A turning point.

22nd of May.

The 22nd of May was somewhat of a turning point in the trip and I do not have a single image to accompany this particular day but I hope it will serve to explain the (many) journal / blog entries that follow this.

I make no secret of the fact that I am here in the undoubtedly forlorn hope of ever creating a decent website as one of the many refugees from the late and much lamented Virtual Tourist which many of my few trusty “followers” were members of.

One of the highlights of the VT calendar was the annual Euromeet which was held in a different town or city every year and was organised entirely by one or more members. Whilst the meets were not officially sanctioned by VT (I suspect for legal reasons more than anything else) they were hugely supportive and used to send the organisers large boxes of “swag” i.e. promotional items to be distributed amongst the attendees. Additionally, one of the members of staff usually attended and I had met and got to know several of them personally over the years. I count the last two CEO’s of VT, Giampiero (G) and Kimberly as personal friends. It really was that kind of site which makes it’s loss, especially the circumstances of that loss, all the greater.

This year’s meet had been in the planning for some time and was scheduled for a town called Kempten in Allgau in Bayern (Bavaria) in Southern Germany. It was being organised by a German member called Christian who had already done an awful lot of legwork and booked coaches, restaurants etc. which must have left him in an awful position when they pulled the rug out from under us.

Needless to say there was much discussion as to whether it would go on or not but the overwhelming consensus was that it should for a number of reasons. Obviously, nobody wanted poor Christian to be out of pocket nor for all his hard work to be wasted. Also, there was an element of defiance that we weren’t going to let the “bar stewards” grind us down and if we wanted to have a meet then we were going to have one, website or no. Perhaps most importantly, a number of very firm personal friendships had been formed over the years and people go to the meets as much for the incredibly sociable atmosphere as for the excellent activities and meals that the organisers consistently arrange.

I had more or less decided that I wasn’t going to go this year although I had initially signed up as I thought it would be something of a wake with everyone sitting around moping over the loss of something we all held so dear. However, as the date drew ever nearer I was increasingly thinking that if I did not attend then I would regret it forever. I will give full details of the meet itself in future journal entries. I have mentioned before that I had made my mind up I didn’t want to fly if I didn’t have to and so I booked an overnight bus (coach) from Lyon to Memmingen which is very close to Kempten. I knew if I headed off the next night I would have a day to spare and so I might as well take in another location.

I “booked passage” with a company called Flixbus on the night bus the following evening and I must have spent the rest of the day toiling over a hot keyboard as I do not have a single image of that daytime as I mentioned at the top of this piece which is unusual for me. Don’t worry, there are plenty more to come.

23rd May.

 

After the supper of the night before it was a miracle I slept at all but I did. The idea of consuming a whole beautifully over-ripe French cheese along with some more Crement d’Alsace (which is really champagne but they cannot call it that due to where it is made) I suspect would not be recommended by a sleep expert, especially for one with my sleep disorders.  I should explain that I deliberately leave cheeses in my fridge at home for a month or two past their sell-by dates just to mature.  They have not killed me yet.

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I love French cheese!

I knew I had to keep myself fairly well in check that day for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I did not want to miss my bus (coach) and secondly, I know that the “facilities” on such vehicles can be a touch unsavoury to say the least so the less need to use them the better. The day, therefore, was spent going round one or two of the local establishments of alcoholic refreshment I had taken to frequenting and drinking small beers which caused some confusion as that is not my normal way. I was bid some very genuine and hearty “Bon voyages” (I am not sure if I should pluralize that or not so apologies if I have it wrong).

Not least of these fond farewells was in the hostel of which, yet again, I cannot speak highly enough. The staff had taken to calling me by my name and would invite me to sit with them when they were having their coffee breaks etc. for a chat. Despite the fact that I was easily old enough to be the Father of anyone there and probably biologically even Grandfather to some, I never felt anything less than most welcome there. I know I was most happy in le Flaneur and it was certainly a far better experience than sitting alone in a room or soulless hotel bar in any place I could afford in the city. I’d never have found a guitar!

I shall publish a little collage of images of the hostel on another page here.

