I'm becoming more and more lax about promptly blogging about my trip...a bit coincidental, I think, since we're nearing the conclusion! On Thursday last week, our group left Bordeaux via coach and headed to Lyon, situated further northeast in the country near the French Alps. Our coach ride, as last time, was passed with much sleeping by myself and my fellow students. However, I did manage to appreciate a couple of hours worth of French countryside along the way...
Upon our arrival in Lyon, we settled into our Novotel hotel (Novotel's are rather known for being modern-looking and nicely furnished) and continued recovering from the previous night's festivities. What had we done, you ask? Well, each city concludes with a farewell dinner and at Bordeaux's, the wine and drink were free-flowing! I left before desert due to the increasing noise (the room was very high and we were very loud - and thankfully were the only group in that particular room!), and made my way back to the hotel to pack with some other group members not interested in "getting rowdy."
Back to Lyon - Friday morning we had a really neat coach tour of the city. Lyon is a town (city, really, it vies with Marseille for the title of second largest city in France after Paris) with two major rivers flowing through it, the Saone on the West and the Rhone on the East. It is an incredible city that looks very Italian to me, probably due to its role as a Gallo-Roman settlement for thousands of years! It is truly lovely and the Presqu'ile, or Penninsula, between the two rivers is packed with streets and things to see.
Our tour guide, Barbara, is an ex-patriot who hails from Pennsylvania and who married a Frenchman and has lived in France for more than 20 years (what a life!). She had loads of interesting things to tell us about Lyon, both the "old" and the "new" sections of the city - old here means centuries and even thousands of years, as opposed to old in the U.S. meaning in the 1700s.
Our coach climbed high onto the "hill that prays" where Notre Dame de Fourviere sits (also called "the elephant" by some of Lyon's residents since they think it looks like an elephant lying on its back with its four legs up in the air). This is called the hill that prays due to the church at the top, and the other major hillside in Lyon, the "hill that works" is where many of the silk factories were located. Today, Lyon is still known for its silks and the concept of jacquard silk patterning was invented here.
Lyon is also a city known for its murals, so Barbara took us past one of the city's most famous. In keeping with many things in France, the mural (incredible!) depicts various important individuals from Lyon's history including the Lumiere brothers who are credited with helping to launch the cinematic industry. Also shown on the mural are the author of the famous children's book "The Little Prince" and an image famous to the French which was created by Barbara's mother-in-law before she quit being an artist to raise her children at her husband's behest.
After our tour, we were free to find lunch and wander the city. Lyon seems to be the right mix of big city and not Paris for me. There are plenty of metropolitan aspects to the city, but the people are decidedly non-Parisian, and seemingly proud to be Lyonnaise. Interestingly, Friday night saw the Olympique Lyonnaise, the Lyon football (soccer) team, staying at our hotel before their game on Saturday evening. What an event that turned out to be! Lots of Lyonnaise arrived to try and get autographs and photos of the players while we, relatively cluelessly, meandered into and out of the fray with the players themselves... Some of the students on the trip actually went to the game and had a great time. Not being a fan of big crowds and having heard many stories about European football matches, I stayed in for the night!
Saturday itself I spend wandering Lyon with my pal Ingrid. While some of our other friends took off for various locations in Switzerland (we're only two hours from Geneva here), Ingrid and I made our way up to the Roman Amphitheater ruins, back to Notre Dame, down to the Cathedral St. Jean, and over to the Musee d'Beaux Arts. It was a gloriously sunny day and despite the heat, I can truly say we enjoyed ourselves!
On Sunday, Ingrid headed off to Geneva with a group and I stayed (happily) at the hotel, sitting in the sun and reading and working. It was the first time I'd looked at a calendar since I'd gotten to France, and boy was it scary how little time we have left on our trip and how much there is to do once I get home!!
Today, tomorrow and Wednesday wrap up our classes for the trip, and then Thursday finds us on our way back to Paris for our last stop. After that I head to London, but it still seems in some way that there is much to do before next Sunday comes!
Have been having a bit of trouble uploading photos onto facebook recently, but will do my best again soon so that you can all see what we've been up to over here!
Love to you all....