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.

Exploring a town I had never heard of – it was shut!

After the slight travel difficulties of the previous day but revived by an excellent meal and a great night’s sleep I decided it was time to see Macon. I knew it was a bit of a trek back into the centre but I didn’t mind as I had nothing specific to do and all day to do it. Situation normal for Fergy really.

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I mentioned in the previous entry that my hotel was stuck in the middle of an industrial estate right on the Southern outskits of town and hopefully at least one of the images shows that. However, that rather dreary scenery soon disappeared as I made it to the beginnings of the residential suburbs of the city.

One of the first things I “discovered” was a memorial to the Maquis (resistance fighters) of the Second World War which was located adjacent to a very busy roundabout. Regular readers of my contributions here and elsewhere will know that I have a great interest in military history and that extends to war memorials and war graves and so I naturally stopped for look. Headgear (my trusty bandanna) duly removed as I always do, I set about trying to translate the various plaques there and reckon I got the gist of it pretty well. As best I can understand it, after the liberation of Frnce following D-Day the local Maquis (French Resistance fighters) formed themselves into a commando unit, designated the 4th Battalion of Cluny and went on to fight until the end of the war, assisting in the advance into Germany. That was a good start to my day.

I then passed a pub / resturant which was closed but I didn’t think much about it as it was a Monday lunchtime and maybe they only opened in the evening. Almost opposite that was the rather grand looking Church of St. Clement you can see in some of the images. Regrettably it, like the bar, was shut but I did notice a sign speaking about an archaeological site which had been discovered under the Church. Great stuff. Wrong. Also shut and only open to organised groups with a minimum of 48 hours notice. Not so good. Nothing to do but keep walking which is what I did. I knew I was getting close to the centre of town and the bars were becoming more frequent. Every last one of them was shut. Basically Macon does not open on a Monday. Never mind the bars, most of the shops were shut and the rather large police station was not even open for business! It was unreal.

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You cannot move in this part of the world without finding memorials to the obscenity of what happened to the French people at the hands of the Germans only one generation ago.  If I have the translation correct, this particular example which I passed and which, as you can see, was beautifully tended including obviously recent flowers, relates to the shooting in the street of some Frenchmen although I am unsure if it was a public murder (I willnot dignify it by calling it an execution which indicares some form of judicial process) or whether it was a shootout between Maquis and Nazis.  Either way, it was disgusting and apparently not forgotten here even if it appears to have been by M. Macron and Frau Merkel as they try to rule a continent.

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Eventually I did find a place that was open in a charming square with the back of the town hall on my left and the rather spectacular Church of St. Peter on my right. I certainly needed no urging and in I went to the Brasserie de l’Hotel de Ville.

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Not a bad place to spend an afternoon.

In my usual way, I got chatting to the friendly barman and he told me that, yes indeed, Macon fairly effectively closed down on a Monday.  Still, I had found this place and so a couple of very welcome (if pretty expensive) beers went down pretty well.

Suitably refreshed I wandered over to the Church, frankly more in hope than expectation but no, it was about the only building in town that was open and it proved to be even more impressive inside than it was externally. I do hope my images give some impression. As always I did not want to use flash in a place of worship so some of the images are not of the quality they might be.

I was particularly taken with the stained glass which is an artform I do rather like. As an atheist I am certainly no expert on the Roman Catholic Church although I have visited many of their places of worship but I was struck by the sheer number of confessionals here. If memory serves I think there were twelve which is more than I think I have ever seen anywhere.

The three entrances at the front of the building are also worthy of mention, with some exquisite stone carving on display and all in a very decent state of repair. Having had a good look round and taken a few images, I replaced my headgear and took off of whatever else might possibly be open on a Monday.

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Whilst it was not actually open, the wooden house which houses a bar / restaurant on the ground floor is certainly worth a look. It is the oldest building in Macon and was begun in 1490, completed in 1510. As today, the ground floor was stone and the rest of the building wood and it was almost inevitable that it would burn down sooner or later which is what happened. Apart from the stone portion the rest of the fantastic structure pictured dates from the early 16th century which still makes it pretty impressively ancient.

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All along the side of the square that the wooden house sits at the corner of was the rather depressing although by now not unexpected sight of a complete row of bars and restaurants all shut. Nothing to do but keep walking.

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The previous evening from the taxi I had caught a brief glimpse of what looked like quite a large river, the Soane, and thought that a walk down that way might be a pleasant way to kill a bit of time. It is indeed a very pleasant river and I do rather like rivers, canals, in fact just about any body of water. The old bridge spanning it, the Pont St. Laurent or more prosaically the D1079 (I prefer the former designation) is actually part of the Route Centre Europe Atlantique which traverses France East to West and connects it with various other countries. Apparently, it is one of the most dangerous roads in Europe. Good to know.

Whilst enjoying the view of the river and wandering along beside it, joy of all joys, a bar which was open. Not only that but it was a music bar called the Blue Note. Well the outcome was never in doubt and I was in there like a rat up a drain! A very decent bar indeed and, as the name suggests, very music orientated. There was some pretty decent classic rock music being played at a not eardrum splitting volume but loud enough to be appreciated and on a quick ramble round I found a couple of pool tables and a table football game upstairs. Table football semms to be very popular in these parts.

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Dragging myself away, I continued my perambulation back along the river as I was fairly well orientated by this point, passing a statue of a chap called Lamartine who I have subsequently discovered was a son of the city and variously a writer and politician who lived between 1790 – 1869. I had never heard of him but he appears to be well-regarded here and his statue is impressive.

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Pausing on the way to take an image of a lovely little Peugeot moped I happened upon yet another open brasserie with a rather curious tag line on it’s sign – “Le rendez-vous des amatuers de viandes. I know my French is poor but I make that as “the meeting place for meat amateurs” or does it mean lovers as in the word amour? I suspect it must be the latter.

A few more night images (which turned out pleasingly well even without a tripod) and it was a slow amble back home for an evening meal which was in stark contrast to the previous night’s feast. Having eaten the day before I had not been hungry all day so supper consisted of a packet of madelaines (which I adore), a chocolate bar and a bottle of water. Still, it satisfied me and then it was off to the comfy if unusually configured bed for another excellent night’s sleep.

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Evening meal a la Fergy and courtesy of a hotel vending machine.

There is much more to come so stay tuned and spread the word.

Macon? Never heard of it, let’s go.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.