I finally see the sights.

15th July.

IMG_5624
A lot better than I expected.

I knew I was going to have to make a move towards home sooner rather than later due to the Canada and whilst people here will know that I am not an inveterate sightseer by any means I thought it would be a shame not to at least make a small effort to see something and to that end I thought my best option would be to get one of the literally hundreds of open topped “hop-on, hop-off” tourist buses that seem to almost drive in convoy as there are so many of them.

I must admit that I was one of those who used to slightly sneer at people using them on the principle that if you just buy a day rover ticket on local public transport and plan properly you can do exactly the same thing for yourself at a fraction of the cost. I know this is true where I live in London (when I am ever there!) and I am sure it is the same everywhere in the world.

I actually enjoyed myself to the extent that I went round again to sit on the other side of the bus to get different images. In truth a lot of my images are not much good for various reasons (bright sunlight, a scratched lens on my little compact etc.) but I shall put a few of them up to give something of an impression of the complete glory that is Rome on a scorching summer day.   They even gave me a pair of little earphones which I still use for my computer and on ‘planes where they ridiculously charge you to hire them so that was a little added bonus.  I have to say that the commentary (available in numerous languages) was very informative and easily audible even above the traffic noise from the top of an open top bus in the manic Roman traffic.  I have played gigs where I could hear less clearly onstage!

Having thoroughly enjoyed just messing about a limited area close to where I stayed I yet again found myself wondering (as I had in France) why the Hell it had taken me so long to get here.  I was literally just rolling from one incredible travel experience to another.  A month on Rome for many people would be the trip of a lifetime, and rightly so, but to randomly tack that onto the end of all I had already done on this run was really something special.  I’ not quite sure how I ever go this lucky.

My mate Mauro in the gastronomia (snack bar) I have mentioned before shuts up shop at 1900 every evening and I don’t blame him as he gets up at 0430 to open for 0630, he works very hard and so I knew that would not be an option for a beer by the time I got back so I decided to go to another little place I know called Twins Bar which is up opposite the Termini railway station. It is a decent little bar and does some excellent bar snacks of the type I spoke about before.

Rome-sightseeing

That night it was a fairly tired but content Fergy that crawled into his bunk content in the knowledge that at least he had made the effort.

More sightseeing in the next episode and an epic directional failure so stay tuned.

Still busy doing nothing.

14th of May.

Of the 14th of May I must confess I can tell you precious little. As I have mentioned in earlier I am relying heavily on my images to remind me of what I did on any particular day, but the sole image I have from this day is the one you can see and was apparently taken at 1808 hours. I cannot, to my eternal shame, even remember what that food was but I do recognise a cocktail sauce when I see one!

IMG_4869.JPG

All I can tell the reader with any certainty is that I was still in the excellent Le Flaneur hostel, enjoying it immensely and in great danger of falling foul of the travel inertia I have mentioned before.

I suppose I might as well crack on with another couple of days here.

15th of May.

The 15th May arrived and I had apparently awarded myself a bit of a lie-in as my images don’t start until about lunchtime. My dorm in the hostel was en suite but didn’t have any windows and so it was a matter of showering and getting dressed before you opened the door to see what the weather was going to do to you. I had been heading ever Southwards in the hope of escaping the cold and rain of Northern Europe but it really wasn’t happening and so it was a very happy Fergy that walked out into a glorious Spring day which thankfully looked much more like Summer. Contrast this to the images from earlier in this entry where it was, frankly, miserable. Off and running.

Anyone who knows me or who has randomly stumbled upon this blog will know that I simply adore just bimbling about aimlessly and very often getting myself completely lost. Certainly I love to visit a museum, cathedral or monument as much as the next man but it is completely unscripted meanderings, without aid of a map and the technological ineptitude that precludes me using the one on my ‘phone, that leads to some of the best times. We return to another of my several travel mantras in that there is no right and no wrong way to travel and this is my way. I suspect the only potential wrong way would be to sign up for some form of trip when you know that it is not your preferred style.

I know Lyon is a city with a fantastic history and many fascinating sites / sights to see and yet, in the many days there I saw precisely nothing of huge note and yet I had such a good time, hung out in places that never see a tourist, brushed up my appalling French, ate some great food, met some lovely people and generally had a thoroughly enjoyable time.  Again, I defy anyone to tell me that I wasted my time.

One thing that I did notice was that the traffic was absolutely horrendous, as you can see in one of the images above but I was walking and so, apart from the inevitable fumes, it did not bother me too much.

