This is a rant about my recent trip to France. So, a ‘Frant’, if you will. Okay, let’s all take a deep breath and calmly put the baguettes back down on the table. This will take a bit longer than usual. Go, grab a chocolat chaud.
I love France (odd way to start a rant?). I love its culture – history, architecture, art, food, wine, la langue (bien sûr!) and the land itself. The diversity in its climate, vegetation and geography is unparalleled. My husband, Mr. Pink, and I dream of retiring in a quiet village in Provence – he, playing pétanque and drinking pastis while I, hmmm, play pétanque and drink pastis alongside him.
For our first Indian wedding anniversary last weekend we decided to make a quick getaway to Lyon, the second largest French metropolitan and easily driven to from where we live in Switzerland. Lyon is generally regarded as the capital of French gastronomy and Mr. Pink, who is a full-time epicure and a part-time everything else, just could not miss this chance to eat some ‘proper meat’. So off we went, without a care in the world.
Mr. Pink had booked a serviced apartment a bit away from the city centre. All was fine. We didn’t have a great view but we didn’t mind. We are not picky people. The first afternoon was spent sightseeing.
A wonderfully rich and sumptuous anniversary dinner at the highly recommended Brasserie des Brotteaux – a French brasserie of more than 100 years of experience cooking ‘proper meat’ (or is it meat ‘proper’? I can’t tell; being Indian ‘n’ all.)
The next day we had a slow start. We are not the kinds who cram in a million things to do and have stressful vacations. No. It was time to smell the coffee and croissants at 11am, not 8.
First, the service lady at the hotel was rude; bakery lady even more so. Okay. Ignored.
It was still a nice day. We decided to explore Lyon further and so went to the tram stop to buy a couple of day tickets, which costed a bit more than 10 euros. We then noticed that the machine doesn’t take bills! Only coins and cards. Joy.
We managed to scrounge up some coins but then the machine refused to take our coins after about 8 euros! It spat out a ticket that asked us to get a refund from a ticketing office at the metro station. Super.
We got on the next tram to get to the station and we heard an announcement stating that there was a protest happening in the city centre. All public transport was suspended in the area and roads were blockaded. Great.
The tram stopped before it reached our stop and declared that it will not go any farther. Fantastic.
So we walked to the station, got to the ticketing office, waited, waited, got our money back and decided to walk to the city centre. Why not? We are young and able. Saw some nice buildings, interspersed with some intimidating riot police folk and lots of people picketing. Vive la révolution indeed but not very romantic.
Tired, we sauntered back in the evening only to have construction work with cranes and drills start at midnight right next to our room, on the railway lines. Oh! Did I not mention we had cargo railway lines next to our suite? Excellent.
A few hours later it subsided and we managed to get some sleep and be ready in time for the noon checkout. We went to reception to hand back the keys and were told that some cars had been broken into in the closed private parking of the hotel and our car was one of them! Supfantagelishiogrrrrrr.
Yes, THAT happened.
The beautiful, black Lexus (with French registration) that was parked next to us was untouched. They knew which car was alarmed. The Lexus guy was sympathetic, even though he was not able to hide the relief and happiness in his voice or face. He said that a bunch of cars were broken into in a neighbouring garage as well. Before getting into his car he turned to us, shrugged his shoulders, tilted his head and just said, “Welcome to France!”
We were then directed to the closest police station, which was situated on Route de la Charité. How appropriate. God must be French.
We have decided to try our luck in Marseille next.