Manifestation annulee sign, Lyon, France (2014-08)

Walking Home, week 17: Give me a break


Day 113 – to Lyon (or Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or)

In the morning it rains even heavier than the night before. I’m trying to get the tent dry under a canopy and in the washroom and fail.
At least Anne from Lyon has replied to my Couchsurfing request and invites me to stay a few days at her place. So Lyon tonight.
A look at the phone tells me that in the afternoon a train leaves from Maçon to Lyon.
Thither I must make it through the rain, which continues to fall, at times stronger, at times weaker.
In Ozan I buy a pain au chocolat and have trouble finding a dry place where I can eat it.
In Replonges, only a few kilometers from the Maçon train station, a particularly heavy shower has just passed, when an off-roader als next to me.
A woman opens the passenger door. “We saw you from the pool and I said that’s impossible. Where are you going? ¨
I thank her for her concern and try to calm her down. I was already on the way to the next train station.
Nevertheless, she insists on taking me over the bridge.
The sky in the meantime has taken the treacherous baby blue color that fools you into thinking it was actually summer. I have two hours before the train departs. So I say goodbye to my god Samaritan at the waterfront and transverse downtown Maçon towards the train station. A beautiful city, of which I had never heard until now.
Even before the train reaches Collonges-Fontaines, it’s raining again in streams. Anne expects me in half an hour in Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or, a small suburb North of Lyon, four kilometers from the train station.
I take up the fight with the weather, the mountainous route and the much too short time. There’s not much else I can do.
Forty minutes later I find the house. But no sign of Anne. I still step into the garden and under the canopy before I pull out my phone to call her. Hopefully she hasn’t changed her mind.
Anne is surprised. She did not expect me to be so fast.
Ten minutes later, in the house, I pull the shoes from my feet. They have been completely soaking wet for hours. Was there during World War I not a blight, from which the soldiers suffered in the rainy trenches, so that they had to have even toes amputated?
Since Anne is busy in the coming days until late in the evening, we decide to visit, along with her boyfriend, one of the best restaurants in Lyon tonight. Le Layon is apparently the place to go for frogs and snails. I want to try both but don’t fancy dining alone.
At “Le Layon” we order two menus with Lyonnaise dishes and a plate of grenouille .
The appetizer in one of the menus is escargot . I’m not thrilled. The poor snarls have been drowned in butter and parsley. That’s all. Fat may well carry flavor. But I am not impressed. The mushrooms in cream sauce, the other menu’s appetizer, on the other hand….
The frogs are not much better. Again, the chef did not come up with a better idea than lots of butter and parsley. That may be traditional. But if one adds the fact that the plate is two-thirds small bones, I can easily do without it. What about the abundance of herbs that can be found anywhere in France?

Day 114 – Lyon (or Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or)

I have four nights, three days in Lyon. Today I would like to see the city, go buy a few things and then spend the other two days relaxing in Anne’s house.
But the weather has plans. I have just arrived in the city center after a stroll through the suburbs, when the day turns rainy.
I am wearing flip-flops because my running shoes have not dried one bit since yesterday. ¨Au Vieux Campeur¨ has been recommended to me as an excellent outdoor outfitter. Here I finally want to buy new shoes.
The store is in Lyon is in fact a handful of stores, dotted along the Cours de la Liberté. Patiently I have the staff send me from one to the next, until I find the one with the shoes.
For the next hour I try various options from solid hiking to barefoot shoe. It is soldes . A pair of super light The North Face trail running shoes has been marked down to just € 60. But they appear to be a bit too large. Another pair on the shortlist appears too small. As if I was afraid to make the wrong choice, making a buying decision gets more and more difficult. I try a pair, walk up and down the aisles, find another one, …
Finally, I leave the store with a pair of The North Face Ultra Trails, size 40.5 on my feet.
To get at least some use out of the day I also buy new T-shirts, consciously significantly less form-fitting than my old shirts and with large, colorful prints, as well as supplies for the coming days at Anne’s.
The evening brings another couchsurfer to stay with my hostess. Malin is in her early twenties and has just spent two weeks WWOOFing in the Dordogne. Since I am also considering to stay on an organic farm after my hike, exchanging a few hours of work each day for food and lodging, I ask her to tell me all about the experience.

