Lyon

From Rome I flew back to Lyon where I barely got to say hi to my mum before I had to head into uni, suitcase in tow, to basically make sure they had my grades and were going to send them to VUW . They still hadn’t had one of my grades sent over from Lyon 2 and I’m not too optimistic about that…watch this space. But I was pretty happy with the grades I did get; I suspect there was some rather generous bumping-up from the lecturers but I’ll take it!

That evening it happened to be the summer solstice and the whole city was taking part in the fête de la musique, with stages set up all over the city for basically an all night party. Somehow I managed to miss that boat. Mum and I were both too tired to go anywhere near it though and despite the mad beatz dropping right near our hotel managed to get an early night.

The next day was a busy one, starting off with a trip to the market up at Croix Rousse, and a rather late ‘brunch’ of fresh raspberries, apricots, white-flesh nectarines, ficelle and goat’s cheese, for those of us who are fans. We then walked down into town after a bit of a mission – the sole ticket machine up at Croix-Paquet was broken so we couldn’t get on the metro there; then once we got to hôtel de ville the ticket machine wouldn’t accept any of our cards, and didn’t take notes (and we didn’t have €10 in coins). We then went into a shop who ‘didn’t have any change’, but did point us in the direction of a transport agency office – who’d have though such drama could arrive on  my last day in Lyon! We finally managed to get tickets and headed to the Resistance museum, which was excellent and meant I managed to knock off the main museums on my list. Better late than never!

After that I met up with my friend Sarah (from Canada) to have a big debrief about the past month and just hang out for the last time in a while! Au revoir indeed. After that I met back up with mum to do what I’d been waiting all year to do – cycle along the Rhône. It didn’t disappoint! We were out for nearly an hour and a half all up, riding along the river and around the parc de la tête d’or. Much more my kind of cycling than the Amsterdam experience! From there we headed back to the hotel for a quick change, and raced up Fourvière so I could finally have my long-awaited photo with the city. By that point it was about 8pm, and we were still adapting to the dead camera situation, but I managed to get a semi-decent one. needless to say that was not quite as early a night.

Paris

The next morning it was au revoir Lyon et bonjour Paris, with our train arriving at 1pm. After navigating the metro and checking into our hotel, we headed off on the museum trail, with mum going to the Musée d’Orsay and me to the Musée de l’Orangerie, home of Monet’s Nymphéas in the Tuileries gardens. Poor mum had to queue for nearly an hour, and by the tim I got there they weren’t even letting anyone else in due to the huge numbers. Cray cray! So I took myself off to the semi-nearby Les Invalides, an old hospital now home to a military museum and Napoleon’s tomb, with an impressive golden dome. I didn’t have time to warrant a proper (paid) visit, so just wandered around the gardens and courtyard. Unfortunately my plans to get round to the other side for a photo of the dome were scuppered when the heavens opened and it absolutely poured down. Cue everyone in the vicinity unashamedly huddling undercover in the courtyard. After that we had a very nice dinner at a cute wee restaurant down an arcade in St Germain with great food, great ambience and staff who actually spoke to me in French, which is apparently hard to come by.

The next day was a designated sleep-in day and we got off to a very slow start, and we barely left the hotel before grabbing some lunch at midday. We made a beeline for les grands boulevards, the Hausmannian heart of Paris, where we hit up les grands magasins – namely Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. I had a few final presents to get and was of course on the lookout for myself, though nothing caught my eye…until we got right to the end of the shoe floor, and I bought two pairs from the same stall. YOLO. We headed back to the hotel for a well-deserved rest before we found dinner on rue St-Martin, right near where Sarah and I had stayed. This was probably the best meal of (this leg) of the trip – the service was not only decent but above-par, and there’s just something about a French roast chicken and gravy! Followed by a chocolate soufflé, of course.

The next morning was our earliest yet as we had to be up and at ’em early to squeeze in a trip to l’Opéra Garnier (inconveniently having had an exceptional closure the day before), before we headed to the airport. Despite suspicious baggage drama shutting down our main line we still got away on time thanks to my fab navigating.