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Au revoir, old friend.

I kept myself fairly straight and, with a final pat on the “head” of R2D2 (does R2D2 have a head?), I was off in plenty of time to get to the station, maybe even slip in a quick beer before the off. Wrong. Once again I relied on technology and once again it failed me. Using the appalling Google maps I walked and I walked and when I had done that I walked some more! Eventually I resorted to tried and trusted tactics, asked a passerby, got proper directions and arrived with about five minutes to spare, sweating like the proverbial pig although I am sure I have read that pigs do not actually sweat as I mentioned before but who knows? What I do know is that I could have wrung out my bandanna and I was very grateful for having worn it. I thoroughly recommend one for travellers of either gender, especially if you have a bit of hair.

I made it to the bus station and not a problem as the baggage loader / conductor seemed in no rush so I joined him for a smoke and a chat. I asked about seats and was told they were not allocated and to sit where I wanted. Great stuff and I knew where I was headed. The bus was about half full and I spied my seat immediately. If i can I always take the middle seat of five in the back row as it offers just about unlimited legroom and I am 6’5″ (194 in metric?, I am not sure) so that was me. Happy days with happier to come as nobody else apparently wanted to sit in the back row. Whether this was due to me being there I cannot say but the upshot was that I had five seats to myself and whilst not the most comfortable bunk in the world at least it was a lie down. I knew it was going to be a long night but a sleeper on the train was going to be ludicrously expensive and take me on a most circuitous route with not a lot of time saved by doing that.

A short time after the appointed hour off we went and I settled down with a decent book, a very interesting military biography of a chap called George Alexander (Sandy) Forsyth who fought for the Union in the American Civil War and then spent years fighting the “Indians” in what was still then very much the “Wild West”. He fought with Custer and “little” Phil Sheridan, whose most trusted lieutenant he was, before organising buffalo hunting parties for Russian nobility and a whole lot more. The book is called “The Hero of Beecher Island” by a very eminent American military historian called David Dixon and I do recommend it.

Night had fallen and there wasn’t much to look at anyway as it was purely motorway (autoroute) driving which is never too exciting at the best of times so I thought I would try for an hour or two of a kip. Boots off and a bit of judicious positioning of the seatbelt anchor points and I made a half-decent “basha” (Army term deriving from the Hindi in the days of the Raj). OK, there was not much chance of a decent sleep as the bus would stop every couple of hours or so at some major settlement to let people on and off. Still, it was a smoke break and there was an interesting interlude at one point when the conductor politely asked me to stand five metres away from the bus whilst smoking. Some stupid regulation from the detested EU. He gave me this instruction standing right at the door chatting to the driver! One law for some and one for the rest as they say.

Being half asleep most of the time I had sort of lost track of what countries I had even travelled through as border controls are just about non-existent on these borders although this was to change during the course of my trip due to the completely insupportable amount of economic migrants from sub-Sharan Africa particularly to Italy and now Spain. These are UN figures and not any sort of xenophobia of mine and were to dominate the newspapers in Italy when I eventually got there (trust me, I shall write about it eventually!) Seven out of ten of the supposed refugees landing or being rescued from the seas by the totally overstretched Italian and Spanish authorities are UN designated as economic migrants and not refugees but as soon as they hit Lampedusa or Sicily or get pulled out of the sea then they have reached the “promised land”. Why else would they risk such a hazardous crossing? I know that I was later to sail through Brenner on the Austrian / Italian border without even having a passport check and yet a couple of weeks later the Austrians had effectively closed that crossing point but more of that later.

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On this journey I think I probably went through about four countries although, as I say, I was half asleep or reading most of the way. I know I was in Geneva just before midnight which was the first time I had ever been in Switzerland (who can afford that place?) but I am never going to “claim” it as a destination I have been to as a jump out the door for ten minutes and a smoke hardly constitutes “visiting” a country. That being said, I can quite honestly say that I have set foot on Swiss soil.

