With apologies this is going to be a very long post (if you can't tell from the title already). I could make it shorter but that would mean I would have to cut out my photographs and I'm sorry but photos are just too much fun. So, on with it...
To answer Vegas Princess's comment in the previous post, yes the first thing Ross did when he landed was light up. A cigarette of course, not with glee at the fact of being in Paris...we were a bit too grumpy for that.
Doesn't he look determined?
See, I had never gone backpacking with boots before (it was always spring or summer on my travels, not winter) and my boots were absolutely killing me (even though I had been sitting down in a plane for the last day but hey they had swollen to the size of a small pony). And when my feet hurt, I get grumpy. And when I lack sleep, I get grumpy. And when I know relief and sleep is a very far off prospect, I get grumpy.
So I got grumpy and snapped a bit at Ross. He didn't seem to mind though since all he cared about was filling his veins with nicotine. I then realized one of the great advantages of traveling alone. When you get grumpy and irritable, no one suffers but yourself. And you don't actually suffer all that much since being bitchy can be fun sometimes. But here I was with my dear boyfriend and I didn't want him to bear the brunt of it.
So after putting on another pair of boots from backpack and finally figuring out which damn bus to take to the Gare de Lyon, I perked up a bit...if not for the sake of Ross and avoiding making his vacation a living hell.
There again was another difference. Now that I was traveling with someone, I had slacked off a bit on the research. This I cannot explain since researching and planning trips is a fun obsession for me. Just look at my bookshelf and you will see 15 well-worn Lonely Planets, Rough Guides and Let's Gos. Travel planning is my passion and yet this trip I did nothing of the sort. I didn't even look up how to get from the airport to the train station, which is something I usually would have memorized by heart. But no matter, Ross and I were flying by the seat of our pants.
Our plan for the day was also hastily put together. We had 6 hours until we had to catch the TGV train to Lyon out of the Gare de Lyon train station. What we were going to do for the time we didn't know. Originally I was thinking we could go to the Eiffel Tower or something but by the time we got to the station (traffic aint fun in Paris), found the lockers to put our bags in (after an hour of wondering around the station looking for them and me complaining about my sore tootsies), we really didn't have much enery to do anything. Except eat. And sleep.
As sleeping was out of the question, we decided to eat at a cafe across from the train station. It was busy as hell which is always a good sign and gave us time to get rejuvenated with coffee, Kronenburg 1664 (on tap to Ross's delight) and Rose Wine (which in my rusty French I asked for in a cup and not a glass...something I would continue to do for the rest of my trip).
Waiting for the caffeine to hit me.
Then the food came which was...amazing...to say the least. Ross ordered a hot dog which looked like a bun with cheese and a dog hidden underneath.
I ordered a Croque Provence, which is a version of a Croque Monsieur, which I always ordered last year in France because it reminded me of a grilled cheese sandwhich and was always the cheapest thing on the menu (especially at McDonalds). Well, I couldn't be more surprised at the size of the thing they served me. Small portions my ass...
After stuffing ourselves with the food and feeling remotely better (although not completely better since as soon as we left the cafe I realized I had left my scarf behind...and I was too tired to go back and get it), we decided to go for a stroll. We were near the Bastille, something I never got to see last year (because I heard there was nothing really to see there anyway). I was right about that, with the only remains of the famous prison being a monument or two. But the walk was enjoyable as not only did it lead us through streets of festive cheer...
...but it led us to another bar/cafe where we had more rose wine and beer. Unfortunately my plan to get us hammered before our train fell short as it only took one more drink to make us feel sick and tired. We decided that venturing afar was out of the question and the smartest thing to do would be to just mosey down to the Seine and then walk back to the train station. Going any further would probably have resulted in us falling off the Eiffel Tower or missing our train (I would've put my money on the latter although jetlag does do some funny things to you).
The results of our efforts took us to a wee park on the Isle-St.Louis where we contemplated Paris...
After we exhausted ourselves with our worldliness, we made our way back to the train station and onto our train where we promptly passed out. I tried to stay awake, to enjoy the waning countryside zipping past us at 300km an hour but I failed miserably. We fell asleep with our heads on each other's shoulders (must have been a cute sight in itself) and woke up to the train pulling into the station. Well, at least announcing that it was pulling into the station, which then caused everyone to leap out of their chairs and make a crowded, mad dash to their bags, only to find out there were some problems with the track and no one would be going anywhere for 15 minutes. I was definetly not in the mood to stand, crushed between my backpack and the wall so I squeezed back to my seat, to the obvious distaste of two French ladies. Whatever, my feet hurt.
The pain got worse as soon as we got into the station (which is called Lyon Part Dieux...I don't know why it's part-God and not full-God but whatever. Those silly French)and we found Ross's sister Cat, whom we were gratefully staying with in her and her husband Chris's flat for the next few days.
Because parking is such a pain in the ass in Lyon, we were metroing it and walking back to the place, which would have been fine on any other day but this one. I tried not to appear like a right bitch to poor Cat and Ross but I was failing miserably. In the end, I soldiered on through the city, barely noticing the sights and keeping my mouth shut lest I start spewing obscenities about my tender tootsies.
When we finally got back to their flat (which is the most quaint, adorable and oh-so French flat that I have ever seen...which I will go into more detail in the next post) all we wanted to do was pass out. But Cat and Chris had gone through the trouble of making reservations at their favourite Bouchon Lyonnaise. Lyon is famous for being the gourmet capital of France, if not the world, and there were tons of these wee restaurants that specialized in Lyonnaise cuisine.
Promising that the restuarant was only a short walk away, Ross and trudgeneod on like the good sports we were.
Ross, Cat and Chris in front of the Bouchon Lyonnaise
The Bouchon was cute as a button, with locals in it, not tourists (again, always a good sign). The menu had set prices or you could pick a la carte:
Cat ordered us a typical Lyonnaise drink which combined two of my favourite things...Ribena and red wine. Even Ross had a glass, which was amazing since he hates wine with a passion (I know, he's missing so much). It was the Ribena (or Creme de Casis) in it that sold him.
Needless to say, I don't think he liked it very much. I drank the rest of it.
I don't know if I was acting crazy because of the extra wine though because at one point the French waitress asked me (through the simultaneous interpretation of Cat) is I was Paris Hilton. What scared me the most about that was that she was dead serious. I should have pretended I was. Score some free wine!
Then it was time to dabble in the famous cuisine. I started by ordering French Onion soup...which I suppose would just be called Onion Soup.
Then for some strange reason I followed that with a plate of Escargot. Now, I've had escargot before, but the way we do it in Canada is fry the snails until they are unrecognizable piles of goo (sounds good, doesn't it), mask the taste with heaps of garlic and pile mounds of butter and cream on them.
But here, in the birthplace of eating snails and other weird things, they prefer to handle it a little more delicately. Although it was good and I ate every single one (forced myself to, anyway), you could tell exactly what you were eating with every bite. That made stuffing them down my throat and wee bit harder than normal.
Suffice to say, by the time the meal was over, it was 11PM and Ross and I hadn't slept for a good 36 hours. We were buzzed, jet-lagged and full of ducks and snails. We somehow made it to our bed, passed out and woke up at 2 the next afternoon...where yet another day of adventures and damage to the liver awaited us.