journal excerpt of bicycle trip 1996

Lyon

Hotel Veaubecour, Lyon, Friday 13 September 1996 6:15 pm

We just rode for 2 hours straight going about 90 miles through Lyon to get to this hotel. The road we were on would be gorgeous if it wasn't filled with rush hour traffic - solid cars going 60 km/hr at least. At least it was downhill.

mileage 78.9 km
av sp 17.1 km/hr
max sp 36.5 km/hr
time riding 4.38.12

8:10 pm Our hotel is good and centrally located. It's on the 2nd floor and it sounds like there is a dance studio above us. T loves Lyon. Right now, it just seems boxy, grey and modern to me, even though there are some absolutely beautiful 19th century buildings. There is a huge square that has a fabulous statue of LouisXIV seated on a horse with a wild mane.

10:45 pm Just got back from an okay dinner. G's was good but ours was pretty Bflat. On the way back to the hotel, we saw an amazing huge fountain that put us in mind of the Trevi fountain in Rome. But I still can't get really excited about this place. It seems full of McDonald's and English pubs. These foreigners have tried to disguise themselves by housing their restaurants behind amazing wooden carved doors but sadly, the golden arches are still unmistakably there. I'll try to look at the amazing wooden carved doors only and ignore the insidious golden arches. Even though the day's ride was all down hill, it was exhausting. Now the hotel is quiet and it's late. I _must_ sleep.

Saturday 14 September 7:40 am
It's incredibly quiet here and I just woke up. I cannot believe that this is a huge city, it's so quiet. The bed is not bad in spite of its loud squeak. Things are looking up. Poor T was coughing a lot last night but is now sleeping quite soundly. It's cold again and maybe overcast. Hard to say with the curtain drawn.

I just looked out - 12C and absolutely clear blue sky!! The courtyard covered it up because we are so low in this building.

8:10 am We're now sitting in the breakfast room. The lady who runs this place seems a little shy and unsure of herself but she has smiled a couple of times now. Another couple just came in looking tuckered out. I'm looking through lace curtains at big square 19th or early 20th century bldgs.

10:10 am We were just going to the market and it turns out we can't stay here tonight because we neglected to mention we wanted to! The nice young woman at the hotel found a place for us to stay. It's up a lot of stairs to a little place. We haven't seen the room but we've already paid for it! We're now in the post office - P sending book home, G doing something else, T trying to change money. I, unfortunately, am carrying cheese from yesterday's lunch in my bag because our rooms aren't ready. So I'm just standing at the counter feeling uncomfortable and hoping to escape soon.

T took his sweater to the dry cleaner. It will be ready early afternoon for 20FF. T just tried to change cheques (that damn American Express that NOBODY takes) and this post office doesn't change money.

Just outside our current hotel is a most wonderful smell of bread baking. However, this really is a big city and there are beggars and regular folk going about their business in the fast hurried way of city folk. It's a beautiful day out - sunny and clear.

10:40 am We're in the Main post office now where T is imagining he'll cash traveller's cheques without a fee. We'll never get to the market in the morning at his rate. There is a pretty amazing mural painted in 1937 by Louis Bouquet here on the walls of the post office. It is a depiction of the world. I'm glad there's something so wonderful to stare at as I wait. T just found out that there is a commission of 2%. G just took off to deal with his laundry.

Vichy hotel 4:25 pm sunny and 20C
We are lying on our "grand lit" in our new previously unseen room. It is very very small. T thinks it would be perfect for one person. And so it would. There is a desk, sink, shower, wardrobe, 2 chairs and a double bed. P & G's beds are larger than ours!

After money changing we walked along the same boulevard we rode our bicycles yesterday afternoon. Today it was jammed with people doing their daily marketing. Vegetables, fruit, cheese, fish, flowers, flowers, flowers. We had coffee at a coffee bar beside one of the florists who was selling tall perfect glads for 40FF a bunch. Another florist had his fedora festooned with flowers and a stuffed bird. His face was craggy and he had an excellent long nose and was stuffing himself with a croissant. Yet another florist had bouquets lying on their sides facing out to the street. Sweetheart roses, carnations, daisies, eucalyptus leaves....

