Road trip part 2: Lyon

Lyon and I started out on bad terms.

Having settled (I thought) rather well into driving sur le continent, things became somewhat hairy on entering France’s second-largest city* at rush-hour and attempting to navigate the warren of narrow and occasionally vertiginous one-way streets in La Croix-Rousse.

After circling the area several times (sometimes on purpose, sometimes … not) in a vain attempt to find a free space on the street for anything larger than a pedal car, I eventually surrendered, sparing my increasingly frayed nerves any further strain by parking in an extortionately expensive underground car park.

And so I arrived, luggage-laden and heart still racing, at the appointed place and time to take charge of the keys for my inaugural airbnb booking – where I was faced with a totally non English-speaking friend (Cécile) of the owner with the keys to the 3rd floor apartment … and the bottom of a surprisingly steep spiral staircase.

I managed a reasonable, if stilted, conversation with Cécile (due in equal parts to a lack of language ability and actual breath on my part as we ascended), and when we reached the summit the apartment itself was lovely. I just cursed Monsieur Jacquard for having invented a weaving loom so tall it warranted such high ceilings – and hence the precipitous escaliers I was navigating – in these converted workshops. (In fact I cursed the lack of ascenseur at the time and him only later, following a visit to one of the last active workshops in Lyon – wherein I discovered his culpability.)

A series of niggling inconveniences as opposed to out-and-out catastrophe perhaps – but still, so far not the best introduction.

And then it rained.

On day 1 I felt like one of those poor souls you see traipsing around London in their £1 ponchos that let all the water in and make you sweat at the same time because you’re basically wrapping yourself in a plastic bag. Nothing stops that tourist mindset of having to get around all the ‘must-see’s – because you might never be here again, right? And so it was that I trudged resolutely around town: Nikon-pregnant in my trusty pac-a-mac; rain-sodden map in hand.

Thankfully, the ensuing days were much improved and I basked on sun-drenched (though gusty and windswept) streets, walking above the rooftops in Fourvière and passing through hidden ‘traboules’ (passageways) in the old town, discovering the Lyonnais penchant for monumental murals and ever-so-slightly-sinister puppets…

* Strictly speaking, Lyon is the largest conurbation outside of Paris, Marseille being the second largest city proper. (This, for my esteemed editorial colleagues who may feel I’m fudging the facts.)