Roses en Lyon
Lyon Travel Blog› entry 17 of 48 › view all entries
So after Paris, I decided to go to Nice but ended up in Lyon instead. When I got to the train station there weren't any tickets left for Nice, so I figured I might as well go to Lyon first. It was good because the train ride was shorter, too.
When I first got to Lyon, I honestly wasn't that impressed. It's not picturesque in the same way that (parts of) Paris and Saint-Malo are, even though there are two rivers running through it - rivers generally upping my city rating by many points. However, I stayed for two nights and by the time I left this morning I was truly sad to go. Over time places really do start to seem the same (I can't believe I'm saying that after little more than a month), but I've realized more and more what sets a place apart for me is the people I meet and experiences I have rather than the places themselves.
Also, while it's not exactly pretty (with the exception of a few areas), Lyon has a very distinct urban vibe that I started to enjoy the second day I was there. The fashion seems different than in Paris, and I saw lots more kids dressed in goth and hip hop gear, and people carrying guitar bags all over the place. On the steps of the opera house, I saw a group of b-boys practicing, the youngest looking to be around 8. From what I've heard so far French hip hop beats are a lot slower and more laid back than their contemporaries in the US. As a side note, I wonder if it means anything that I use parentheses all the time (a subconscious need to qualify everything? Evidence of my inefficiency with words? Who knows. I actually use a ton more parentheses when I first write these entries and then take them out right before publishing so as not to overwhelm).
During the day I explored different areas of the city like the Croix Russe and around Hotel de Ville and also saw some cathedrals and such. Admittedly, I didn't make as much of an effort to see the city's official sights as I could have, since my main purpose in going to Lyon was to eat -- according to my guidebook, it's the "gastronomic capital of France". I tried some Lyon specialties like quenelles and andouillettes and separately ate a ton of bone marrow.
Most memorable Lyon moment:
Last night I was wandering around and came across a jam session in a local bar off rue de la République, a main boulevard in Lyon. After listening to the players for a while, I ended up hanging out all night with a French MC/sous-chef/singer-songwriter named Gabriel. He was quite sympa and had moved there from Nancy, where his Colombian-French family lives. It's so much more fun to see a city with someone who not only lives there but chose to move there because he completely fell in love with it -- his excitement really translated, and it was a billion times easier to see the beauty of the place through his eyes.
One of the cool things about Lyon is there are these things called traboules all over the place, kind of like a maze of secret passageways between buildings used both by silk weavers to transport their goods, and also (more interestingly) by fighters during the French Resistance. I hadn't had the chance to explore them during the day so my new friend took me through a couple. It was so neat; he just went up to some seemingly nondescript doors and pushed them in to reveal these huge passageways. I'm sure there are signs and such, too, but they would've been way harder for me to find. Some of the doors require codes to get in.
The other cool thing he brought me to was this teeny tiny bar to which his older restaurant co-worker had introduced him. It was incredibly small inside, though it also had an interior balcony thing to allow more seating room. The bar had been owned by the same man since the 1940's, and he'd never changed a single item in its decor. The inside looked like a very small old theater, with tassels and dark velvet, and he had a stack of old vinyl behind the counter which he used to play anything from traditional French chansons to Pink Floyd. Apparently he acts really grumpy but has a huge heart. He and his older sister used to own the bar together but she passed away a few years ago, and he never married so doesn't have a family of his own. It's the kind of place it'd be impossible to find if hanging out with other folks from the hostel, and I've also realized I'm a bit tired of the same ol' same ol' introductions and stuff with other hostel travelers, though I do appreciate the built-in companionship that hostels offer.
In other news, my French is improving. I remember more than I thought I would from high school and can carry on basic conversations. Comprehension-wise, I'm okay if people make an effort to speak slowly : P It was fun making the effort to communicate with Gabriel, because neither of us could really speak each other's languages. Not having the vocabulary to express exactly what you want to say forces you to speak descriptively and think of new ways to say the same things. Though occasionally humorous, generally inadequate, and I'm sure frustrating over time, it's an interesting exercise in the short term. Speaking of which, this reminds me of a story my sister once told me about her friend's elderly Korean mother who couldn't make the grocer understand that she wanted eggs, so she substituted "chicken babies" instead hehehe. The important thing is she got her eggs =D
So, my final story for Lyon:
I stayed at the Auberge des Jeunesses, which is a hostel up a really steep hill in the old part of the city (Vieux Lyon). While the climb was a pain, it did afford some really great views of the city from the outside patio.
At the hostel, I shared the room with 2 Australian girls, but didn't see them much because they weren't there when I checked in and they didn't get back the first night until around 4 in the morning. They'd been hanging out with these 2 British dudes, who were making lots of noise as they came back to the room, though semi-trying to be quiet which can sometimes be even more annoying, like everything spoken in half whispers and lots of giggling. I'd actually sat near them on the patio earlier in the night, not realizing they were my roommates.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I ended up telling the guys that they were "f**king getting on my motherf**king nerves" and should just sleep downstairs if they couldn't get into their room and the girls clearly didn't want them in ours. It was really funny, as I think I quite scared them. I don't usually use such language but honestly, how disrespectful can you be to freaking whisper in the hallway for like hours at that time in the morning and KEEP coming back after being told repeatedly to "piss off" (by the Australian girls, not me)?! I knew they were friends with the girls but even they said thank you after I yelled at them. Seriously, it was past 5:30 in the morning before I even said anything, and they KNEW I was in the room. Sheesh. So yes, it was quite satisfying. One of the guys brought the Australians breakfast the next morning and totally ignored me when I opened the door. I rolled my eyes at him because I'm very mature : ) haha.
Okay that is all. I am now in Nice and will write more later. Good night!