I know, I know. I’m the worst blog writer in the world. I apologise for writing this a month late, and hope that some extra-long rambling will make up for it.
On the Friday after returning from the Alps, I decided to go watch a dubbed film with my homestay mum and sister. It had been on my list of things to do in France for a long time, so I abandoned my fear of not being able to understand the language and gave the French version of ‘Cinderella,’ a shot.
Surprisingly enough, I ended up understanding a lot of what was spoken. It was so exciting to see that I had improved in French already; two weeks prior, I would have been completely lost. It definitely helped that I knew the fairytale for sure, but I managed to comprehend a lot of the new additions to the story (which made it more logical, in my opinion) and laugh at the jokes, which was a really nice feeling.
The movie was good, too. I’m pretty sure that I spent most of my time looking at that damn fine blue dress with envy.
Riding along the Rhône
Sylvie’s lovely sister, Vallerie (whom I will be staying with in Paris in a few week’s time) came to Lyon from Monday to Thursday to spend some time with the family and explore the city. She’s a lovely lady – and a boulette like me – so we ended up having quite a lot of fun.
Alice (my youngest homestay sister) and Vallerie spent Monday at the local pool, but I wasn’t feeling well so I stayed at home. After lunch the next day, however, we headed out into the city on a long cycling trip. It was a gorgeous day (I’m afraid I have no pictures, because I spent the majority of my afternoon clutching handlebars instead of a camera) so we decided to drive to the Parc de Gerland, hire bikes from a velo’v station and peddle up to Parc de la Tête d’Or.
Velo’v stations are found everywhere in Lyon; they’re basically just places where you can hire a standard, three-gear bike for €1.50 or so a day. They’re fantastic, in theory, because you can drop any bike off at any velo’v station or pick another one up free of charge with the use of a code, as long as you do it within a 24 hour period. As a consequence, if you spontaneously decide to go for a cycle when you’re in the middle of the city, and then decide halfway through to catch the métro instead, it’s easy to ditch the bike.
In reality, you have to be very lucky to get a good velo’v bike. Vallerie and I had to change bikes numerous times (the seats weren’t adjustable, or, in one instance, the bike just gave up and died about 100 metres away from the park) and struggled a lot with hiring them in the first place. I also started to get really anxious as we were riding through the park because it was very busy with children (school holidays, ugh) so we ended up heading off to Vieux Lyon instead and bought sorbet from my favourite glacier.
Despite these issues, I loved the ride. Cycling is one of my favourite pastimes – I need to do more of it when I get back – and Lyon is an incredibly beautiful city. I felt so relaxed and free, riding along the banks of the Rhône. On the way back, the citizens of Lyon came out of hiding and lounged by the riverside, as restaurant-boats anchored near the edge of the path. Some young adults pulled out instruments and chefs cut up vegetables for the evening meal; soon I was surrounded by a sensual mix of sizzling food and beautiful music, and felt energised by the life around me. It was absolutely unbelievable.
Park des Oiseaux (a.k.a. Park of Birds)
Wednesday consisted of a more planned adventure out to two places just outside of Lyon: a landscaped bird park about 30km North of the city, followed by a trip to the beautiful medieval village of Pérouges. We got up nice and early (so, sometime before 10am), packed a picnic lunch and set out on the road to the Les Dombes region.
I don’t know what I had been expecting when I went to the park, but it certainly wasn’t a sprawling zoo with lots of natural environment for the animals to move around, filled to the brim with birds from all over the world. I took plenty of pictures of brightly-coloured macaws, regal African Queens, and ducks. I think I have over a hundred photos just of ducks. I’m a bit of a fan.
We nicknamed this little guy “Afroduck.”
It was lovely to just wander around the park listening to the chatter of birds, while learning about the various species. We saw some strange things – including a fantastic little horned bird that hopped everywhere – but my personal favourite was the Australian magpie in a cage. It was weird thinking that they could be considered “exotic,” enough to be put in a zoo, and that, similarly, any of these incredible birds could be commonplace.
We finished at the Australian exhibit, and after I unsuccessfully expressed how absolutely crazy cassowaries are, we headed off to Pérouges.
Pérouges is a little fairytale village of cobblestone streets and golden buildings.
There’s not much to do except wander around and gaze at the centuries’-old beauty of the place, but that was perfect for us. We spent an hour or so strolling around in the city, placing our feet on stones smoothed over by many thousands of feet over many hundreds of years. I loved the peaceful, historic nature of the place; it often felt like a town from a movie-set, made just for us.
A speciality of Pérouges is the gallete des Pérouges: a thin, sweet, pizza-style pastry topped with sugar. They were selling these on the side of almost every street, so after scoping out a few prices, we found a café and wolfed down the desserts.
I did a few other things that week with Alice, but I’ll mention them in the next post.
Featured photo is of the beautiful Liberty Tree in Pérouges.
In reference to the title: don’t open your mouth while cycling. Ever.