The Final Countdown

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November 12th 2017
Published: November 12th 2017
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As I mentioned at the end of the last blog, Lyon is essentially the end of my visit to France (and Germany). After visiting so many great places and seeing so many stunning things, it was always going to be hard to get motivated here. 4 weeks is usually about my limit, and I like to go away for a bit longer than that so I’m keen to go home when the time comes.

On Saturday morning, after having breakfast at the hotel, I returned to my room and went back to bed. I did eventually get up, but there were only a couple of things I really wanted to see in Lyon so I decided to put them off to Sunday. Instead, I headed out with my camera and just went for a walk.

It was a long walk, along the bank of the Rhone river that passes through Lyon. It had rained earlier in the morning, but fortunately I didn’t get much in the afternoon. I kept walking until I was tired, but of course I had to then walk back to the hotel.

I was pretty exhausted at that point. On Friday night for dinner I had to walk for 20 minutes because there’s no restaurants near me. I didn’t feel like doing that again on Saturday night, so instead, I decided to make use of the kitchen in the hotel room and just grab some things from the nearby supermarket instead. Nothing fancy, just baguettes, salami and cheese. It made a nice change from having to go out to a restaurant, which I’m pretty over after more than 4 weeks of dining out. I have also found the worst job in the world: working at a checkout at a French supermarket, if the attitude of the lady who served me is anything to go by.

After returning to the hotel, I made my dinner and took advantage of finally having some decent internet by watching the first couple of episodes of the new series of Stranger Things on Netflix. I’m looking forward to watching the rest when I get home.

On Sunday morning I was a bit more motivated and I set out on an even longer adventure, but this time with an actual target in mind. I crossed the Rhone and Saone rivers (Lyon is built at the convergence of the two) and into the old town. I spent some time wandering among what seemed to be an artists’ market, which was really good. There were paintings, sculptures, jewellery, etc. and most of it was top quality. Pretty pricey too, but I would have loved to fit a couple of the paintings in my suitcase if it were possible and I was confident they would arrive back in Sydney safely.

I then headed to catch the funicular up the hill. I think this was the first time I had ridden on a funicular that is designed for public transport, not just tourism. It was a short journey up to the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourviere, a spectacular church up on the hill. I took a couple of photos, but that wasn’t where I was planning to go.

Instead, I walked down the hill a bit to the Gallo-Roman museum, which is right next to the two Roman theatres. The museum was pretty good and I spent a couple of hours walking around. The layout was interesting and as you make your way through the various sections, you go down 4 floors but without really noticing. There’s a couple of big windows to view the theatres too, but the best exhibit was a projection on a model of the Lyon landscape, with accompanying narration (translated via the audioguide) explaining the Roman history of Lyon. There was also a temporary exhibition on Roman water, but it was small and there was no audioguide.

From the museum, I headed out to look at the theatres. There are two, the main large one and the smaller “odeon” which was reserved for musical performances. After seeing the theatre at Orange, I don’t think I could get excited about another Roman theatre that is missing the stage wall, but it was nice enough.

From the theatres I kept walking down the hill a bit and went to the other funicular to catch that back down to the old town. The sun even came out for a bit during this walk, so I was hopeful of missing the rain that had been forecast, except for a few light drops I had when walking earlier.

It was not to be, however. After alighting from the funicular, I walked back across the Saone river, then the Rhone and just as I started walking back along the bank, the heavens opened. Fortunately, I had my umbrella with me, but it didn’t really help because the rain was accompanied by a furious gale. Many people took cover underneath bridges (except the joggers, they didn’t seem fazed at all). I, however, was only wearing a t-shirt so I kept walking, afraid that I’d freeze if I stopped moving. The temperature dropped with the storm. This was not entirely unexpected (snow is forecast for Monday morning!) but I just walked back to the hotel with a grim determination. I was very glad when I finally reached it and thankful for the heated towel rack that I could use to dry my clothes.

And that’s basically it for the trip. Tomorrow I drop off the car and catch a train to Paris. In Paris, I will probably just do some final souvenir shopping as I’ve been there a couple of times already and the Louvre will be closed.

So this will be the final blog entry for this trip. As it’s been a short entry, I thought I would pad it out with the answers to a few questions I will no doubt be asked when I get home.

What was the Best Thing on the trip?

For me, the best thing was the museums. Not the normal kind of museums where lots of stuff is displayed in glass cases with informative but some-times boring descriptions written next to them, because the British Museum is easily the best of that kind of museum.

No, what I loved best on this trip were the museums at Alesia and Bibracte, the war memorial at Verdun and the Wine museum at Bordeaux (Yes, I know that’s technically 4 things!). I thought these 4 museums in particular, were really well done. The displays were not limited to items in glass cases, there were some great interactive and multimedia exhibits, which provided some fascinating information in interesting ways. They are up there with the best museums I have visited and cannot recommend them enough.

The Worst Thing?

Easily, that was the driving. Not all of the driving, because there were some really great drives through beautiful autumn countryside that was a real contender for the “best thing”. Also, visiting most of the places I went would have been much more difficult if I was not driving, so I don’t regret getting the car at all.

What I didn’t like were a few aspects of driving in France. French people drive too fast and they also like to tailgate you if you are not driving fast enough. This should be a dangerous combination, but they seem to have wicked reflexes, so I guess it works for them. It was a bit stressful for me. Also, both pedestrian crossings and indicators seem to be completely voluntary here, which is annoying.

However, the absolute worst thing about the driving was the f---ing roundabouts! There were so many! Now, in small country villages they are cost effective ways to control traffic and I don’t mind that. What really irked me was the large ones on main roads and in cities. There were too many in places that should have just been traffic lights. And adding traffic lights to roundabouts (which I saw a few times) is just taking the worst aspects of the two.

The Biggest Surprise?

The biggest surprised had to be the Roman theatre at Orange. As I mentioned in my blog entry there, I have visited many Greek and Roman theatres and they all just have
One place in Lyon I was definitely not going to visitOne place in Lyon I was definitely not going to visitOne place in Lyon I was definitely not going to visit

Although I must admit it made me a bit homesick seeing the flag
the admittedly impressive seating. I also knew that they had had stage walls but until I saw the one at Orange, I had no idea how large and impressive they could be. It really blew me away, and although it wasn’t the most impressive thing I saw, it would definitely be the biggest surprise.

The Biggest Disappointment?

Like the biggest surprise, the biggest disappointment probably says more about my expectations than anything. The biggest disappointment, for me, would have to be the wines in Bordeaux. They weren’t bad, that’s for sure, and the one I bought was really nice. But I think I expected Bordeaux wines to be absolutely amazing and they weren’t. I would go so far as to say that I think they are overhyped and overpriced. I’m glad to have gone there and seen for myself, and I didn’t try them all, but I would prefer a more reasonably-priced Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River in Australia over a Bordeaux wine any day of the week.

And that’s it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my trip. I have had a fantastic time and look forward to my next adventure!

Additional photos below
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The Gallo-Roman Museum, Lyon

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