Saturday, October 05, 2013

tell a tale of France

Dear readers,

Well, here it is a couple weeks later, so what else is new?!

When last I wrote, I think I was getting ready for a trip to France. Well that is now history! It was a good trip. I had some adventures, as usual. I had good flights going to France, first a connecting flight to Atlanta, then the overseas flight to Paris, then a connecting flight to Lyon. This was my first business class flight and I must say business class is amazing. They keep bringing out all these drinks and food and heated towels for the first couple hours. By the time you get a chance to sleep, you are really only going to have an hour or two until they wake you up trying to feed you breakfast (!) and saying you are landing in an hour. Also, the flight I was on had seats the reclined back quite a bit but not fully, and the legs go up as part of that reclining... So every time I wanted to get up and get a drink or go to the bathroom, I had to put my chair legs back down. And in the process several times I squished some of my articles of stuff under the legs, or realized once I had the legs up that what I needed was beneath them. Anyway, it was an interesting experience. I watched 2 movies and that probably did not leave me much sleeping time either.

So anyway, I left Saturday afternoon when I finally got to Lyon on Sunday around noon, I had several things to do before I even left the airport. I knew I needed to buy a train ticket to Switzerland for the last couple days (I was going there Thursday for a day of work and a bit of time to visit friends). But first I figured I should take out cash, that is, euros. Well what do you know, when I got the ATM my cards did not work. I was slightly shocked because I had called my bank and my credit card company before leaving. The people at the currency exchange place were not able to help me either though they tried running my card and doing everything they could for me. I had about $40 US dollars on me and I ended up exchanging that for euros and paying some of it toward a 10-euro phone card to try to call my bank or credit card company... Because my phone did not work overseas either. Too late I remembered that the guy I had called had said I would have to call a different number to get the international use turned on, just because I had so recently started service with my new carrier. Oofa! At the point I had to buy the phone card I was not doing a very good job at fighting back the tears... which was evident to the currency exchange gentleman. While he was typically French and pretty detached, I could tell he was starting to have a great deal of sympathy toward my situation. I had a hotel booked already in town, but was not certain that any of my cards (including my business card) would be accepted by the taxi that I would need to get there. So anyway, to make a long story short, after several calls with the phone card and basically finding that both of my cards had been temporarily locked, I determined that I would at least try using my business card and see if it was accepted anywhere. Which it was. So after purchasing some lunch and then the great success of a train ticket, I set off to try for a taxi. The currency exchange gentleman had told me the last time I had spoken to him (probably the 4th time or so) that if I could not find any way to get to my hotel, then if I wanted he could drop me off on his way home from work. I was extremely touched. Not a typical offer at all. So when I found out that a taxi would indeed accept my card and take me to my hotel, I ran (ok figuratively) back up to the exchange counter to assure him that I had a way to get to my hotel and thank him again. Yet another brief encounter in my life where I make a new friend for a couple hours and when I leave I'm left wishing there was a way to keep in touch... because I am just one of those people that has to stay in touch with EVERYBODY, even if I don't actually do a good job of it...

Well, I made it to my hotel. For a bit it looked iffy just because there was a roller-blading competition right in the last streets we needed to get through in order to reach the hotel. But we made it. I settled into my hotel with great relief, with a map of Lyon and with the kind and quick assistance of all the hotel staff, I was quite impressed with them. They told me the hotel had actually just finished a 6-month closure for renovation. It was quite beautiful. There was a neat glass elevator, that took probably twice as long as taking the stairs since it seemed to have a mind of its own about which floor it would go to next and stop at to pick up more people... It was quaint. I was also fascinated to learn that my hotel key card doubled as the mechanism for turning on the lights in the room, there was a little slot for it. So leave the room and take your key and everything shuts off. It was a power-saving device. Basically the law if I remember correctly. When I got back all my U.S. friends were surprised to hear about this, but my friends from Europe were like, "You've never seen that?" Surprise surprise...

By the time I felt like I was ready for the next day, including knowing what transportation I would take (the metro and then the tram to get to the work site... since my colleagues were not there yet to all take a taxi together and I felt I would rather try out public transportation), it was getting later, 5pm or so, not quite the time to thoroughly explore the city that I had hoped for. I did go walking around to get my bearings and visited the nearby plazas, and found the river - I mean one of them, and crossed one of the bridges to take a look at the other side, and went way up a set of stairs partway up the hill. But I didn't know where the main route up to the top was and didn't want to get lost on steep cobblestoned streets so I eventually headed back. It was lovely though. Around 7 or 7:30 I went back to my hotel room and got a few things and then went out into the streets near the hotel to find dinner. I found a spot not too far away and took a seat outdoors... By the time I got done with my food and dessert and had paid the bill, it was at least 9:30. It just takes a while. I literally was nodding off several times while reading my book waiting. Did not know if I would make it,  but I did. Then went back to my hotel room and that night slept quite soundly...

... To be continued, hopefully. :)