Onward, ever onward and I cannot say it was the most pleasant journey I have ever been on albeit I knew what to expect and wasn’t at all misled by Flixbus. They are a cheap option and you get what you pay for. The “excitement” came at one pickup / drop off / smoke break / leg stretch stop and by this stage I genuinely did not even know what country I was in. There was a police van waiting and I worked out from the plates that I was no longer in France or Switzerland but rather I had somehow ended up in Germany in the delightful town of Lindau which I was to revisit and thoroughly enjoy later.

We stopped at a car park in town to set down, pick up and have a smoke for those of us that did but not so quick Fergy, my lad. I pulled the boots on and down the steps for a smoke only to be ushered quickly back on board by the conductor with the brusque phrase “police check”. OK, fair enough, I have nothing to hide and there then ensued a complete performance by two armed police officers, one male and one female who went through the pantomime of checking everyone’s ID. Again, no problem for me and I was asked a couple of cursory questions but it was so obvious they were acting “on information received” as I believe the cop term is and looking for someone in particular.

There was a youngish female sitting a few rows in front of me and I was privy to the conversation which was conducted in English as the only common language between her and the female officer. It turned out she was Macedonian, had a scant few € on her, no credit cards and apparently little idea where she was going or where she was going to stay.  She was to be picked up at the bus station by someone of whom she had no details.  At a guess I would think she was being trafficked for prostitution.  Last I saw of her she was being put in the back of the police van and I have no idea what happened to her after that but it merely extended an already long and tiresome journey by over an hour. Deep joy!

I have no problem with any country protecting it’s borders and, grateful as I am that we never joined Schengen, I shall be even happier when we finally leave the Federal States of E (aka the EU) and regain proper control of ours.

In due course we reached Memmingen where I alighted in the early(ish) morning and that will have to wait for the next edition of this journal / blog but at least I had got there.

Stay tuned and spread the word and there will be images of Lindau in a future entry I promise.

I get a lovely gift.

The 20th May ran seamlessly into the 21st as days tend to do. Normally I consider a day to be over when I go to sleep and a new one begins when I am awake again but, given my ridiculous sleep patterns, that seems a touch redundant as one day can easily run into three. Yes, I sometimes do not sleep for three days which is ludicrous but that is just the way it is.

If the reader has read my previous journal / blog entry here they will know that the 20th had been an utterly fascinating day hanging round the 3rd arrondissement of Lyon where I was staying and celebrating Cameroon’s national day in a Cameroonian bar amongst other little adventures. Eventually I made my short way back to the hostel without even getting lost despite the rather copious quantities of beer that had been consumed.

 

 

Back in the very comfortable common area / bar and there was time for another beer before bed. Let’s be honest, there is always time for another beer before bed and this is where my world took another sideways turn.

I had been considering turning in but, of course, my world never works quite like that. There was a young lady sitting there playing the house guitar “finger picking” style and with a repertoire of French songs of which I knew neither a word nor a note. I had to sit down and watch, beer in hand. After a few wonderful songs (she was very good) she offered me the guitar as protocol in such circumstances demands. I know that there are many in the world who think that “road bums” like us have no such concepts as protocol and manners but that is far from the truth. From my time in the Forces I know that communal living imposes certain demands on you and sharing is central to a lot of them. It simply does not work otherwise.

The guitar was passed to me and I kicked off into some song or another, although I have no recollection what it was now.  I have been in hostels with guitars before and they are normally things that I would not use as a plant pot and have not been re-strung since the day they were bought but this was not the case here. It was a half-decent box.  Certainly it was no Guild or Martin but it held the tuning well and stood up decently to my hammering of it. Like everything else in the hostel it was in prime condition and I suspect the staff restrung it regularly as the strings were very “bright” as we say and it was a joy to play.

The night wore on, as it does, and it ended up with the young French lady, myself and a young American lad sitting on and playing the plywoood box which does have a proper name which I don’t know but which serves as a percussion instrument. Somehow or another harmonies even made an appearance. I’ve played some reasonably big gigs and in front of some pretty decent crowds (I think about 5,000 is my best so far) but this was up there with all of them, it was truly magical and the reason I learned to play the guitar in the first place.  I was dragging songs out of the locker that I had not played for 30 years and thoroughly enjoying every one. I was constantly waiting for the night receptionist to tell us to shut up and go to bed but not a bit of it, he was positively encouraging it to the point of making requests which I did my best with if I knew them.

