I’ve learned a great deal today – most of which is really GOOD stuff but unfortunately the good is marred with some really irritating crap.
We’ve been on an ‘adventure’ into the Monts du Lyonnais. It meant getting up at the crack of sparrows – especially as we are an hour ahead in Lyon compared to the UK so our alarm call at seven am was in fact six am according to our body clocks. We climbed out of bed, packed, showered and ate breakfast in a rush so we could scoot across town to the Gare Gorge de Loup for the start of our big adventure! Once there, we successfully (after the minor hiccup of first buying tickets for the return journey only, not the outbound leg because our French wasn’t really up to an automatic ticket machine dispensing tickets with no translations – we bought the ‘Retour’ as we would at home but there, the ‘retour’ doesn’t include the ‘Allez’!!! So, another excursion into the electronic ticket machine’s bowels found us a couple of ‘Allez’ tickets too. Hurrah – the first major hurdle of the day dealt with almost like pros!
We were on an SNCF train to l’Arbresle, climbing into the foothills of the Monts du Lyonnais in order to catch a ‘steam train’ up into the mountains for the day. When we got to l’Arbresle we successfully negotiated our way onto said ‘steam’ train only to discover it was, in fact, a diesel train!!! Ah well, some of the romance was lost at that point but given that we always have bags of that commodity surrounding us we didn’t really need more.
The Train Touristique des Monts du Lyonnaise is effectively a bunch of grown men with a HUGE Hornby set all of their own. I know there are similar groups around the UK and presumably all over the train world and I suspect this group are little different from a group operating out of Didcot or anywhere else for that matter. The point is these men get to live out their hobby each weekend transporting tourists around on an ancient train for fun! They clearly relish the task. One of the engine drivers piped the passengers aboard on a set of bagpipes – I thought bagpipes were a Scottish peculiarity until very recently and this is the second place I’ve encountered them where I would probably least expect. There must have been eight or ten ‘officials’, most of whom were quite casual about their tasks. The exception was the guard whose quasi-militaristic uniform was possibly a little OTT, especially considering his mates were all casually dressed. Anyway, whatever rocks your boat I suppose and if he enjoyed wearing it then who am I to say?
Travelling up steep hills very slowly we were able to take in a lot about the area around the Rhone, which if the train had been a faster one, we’d have missed. I learned there is just as much free food available here as there is at home. I spied walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, hops, elderberries and blackberries growing along the banks of the hill, just waiting to be picked. I saw that the French too love their kitchen gardening because every patch of free space in each garden was covered in produce – squash, courgettes, tomatoes, onions, leeks, spinach and a whole lot more besides. I like their style! (And it’s good to see that the UK supermarket culture has not penetrated the French at all. They are clearly stronger of spirit than we Brits.
We arrived at Ste Foy l’Argentiere and wandered around what was effectively a ghost town. I had not even considered that taking August off would be so comprehensive even in the mountains. We finally found ourselves a tiny café and by a bit of muck and magic managed to get across in pigeon French that their menu didn’t cater for veggies and we ended up with cheese, salad and bread, washed down by a cold beer. Strangely we were offered cheese for dessert too – seems the French can’t have lunch without a dessert, even if it is the same as the main course.
On the way back to the city and the airport we discovered that you can’t put paper money into French ticket machines (and we had no coins) – and the Metro machines don’t take cards other than the very French ‘Carte Blanche’ unlike the SNCF machine that had happily swallowed my Mastercard! Seems you need weighty money here – the folding stuff is hard to use….
Eventually, I managed to get a bus driver to sell me two metro tickets for some paper Euros and we were on our way. It always feels like a victory to negotiate an unknown underground system successfully. Our day of travelling around Lyon and its surrounds was really good – stress free and relatively easy……unlike the final leg of today’s journey through Lyon airport – however modern this airport it is a complete nightmare to negotiate. There is no ‘departure hall’ and consequently no shops or restaurants once you pass through passport control. This isn’t made obvious before going through the system and once in the departure area you can’t get back out. The only ‘food’ is crisps and sweets and the only drink is Coke and other such delights – not to mention that the machines don’t take anything other than coins and we didn’t have any of those. The whole experience was grizzly.
On the plane, the f*ckwit in front of me immediately put her seat into full recline. I am still baffled about why aeroplanes have this facility and even more baffled about how any traveller who has ever been behind someone doing this could ever be so inconsiderate themselves. I think I am going to lobby the airlines to stop putting these seats into their planes……or to provide more legroom so you don’t have to have someone else’s seat just a few inches away from your face.
Eventually the passengers were on board – the security system was so ‘efficient’ that most of the passengers were late for the flight. As we taxied onto the runway, the safety procedures were read out by a giggling flight attendant who was laughing so uncontrollably that she couldn’t get some of the words out of her mouth coherently. In a week where two crashes have occurred, it seemed slightly cavalier to say the least.
I keep saying ‘this is the last time I’ll be flying’ and every time I say it, I’m proved wrong because of some business ‘need’. One of these days……
A year ago I was being lazy and two years ago I was masked.