Yesterday I arrived in CDG around 8am. I was pretty nervous at first: for some reason, there’s something a little nerve racking about arriving in a new airport. But compared to the first time I arrived in TPE, it was a piece of cake: I knew that speaking French would be helpful, but I didn’t realise how comforting it would be. It felt warm to hear everyone speak a language I was familiar with. Mind you, their accent is pretty different, but it’s still French.
So I managed to make my way to Terminal 2, which is where the train station to catch the TGV is. My ticket was for around noon (and it was 8:30am). When I bought it, I really didn’t know how easy or difficult the trek from the airport would be with a boxed bicycle, so I left myself plenty of time. It turned out to be pretty easy so I had a few hours to spare. Since the ticket I bought allowed me to change the time without penalty, I left for Lyon at around 9:30.
I thought that the train would have a luggage compartment where I could put my bicycle, but it didn’t. So I managed to put my bike against one of the doors, and sat on the floor for about 45 minutes. A young mom was also doing the same with her little girl and her big stroller. Eventually, I managed to put the bike in a pretty stable position and went inside to sit more comfortably and take a nap. About 2/3 of the way, a train attendant checking our tickets asked to talk to me. My box, it turned out was too big, which should cost me an extra 40 Euros, and was blocking an emergency exit, which could be fined up to 150 Euros. Very apologetically I admitted that I didn’t know, and in my mind, I was ready to pay the fine. After all, I didn’t pay anything extra to fly my bike (because it was only 1kg over the limit and I took my other bag as carry on), so what if I had to pay extra to carry it on the train. Whatever. In the grand scheme of things, these are small details not worth carrying too much about. So again, I explained that I was sorry, that I had been sitting here for 45 minutes and moved my box out of the way when we had stopped at the previous station, and that I would be more than willing to spend the rest of the trip here if it was safer. The train attendant asked me where I was going, and since I was leaving at the next stop, it let me off the hook; if I could only keep an eye on my box and make sure to move it if needed. Later on, Celine told me that it I had been French, he would probably have fined me. I really wonder what the Quebecois accent evokes in the French, but so far it seems to be pretty positive.
So finally, I arrived in Lyon around noon. During the trip on the train, I managed to familiarize myself with the map of the city, and notice that Celine lives very close to the train station. Bonus! But there was one more unknown step that had to be done: what to do with that bicycle huge box? Walking from the platform down to the main floor of the train station, I saw a big cart with small cardboard boxes in it. And it was just my luck that a lady was throwing boxes from her shop into it. So I asked her where I could get rid of my giant box, and after asking me about my trip (she’d guest I was from Quebec right away) she showed me to the big disposal container. That’s it: I was finally in Lyon, my bike was all set, nothing broken, all ready to go. So I got a GPS fix on my location and headed towards Celine’s house.
“Wow! What wonderful mix of futuristic technologies and old architecture” was my first impression of Lyon. Many of the buildings were, of course, old compared to anything we have in North America. But the transportation system was so impressively hightech: electric buses, a very good subway system, and a gorgeous little electric tramway that makes a loop in the city from the University and that rides on railways that are sometimes even covered in grass, making the track look like a long park.
I thought Vancouver’s public transit system was good, but it’s nothing compared to Lyon’s! There’s also an amazingly cool public bicycle system, which Celine told me started about 4 years ago: people can buy anything from a one-time pass, to a yearly pass, and then all they have to do is grab a (secured) bike from one station, and ride it to the next. I don’t know exactly how many stations there are, but from my little exploration of the city, I’ve seen many of them.
So I spent the entire afternoon exploring the city. I went to a really beautiful park called “Parc de la tete d’or”, and also visited the university campus. Finally, I met Celine after work at around 6pm and we went out with her friends.
Today I woke up around 6:45 (Celine had to go to work early to finish a long chemical manipulation), I cleaned up and organized my stuff, wrote most of this blog entry, went back to bed around 11am and woke up about an hour later. In the afternoon, I went to visit the Old Lyon. It was a gorgeous! Many of the buildings and cathedrals are easily a few hundred years old, but I also walked in a Roman coliseum built about 2000 years ago. That was pretty crazy! To think that Romans were gathering here two millennia ago…
I also visited a little garden created by a man from Montreal. I wasn’t too impressed with the garden itself, but the view on Lyon was breath taking! Finally, I took the metro back, stopped at a little store to buy some shaving cream and toothpaste (lost mine at the airport: to much of that stuff can blow up planes apparently), and I’m now waiting for Celine to come back from work any time now. This weekend, we should be going for a little trip in the south. Not sure where yet, but I’m pretty stoked about seeing just about anything that it doesn’t really matter.