J’en ai marre 9

T plus 17 days?

Morning. Annecy. Breakfasted in room. (Meal prices in this hoity toity hotel are exorbitant; there are limits to how far we will go to pamper ourselves.) A friend from Switzerland is due to arrive this morning. His failure to effectively communicate leaves uncertain how this day will play out. The expectation is, since he is a doctor, we will discuss cancer. Oh yum. And old times, and new. He’s to stay in this hotel. We shall see.

He’s here. We lunched. Found a really nice Japanese shop. A long protest march against quelque chose went by outside. The two shop-girls barred the doors. They were impressed and found it sweet that I could say “I love you” in Japanese. (It evidently never occurred to them to wonder why I’d learned this phrase, conveying a sentiment I can express in many languages. Ever hopeful, I never got to exercise my linguistic skills to fulfill that hope, back in the days when that hope could have been acted upon.)

I texted a friend at home that a protest was working past our location. He wondered why the French felt so pulled to this activity. I explained. There is one big sport in France. We have 4 into which to pour our energies. The French have supplemented enthusiasm for soccer (Yay, tie score; 1 – 1. How exciting.) with enthusiasm for protesting. It is a sport here. It even has its own season.

Definitely having fun.

Francesca says: “And don’t forget to add something about the WWII airplane dog fights book guy whose French sternness and aloofness just melted away watching Americans get excited over his book!”

This incident occurred in a tiny bookstore here that we visited prior to the Japanese store, or after, but unlikely simultaneously. Inside there was a pleasant looking fellow whom Francesca evidently found initially stern. He had written a book, historical, as described above. He was selling them in the bookstore. Probably because I thought it might improve my French, and because we have a young friend very very much into all things aviation, I picked up one of his books, and while giving it a gander, he began to hold forth in French about the books contents, and what therein might interest me. Yeah, well, I could just stand there pretending I understood, or take matters into my own hands. I looked at the desperate fellow, and said, “Je suis décidé”, indicating that I would indeed buy a copy. His reaction was one of surprise, delight, and eagerness to inscribe something inside that I would be happy with. Then the booked was wrapped, put into my shoulder bag, and shortly thereafter we departed. I’d like to be able to tell you what the inscription says, but the book is upstairs, on my bookshelf, and still in the wrapping supplied by the author. As I have no plans to read it any time soon, it would be a pity to tear off the wrapping at this point. Sorry.

2021: Year of masks.

T plus 18? days.

Swiss friend departed after torturing me with some frisbee on the grass near the front of the posh hotel. This sport/pass time was how we met over 40 years ago. (Only recently – a month after our return – did it occur to me that he may have had an ulterior motive for making a frisbee toss possible. Maybe he was testing me – checking to see how I may have degenerated. He is a doctor, after all. And maybe I was testing myself. I was satisfied, by and large, with my performance. Although I feel the meds I take daily have decreased my muscle mass and dexterity, what muscle I have left still retains the memory of numerous Frisbee throws.)

Tortuous drive followed from Annecy to Lyon. (Well, by this point you will have noticed that all our drives during this trip were torturous.) What should not have been torturous was returning the car, but it took an hour to stick our Sixt rental in a qualified return spot on a Sunday. Office closed, of course. A nearby address on rental email was a nondescript opening in a wall. Irrelevant. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. (I mean, really, I stood in front of that address, just around the corner from the official office, and it had maddeningly little to do with anything Sixt related – or even car related. Phone calls were required to help us fulfill our quest.)

Eventually discovered we should drive the rental down to level 2 of a certain subterranean parking garage. The femmebot helped us find the garage (on the far side of a nearby park consisting of dirt and trees). This was entered via a ramp into the bowels of the earth, only slightly more noticeable than the one we encountered in Paris a few years ago. There was nothing – absolutely nothing – outside this underground garage indicating that this was a Sixt rental car drop-off point, or, from a distance, that there even was a garage at the specified location, for it consisted of an opening – a hole – level with the park itself, and a ramp leading into the earth’s bowels.