A walk on a glorious French Spring day revealed some wonderful architecture which I loved and then it was down to the river, I do love being by the water and Lyon served me perfectly. Whilst many major settlements grew up historically along rivers Lyon boasts not one but two major waterways, namely the Rhone and the Saone. I had either bumped into or would bump into both of them on this trip and I do rather love them. On this afternoon I wandered along the Rhone, which is the larger of the two rivers and marvelled at the superb wide embankment where people seemed to congregate after work. Well, it is a beautiful place to do it. They even have the municipal swimming baths located there.

Naturally, a couple of bars featured on my ramble and my images suggest that the Monopol and Ed’s Original featured amongst others.

After having revived myself suitably it was time for a walk a bit further along the river in the gathering dusk and I was rewarded with a lovely looking church which was obviously closed at that hour and yet another charming public space with some unusual modern style sculpture there.

I had decided that another quick beer was in order before I took off to the hostel after what had been a most enjoyable day and my “nose”, of which I have spoken often here, led me to the Monroe Bar named after arguably the world’s greatest sex symbol and themed accordingly.  I stress once more that there was nothing to suggest it was a rough-house as it was clean and tidy, nothing raucous happening but I just knew it was “edgy” and, as so often, the nose was not wrong.

IMG_4903
Monroe Bar, Lyon, scene of a bit of drama.

Not long after I had sat down to enjoy my well-kept beer, in walked a male and a female police officer, both in uniform and armed to the teeth as is the way here although what did surprise me was the length of his hair, he looked a right hippy.  Obviously, I have no idea what French police regulations are on the matter but surely he could at least have put it in a ponytail not only in the interests of tidiness but to make it less easy to get a hold of in a ruck.  I can only guess he did other work undercover but you would never see such a thing in UK.  Anyway, after a bit of a conversation with the barman, the two of them went through a door behind the bar and emerged a few minutes later with a young man in handcuffs who they duly took outside and stuck in the back of a van.  I have no idea what it was all about but it did liven the place up a bit and indicated to me that I had not lost my touch.

16th of May.

The 16th was another decent day, the weather definitely seemed to have cheered itself up somewhat which was a blessed relief.

IMG_4904.JPG

Another day walking about and with very little to show in the way of images except my ridiculous breakfast to start with. OK, I am sure the medical profession probably does not recommend a bottle of wine and half a packet of cigarettes as the basis for a healthy diet but I counter with this argument. I am now 58 years of age (57 then) and have not even been registered with a Doctor for over 20 years even with my ludicrous lifestyle. I seem to be doing OK and am not putting a drain on the much over-stretched National Health Service. Suits me.

 

I did go out for my usual perambulation in the afternoon and about the only thing I found was the local allotments which did look to be well used and full of plants, flowers and veggies.  Perhaps this is where some of the excellent produce I had seen in the “farmer’s market” in the hostel garden.

IMG_4906
Open mic night at le Flaneur – great fun.

I got home in good time to catch the music evening that I had seen advertised and which was well attended, as you can see.  The standard of musicianship was very good with several bands on show and the style being a mix of jazz / funk and more world music influenced pieces.  As the image shows (apologies for the quality again but I am always so reticent to use flash) that it was well-attended and with the excellently stocked bar in full swing it was a most enjoyable evening.  I know I have gone on about it quite a bit but this hostel really does have just about everything.  I could happily spend a few months there.

I realise this is not perhaps the most riveting reading but there is plenty more to come that may be of more interest so please stay tuned and spread the word.

Whatever happened next?

 

12th of May.

I am relying heavily on my images here to jog what decaying brain cells I have and it appears that I must have happened upon a place clled the Brasserie du Mont Blanc where I had a few excellent beers. At least I thought that was what it was called when I visited but, as the attached hyperlink shows, it is actually the name of a brewery so I really am at a loss to tell you what the actual bar was called.  Sorry, folks, you will just have to discover it for yourself.  It really was turning into that kind of trip.

IMG_4855.JPG

Well, a quick check shows that the sole image for this day amount to precisely one, but at least it is a typical Fergy and so I shall move quickly on to the next day.

13th of May.

IMG_4856.JPG

The weather was still absolutely abysmal as the images show and as I have previously stated I had nothing in the way of foul weather gear. I love wearing denim and my jacket is a virtually permanent fixture but, great as it is, it is in no way practical. However, I had nothing else, and I recalled the words of my late maternal grandmother which were, “It’s only water, you won’t melt”! True enough.IMG_4859.JPG

I didn’t do much in the way of sightseeing in the awful conditions but I did get an image of a kiddies carousel unused in the rain which I might try and render into monchrome as I think it looks very melancholic.

