Week 42 – Parlez-vous anglais? – Part 1/2

9th to 11th of June, 2014

Bonjour (Hello)

Sunday rolls around and we’re off again.  Why do these days have to whizz by so fast?  The well established packing occurs, and Regula waves us off from her balcony. We board the bus to the city, and then the train once more – this time our destination is Geneva where we change to a TGV-Lyria service to Lyon. 

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The Swiss train rolls through the western hills, plunges into a tunnel and then bursts out along the shore of the Lake – giving us a reminding glimpse of the Switzerland we last saw fourteen years ago – when we were married but one year and carried only enough bags for two.

At Geneva, we find our seats on the TGV.  This service, regrettably, only uses low-speed tracks, so is probably the slowest TGV of them all, but it is a nice enough trip out of the high country and west into France.  At Lyon, we’re out of the TGV bubble and into France.  We take the tram out into the eastern suburbs, where friendly faces greet us:  those of Claire and Jean-Marie, who have answered a last-minute couch request and will host us here for a couple of days.  They walk us the short trip through the afternoon heat.  The sky is clouding over but it’s hotter here than in Switzerland, and, after finding a spot for the bags, we willingly accept the suggestion of a Sunday afternoon swim at the nearby acquatic centre.

Au contraire (on the contrary)

IMG_0131At the Acquatic Centre, we run into a curious French rule about public pools:  the clothing requirements.  Turns out that by and large public pools in France expressly forbid modern board shorts and enforce the wearing of ‘Speedos’ or budgie-smugglers  – bathers which resemble underpants which came and went out of fashion in the 1970s…(Girls must wear a bikini too). These kind of bathing costumes would often be sniggered off the beach in Australia, but are mandatory here, and there’s no excuse for not having any – they sell them to the desperate parents of otherwise disappointed kids from vending machines near the entrance!

There’s some French notion that Speedos are more hygienic than so-called ‘street wear’ bathers, never mind that in Australia most people have board shorts that are exclusive to pool use anyway, nor the visual health hazard that is people wearing swimming costumes that fail to cover up…  In any case, back home public pools use chemicals to ensure consistent hygiene – one can’t rely on peoples’ choice of swimsuit.

Sigh.  The kids had a great time, and, we are now equipped with a public pool compliant set of bathers.

Voilà  (there is, that’s it)

Day 289 sees us exploring Lyon for the first time. We catch the tram and funicular to Lyon’s most famous landmark – the beautiful Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Designed by architect Pierre Bossan, it was built between 1872 and 1876 over an ancient Roman forum and next to the existing Chapel of the Virgin. 

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It has four main towers, and a bell tower topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. It features fine mosaics, superb stained glass and a darker, simpler crypt of Saint Joseph. It’s local cheeky nickname is “the upside-down elephant”.

It’s surrounds include a small green park, a quiet cemetery, Lyons replica of the top section of the Eiffel Tower, a large Roman amphitheatre and an amazing panoramic view of Lyon.

Apéritif (a before-meal drink)

We walk down the many steps to the old town below. Here we deny the expensive French tourist restaurants and are sated by Turkish food. So good, great value for money and child loving. The owner pours us tall glasses of cold water and stops to kiss each of the boys. Reuben impresses us again by thanking them with “Tesskir ederim” and his stunning gappy smile. As we walk the narrow lanes, we pass markets, visit the free section of the miniatures museum, pass a puppet workshop and even a mechanical bear blowing bubbles.

Bon appétit!   (Enjoy your meal!)

Soon we cross the Saone bridge, browse the famous french comic stores, admire the architecture of the Traboules, stop for a corner coffee then enjoy store bought Ice creams at the Opera square.

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A surprise excursion for the boys means a bus to Parc Tete d’Or for fun on the playground and a toy train ride.

Weary but smiling, we people watch awhile beside the Saone before heading via the Casino grocery store to dinner at home.

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Magnifique (Magnificent)

Another warm sunlit day dawns in Lyon. After stopping at a mall so the boys can check out the latest toys, we walk to the Rhone. We wander the Rue de la Republique.

IMG_0348We Meet couch surfer Bertrand infront of the Opera as planned, for an evening tour through his favourite district. We walk up many flights of steps and admire the colourful street art leading to the Croix-Rousse. We have a wonderful dinner at a local square where no tourists are in sight. Just local children frolicking and laughing like our three. The gastronomy and company are superb. We feel we have seen a good juicy, slice of Lyon as our sleepy boys catch the late tram home.

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Au revoir (goodbye, literally “until re-seeing”)

Lyon has been a great experience.  As we farewell our host family, their 12 year old daughter kindly gives us bracelets she made. We depart in the realisation that we are yet again happily immersed in the food, culture, history and the good people IMG_0369of a country – this time France.

Our heads turn once again to the road and like the carousels which feature in the town squares here – we hang on for yet another adventurous ride.

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