On foot we found the ramp. Then we retrieved the car and drove to the top of the ramp. There was a gate bar that opened when I pressed a button to collect a ticket. Down the ramp a garage door slid open as we approached (which is just as well, as the bar had dropped back down behind us at the top of the ramp). Now inside, I turn a corner and, VOILA! A sign for Sixt (quite small, but the right yellow color). Only here, through gate, down ramp, through the opaque garage door, did we see our first indication we had done this thing correctly. We drove down another level and parked. We collected photographic evidence that the act was complete, and departed in a cloud of profanity. Miraculously, on a Sunday, we soon encountered a cafe selling beer and wine. We drowned our sorrows. This was just so fucking French. I decided to ignore the fact I’d got a parking ticket in Annecy on our last day. Fuchsia.

(The look on Francesca’s face when we finally exited the parking garage says it all. See below. I wish I could show you the entire 3 second gif of her face, for it does this little shake that is quite frightening, full of feelings of fiery condemnation.)

(We gathered a great deal of photographic evidence to support the fact that the car had in fact been returned on the day specified, but it was not needed. In our experience the French are unwilling to concern themselves with such minutiae.)

Oh, and my iPhone 7, five generations old, is acting its age, and hasn’t long to live. And we wear masks most places. And our vaccine cards are frequently inspected querulously. As fun a trip as past years? Are you even listening? (And yet, … Francesca would cavil with my querulousness. She had a lovely time. Of course she didn’t spend the many days I did rearranging everything after numerous cancellations, and we haven’t even got to our struggle to get out of Europe at the end. Wait for it. Fuchsia Vogons again, of course.)

Head shaking; lips quivering; yikes.

You know, like 19 days.

Today we discovered Lyon is really pleasant and nice. Last time here we did the Basilica and Roman amphitheater. Entertaining, yes, but involving much vertical displacement, burning the leg muscles, and causing much free perspiration. And we saw the museum of miniatures, also cool. And there was the young people nightlife near our hotel along the river. And somehow, during that earlier trip – perhaps because we had only two days – we’d convinced ourselves that Lyon had shot its bolt. We were very very much wrong.

Yesterday we moseyed into Presqu’île … Let me explain. Two rivers run through Lyon: the Rhône; and Saône. They merge at the Musée des Confluences at the south end of the city. This museum we’d also visited 2 years (or 3) ago. The museum and its setting are unmissable.

So, right, the funky hotel we stay at is on the outside edge of the Rhône. Cross any of several bridges and you’re on Presqu’île, the region between the rivers. We crossed a bridge and moseyed down to the tourist office to buy a pair of 3 day City Passes, which get you onto and into lots of stuff for free, or at a discount.

You can buy these online, but I was hesitant to do so, at least until we waited 30 minutes in the tourist office for the next available window to be free. Finally, fed up, I used our personal wifi pod and bought the things with Paypal. I wandered up to a desk where two young women were messing with stuff, showed them the pdf of what I’d just bought, and said, “Je suis fini?” Evidently set on giving us official plastic City Passes, one of the women copied a code from our pdf into a computer, and voila, official plastic City Passes. Naturally, while all that was occurring, our number came up and we had an official window to go to. We indicated by word and gesture that the woman standing at that booth was no longer needed. I think this shaved 10 minutes off the whole process. I say this, because when we entered there was a French couple at one window, and when we left they were still there. I’m thinking some sort of Dr Who baddie had hit the trio with a freeze ray. No other explanation fits the circumstance.

By the way, two additional years of Duolingo French seems to have improved my language abilities to the point that when I speak French people no longer look at me quizzically, with a tinge of annoyance inversely proportional to one’s distance from Paris. Still, while gratifying, this also has the disturbing side effect that the person I am addressing assumes I can take it as well as I can dish it out. I cannot, and when they start slathering me with fluent French spoken at speed, the best I can do is listen attentively, pretend I understand, and pray the speaker is not imparting information of grave importance to the survival of the western world, which we highly prize.

Quick note: in speaking English a la Lumiére in the animated “Beauty and the Beast”, the French accent is reasonably pleasant. The converse is likely not true, judging from the winces evinced when French is spoken a la Geoffrey just about anywhere.

Bogging down now, as this is yet another day, and both yesterday and today the highlights were ferry trips up and down the Saône. During one of these we discovered that Lyon, like Paris and Milan, has a fancy area of modern architecture, the Confluence, a ways north of the Musée de Confluence. We had no idea; yet another indication of how far short we fell of fully comprehending this city during our last visit. We really like these modern bits.

We spent a lot of time on these ferries. Our Lyon Passes got us on for free, and you could see a lot of riverside Lyon nearly top to bottom. And, of course, as has been mentioned often, Francesca loves being on boats – moving boats especially.