At the coffee bar,we had strong coffee. Another man had a glass of milk with creme de menthe! Everyone commented on P's height. We saw the most perfect mushrooms at one place. There were several different kinds, all cleaned and nicely shaped. T bought some macaroons that were filled with really good coffee cream.

We then walked over the Saone to the old city and into the cathedral. There is a magnificent ornate German looking clock with all kinds of figures on it. Immediately next to it is the ugliest 20th century organ. It should be illegal to have that in the same building. The clock is from before 1383. We were there at almost noon so we hung around to hear it chime the hour. At 12:00 we heard an outside bell begin to chime 12 then one of the heads on an angel popped up and turned. Then nothing. A few seconds later, there was one bell and another cherub stood up and the clock rang twice. After a minute or so, we figured that was it - hardly worth the wait - but the caretaker of the church went inside the clock through a big narrow door at the back of the clock, flipped some switch or other (my cynical self says he does that every time ) and the clock went nuts.

There was a figure of Mary sitting at a desk. When the bells started, an angel Gabriel came out of a door and stood in front of her then a Hand of God came out of a trap door above her and retreated back in. Just before the chimes finished, Gabriel went back into the clock. We could hear other clocks outside the church ringing 12:00. The other figures were all variously spinning around or hopping up and down throughout.

We then walked along a street and had Donarkabob for lunch (23FF). After lunch, we walked up a narrow steep steep staircase up to the gardens of the Basilica. The building is 19th century and huge and ornate. We went inside through a side entrance to see a rather large church that is Masonic looking. We saw a lady walk up to some another part and go in a door. We followed. Nothing could have prepared us properly for what we saw. The main church is HUGE and ornate - really Baroque. The whole thing is one giant mosaic with lots of gold. Splendid in a garish sort of way. The candles for praying shone like jewels as they were in little coloured glasses all stacked up in two mountains on either side of the entrance to the church. We left by the main doors and walked out to look down at Lyon. What a view!

We then walked down a different staircase to return to normal level. Ow ow ow my knees. I'm _very_ stiff today. My legs are extremely tired. It must have been all the climbing we did two days in a row.

We crossed back over the Saone back to the boulevard that had had the market. Now it was deserted except for some men in green who were carrying green brooms and/or hoses.

We wandered around looking for a knife for T. We went into another church that inside looked like a shattered hull of the Sienna Catheral. Just as we went in we heard the organ start the famous Bach Toccata & Fugue (g minor? I think) We listened a bit then went back out into the sun to T's knife store. There, we saw many knives, guns, swords, switch blades, and other hunting paraphernalia. Again people commented on P's height. Earlier at a cafe, a girl suggested P should play for her rugby team.

It seems everyone speaks English here in Lyon. The beggars speak English too and I see one outside of every church and post office. We stopped at a coffee bar that was all decorated in 50's and 60's American stuff - Coca Cola, James Dean, ESSO, juke box, Route 66.... The toilet was a squatter with soap on a stick screwed into the wall.

T's sweater came back from the cleaner wreaking of dry cleaning fliuid. Wow.

5:45 pm. I'm sitting at the little desk in this little room. T is sleeping and I'm listening to the Lyonais' go about their Saturday evening business. There are children playing below and people rushing out of the fromagerie or the dry cleaner's. Cars whip by and someone just strolled by carrying a basket. It's quite cool now but the sun is still very bright. There is a real fall feel to the air. Now there are church bells chiming and someone walking purposefully down the street, heels clicking. There is the clink of glasses from a bar and motorcycles reving on a street nearby. Someone just opened or closed the wooden shutters and a child laughed and in another apartment, another is crying. The close-by clock just chimed 6:00

11:15 pm Restaurant WOW! G just treated us to dinner at Restaurant La Voute Chez Léa, 11 Place Antonin Gourju 69002 Lyon. It was really good but I ate too much and am in pain. There was a big todo in the kitchen. We heard the chef screaming and everyone came out of the kitchen looking very serious. Luckily, it did not affect our dinner and things went fine. I had a mesclun, etc. salad with an excellent walnut oil dressing, chicken with whole garlics, fromage blanc and tarte aux pommes. The others had, among other things, a fantastic foie gras and T had a really good fish dish. And even though the boorish French couple next to us had 6 cigarettes each throughout dinner, I thought the dinner was great.

