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February 7th 2013
Published: February 16th 2013
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Chamonix is located not far from Genève and Lyon, so it was only natural that I should visit both cities during this skiing temptation.

The disadvantage of inexpensive flights is that sometimes they are late at night or early in the morning; I had to be at St. Petersburg airport at about 3 o’clock in the morning. The flight to Lyon was by Lufthansa via Munich. The check-in time approaching, a huge crowd gathered near the entrances, but soon it began dispersing as passengers were allowed to proceed to check-in and passport control.

In the Munich airport, German authorities put a stamp in my passport though I really hoped that a transit flight would not involve a needless entry in the Shengen zone in Munich, but in Lyon I would get a French stamp. I believe getting at least one French stamp (in case of a French visa) is good for obtaining the next visa (my stamps are all Estonian, by the way). But, of course, it is logical that I entered the Shengen area in Munich because the next flight was not to a third country, but within Europe.

The most pleasant thing at the airport was, apart from its size (I always admire airport buildings, especially huge ones) was the availability of self-service desks with free tea (several varieties), coffee, and newspapers for passengers. There was only an hour of waiting for the next flight; at Lyon Airport I asked for the location of Rhone Express train to Gare Part Dieu in Lyon centre (aller-retour ticket bought in advance, the steward said the printout for the retour journey was needless, but gave a sort of paper pass instead).

At the train station I tried to leave my luggage (it is just several steps from the entrance), had to exchange the banknote for coins (the lockers accept no credit cards) but the machine somehow failed and the ticket did not come out fully but remained inside, me having no tweezers to pinch it out, so I had to ask help from the cashier; he wrote me out a slip so that later I came with it and obtained luggage without trouble.

A non-European person asked me for help with the lockers, and I explained. After the film Django Unchained I feel very uncomfortable about racism and how people like, or have to, oppress each other. There is a very good quotation from Mark Twain about the essence of authority. Back to the topic, the machine can change banknotes not exceeding 20 Euros.

Lyon metro system resembled that of Paris and by chance I chose to go to Bellecour, glancing at the map and finding it in the centre of the city. The choice was perfect because I emerged at Place Bellecour and many sights immediately sprang up before my eyes, notably the chateau, as I thought, which in fact is a basilica; the equestrian statue of Louis XIV, Lyon Tourist Office, and Rue de la Republique which I explored later, and a peculiar metal tower very much resembling Tour d’Eiffel, that is its upper portion.

There was no snow and it was comfortably warm, weather varying from fine to not so fine that day. While ascending to the basilica, I saw river Saone, a bridge, St. Jean Cathedral (Vieux Lyon – Fourviere, a Unesco World Heritage Site). There were bicycles for rent in many places, but I was afraid lest I’d collide with a car or passenger for lack of experience. The ascent was steep but worth it as gradually the panorama over the city disclosed itself. I saw the Gallo-Roman theatre and the majestic Rosaire gardens, which, I believe, might look better in winter or autumn than in summer... maybe not. I felt like Alice in Wonderland in a mixture of trees, white snow, brown earth, green leaves, benches, silence.

The basilica was complemented by a perfect panorama over the city, enwrapped in clouds, with the Crayon building dominant. Then I saw the Metallic Tower (it’s a strange title though) and the map said there was some ancient fort, but I didn’t reach it due to fatigue. I returned to the basilica, the front whereof was even more impressive with a bell-tower and a beautiful building and crosses nearby. Also, there was a metro station (funicular) so I went back to Place Bellecour and started exploring every sight from the guidebook, area by area – Terreaux, Cordeliers, Bellecour. However, prior to that I had a restful lunch at McDonalds bought at the easy-order stand (most convenient). There was a big amount of junk food which is so harmful to one’s health if one watches certain videos explaining the harm of this and the PERFECT usefulness of that.

I went to the embankment to see the man-made flower tree (Jeong Hwa Choi) and Hotel Dieu, where, I read, Francois Rabelais wrote his Gargantua and Pantagruel; Celestines theatre, Jacobins fountain, Rue de la Republique with peculiarly shaped lanterns on building walls; Palais de la Bourse and a church, then Place des Terreaux with city hall and Bartholdi fountain where the horses stand for four rivers. Snow fell, quickly replaced by sun again, and many clouds drifted away. I noticed some peculiar buses resembling trams, driving on wheels, not rails (that must be called trolley-buses).

Further I came across several weird metal structures like monuments (a woman and a personage on rollers). I crossed the bridge to Foch metro station, having taken advantage of the free toilet where a voice told that the door was open and that flushing would be performed after you leave the cabin. In the Centre Commercial, I had a meal of fish and rice at a Vietnamese or Thai café. I expected it to be cheaper, counted all wrong, but never mind.

Luggage collected, I waited in front of the annunciation panel for my train, and four hours later (with two connections in Bellegarde and St. Gervais) entered the Chamonix valley to find loads of snow promising an excellent skiing attempt. The road to Chamoniard Volant was long but easy to find. I had trouble because my TGV ticket did not arrive in time (it came after two months, I mistakenly chose the method of delivery by post instead of collecting at the ticket machine), and had to buy a new one, but they promise to refund after the ticket reaches them back… I hope it does.

Additional photos below
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city panorama (the crayon building)

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