Monday, 22 August 2016

The Old City of Lyon

It's (gently) pouring with rain - cooler today too and we need jumpers. The beautiful Mont Blanc is covered with cloud - not a good sight if you are camping on the upper slopes. Many climbers spend up to three days camped on the Aiguille du Midi, waiting for conditions to be favourable, but they won't be going anywhere today.
We don't farewell my sister and b-in-law and their son - they sneak out of the apartment so quietly for their very early easyJet flight, we are still asleep. 

It's a short walk to the train station from our apartment. Its location borders both old and new Chamonix and although the rooms are small, I have no complaints about it except maybe a tree that blocks an almost perfect view of Mont Blanc. A full train. Somehow we slither into seats together. We stop at St Gervais for a few minutes to change trains, luckily it's the same platform, as our backpacks seem to be heavier. Another 'milk train' stopping all stations, before Annecy appears through the rain. We have almost two hours to kill here and eat our lunch on a platform seat. We find our train about half an hour before it departs but it is already full, this time with boy scouts and girl guides. It must be the end of the French school holidays because there are children everywhere. We climb the stairs to the upper carriage and have wonderful views of fields of maize, and sunflowers whose heads are bowed with the weight of their maturing seeds.
There are no services on board the trains, so I'm glad we brought at least water with us.

Gare de Lyon Part-Dieu is about two kilometres from our hotel, the Mercure Beaux Arts, which is in the centre of the old city. Our taxi driver rushes there, zigzagging between cars and buses, making me cling to the seat edge for support. What a surprise, our privilege room is enormous (for a Mercure hotel) and well worth $160/night (but meals aren't included).

 We spend the evening wandering through the old quarter of Lyon, a mass of tiny streets crammed with restaurants. We choose one at random because it has a French menu (many don't). Named The Winch, it doesn't sound French but the food is beyond delicious - we both have duck with fresh cranberries, followed by real crème brulee. Fixed menu for EUR26pp for three courses. I eat so quickly I forget to take photos.

Morning comes with sunny skies and we go out to find breakfast. There's a fresh fruit and veg market along the Saone river bank, so we munch on brioche and croissant. I drink freshly pressed orange and peach juice. The fruit is so enticing, if only we had more time to eat it!

Early morning walks reveal the best lighting for photography - and the city is quiet

We wander over the river Saone to find an artists' market and buy two paintings. I worry about bringing in wooden frames and select two that need to be framed. They are modern and very French.

At the top of the hill overlooking the old city is the Cathedral de Notre Dame. Mass is being said so we wait respectfully for it to finish. The wait is more than worthwhile. There's a heady mix of incense lingering in the air as the massive doors are swung open at the end of the service.

There's an enormous Roman amphitheatre close by, so we wander down the hill before taking the funicular train back into the old quarter.

Richard finds the statue to the author Antoine St Exupéry, who wrote The Little Prince at the turn of the last century - it's delightfully whimsical

And so farewell to Europe - it has been a wonderful holiday. I am cured of wanting a campervan to travel in (too cramped), realise that remote walking is more enjoyable than touristic, chic locations, and can't wait to take out my walking poles and boots for another walking holiday in England and Europe.


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