Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vieux-Lyon et Soie

Old Lyon and silk...or was it old silk and Lyon?
We headed south to historic Lyon, and once we arrived, drove around and around the town trying to find the tourist office.  We could see the sign pointing to it, but, not the building.  How frustrating!  The rumors are true; it's impossible to find anything in Lyon.  So, we parked first, then walked up to the street level.  Voila!  There it was.  But, unfortunately, it was closed.
Thankfully, I had brought our Frommer's Guide to Lyon, which included a walking tour of this ancient city.  We ambled on to the old part of the city, Vieux Lyon, which had been around since Medieval times, and located the oldest street...identifiable by the cobblestone streets and brick walls surrounding us.
Here are Dan and the kids on this old Medieval street, looking for something or other in the drain.  Mario had the knack of finding money on the street wherever he went.  Lyon was no exception.  About a half hour before, he had found a 10 euro note (about $15) on a busy thoroughfare!  So, here he is again, searching for what he thought was a coin.  No luck this time! Maybe he was hoping that one of the King Louis the "something or other" might have dropped a coin a few centuries ago.
The main reason I wanted to stop here was to visit the 'traboules' or passageways created specifically for the silk traders as they transferred their goods from one street to the next in the rain.  Water is not a friend of silk, so they had to protect it at all costs in inclement weather.
Marie Antoinette was said to have been given stockings from Lyon when she arrived in Paris from (what is now) Austria, to meet her future husband, Louis XVI.  Poor girl; she was not allowed to bring anything along from her old life, so, she was provided with an entirely new wardrobe upon entry.  Literally, a complete change at the border.  Only french fashion and materials would do for this princess!
Now, on to the traboules or walkways.  Evidently, the tenants in the flats off the courtyards to which these traboules lead, are willing to open the doors or gates on the weekends to curious tourists.  We were four such tourists, so, when we rang the bell outside the entryway and, voila, a buzzer sounded, and we were given entrance.  Talk about making ourselves at home.  We could have woven in and out of these passageways for hours, but it was time to have dinner, and then head for Grenoble.
Lyon is also known for it's cuisine, which is second to Paris.  So, we had a lovely meal at an outside cafe´, and, although it was a highlight, nothing could compare to the excitement we felt as we saw our waitress intently reading a tract we had given her (with a tip) moments before.  She was hungry for good news.
On our way to the car, we found a delightful old corner silk shop, "Soierie Saint-Georges. It had been there for years, and had a small loom in the back, from which the owner was giving a demonstration.  In the front of the store was a small display of lovely silk scarves, some with patterns, and others woven in such a way that it caused the fabric to shimmer and change color, almost like a chameleon.  I chose to purchase the latter, which were truly unique.
Since we were to fly out of Grenoble/Lyon back to London in three days, we decided to drive straight to the Hertz office at "la gare d'St Martin" or bus/train station to drop off our car after hours, and meet Jeannie.  What a fiasco!  We couldn't find the station, Jeannie couldn't find us, she didn't have a cell phone, we did. So we called her home.  Marc said that she would meet us at the Europarc next to the station.  Again we road around and around.  It seems as tho' the street signs lead nowhere!  Finally, we drove down the ramp to the underground lot, and after parking, we dragged our luggage towards the Hertz office.  There were Jeannie and Luc waiting for us with their SUV.  Thank the Lord!
But, our adventure was not over yet...we loaded our suitcases into their vehicle, and headed up to drop off the key.  Well, we found the office, but, unfortunately, we needed the license number of the car we had rented, so off Jeannie and Dan went, back down to the garage, while the rest of us looked for a toilet.
  Getting the necessary information, they came up, we reunited, dropped off the key, and headed back to the Tabailloux vehicle.  Whew!  (Not so fast...)  We walked to the very door we came out of as we headed up from the underground lot, but it was locked.  So, again (does this sound repetitious?)  we walked around and around, until we located another door that lead us to the car.  We packed ourselves in, and took off for "home."  Jean-Luc had just arrived via train from a week long Brethren conference north of Paris.  It was good to see him again, and meet the "other twin" Marc, a dental tech, who had been the go between on the phone earlier that day.
We settled into our rooms (the twins graciously offered us theirs), and had a lovely quiche dinner around 8:30pm.  It was still bright as day...the sun didn't set until 10pm.  What a breathtaking view of the Alps we had.  They surrounded us like a giant hug.  Bonne Nuit!  
P.S. A funny thing happened to us on the way to Grenoble.  We stopped at a tollbooth to pay our fee, but only an automated machine was available.  Swiping our toll card given us at the beginning of our journey, we dropped what we figured was the correct amount into the slot as directed, but the coins continued to be rejected.  We thought it might be damaged coins, so we tried others.  Over and over again we dropped them in the slot, with no result, until a muffled voice began giving directions in French via a microphone.  It was difficult to tell if the person was live at another location, or, if it was a recording.  We listen carefully, but could not decipher the directions, so, we continued to feed the hungry machine.  Abruptly, the coins were accepted, and we heard a loud musical "ta-da" from the which point we laughed hysterically for 30 seconds.  If the guard heard us, he would have pronounced us insane!  We still to this day relish telling that story over and over again.

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