Sunday 15 September 7:30 am 15C few clouds
We're lying in our little bed in our little room and we survived the night. It was kind of like sleeping in a railroad upper berth. But I actually feel quite rested. The inkling of sore throat I had last night is gone for now; but P is sick and T is coughing up all kinds of horrors.

8:45 am Cloudy!

2:19 pm It has become very sunny and 25C. On the way to getting our bicycles at the Veaubecour Hotel (the Vichy didn't have space for the bicycles) we stopped in at the church on Rue de l'Abbaye d'ainey. (aincy?) It was all frescos and mosaics. An 1100's chapel, a 1400's church and another 1800's chapel. It was very beautiful especially the stained glass and figure of St.? in the 1100's part. The polyptich over the altar there was quite stunning with lots of gold and angels.

We rode our bikes to the convergence of the Saone and Rhone. The road was empty but not so attractive - a trucking route. After following the Rhone to the joining of the two rivers, we went upriver along the Saone past a road block because of a land slide - a big rock and trees on the road. Then through a lame artisans market with junk like the CNE offers and over to the artists' market that also had mostly junk. T, P & G were devastated at its mediocrity, but I managed to catch a glimpse of a few excellent charcoal sketches and some quite nice oil landscapes hidden amongst monstrosities. There was also a charming miniature school room scene done behind glass and another miniature artists' studio with paintings on easles, etc. (like a stage set mockup)

We crossed over the river to the food market that was jammed with Sunday shoppers. Maneuvering the bicycles through the already narrow pathway between stalls would be difficult even without 4 people deep at each stall. Many of the people had baby carriages too. We stopped near a coffee place where P went over to talk to some people. I stayed and guarded the bikes while T disappeared into the sea of shoppers and got some kind of Mexican sandwich for each of us. It was only 10FF and really good. We sat on the stone wall above the Saone in the cool shade.

The sick ones (P&T) were cold so we headed to Place des Terreaux to sit at a cafe in the sun and look at the fountain with the four horses representing the 4 great rivers of France. We reached the square and admired the outer facade of the opera house and the Place de Ville. There were two huge very modern sculptures. But no horses anywhere in sight. We drank our coffee at a red umbrellaed cafe watching and listening to the crowd sing and play drums in preparation for the big Brazilian parade that will take place this afternoon.

There was a huge line of people waiting to get in to do a guided tour of the opera house that has been gutted an completely replaced by very fancy new innards. G and I left the other two basking in the sun to go and examine the sculptures in the square but mainly to see if there as any sign of horses. We saw another sculpture, that had been out of our vision by the cafe, of a roller skater with wings - very modern, probably made within the last 10 years. It was a wonderful sculpture with lots of movement but it wasn't four horses.

I kept saying, "Are you SURE this is the Place des Terraux?" Yes. yes. came the reply. But no, no, we finally saw when we read the street sign. We were in Place Louis Pradel right next to Place de la Comedie and one or two streets away from Place des Terraux. We wandered over and saw a huge square with many many people sitting at cafes watching two young men inside gyroscope like objects rolling around and around. There were also quite a number of floats for the parade. (We saw one earlier driving down the street in amongst regular traffic as we rode around towards the first cafe.) And right in the middle of the multitudes was a fabulous fountain of a figure in a chariot being driven by 4 wild looking horse galloping with their notstrils flaring. Out of the nostrils of each horse was a fine mist of water, looking like steam. I couldn't stop staring at the stunning display.

We were sorry we didn't have the camera. Too bad. (And of course, I'll never stop regretting not having a camera when we saw several ornately decorated elephants parading their way through rushhour marketing traffic when we were in Benares, India in 1989. You'd think we would have learned from that alone to carry such a small object!) We stood basking in the sun then wended our way back to the Vichy Hotel to pick up our bags and ride the short distance to the train station.

to Tain-Hermitage





After I flew home, T continued bicycling with his father. They took a photo of my favourite fountain.

photo fourhorse fountain in Place des Terreaux, Lyon ©TPH96 (jpg 5.20kb)


And in 1998, T and I returned to Place des Terraux...

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France 1996 . Lyon 1998 . travel index

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