It was by no means a “straight ahead” gig and we were stopping between numbers for a drink and a chat and I discovered that the very talented young lady was called Elodie, an actress from Bretagne (a Province in Northwest France with a large Celtic heritage and a place I am very fond of) and was in Lyon for an acting course, that being her profession obviously. She was 29 years old which makes her easily young enough to be my daughter and yet that was not a problem at all.  The drummer was younger still.

I know that I was easily the oldest person staying in that hostel in the fair amount of time I was there and I include in that statement the teachers of the rather boisterous bunch of French schoolchildren that infested the place and created havoc for a couple of nights.

My age didn’t seem to bother anyone and the night wore on and on towards the dawn. Elodie did not speak more than a few words of English and so we were conversing in French but I was frankly running out of intersong conversation by about 0400 in the morning. I just had nothing left to say that I had the vocabulary for and, more as a conversational gambit than anything, I admired a rather unusual ring she was wearing. She did no more than remove it from her finger and offer it to me. Well, I could not accept that and thanked her politely for her kind offer but she insisted, eventually putting it on my little finger which was the only one it would fit on.

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I love this ring.

The attached image here will show that it is a pretty fanciful female piece of jewellery and I have not worn rings for over 30 years when I nearly ripped a finger off catching one in a Land Rover door in the Forces. A look at any of the images of me will show that I am a particularly hairy, tall male and yet I have worn this very effeminate ring every day since and will continue to do so. I am wearing it as I type this. It means so much on so many levels. It is a souvenir (to use a proper French word) of a great trip that did more for me than I might like to admit. It was a gift from a gorgeous young lady, given freely and very generously. I still think it looks effeminate as it looks far too “fancy” for a man but I love it and will continue to wear it and, in truth, the occasional comments I have had about it have all been positive. I know who and what I am and if I choose to wear this wonderful gift, I’ll wear it. I just need to remember to take it off going through airport security!

Update August 2018.

I am posting all this retrospectively in August 2018 and there is a lovely story attached to this ring which will feature in my account of Broadstairs Folk Week, another little project of mine here.

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After waking up pretty late (I think I got to bed about 0600) I went for my usual walk ending up in the La Savane cafe which I mentioned in the last entry and which I shall speak of again in a future entry.

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Yes, that was “parked” and not just waiting for traffic.

I did, however, manage to take an image of the utter carnage that is French driving and, more particularly, parking if it could even be called that.  It is merely a matter of abandoning your car wherever you like and going about your business. Heaven forbid that anyone in a wheelchair or with a pram should try to pass by.

Thus ended another day with a newly beringed Fergy still riding it for all it was worth and with no intention of going home.

Trust me, I really do get out of Lyon eventually so stay tuned and spread the word.

It could only happen to me.

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.

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A typical streetscene in my area.

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.

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Ah, the power of advertising. I couldn’t resist a snap.
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A school for croupiers, whatever next?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Yet more of the same.

17th of May.

The 17th is one of those days I warned the reader about earlier. No doubt I did something of note as even in my worst excesses I’ll generally crawl out of my pit at some stage and go for at least a token walk even if it is merely to the nearest bar for a small beer or two but I am not sure I did during the day.

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I have explained that I am leaning particularly heavily on my images as aides-memoire to write these entries up many months later but I am afraid I have let myself down somewhat here as this is another day with a mere single image. Still, it did jog my memory as to a very decent little snack I made myself which I can still remember clearly. I’d hit the local supermarket and bought myself a decent french loaf (they certainly do know how to bake bread in those parts) and a cheap jar (maybe €3?) of some sort of fish roe, basically poor man’s caviar. Don’t ask me what species of our piscine friends it had been removed from and, with my totally uncultured palate, it might have been caviar and, yes, I have had the good stuff before you ask. The whole lot was washed down with a nice bottle of chilled Muscadet (or maybe more than one, I really do not recall now) and very pleasant it was.