Day 115 – Lyon (or Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or)

Day off!
I sleep late, do laundry, including a few clothes belonging to Anne and Malin, write my diary and laze. Only the opportunity to nap I somehow miss.

Day 116 – Lyon (or Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or)

After the city tour on Monday was cut short because of the weather, I’ve made a plan for today to see all the major stations.
From Saint Cyr I take the bus down the other bank of the Saône into the old town. I visit a small silk weaving store. Silk is one of the products that have made Lyon wealthy. From there I take the cable car up to the cathedral. I walk over to the Gallo-Roman amphitheaters and there take the cable car down the mountain. After a short walk through Saint George I get on the tram to the confluence of Saône and Rhône. The old port district on the way back to the city center is currently being remodelled into a new, environmentally friendly neighborhood, which I do not want to miss. Next I take the subway up to Croix Rouge, the old working-class neighborhood. I slowly walk down the hill, looking for one or the other shortcut through the houses. To protect the valuable silk from rain, a system of traboules runs through the district. Today, many of these passages are closed to the public. But if you try just often enough, finally a door open. Back in the 1er Arrondissement I buy in a small bakery a sablé au praline , a large biscuit with pink decoration which consists of a lot of sugar, almonds and pink food coloring.

Day 117 – to Les Bottières (Montrottier)

The suburbs of Lyon go on forever so I decide at some point, to bridge the next 15 km with the train to eventually leave the rows of houses behind me.
Now, the landscape changes. Instead of the villages every five kilometers, visible from far thanks to the church in the center, the communities are now much larger. Occasionally I find a village. But for the longest time, I march past large and small farms, the fermes , sometimes downhill, but mostly climbing into the Monts du Lyonnais.
Sometimes there are only a few hundred meters between the houses. Often, however, far more. So I am glad that the older lady who I first approach on the wayside, immediately offers a shelter for the night: the hunters’ hut not far from her house. The small bungalow, however, has no toilet – when I enquire about that the lady points to the great outdoors – and only cold water. But there is a socket and I do not have to set up the tent.
I move some of the furniture to make space, sweep as good as I can the dust and boar hair aside and set up my cot.

Day 118 – to La Grille (Sainte-Foy-Saint-Sulpice)

