Fred from Brésil
date: Mon, Jan 26, 2009
subject: Highlight of the weekend: faire du vélo!
I hear through the grapevine that you are enjoying my emails, alors, I will continue . . . .
After trying to rent one of the groovy red and industrial silver bikes which can be seen throughout Lyon at many, many stations but NOT succeeding, I decided to approach a bike shop to see if they rented bikes. The very kind lady instructed me to go two doors down where another kind lady searched on the internet for me. She found 2 places in Lyon that rent bikes and she then proceeded to give me fliers with their addresses (one of the shops refurbishes bikes from Holland . . . Tony and I can attest to the fact that approximately 62,584 bikes are pulled from the canals around Amsterdam each year. We actually witnessed a huge machine dredging the canal and pulling out bikes 11 years ago on our retirement trip!)
When I got back to the pad and joined la Madame for a verre (our almost daily routine of sharing a glass of something before dinner, this usually takes place around 7 or 8 or 9 pm), I asked her if she knew anything about these shops. Non, non, she replied. She then proceeded to get on the phone and call the VÉLO office of Lyon and ask if there was a way around having to have a special European credit card (their cards seem to have some special power in this little golden patch underneath the number). Non, non, they told her.
After we sat there a minute she said (as if she had just had the most extraordinary idea ever, which it was after all !), Oh, but of course (in French of course) you can use MY vélo.
Oh wow, really, may I?
I knew she had a vélo because she had told me so; but there was no way that I was going to ask if I could use it (when I asked her if I could please possibly borrow a knife to take to school to cut my cheese–no, no, not like you think!–she said Non; but did offer up the tiniest swiss army knife known to man . . . . but I digress–and to digress even further, I splurged and spent 2 euros today on a knife and spoon for lunch . . . Alas, I shall return the tiny da kine without ever even trying to slice into a creamy camembert . . . I think my nice new red handled and stainless silver knife with a pretty edelweiss flower at the joint shall do just fine, merci beaucoup!).
Where was I?
Oh, so she offered me her vélo for the weekend! Yahoo! Was I every excited. She gave me the key to the cave in the basement AND the key to the bike lock. This one came with a very stern look about not loosing it since it’s the only one she has. I won’t loose it, I promise; I told her. She was too tired that evening to show me where the bike was (a fellow teacher hurt an ankle and she had to work with 31 rather than 24 6 to 7 year olds 2 days in a row and she was wiped out!) but she promised to later.
As it turned out, we never had the tour since I HAD to leave Friday evening early (8:30 p.m.) for a party and that meant we had to have dinner VERY early (which probably caused her much stress–we usually eat anywhere between 8 and 10 p.m.). Alors, one mention of the party–it was a blast. Imagine going back in time to when you were between 19 and 21 years old and you’re away from home and there’s a party in an apartment for 4 to 8 foreign exchange students.
Need I say more? Michele, I know that you remember what that’s like! (for those of you who want to know what other nationalities were represented at the party . . . Danemark, Argentine, Ireland, Brazil, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Japan, England . . . I think that about covers it.)
So the next morning I managed to get up bright and early and leave the apt. at 10 a.m. The first step was finding the vélo. Right across from “one of the world’s smallest elevators” ® is a black metal door. Open it with la Madame’s bright silver key and you’ve gained admittance into the past.
As soon as you step down one measly step you’ve entered the world of WWII and what it must have been like to hide during an air raid. I don’t know if there were air raids in Lyon, but I’m sure there must have been plenty of hiding. Down the narrow circular staircase and voila! There’s Madame’s blue funky, old vélo.
It was perfect! (for those of you with enquiring minds, there were maybe 5 other bikes down there in a space the size of our guest bedroom and our main bathroom. What else was down there? A mattress or two (for real!) and several buckets full of something. It’s not a uniform space but rather a narrow chamber that twists around a bit.)
Okay, as you can imagine, it was a bit tricky getting the bike back up the stairs and somehow opening the door.
But I did without too much trouble . . . . but I will jump forward and tell you that the return that afternoon was a bit like a skit with Laurel & Hardy. I did much better the next day.
Saturday I took a pleasant spin across la Saône into the main part of Lyon, then across le Rhone to ride along its side on the wonderfully wide and diverse bike path. I more or less went to the end (before it branched off and took a turn into the industrial section) taking photos along the way. One highlight was watching one of two dirty-white horses roll in a field.
Seems he had a bit of an itch.
They weren’t tied up but they did have bits in their mouths. As I began to head back, the rain began to fall. It wasn’t that hard and I did have my trusty gortex jacket with me and nice Northface backpack complete with yellow rain cover, so like the girlscout I never was, I was quite prepared. (Thanks again for the great backpack Mom and Dad! I still talk to Dad on occasion and he makes appearances now and then.)
BUT, since it was approaching lunch time, I decided to find a restaurant . . . . and I did find the perfect place. I was having a hankering for a warm meal (after a week of cold sandwiches, albeit with wonderful French cheese). Le Restauant a la Maison de Lucy, or something like that, was perfect. I went for the 13euro50 deal of a main course and dessert with coffee. They served a piece of classically roasted chicken (the thigh and leg) with champignons, a side salad, warm penne pasta and a glob of some wonderfully warm cream something or other. (That’s exactly how the waiter described it when I asked.) Of course this was accompanied with a half bottle of red wine and some tap water. I took my time and enjoyed every bite. I did take a picture of the place setting since it was so beautiful . . . the shot has a nice misty look to it since I dropped the camera on the first day (So sorry Tony! It was really cold and slipped out of my hand!) The camera still works well, it just doesn’t close its nice little cover when I turn it off.
