The 20th May was a Saturday and fortunately the extremely fickle weather had taken a turn for the better which was a blessing. I should mention at the outset of this entry that, yet again, there will be nothing in the way of museums, churches, art galleries or whatever and the reader may want to pass quickly on as I do not waste anyone’s time if that is what they are looking for. Rather this is a personal recollection of a day that represents much of what I love about travelling and some of the strange things that happen to me on the road.
Given the fact that I had done precious little else but sit around drinking, smoking, chatting and playing the guitar I really thought I should take advantage of the weather and so I resumed my morning rambles.
Nothing serious or touristy mind you, just another wander round the 3rd arrondissement which was the area I was staying in and which I was developing quite an affection for. It was “edgy” although I never felt in the least threatened, it was just not a sanitised city centre location and it suited me down to the ground. I’d only planned to stay in Lyon a couple of days and it had gone a lot longer than that but this happens to me regularly.
Off I went and took a couple of images of nothing really important and inevitably it came to “beer o’clock” as it was quite warm and I was thirsty. To be honest, waking up makes me thirsty! Having decided on a beer I resolved to go into the first bar I saw which happened to be the one you see below.
As you will notice from the image it looks like a typical French cafe and so in I went to find a completely empty bar, devoid of either staff or patrons. I took to watching the large screen TV which was showing some sort of procession of people in African traditional dress and so it did not really surprise me when (after a polite cough or two to alert someone to my presence) an African guy appeared. By now my conversational French was sufficient to order a beer and up it came – Heineken! No problem and I took a chair to watch what was happening on the TV.
The guy came over to sit with me and it was quickly clear that English was not on the menu. By now I was absolutely astounding myself on how much of my schoolboy French, which I had not used for 40 years, was coming back and we managed to converse pretty well. What happened then literally “blew my mind” to use an old hippy term. 20th May is Cameroon’s national day and this was the National Parade in the capital Yaoundé and mightily impressive it was too, there were literally tens of thousands parading and it seemed like the whole country was there. This was a Cameroonian establishment and he explained all about the parade to me before excusing himself and going out to the back (kitchen) to return with a plate of some sort of African “nibbles”. I wish I had thought to take an image.
Now, tell me, what are the chances of that? I am in central France and just happen to wander into a Cameroonian bar to sit and drink Dutch beer and share African snacks whilst watching his national celebration on Cameroonian satellite TV with a Cameroonian guy and conversing in a language I barely speak. It was, shall we say, slightly odd but as several dear friends are never done saying to me, “It could only happen to you, Fergy” (hence the title of this piece) and I am actually beginning to believe it. I don’t set out to do so but “things” just seem to happen to me. Fortunately, the huge majority of them are overwhelmingly positive and I had a great time. It was just another “road story” and I will never tire of them.
Well, all that was great and I eventually dragged myself away, a very happy planxty, I just cannot get enough of that kind of situation. All this by itself would have been wonderful but the day was not nearly over yet and plenty more experiences to come.
By this time I had my serious beer head on (frankly, that does not take much to do) and so I wandered not too far to another obviously hipster bar where I had a quick one as it was a bit trendy and not really Fergy country.
In the interests of fair reporting, the beer was excellent.
Off again then and I stumbled on La Savane, one street away from the hostel which was a bonus had things got out of hand and at least there was a bit of a clue here in the signage that it was an African establishment (the image was taken much later on).
Well, I was on that kind of run that afternoon and straight in I went. Much as I love travelling, for some reason I have never had any desire to visit sub-Saharan Africa, much as that region undoubtedly has to offer but I am always up for new experinces and after my unplanned Cameroonian excursion earlier it seemed like a Hell of a plan.
A cosy little bar with a charming lady behind the “jump” who looked initially a bit surprised and then beamed a huge smile at me with a cheery, “Bonjour, Monsieur”. I wasn’t even going to bother trying English at this point, indeed why should I have the arrogance to think that the whole world speaks it, so a beer called for in French and quickly and cheerfully supplied. I took a seat to take in the surroundings. I find it is rarely a good idea to just launch into conversations as a stranger in what is obviously a locals bar as people get suspicious so I kept my own counsel until I sussed the place.
There was no TV here but the entertainment was what I call “palm wine” music with that wonderful guitar sound that I really wish I could play but never will as I am not good enough. I shall speak more about this place in future entries here as I spent rather a lot of time there, I did rather like it. From the map as shown in the image and the conversation, I gathered that it was owned and run by people from the Central African Republic.
After perhaps one or two too many beers I wended my merry way home to the hostel which must have taken all of about three minutes and undoubtedly had another couple as I just cannot resist an open bar. Yes, I’m a drunk.
This day was interesting for me although probably not for the reader who does not want to hear about my beer drinking exploits. At no point that day would I have been more than 500 yards from my bed and it reaffirmed to me that you don’t have to move too far to discover things. I learned things that I never knew before like a potted history of Cameroon, a country I knew little of except for their footballing adventures. I was getting happier by the day and that was the plan. OK, the plan was originally for four days in the Netherlands but who cares?
Stay tuned and spread the word.