I know I must have gone out for a walk on what looks like another lovely day as I took the two random images you can see above.

Back to my soapbox now. Wasted time? I don’t think so. This supper was just after 1800 so I am guessing I must have opted for a quiet night and an early bed, odd as that is for me.

18th of May.

Straight to the next day now and I suspect this is getting repetitious for the reader. It would appear that the 18th of May was very much like the previous few days but without the daily walk. Sit about the hostel, hang out with the myriad lovely young people from all over the planet and have a drink and a smoke (cigarettes only, I hasten to add). It was a lovely day which I singularly failed to take advantage of as I do not appear to have set foot out of the door. Whilst that is pretty lamentable it is perhaps understandable as I had food in the fridge, a 24 hour bar (and undoubtedly some supplies of my own) and so nothing really to move for.

The images show just what a quirky and fun place Flaneur isand obviously I have included the obligatory “arty” skyscape.  I just cannot help myself.  They have a Doctor Who Tardis and a Star Wars R2D2 both of which looked genuine enough to have been proper film / TV props. It may seem strange to include an image of a can of beer but I do so to illustrate a point. They don’t sell that brand in the hostel (decent though it is) and, whilst I like it well enough (it is a very decent beer), I would not have thought about buying it in the supermarket and so it must have been a gift. It really was that kind of place. Everyone just sat about and shared whatever drink, food and cigarettes they had and there really was a very “commune” feel to the hostel which I know the management promote heavily. As well as being a hostel the building seems to double as a local community centre with all sorts of meetings and artistic activities taking place. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

19th of May.

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Well, the 19th May dawned and I would love to say it dawned fair but no such luck as the weather had returned to what was becoming par for the course on this trip. How far South did I have to go to get three consecutive days of sunshine? In the event, I didn’t get any further South then but that is a story for a future entry in this blog and I know I still have plenty to write up. Trust me folks, I am making the effort.

A mere three images was my total for the 19th but they have jogged my memory of what must have been a fairly unremarkable day. I can tell that I must have been to one of the several excellent nearby supermarkets at sometime and I have to say that the area is very well served for them. I mentioned that it is a very student area and so there is plenty in the way of microwaveable meals, Pot Noodles etc. although with it being France there was a lot of very good “proper” produce as well and I thoroughly enjoyed catering for myself, and occasionally others, in the well-equipped hostel kitchen.

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Alsatian wine in Burgundy?  Sacrilege, surely.

I see that at teatime I was tucking into a bottle of Crement d’Alsace which I had never heard of before but I now know to be a “poor man’s champagne” somewhat akin to prosecco and very good it was not to mention inexpensive. I distinctly remember drinking it and noted that it was beautifully dry as I am not a fan of sweet wines. OK, I suppose it was a bit of a sacrilege to be sitting in the heart of the Burgundy wine region drinking a bottle from the extreme North of the country hundreds of miles away. Similarly, the third image shows my supper which I remember was a very tasty Indonesian (mild) curry soup and which I appear to have paired with some French cheese. Fusion food indeed but please remind me never to open a restaurant.

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Indonesian soup and French cheese, how does that work?  It does!

That appears to be it for another day doing nothing but relaxing and enjoying myself, getting my head together and again I make no apology for it nor for my style of writing this blog which must be starting to be somewhat of a drag for those looking for travel information about Lyon and other places I visited.

I do eventually leave Lyon (really) and things get interesting again so stay tuned and spread the word.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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There was even a hammock.

 

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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.

 

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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.

Another day, another travel debacle and another city.

The 9th May started early as I had determined to keep heading South in search of the still elusive sunshine and again decided to take it in easy stages so Lyon looked like a place to aim for.  To live two hours train ride from Paris I really have visited France remarkably little, basically a cycling holiday in Normandy and Brittany about 30 years previously, and I was determined to rectify the situation now that I had the travelling head back on.