Hence the mist on the lens when I pulled it out of the backpack, now inside a warm room . . . you get the drift you fellow nerds who know what it’s like to walk into a warm house after being outside in the cold!
Okay, lunch was great. The waiter instructed me to choose a dessert. I stood up and gave the board a quick glance. There was crème brûlée, which I adore, but since I OD’d on them a few years back, I have to approach them quite carefully. Towards the bottom was something or other with chocolate. When the gentle waiter returned, I quickly thought how to say the name of that which I had immediately proceeded to forget. Alors, je vousdrais le dessert avec chocolat, s’il vous plait. Le ???///095§ ? Oh oui, bien sûr!
Guess what I got? The kid’s dessert which was 3 waffle pieces, covered (and I do mean COVERED) in nutella with a large blob of whipped cream on the side. Well, for those of you who have never tasted nutella, imagine a creamy, thick chocolate goo with a hint of hazelnut. Voila! That’s it. Europe’s answer to peanut butter.
I proceeded to eat the whole darn thing. And was it ever good. Sometimes it pays to be the clueless American; you get to eat the kid’s dessert and not be embarrassed!
Which may be why the next day’s bike ride was over 6 hours long; I was trying to work off the nutella!
To close out Saturday, after lunch I found a place to get my haircut. After I carefully told the one guy (seemed like the owner, a man from Peru who looks like a native Peruvian, who speaks Japonais) who washed my hair that I didn’t want more layers, I was sat down with another guy (there were only 2 men working there) who proceeded to give me the MOST layered haircut I’ve ever had. Oh well, Ca va. I really, really needed a hair cut, and it’s a good 6 weeks until I’ll be home, so it’ll grow out. Though the classically French man sitting next to me did manage to drool. Oh oui, ca va, ca va! I think that guy really wanted (or needed) a date . . .
After the haircut I jumped back on the bike for several laps around the lake at park Tete d’Or. I never did manage to find the head of gold but I did make one old man’s day as he waved at me go past several times.
I think he was enjoying being out in the rain as much as I was (which was a LOT, as those of you who know me know, I like to ride a bike like a kid . . . and it had been almost 3 months since I’d been on a bike . . . need I say more?).
The next day I awoke to an incredibly clear (for Lyon) day. The sky was actually blue and it didn’t rain at all the entire day; and the pollution was negligible.
Sunday I proceeded again in the same direction, took a quick spin around the lake at Tete d’Or and then set off for parts unknown. This took me to a street faire with lots of cheap junk . . . really, nothing that drew my eyes expect for a pile of romance books in French.
giratoire = roundabout
La Madame had mentioned a lake called Mirabel. All I knew was that it was east of Lyon. I headed East and went as far as a town called Mayzieu. My route took me along a bike path, which follows the Tram #3 through an industrial section,
down main thoroughfares, into the country and along a country road, past a prison (well, they’ve got to have prisons too!), past many schools and recreation areas, past a few high falutin neighborhoods (which honestly have that look of mainland USA), past a campground with thousands of little campers and then the little train station for Mayzieu.
Along the way I had been looking at the maps next to the bus stops and knew to look for rue Victor Hugo. This was my ticket to the other side of a lake called Grand Large (really, that’s its name! kind of like lake big big).
Now I was in the magic of riding along a lake. There were families on bikes, people on the lake rowing, dogs running free not on a leash (one came by to say hey, he was really sweet but stinky like Rocket Girl).
le crayon in the distance
some cool looking communal gardens
I then worked my way back to town and somehow magically back to parc tete d’or where I could grab a bite. It was now 3 p.m. and I was hungry. I went for the incredibly healthy but tasty choice of crêpe au sucre and grande café crème followed by the ubiquitous sandwich jambon.
(Okay, okay, what about the fine French cuisine you ask? It was 3 p.m. already and I just wanted to hang in the park on a bench in the sun. Okay?)
The return took me back down le Rhone
to the far south side of town where I then crossed back over to the “island” and managed to find a pleasantly quiet road.
One side note–despite the large population of this city (for the accurate amount explore wikipedia s’il vous plait . . . just looked and got this #: 472,305) I managed to find MANY places empty of people. Just what this Kaua‘i girl needed. Not to wander too far though from my purpose for being here, I did listen to a French radio program twice on my iPod, some French dialogue stuff, some French music (Samedi Soir by what’s his name), some Jacque Brels stuff along with Zap Mama . . . the immersion continues.
To backtrack, the highlight of Saturday afternoon was listening to an incredible (and attractive) Brasillian woman play classic guitar.
I found a listing in the journal for a free concert at 5 p.m. at Le Salon de Music on rue Saint George, not far from chez moi. A fellow °student joined me . . . it’s quite a long story but suffice it to say that people are the same everywhere and this student (she) hadn’t been invited to the gathering the night before. Not as a slight I think, but just because the guys didn’t think to invite her. She reminds them of their mothers I found out later. I also found out later that she’s all of 40 years old . . . needless to say, me with my 48 somehow fit in. Okay Mom. Here’s your confirmation that I haven’t yet grown up. (°I invited her to join me . . .)
So, on that note, seems like a good time to close. It’s 4:36 p.m. and my books (for studying) are calling.
Ciao and bisous mes amis,