An interpretation of art turns into an interpretation of one's self

Lyon Travel Blog

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     The boy raced up the staircase ahead of me, his toy car running parallel alongside on the marble railing.  I stifled a laugh as I eyed his mother, too busy taking pictures of the angel statue welcoming you, to notice her son’s play.  I smiled at the boy as I side-stepped him to enter the church in Lyon’s Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière. 

      Here, along the baroque interior, the artwork took center stage.  The stained-glass windows brought in a rainbow of light as you took in the mosaic trims and the intricate detail of the life and legend of St. James.  I did a 360° turn to take it all in--the dozens of tourists in various languages, the flash of the cameras, the stunning paintings hailing the Virgin Mary--and then I stopped.  There, in front of me, were rows of chairs leading to the altar.  A sign indicated that the front few rows were reserved for those wishing to pray.  Sadly, I was not surprised to see that they were empty.  I wondered how long it had been since anyone thought to sit down and reflect on where they were? When did church become a tourist attraction that occasionally doubled as a place of worship?  Granted, it’d been awhile since I’d gone to church myself, but I hadn’t lost my sense of place. 

      Contemplation led me down the aisle as I decided then was as good a time as any to have my piece with God.  I sat down and immediately rehashed my trip in my head.  The getting robbed bit…waiting for the Western Union to open up in Pamplona …the iPod I no longer I had…my lack of food…the constant rain. Then it hit me:  here I was in France, on the trip of a lifetime, and all I was doing was rehearsing yet another "woe is me" bit. Seriously, who doesn't have their own version of that?

      Somewhere in that train of thought I slapped myself across the face and told myself to shut up in one of those, "there's a war going on and children are starving" type moments. Instead of praying for what I didn’t have, I started thanking God for those that had helped me in my times of need, my health, the fantastic people I had met and for the unknown that lay ahead. I realized we all have our own "crosses" to bear in some way or form and it's our choice of how heavy we want that cross to be. Who was I to sit here and complain when somewhere, someone is shouldering theirs without complaint?

      So yes, in the sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, I started to look at what I had and not what I'd lost. Amongst the babble of tongues and the flashing of cameras, I decided to suck it up, shut up and carry the cross that I had created.  

I figured if anything, it had to at least be lighter than my backpack.

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I'll be honest. There is no fun in celebrating your country's independce day if you're not in that country. I think that is why the 4th of July was nothing to write home about for me this year. I was in Barcelona. I had randomly met a girl from Wisconsin and her American cohorts on the 4th and went with them to a 4th of July party at the Hard Rock Cafe. Seriously, without the BBQ, fireworks and knowing I was getting a paid day off from work, not really much of a celebration for me.

Point being--it's better to celebrate something country-specific in that country; hence, my excitement for being in France for their independence day, aka, Bastille Day.

I arrived in Lyon the night before with some girls I met in Pamplona. They were studying in Lyon and had offered up an empty dorm room (yep, add it to the list of completely random places I crashed) for me to stay in for the night. They would be heading to Paris the next morning for Bastille Day, but 1 free night was music to my ears. I woke up early the next morning to leave when they left. I pulled out a map to the city and found a quiet park overlooking the entire of Lyon and I promptly took a 3 hour nap before starting my day at 11.

Lyon was a nice city. It had the odd combination of having that big city feel w/a small town attitude. Everything was peacful, the scenery was gorgeous (2 rivers run through it), it was clean and had enough parks to relax in that you began to think you were in a small town.

I played tourist for the morning and afternoon. In the early evening I decided to find a hostel to throw my bag at and find some people to celebrate with. I took refuge in a hostel on a hill (Fourvière, which means, "the hill that prays) overlooking the city and the Rhone River. My hostel had a balcony that overlooked everything, so I grabbed a bite to eat and my journal and headed outside. That's where I started talking w/a Dutchman and a girl from Canada. We could see a lot of action starting up along the river, so the Canadien and I headed down to see what was going on.

We walked around for a little over an hour. We checked out stands set up and the live entertainment being had. It was funny to see a pseudo rock band comprised of 5 pre-pubescent boys and even funnier to see their mosh pit. But everyone was having a great time. Tons of families along the waterway and everyone was in a really good mood.

All in all, I gathered Bastille Day celebrations to be a lot like the 4th, only in the evening though. During the day, shops were still open and business went on as usual, like a typical Saturday. I talked to a couple locals, and they said that people do get together for the holiday, but that it's not so much an all day affair, at least in Lyon. However, as soon as the late afternoon hit, everyone got in firework mode. They made their way to get a spot along the Rhone so they could catch the fireworks from the hill.

The Canadien (God, I wish I could remember her name!) and I went back to the hostel and got a few people to walk up the hill even further to get a view of the fireworks. They were ok. I guess I was spoiled from Pamplona, where every night was a firework display in a weeklong competition, so every display was essentially a half hour grand finale.

Afterward, we headed back to the hostel and I spent the rest of my evening talking w/Frenchmen, Englishmen, the Canadien, the Dutchmen and a couple Aussies. The action below had calmed down and I was content relaxing on top of the hill. Really, it was no different than if I had been at home--a day w/friends, some fireworks, a good beer and conversation to go with it.

I'm sure if I had been in Paris it would have been a whole different story. Fireworks over the Eiffel Tower. Thousands of people convening on the town for the day, etc. Yet, I would have been taking part in a huge touristy affair and that's not always the way to experience local flavor. I'm glad I spent it someplace lowkey where I could really get a French feel--no matter who I was hanging out with.
photo by: spocklogic