Lyon: The Frenchman’s Paris

30.04.09

I want to know the conversation the French have that prompts this kind of day.  And then, I want to have that conversation every day with the people I love.

“The weather is beautiful.  Let us forget anything we must do and go do the things we want.  Let us get food and wine and beer and sit together on the banks of the river.  And that is all.”

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Five beautiful French children are playing with sticks.  The people to my left are drinking Hoegaarden.  The people to my right are smoking weed.  Ah, the French.  There is not an overstressed person for miles.  Or kilometers.

But, then again, maybe I am projecting.  I need ice cream like an addict needs cocaine.  And I’m ok with that.

I arrived in Lyon with a flourish of activity.  The train station was buzzing.  It was Penn Station during rush hour, minus the English and the smell of hot dogs.  Chaos!  And I panicked.  I kept telling myself to wait and watch Lyon become my friend just as all the other cities had.  But we were not off to a good start.

I got on the subway, after an awkward encounter by the ticket machines with a woman begging for money.  She was smart, waiting for a tourist like me to come by and not know how to operate the machines.  Then, she stepped in and started pressing buttons.  I tried to decline her assistance politely, confident that I could figure this out, but she insisted, took the coins from my hand, and handed me a ticket.  Then, she asked for money.  The whole encounter was awkward and frustrating.

I exited the subway at the location I thought was correct and started to head up the hill toward my hostel.  Though I got lost for a while, I had the help of a few very kind French people who noticed that I was struggling, and I finally got checked in and claimed my bed.  The hostel is sketchy at best.  It has the delightful smell of a basement and feet, but it’s not nearly as lonely as a hotel room.  In fact, I almost immediately made friends and had a wonderful night yesterday, eating dinner with Jane, a traveling Australian grandmother, and Hannah, an American teenager of a “gap year.”  We chatted a bit and all decided to have dinner together at Les Lyonnaise, complete with a grumpy French waiter.  I so enjoyed the company of these women, and I was once again amazed at how easy it is to bond with fellow-travelers on the road.  We are strangers one day and soulmates the next.

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After dinner, we walked around the floodlit city at night.  It was so beautiful, and Rick Steves might be on to something when he says that Lyon is truly France’s City of Lights.  Utterly dazzling under a clear night sky, especially with a little French wine in the system.

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