I have barely slept at all. The noise in and around the hunters’ hut were scary, the nearest inhabited house too far away. Completely exhausted I say goodbye to my hostess.
The goal for today is Feurs and the campsite there.
I reach Feurs before three in the afternoon. On the way downtown two elderly gentlemen get me caught up in a long conversation, during which I receive an invitation to camp in their garden, two small bottles of ice-cold still water and a small gray towel that is made of 65% bamboo fibers.
In the city I allow myself a scoop of ice cream for a little less than € 2. Coffee flavour. Very tasty. Like an iced coffee scooped into a waffle.
It is too early to already call it a day.
So I leave Feurs.
Shortly after the bridge over the Loire River, a cyclist whizzes past me. I notice, because the tight polyester suit is donned by a pretty big, strong black man. A sight I have never beheld before.
I get another opportunity to stare at the man.
At the next intersection, he turns around and goes back past me.
A few seconds later he stops beside me. ¨Would you like chocolate?¨
Puzzled, I reply: ¨Yes.¨
He reaches into the pocket on the back of his function bicycle jersey and hands me a small bag with three biscuits with chocolate filling.
¨Do you want money?¨
Puzzled, I stammer: ¨NO! This is … ¨
He reaches into the pocket on the back of his function bicycle jersey, pulls out his wallet, rummages around in it and hands me € 10.
I do not even get to thank him, because he has already moved on.
I put the money in my pocket and munch happily on my biscuits.
Two hours later I reach Sainte-Foy-Saint-Sulpice. In a village with two saints in the name it should be all too easy to find a place to sleep.
The first houses are vacated.
The church is my next port of call. Next to it I find a small house. In front an old man tinkers in a vegetable garden. A little further three boys, young men, are playing Frisbee.
I approach the old man. He apologizes: his hearing and anyway, he does not know who lives in the house next to the church.
The guys have no idea, but after a little thinking, determine that it is social housing, and send me to the bakery for help.
In the bakery, the woman behind the counter knows nothing, sends me to the mairie instead.
In the mayor’s office, I meet only the secretary. She thinks long and hard and has no idea what to do with me. When I suggest to call the mayor, she replies she would not know how to reach him.
After I have wasted more than half an hour, I see that the only way I could probably find shelter here was to bush camp on the lawn in front of the small house in front of the church. But I have already done without shower and toilet yesterday. So I move on
At the village exit I call at two more houses. At the first the owners apologizes: the family was bound to leave for the holidays tonight. The second man, in his early twenties, dressed in a classic ¨wife beater¨ undershirt, is more direct: ¨No. It is not possible that you stay here.¨
I check Google Maps and find the next campsite more than five kilometers away. That will hurt. But if I have to…
A quarter of an hour later I see a car in front of me turn onto a courtyard. When I reach the gate, I see a very large, old house. The moment I step closer, the driver of the car already comes towards me with a smile. His sister had already noticed me in Feurs. Of course I could set up my tent in the garden. But there was plenty of space in the house. So I could get also a room.
In this case…
Jean-Michel explains that his father had been taken to the hospital in the morning and therefore everything was a little bit chaotic. On the tour through the house, I constantly meet new family members: sisters, brother, daughter, her friend, nephew, … The large old house has belonged to the family for generations and now every summer serves as their meeting place.
I assigned a room under the roof, take a shower and set out to explore the grounds.
Jean-Michel laughs when I tell him about my experiences in the village.
All through the evening adults leave the house to visit the father, others return, just to head out again.
So I dine with the kids: pasta with tomato sauce and lots of grated cheese.

Day 119 – to Saint-Just-en-Chevalet

I have set the alarm for today for a little later, half past eight. In the breakfast room I am given a cereal bowl with coffee and fresh milk from the dairy farm next door. It is eleven when I finally get on my way.
Once more the day is sunny and warm. I am enjoying every bit of it.
At two I take a break in the shade of an old barn and empty my water bottle. Just when I think about where I could refill it, a young woman peeps out of the gate to the left of the stable and asks if she could help me. Beaming with joy, I hand her my bottle. She asks me into the garden. Seen from here, the barn is a construction site. On the upper floor, a man looks up from his work and waves at me. If I wanted something to drink. A beer?
I refuse but then accept the woman’s invitation to a syrup.
On a small playground in the garden two children are playing. I guess the girls to be 14 or 15, the boy 10. In front of the barn a large mobile home is where the whole family lives.
Over the syrup I talk about my trip and the parents talk about their project, to turn the ruin that was once a barn, into their home. I am impressed by their courage and vision. We talk about how to survive in France on a budget, whereupon the woman disappears in the caravan and returns with a can of sardines in tomato sauce, a can of paté , a jar of honey, a glass of homemade cherry jam , a bag of mints from Vichy and six raw eggs.
I want to refuse the gift. Not only because I am running out of space and I have no idea what to do with six raw eggs. But mainly because I see that these four have not a lot to eat themselves.
But only the honey stays behind. It is beyond its expiration date and my patrons are afraid that it might upset my stomach.
Soon the route get more hilly and forests add to the scenery. The Auvergne is near.
In Saint-Just-en-Chevalet I head straight to the campsite. The operator agrees to cook my eggs by the morning.
I remember the € 10 from cyclist in my pocket and treat myself to a full dinner with a menu of salad, half a handmade pizza and a glass of wine for € 7.50, and a Magnum ice cream for dessert which I devour while waiting for the main.

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