchanged. Under another tree was a a French-American game of spin the bottle going…no undressing, but plenty of kissing.

M. Daniel left the group in Jeremy’s capable hands to take us to Vieux Lyon next. On the way we grabbed a beverage. He introduced Molly to Diabolo Menthe…mint syrup in sprite, basically. Molly chose grenadine, which was very sweet. Took the metro over to Vieux Lyon and then the funiculaire to the top of the hill (yeah! no Montmartre-like stairs today!). The funiculaire looked like a roller coaster, but at least when going up, the seats were facing the right direction for Rich. He stood with me on the way down later.

The basilica was quite beautiful, with mosaics that rival some I saw in Ravenna. There was a huge gold Madonna greeting you at the entrance. At his point in the day, Molly’s flip flops, which were truly disgusting at this point, broke. But it was M. Daniel to the rescue…he ties the stretchy plastic handle thing from Molly’s gallery shopping bag around her foot and flip flop sole to hold her together til we can find her a new pair. Given the shoe crisis and my sore hip, we skip the Roman ruins and head back down to Vieux Lyon.

We stop in the Eglise St. Jean, which was older than the basilica, but had mostly new glass. There was this cool old clock, though that reminded me of one on the side of a church in Prague. I loved “guide practique” for Catholics in Lyon – almost grabbed one for mom. Then we did the rue St. Jean – traboules, little shops, touristy, mais pas trop and we find Molly some shoes (only 12 euros!), and throw out the old ones – yea!! We dit au revoir et mercie au M. Daniel and continue exploring. It’s snack time so we buy some exotic looking macarons, but sort of jelly filled, not as yummy as they looked or tasted, but still good…pomme & some exotic lemon that sounds like it’s from Kazikhstan or some such place, fraise and Sichuan pepper, and peach/lychee. We find more traboules, the little narrow passageways thru the buildings. The whole place reminds Rich and I of Italy. Like I imagine old Florence, I expected women with those Renaissance pointy hats that have scarves trailing off their tops to poke their heads through the spiral stairway “windows.”

We take the Metro to train station, where we find absolute madness. I look up at the big board and – mon dieu! – the trains are all running late. Major malfunction in the system somewhere. We grab a few glasses of wine for the wait. The waiter gives me a hard time about making a change. I told him I couldn’t believe it given the crowds they were serving. He was just cranky…turned around and gave some other French woman a hard time and they had a small screaming match.

So…it’s now time for our train. But – quel voie? No track is listed. I bought a baguette for the ride, but it became stress bread. The board doesn’t say the train is late, but isn’t telling us where to go. Finally, it shows twenty minutes after scheduled departure time. We make our way with the throngs of people up the track, but now where’s our car? We’ve walked the entire length of the train and it’s not there. A nice man sensing my panic shows us board with train configurations. They link TGVs together and our part hadn’t shown up yet. Not sure we would have figured it out without him. Of course, our car is the last and we’re standing at the front, so have to go running down to the end. I get some m ore sleep on train, but when I wake up it seems like we’re going about 200 miles an hour, but wait…we just might be. First time I was ever on a late train in Europe.

Dinner awaits us at Le Train Bleu, but I’ll add that tomorrow. I know I’m falling behind again, but I will get this whole trip online.

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