IMG_4861.JPG

IMG_4860.JPG

No, I was not melancholic myself although I started off that way on this trip but I do like those sorts of images.

IMG_4862.JPG

I di find a very funky little Vespa which you can see in the image above.

I also found a decent little bar which I shall describe more fully in a later entry which had not only a tremendous rare old French motor bike but, joy of all joys a “flipper” as it is called here i.e. a pinball machine. Again, full details to come later.

IMG_4866.JPG

Heading back to the excellent hostel I stumbled upon a group of young musicians (pictured) who were knocking out a mix of jazz, Latin and sundry other genres. They did not appear to be “busking” as such as I didn’t see anywhere to put money but they were really rather good so I spent a while watching them before I got fed up of the damp and headed back to the hostel for a few beers and then bed. I do like a hostel with it’s own bar!

I was rapidly falling in love with Lyon (I still am, to be honest) and I could feel in my bones I wasn’t going to move in the immediate future.  I didn’t and so, if you want to know what happens next, stay tuned and spread the word.

Another great day in another great city.

I did mention that the days had started to roll one into another when I was at Flaneur hostel and it would be terribly easy to spend quite a few months of your life there (and not overly expensive) in what is undoubtedly one of the best hostels I have ever stayed at.

I first hostelled in 1970 as a member of the Cub Scouts at the now closed and apparently now semi-derelict Learmont Castle hostel in the Sperrin mountains in Northern Ireland and over the years I have stayed in many of them. Approaching my bus pass in London (yes, I am that old) I still use them and thoroughly enjoy the experience.  The hyperlink I have attached is from a chap who styles himself “Lord Belmont” and writes the most brilliantly researched, not to mention hugely witty, blogs about Northern Ireland and beyond.  I really do recommend you have a look at some of his stuff, it really is worth a read and I do wish I could produce posts half as good.

IMG_4845.JPG
Breakfast of champions!

I am struggling to remember what happened on any particular day and relying on my admittedly limited images to assist. On this day, the images seem to indicate that I was up with the lark as I was having breakfast at about 0930 and feasting on some excellent French cheese, a French baguette and, naturally, a bottle of red wine. OK, I know, I know, but I like to do things like that so please don’t preach at me about my health.

 

IMG_4846.JPG

IMG_4847.JPG

It would also appear to have been the day of the regular farmers  / produce market which was yet another indication of the very community spirit of the place which I did rather like.

IMG_4848.JPG

It seems almost superfluous to tell you that the weather was still absolutely abysmal.

IMG_4849.JPG

Not much else to relate really so I urge the reader to pass on to the next entry having browsed the images. What they do suggest to me is that I ended up in some random bar watching Ajax (Holland) hammering Lyon (the local side) in the football (soccer for my North American brethren (and sistren obviously)) and then eating a gorgeous meal which my images tell me was about 2100 at night, a much earlier hour than I normally eat if I do.

IMG_4853.JPG

It is bizarre that I can virtually taste that lamb shank and remember how good it was to this day, months later, but if you put a gun to my head I could not tell you where I had it which is an indication of how crazy this trip was getting and how appallingly disorganised I am about blogging it. Shame I’ll not be able to write a tip on the restaurant though.

I really should try harder to keep up.

Still plenty to see in lovely Lyon so stay tuned and spread the word.

Travel inertia sets in.

There is now going to follow, in this lamentably tardy blog, a series of days which are all very much the same and which the reader may wish to skim-read or even skip entirely. Believe me, there are some pretty crazy things to come!

Basically, I eventually fell foul of what I refer to as “travel inertia” insofar as I get to a place I like and just cannot get up the impetus to move on. It is not country or even continent specific, it will happen to me just about anywhere sooner or later on a trip.

As I mentioned in the previous entry I had instantly fallen in love with the Flaneur hostel (although it calls itself a guesthouse) and was to fall similarly in love with the city of Lyon over the following days.  I had only booked two or three nights here but ended up staying a lot longer as you shall see if you follow this blog on.

IMG_4839.JPG
There was even a hammock.

 

IMG_4840.JPG

My images for this day show that I appear to have spent most of it in the hostel, specifically the lovely back garden area, and went for a bit of a wander in the evening for a few beers and a look round the area which I was to get quite attached to.  I did manage to add a little something to the wonderful blackboard they had in the garden with the title “Before I die I want to…..”  See if you can guess which one I added.

 

IMG_4836.JPG
That is my kind of record collection, two of my all-time favourite albums.

Not too much to report therefore but there is more to come so stay tuned and spread the word.

Macon? Never heard of it, let’s go.

IMG_4711
A last look at lovely Dijon. I do love that place.

