vendredi 23 juin 2006

Yesterday I took the TGV up to Lyon to meet a business contact. (How cool is that- Speeding through the South of France on the TGV for business? But I bet it gets less cool after the 100th time.)
I got up at 6, took the subway to the Marseille train station, (picture) the Gare St. Charles. My train left at 7:40. It was rather uneventful, but I was disappointed that I couldn't see more- on the ground level you see mostly hedges and privacy fences. You have to be on top to really get a nice view of the beautiful countryside. I vowed that on the way back I would sit on top. But on the way back there was only one level. And I slept. Oh well.
The trip was supposed to take a little over an hour and a half. Instead, it took about an extra half hour just pulling into the train station in Lyon. I got off the train and looked for the nearest Metro station. Except that the Metro was on strike. Go France!
Upon leaving the train station, I immediately got stopped by some woman handing out something. Forget what I said in the Mademoiselle/Madame post. Apparently, even dressed up in my "Big Girl Important Clothes" I still warrant a Mademoiselle.
Lyon has quite an extensive public transportation system- four metro lines (compared to Marseille's two), a tramway, and I think a hundred bus lines. I stood for about 15 minutes just trying to figure out where I was on the map and how to get to the old part of the city. The bus line map was labeled with the stop names and names of each quarter, not the street names. So it was an interesting exercise in deduction to try to match up my tourist map (printed rather badly from my book) with the street names to the bus line map. I finally decided to just walk in the general direction of where the old town must be. Lyon is described as
"France's second city, dramatically sited on the banks of the Rhône and Saône rivers, has been a vital gateway between north and south since ancient times. Upon arriving you immediately feel a brin du sud, or touch of the south."
Marseille and Lyon both vehemently contest that THEY are the second largest city in France after Paris. I think it depends on whether you count just the city or the suburbs as well. Anyway, in order for a tourist to feel that it has the "brin du sud" I think you have to be arriving from up north. Coming from the south south of France, it definetely feels northern. Alain once was amazed when talking with another American in the US who told him that she had visited the South of France. He asked where exactly she had visited in the south. She replied "Lyon". He laughed because all true Provençals think Lyon is WAY UP THERE. I think that if you divide France horizontally in half it is considered in the southern half, but I think it still has some attitudes of the north. And the Southerners definetely consider it the North. Of course, I was only there for half a day.

Lyon was founded by the Romans in 43 BC on the site of a Gaulish hill-fort settlement called Lug[o]dunon—from the Celtic sun god Lugus (light) and dúnon (hill-fort). It was recognized as a major point on the roads between the north and south and later became the capital of Gaul due to it's geographical position and the rivers. There are still two large Roman amphitheaters remaining, one built in 15 BC for 30,000 spectators.

Lyon is now the capital of the Rhône Department. It has 9 arrondisements (haha, less than Marseille's 16), which are different areas or departments of the city.

So I walked towards the old part of Lyon. The City Hall is beautiful. At least, I think this is a picture of the City Hall. For some reason they have a big Bull statue in front. You would think they would have a Lion. I walked toward the big Eiffel Tower wannabe but had to turn back before I reached it so I would make my meeting in time. It is like an illusion- you think it is getting closer as you walk towards it for 45 minutes, but it still remains really far away. The Marseillais tease the Lyonnais for being copycats- they copied the Notre Dame de la Garde church of Marseille and the Eiffel Tower of Paris.
In reality, the tower is the Tour Métallique and was built in 1893, and now is a television transmitter. And the church is the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière "the hill that prays", described as a "gaudy mock-Byzantine creation- a riot of turrets and crenelations, marble and mosiac- was built in the late 19th century and has become one of the symbols of Lyon." Anyway, I didn't get to judge the gaudiness for myself, as I had to get back to my meeting. My feet were killing me by this time anyway. So I limped back to the train station, our appointed meeting spot.
On the way back, I noticed Lyon's handing of traffic. They seem to have a much better grip on it than Marseille. Or maybe it is just that Lyon is past the growing pains that Marseille is in the throws of right now in constructing the tramway. Lyon also has a Rent A Bike program. They have red bikes stationed at various places in Lyon. You have to insert a card (probably a bank card I am guessing, or ID card at least) into a computer system, and it unlocks one of the bikes for you. This seems to be working well, unlike poor Charlottesville who had a similar yellow bike program and all the bikes diappeared within about a week. I think the difference is that in Charlottesville they relied on the honor system whereas in Lyon there is some amount of accountability and traceabilty.
I met my colleague for lunch. Although Lyon is considered the Gastronomic Capital of France, we had a 13 euro lunch right by the train station consisting of a salade verte (green salad. Which usually in France means just lettuce.) a personal pizza, and a dessert- chocolate moose for me. He left around 2. I was planning on walking around some more, but didn't feel like braving the bus system or walking all way back to the Vieux Lyon, so I wandered around the shopping mall across the street. Pretty typical mall, one could almost believe that they are in a US Mall. They even have The Body Shop here. Oh, and no food courts. There tend to be little cafes and stands in the malls, not a big eating area.

My return TGV ticket was for 5:30, but I wanted to see if I could catch an earlier train back. I was able to exchange it and catch the 3:15 train. There were two women watching a DVD (I think Pirates of the Caribean) on a portable DVD player. Without the headphones on. After a couple of minutes of LOOKS from me and some other passengers, I finally asked if they would please not mind putting the headphones on. Well, apparently this was a huge imposition and how Dare I Ask That. They did finally do it with much huffing and puffing. I meant to stay awake and look at the beautiful scenery but conked out, made it back to Marseille a little before 5. So that was my interesting trip to Lyon. (picture below- lion crossing the crosswalk)

1 commentaires:

Starman a dit…

The picture you think is "city hall" is actually Le Bourse (a stock market place).

Blog Archive


Favorite Posts