Whilst I described in the previous entry here that I had never heard of Macon, which provided me with enough reason to go there, I had most certainly heard of Lyon and was keen to see it as it is, if I have it correctly, one of the more important towns in the country.  Again I had booked a carpool at about €9 or thereabouts which is roughly comparable to the bus and considerably cheaper than the train. Besides that, I was getting quite cosy with the concept.  It is comfortable and you get a chance to chat to people as well, which I love to do. Try doing that on a long-distance bus and you are likely to be thrown off as a stalker!  I had taken the precaution this time of finding out precisely where I was to be picked up and where I would be dropped off in Lyon and picked my hostel accordingly so that I was not going to have the trek I had endured in my last location.

The pick up point was at the beginning of the toll road and so, getting ready good and early and checking out at reception I showed the young lady the precise location which I had written down and asked her if it was walkable or if I needed to get public transport or even a taxi.  I am quite prepared to accept that the fault may well lie with me for my lack of facility in the language of my host country but she assured me (as best I could understand) that it was two kilometres distant.  No problem, I can walk that easily especially in the time I had allowed myself.  Probably four or five kilometres down the road, hot and getting a bit sweaty, there was still no sign of the toll booth. Time was now starting to press me and fortunately this time technology was able to save the situation.  I parked myself on a convenient fence outside a Lidl supermarket and texted my driver.  A couple of messages later, she told me to sit tight and she would come and get me which was very decent of her.

Turning up about ten minutes later I stowed my kit in the boot and settled down for the journey with her and her teenage daughter.  Very pleasant it was too, except occasionally when the driver started using her mobile (cell) ‘phone whilst hurtling down the motorway at a serious rate of knots. This is always something that terrifies me but we did manage to get there in one piece and the lovely lady deposited me outside the Gare Perrache as arranged and at almost exactly the predicted time.  A lovely run.

I had carefully studied the map prior to departure do avoid any navigational mishap and I can still remember the details now.  Over the bridge, fifth on the left which is Rue Sebastien Gryphe and it’s on the left.  No problem.  I also knew I could not check in for a couple of hours so I am sure regular readers are already ahead of me with what happened next.  Yes, you’ve got it, it was beer o’clock.  Well, the sun was over the yardarm by then.  I didn’t see a rough-looking bar which is my preferred type but I did come upon a rather swanky looking place called Bar restaurant Mademoiselle Simone.  Although I was dressed in my usual scruffs of bandanna, badly frayed denim jacket, rock T-shirt and so on I reckoned the worst they could do was turf me out on my ear so I chanced it and breezed in and what a venue it was.

Simone is obviously very musically themed (I was later to discover they do have regular live music) with an immaculate baby grand piano amongst other things and I was even more convinced I was going to be shown the door.  Not a bit of it.  I ordered my beer which the friendly barman served up in short order and the inevitable chatting began.  I really was getting pretty confident in my French by this stage although a degree of waving my hands about is always going to be required sooner or later.

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I took a quick look at the price list as I reckoned that in a quality place like this the beer was going to be ruinously expensive but it was not appreciably moreso than the other places in town, even those that were not nearly so classy.  Fair enough, that was Fergy settled for an hour or three and I could happily have sat there until closing time but I knew I really should go and check in so I bid a reluctant farewell to the barman (by now my latest “new best friend”), tipped him well, took myself off over the rather vertiginous Pont Gallieni and walked straight to the door of the hostel using my memorised map.  Far better than the debacle of me attempting to use Google Maps on my ‘phone.  Technology and I just do not mix.

I was staying in a place called Le Flaneur Guesthouse, which is actually a hostel and within two minutes of setting foot in the door I know I was going to like it there and it was going to inevitably end up in me getting stuck with “travel inertia” as I have previously described in this blog.  Both predictions turned out to be completely correct.

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If you are interested, flaneur translates variously as loafer, stroller, loiterer or dawdler and I reckon that any one of the descriptions fits me down to the ground.  I got assigned my bunk, which turned out to be extremely comfy and, having dumped the kit, it was straight back to the very pleasant bar in the communal area and down to some serious beer drinking.  The sightseeing could wait.I’ll get onto the full details of the hostel in the next entry here but there was just time for a delicious and very reasonably priced plate of charcuterie and cheese before heading to bed.

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Stay tuned and spread the word.