The 7th May arrived, a Sunday. I had decided I was going to move as I was in imminent danger of falling foul of what I term “travel inertia” which constantly manages to creep up on me. As I believe I have mentioned previously in this blog I went to Dumaguete City in the Philippines for two or three days back in 2012 and was still there five months later! In truth, it caught up with me later in Rome but that is a long way down the track in this saga. Hopefully I’ll get to it sooner or later.

IMG_4713.JPG
Always time for a quick one before travelling.

I had decided not to go on a massive jaunt and had looked at a map and decided on Macon which is to the South of Dijon. I had a notion to keep going South as I was still in search of that rather elusive sunshine. Why Macon? Why not? I had never even heard of the place which was as good a reason as any for me. I had organised another carpool ride as I was beginning to quite like that as a cost-effective mode of transportation and the driver and his friend turned up outside the station bang on time. We stopped a little way down the road to pick up a young lady so we had a full car but it was very comfortable nonetheless even with my rather long legs. There was just about no English spoken and after a few pleasantries I was struggling to keep up with the conversation and, rather rudely I suppose, dozed off for a time. Still, no harm done and we arrived in Macon in short order.

I know that the fault is entirely mine for not checking the map when I booked the ride but what happened was that the guy dropped me off at an area composed of motels and industrial units and which turned out to be literally miles out-of-town. The others were heading on further South and he just wanted to drop me and not go too far from the autoroute so he could get back on it which is fair enough and he certainly had not misled me when I booked. Absolutely nothing in the way of public transport was on offer so I thought I’d start heading in the direction of town and at least find a bar to ask directions. Well, that was the plan.

IMG_4714.JPG
Google maps idea of a safe pedestrian route – not mine.

As always, technology was not my friend and, after wandering pretty aimlessly round an industrial estate for a while at the behest of Google maps and then down a long cul-de-sac ending in private land, I abandoned it in favour of following my instincts. I walked and I walked and then I walked some more. When I was finished doing that, I walked! I was literally in the middle of the country, miles from anywhere it appeared. Having located what looked like a fairly main road and seen signs for “centre ville” (town centre) I tried Google Maps again. Apparently Google think it is a good idea for pedestrians to walk along a very busy fast road where there is no pavement (sidewalk) – very smart thinking. It was pretty scary to say the least and I do not scare easily.

IMG_4716.JPG

After what seemed like an eternity I eventually came upon a bar / restaurant called “a le Tipi” which was aptly named as it was the “in-house” facility for the municipal campsite which did look quite pleasant.

IMG_4715.JPG
The rather pleasant municipal campsite.

I settled in for a beer and then asked the manageress how far it was to my hotel. Basically it was miles. Not only was I marooned out one side of town but my hotel was very usefully right out the opposite side. OK, bite the bullet then and get a taxi thereby negating any savings I had made by getting a carpool over the train which would have deposited me right in the centre. I asked the very charming lady did she have a number for a taxi firm and she told me there was little chance of getting one on a Sunday evening. This was about 1700 in the day! What kind of backwoods was I in?

IMG_4717.JPG

In fairness to her, she got on her mobile (cell) ‘phone and made several calls eventually informing me that a driver friend of hers would be along as soon as he had finished his evening meal. No problem, time for another beer then.

IMG_4721.JPG

Whilst researching this piece, as I always do, I have discovered that a le Tipi is so far out of Macon that it is not even technically in it but has a postal address in Sance.  I didn’t know it at the time but it certainly makes the idea of the taxi very sensible in retrospect.

IMG_4719.JPG

IMG_4720.JPG

Another thing that strikes me now whilst revisiting my original notes and the images is that I was still following the old habits that I had acquired whilst writing for the wonderful Virtual Tourist website which was primarily tip / review based.  I was taking lots of images of the minutiae of places I visited so I could write comprehensively about them.

I am still very much finding my way here as I am actually posting this in August 2018 although backdating it to the appropriate date and I still have not decided what way I want to run this site.  The review writing was a great favourite of mine and a large part of why I was so fond of VT as I loved to share useful travel information.  I am unsure whether to continue in that vein or write purely in a narrative blog style.  I know it is my site, which I am still struggling to get my head around being so technophobic, but if anyone reading this has any comments on the subject I would be delighted to hear them.

IMG_4723.JPG

I know I am never going to rival any of the myriad hotel / restaurant / bar review sites that are already so well-established as I have a mere 14 “followers” at time of writing and average about two “hits” a day but I do want to provide what people want to read and any and all constructive comments are welcomed.  If full reviews are not to your liking, let me know but on the very off-chance that someone, somewhere might derive some benefit from them I shall carry on until people tell me it is boring and unnecessary or whatever.  Please do not be shy, I can take criticism.

