Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Trip to Lyon France 2009
Our trip to Lyon, France was supposed to include the whole family in celebrating Mom and Dad's 11th wedding anniversary, but sickness interfered with this plan, so Coretta and I went to France together while Geno and Nick stayed back.
That morning, Coretta and I started off on our 4 and a half hour car ride at 10 am. As we drove, there were lots of mountains, architecture, and beauty that outlined the landscape. Once we arrived in Lyon, parking (which I knew would be a problem) was difficult. In France, their streets are small, their elevators are small, and their parking garage spaces even smaller. I parked on the street and went into the Astrid Reine to check in. They informed me that they had underground parking available (19 Euros per night). He stated that I would need to push the button and he would then open the door to allow me access. Once in, I was instructed to park in any of the spaces that had a green card on the wall. There were many, but the spaces were so tight, it took me 20 minutes to manuever the car into the space. Now I wasn't alone in this endeavor. As I looked around, other Europeans with smaller cars than me also were having trouble.
Once parked, Coretta and I gathered our things and made our way to our executive suite room 210. Our key was very interesting and could be a topic of conversation to say the least. The old fashioned t-shaped key was attached to a very old gold door knob that easily weighed 10 pounds. I joked to Coretta that we wouldn't have to worry walking the streets at night with this key with us. One swipe across the temple to any assailant and they would be knocked out cold.
Once we opened the room, it was so beautiful and romantic. The door opened to the view of two balconies and these Victorian curtains that hung all the way to the ground. In the middle of this room was a dining room table and a sofa with a pull out bed. As you walk down the hall, the floors are all marble. To the right was a full kitchen, to the left a half bath and then to the right another bathroom. The next room was the actually bedroom that had a queen size bed all in the Victorian style. Now I took a moment to reflect on the beauty of this room, and it made me sad that the love of my life was unable to be there with me. I believe it was the nicest room I have ever stayed in.
Once situated, Coretta and I decided that we would have a low key evening, since we were both a little wiped out from the drive. We decided to take a stroll through the Parc de la Tete d'Or which was situated right outside our hotel. The Parc de la tete d'Or was named for a golden head of Jesus supposedly buried on its grounds. The park itself is one of the largest in Europe consisting of 259 acres. The gate itself was quite impressive. It was extremely high. So high, that you had to tilt your head back to see the top of it. It was wrought iron decorated with gold accents. It has a 60,0000-bush rose garden, paddle boats dot the artificial lake, and African animals fill the free zoo. Everywhere you looked, you saw people enjoying themselves. Some just were taking time to stroll the many pathways, others rollerblading or scootering, and some getting their afternoon run in before dinner.
On Saturday, Coretta and I got up early and decided that we would wander around the city of Lyon which houses a population of 435,000 people. We set our goal to walk to the specific area in Lyon known as the La Presqu'le and Les Terreaux. Here we saw monumental squares, statues, and fountains which are one of the trademarks of this area. Once you cross the Rhone River, you also get beautiful views of the Fourviere and Roman section of Lyon. Coretta and I saw the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere which was absolutely breathtaking. We also saw a metal structure close to the Basilica that looked like a direct replica of the Eiffel Tower. Along the river there were many vendors selling several things from french literature, vintage comic books, to matted paintings of old propaganda posters from the 1940s to popular American icons.
Coretta and I thoroughly enjoyed sight-seeing in this particular area even though we did get lost a few times. We also saw an enormous ferris wheel where there was a group gathered around protesting terrorism and several police were there in case a riot broke out.
The Musee Des Beaux-Arts was spectacular as well. This converted palace takes visitors through many diverse exhibits from the Roman and Egyptian era as well as famous painters such as Monet, Renoir, and Picasso. The outside also has much to see as well. The garden consisted of several roman sculptures throughout.
That night, Coretta and I decided to do some shopping at Part Dieu which is home to 230 shops in the center of Lyon. We took the city bus number C1 which took us right there. Coretta and I had some of the best Italian here and enjoyed the taste of "real" American ice cream at the Hagen Daas stand. The actual building had five floors for shopping and was very busy.
Sunday being our last day, and shops being closed, we dedicated this day to museums. We decided to visit the East of Rhone and Modern Lyon section. We knew from the map that we would need to take subway A at Massena. Then we would need to get off at Chapelles A and jump on the B line that takes you to Jean Mace.
Now I do not speak French and the automatic ticket booth was in French. Amazingly enough, I managed to purchase our tickets very easily. One ticket on either the train or bus costs 1,60 euros which is quite inexpensive. However, getting on the train before they slam the doors and find a seat before it takes off proved more difficult. When the train started the sheer force of the train pushed me back, I stepped on Coretta's foot, and a French man laughed so hard. Once we sat down, Coretta and I laughed as well.
Once we stepped off the train, we needed to find Berthelot Avenue. Since we were having difficulty finding it, I approached a french woman, and pointed to the map where I needed to go. She spoke in French and motioned with her body like one would playing charades in which I nodded and said Merci. She wasn't helpful, but she really wanted to help. Which brings me to the topic of stereotypes. Since I have been here in Europe, the French really are nice, warm, friendly people. This is not the view we hear about the French in the states which is that of cold, impatient, or rude people. Nothing could be farther than the truth.
Once we found Berthelot Avenue, we finally found our destination: Centre D'Histoire De La Resistance et De La Deportation. Being an English teacher for the past eight years and having taught the Holocaust, I knew that this was a must see for me. As we traveled to this destination, I prepped Coretta briefly on the history of the time period and what she would see. This exhibit was very well done. Although much of the information I already knew, it was an excellent teachable moment for my 9 year old daughter. One particular part of the exhibit that I found to be interesting was that of the female role during this era. It documented several of the women resisters and their role in the underground movement to warning people, importing weapons to people, to saving Jewish children from deportation. This lead way into a discussion that Coretta and I had about risking your life for the humanity of others. The actual museum is housed in a building where Nazis tortured detainees during the Occupation and had several documents, photos, and films about Lyon's role in the Resistance. Coretta and I were also given hand held audio devices in English to help us as we walked throughout the exhibit which was very helpful.
Coretta and I both think that Lyon is a must see and plan to go back again in the spring or summer. With 22 museums alone, to fully appreciate all Lyon has to offer, multiple visits are needed.