The intolerable weather didn’t help much, but the train ride to Lyon seemed to put me in a trance. I was riding the bike I knew far too well: arriving into a foreign city, that held a world of unknowns.
I had no immediate business being in Lyon. Already in Europe for a work engagement, I was looking for an opportunity to spend a bit more time. Lyon was the next closest city, some family nearby, and I did something I hadn’t done in years — rented an apartment for five nights somewhere I had no clue about. I chalked it up as an opportunity to work on my “business” and travel alone for the first time in a while. I wanted to experience a place in a “slow manner”— the very words that lived in direct contrast to the past two years of travel.
The first afternoon…
The classic Monoprix, a halfway decent sandwich shop, and a well-stocked magazine store screamed the typical train station in France. It was nothing extraordinary. The frigid stairs descended into the Gare de Lyon, and I was frantically deciding between spending the extra $5 dollars on an Uber rather than the originally planned bus to my Airbnb. The rain started to pour and it made the decision that much easier.
I was disappointed. The drive through the gloomy weather and modern buildings wasn’t the quintessential French city I was hoping for. We turned onto Rue du Lantern to apartment 24, and it seemed a bit more hopeful. More character, livelier streets, and promise of old-world beauty perked my attitude.
A painful three flights of stairs, and I suddenly regretted the rain boots I had previously packed, though they would come in handy. A middle-aged French women greeted me, and I as mumbled out a bit of French, I was introduced to the apartment that I would call home for five nights. She was an artist, and as her scent of Chanel number 5 permeated the room — I couldn’t help but be enamored by her effortless, French style. With a final set of directions, she kindly said that my French was “agreeable” — the very confidence booster I would need for my time in Lyon. I gleamed from the compliment, said good bye and thought how I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my grandmother this, I knew she would be proud.
The rain fizzled out and after finishing my habit of unpacking, I set out to explore. I intended to head to Vieux Lyon, but came across what would be the last remaining open grocer that Sunday. I saw it as an opportune time to grab some snacks and essentials like terrine, two types of cheese, crackers, and a ridiculously cheap bottle of Bordeaux.
Returning to the apartment to drop off the “essentials”, I squirmed at the idea of having to walk up and down these stairs for the next week. Taking a chance that the rain would hold, I slithered back out for my original plan.
The amount of bridges took me by surprise — there seemed to be endless options to cross into Vieux Lyon. I opted for the furthest so that I could wind back through the old town. It was magical. The sun started to shine through, the river was dotted with friends sitting along the banks with drinks in hand. It felt like an older Paris, or what it used to be like back in the day.
Cobblestone led the way through the bustling streets of Vieux Lyon, and part of me was shocked to find how busy it was. Crepe stands on every corner, families spending their Sunday together, and children with ice cream melting down their hands felt just right. It felt cozy, familiar, and the charm I had hoped for.
Grabbing a warm jambon et fromage crepe from the last stand, I had completely forgotten that my last meal had been over ten hours ago. I was starved. Winding back through the one lane street, I kept my eyes peeled for places to return to that week. As I took the last bite, an ominous cloud made its way over town. Within minutes, the slow drizzle turned into what would be a rather fast-paced walk through a downpour back to the apartment.
It was back up those stairs and into the cozy apartment. I peered out the window and I knew right then, Lyon was right where I was suppose to be.
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