IMG_4722.JPG

 

On that principle I shall tell you that “a le Tipi” is extremely friendly (as the main narrative hopefully proves), not overpriced for the area, spotlessly clean (including the “facilities” as pictured) and fully accessible with designated disabled parking.  There is also plenty of room to sit outside although the weather wasn’t really up to it yet.  OK, that is the review sorted so back to the narrative.

The off-duty taxi guy eventually turned up, drove me very well and safely to my hotel in about ten minutes and charged me over twice what it had cost me to get from Dijon! He wasn’t ripping me off, it was all on the meter. What a performance but I had learned for the next time.

IMG_4724.JPG
What an odd bed but it was comfy.

The hotel, like so many low-cost business type places, was located in an industrial estate on the outskirts of town but it was pleasant enough. The room had a very strange sleeping arrangement with a double bed with a transverse bunk bed above. I had never seen anything like it before. There was little in the way of facilities with a few food / drink vending machines but the restaurant and bar they had made such play of on their website never opened the whole time I was there. Utterly bizarrely, amongst the items on sale was an assortment of microwave meals but search as I might there was no sign of a microwave. How did they work that one out?

 

After the travails of the day, I really didn’t fancy walking all the way back into town but I had seen what looked like a fairly decent restaurant literally across the road. In truth, there was a reasonable selection close by with all the major chains represented and a couple of Asian buffets but I opted for the Poivre Rouge (Red Pepper) and wandered the short distance there to dine on a very tasty rack of ribs with a baked potato and all washed down with some very acceptable French cider which I do rather like.

 

IMG_4732.JPG
Yes, it was as tasty as it looks.

For reasons as explained above, here is a quick review of the Poivre Rouge.  Service was quick, friendly and efficient although it was admittedly quiet this time on a Sunday evening, the establishment was spotless, the food excellent and presented pleasantly if simply and it was reasonably priced for the area.  I am not sure how much English may be spoken here as I was still getting ludicrously over-confident with my newly remembered schoolboy French.  It is obviously very family orientated as there was a decent looking kids play area and, if memory serves, a menu for children as well.  Thankfully all les enfants were apparently tucked up for the night and so I had a peaceful meal in pleasant surroundings which was all I required.  There you go, another “tip / review” slipped in but again,lease do let me know if you think it is superfluous as I can only make this site better if I know what people want.

With a full belly I retired for a relatively early night and certainly didn’t need much rocking. I have mentioned before in this blog about my eating and sleeping abnormalities so to manage both within an hour of each other was something of a coup. This trip was obviously doing me good in all sorts of ways.

In the next instalment I shall go exploring a town I had only ever heard of two days before so stay tuned and spread the word.

This may or may not work.

Again, I am going to take a bit of a leap into the unknown here and try to post a gallery of images.  On my wander round Metz on my last day there I went a bit crazy with the camera and took far more images than it seemed prudent to fit into the main blog entry for the day as I do value your scrolling fingers, dear readers.  I have seen a gallery function here so I am going to try to do just that and see how it goes.

 

Metz is a beautiful city and there are so many things to see, it really is just one long photo opportunity.  There will be little in the way of captions or text as I do not know what half the buildings were but I hope you enjoy the images and again apologies for the quality as my little compact camera was not exactly in peak condition.

IMG_4291
I know this is a modern convention centre / concert venue near where I stayed.
IMG_4295
Pretty for a roundabout.

IMG_4297.JPG

IMG_4300.JPG
Even I could not get lost here.
IMG_4301
This is the Tour Camoufle, an artillery tower in use from the 15th – 18th centuries.
IMG_4304
An arty attempt at the big gate with the trees.

IMG_4307.JPG

IMG_4318.JPG
I think this is the Town Hall.

IMG_4319.JPG

IMG_4322.JPG

IMG_4324
A very martial looking chap.

IMG_4326.JPG

IMG_4327.JPG

IMG_4328.JPG

IMG_4330.JPG
This looks almost like a fisheye lens but it isn’t.
IMG_4329.JPG
Not my idea of art.

IMG_4331.JPG

IMG_4332.JPG

IMG_4334.JPG

IMG_4335.JPG
You can read about the dragon in my main blog entries.

IMG_4336.JPG

IMG_4340
There are fountains everywhere in Metz.
IMG_4342
If I have this right, it commemorates local people exiled to Vichy France by the Germans in WWII.

Well, I hope this has worked and that you have enjoyed my efforts with the lens.