Shropshire

From Paris we flew to Birmingham for nearby Shropshire, where we were visiting relatives in a little village called Sheriffhales. We last visited Norman and Mary in 2002; they hadn’t changed much but they got a bit of a shock when they saw me! We also saw their daughter Karen again and met her husband Rob and daughter Jess for the first time. They were off to ‘beavers’, some new PC kind of brownies/cubs for boys and girls? Needless to say there were a few…unkind remarks going round the party. The next day we went on a flying visit to Shrewsbury before meeting up with Norman’s brother Clive and his wife Liz (who we had met the other time as well) for a rather fancy pub lunch. From there we visited Bridge North, a town split in two with one half atop and the other around the bottom of a big hill, with an extremely cute ‘cliff railway’ (whether this is different to a cable car I am unsure) running between them. We were all pretty stuffed from lunch so had a very light dinner and headed to bed. It was once again so nice to be in a real house where we could just…be at home. (Also, it meant they had a toaster and I could finally give the Marmite mum brough over the attention it deserved).

London

While I would have liked to stay a few more days in smalltown bliss, the big smoke was calling and the following day it was off to London. That evening we went to The Cripple of Inishmaan, an Irish black humour play starring Daniel Radcliffe as the cripple in question. It left me with a frustrating number of questions but I nonetheless enjoyed it. Wish I’d had opera glasses to get a good look at DanRad though. I hotfooted it to the stage door afterwards with high hopes, but alas the mob was a bit too craycray and me being me was only prepared to be so pushy. There might be something in the works though – watch this space…

The next day we headed to the V&A museum which neither of us had been to before. It had everything really – sculpture, decorative arts, fashion, jewellery, tapestries, photography, paintings and more. Quite overwhelming actually, and we’d had enough after about two hours. I did splash out on a rather expensive William Morris umbrella which certainly came in handy during the following week! From there we headed to the National Gallery where, as well as seeing a whole lot of stuff I’d studied, I came across some breaking news, overhearing one gallery ‘attendant’ telling another that a Fathers for Justice ‘activist’ had superglued a photo onto Constable’s Haywain, which caused quite a ripple throughout the gallery! There was a similar incident at the Tate last year with someone writing on a Rothko with a vivid, but this time I was right in the middle of it – exciting stuff! That evening we went to Les Mis which was fab, and I continued with my stage door stalking and met Carrie Hope Fletcher who plays Eponine (and has a YouTube channel).

The next morning we got off to a slow start, whizzing round Regent and Oxford Sts before heading to Greenwich via the ‘Jubilee Line Joyride’ which I made us take for old times’ sake – in 2001 we lived in Canary Wharf, and 2002 in Greenwich, so we had to whiz through all the old spots. We tried to stalk down our house in Greenwich which was on a little private ‘road’ (=driveway), but there’s now a big gate so we didn’t get very far. I still had a lot of feels though! From there I headed through Greenwich to meet up with Francis, one of my hostel buddies from Budapest. His flatmate’s dad was down from Scotland so we wondered around the Royal Navy College and had a cider on the grass, which is when I got horrifically sunburnt. I then headed back into town to meet mum for dinner and we went to see the play of The Curious Incident, which was absolutely incredible. It really has to be seen to be believed; just the entire conception of set, AV, the ensemble – EVERYTHING was just completely unlike anything I’d ever seen before. If you ever get the opportunity to see it, do it! I’d studied the book in year 10 which made it extra exciting (although there were a couple of differences – changing minesweeper to tetris just so young audiences can relate better? Totes doesn’t have the same mathematical reasoning behind it but w/e).

The next day we went to the British Museum, where I made a beeline for Greek vases, having been there before. Unfortunately vases were everywhere, and one of the main rooms was closed, but i managed to find a couple – typically the sucky ones that we didn’t like (Medeias hydria, anyone?). From there I headed to Leicester Square to try and get cheap tickets to go to the Lion King matinée, as it was still playing in the same theatre as where I’d seen it in 2001/2 so I had to see it for nostalgia’s sake! Well, it wasn’t quite as easy as that as the half-price ticket booth said it was sold out and I’d have to try for returns at the theatre, so I did. Unsurprisingly, I’d just missed out on 6 standing returns which got swooped up straight away. Things weren’t looking good. I had no other option than to hang around on the street outside the box office for over an hour until the show started – you guessed it, no tickets. BUT, persistence pays off, as the lovely usher on the door (shoutout to Monica at the Lyceum!), probably out of pity, said she’d se what she could do, and basically snuck me in the back of the dress circle, later moving me to the usher’s seat, from where I could watch the show. For free. I couldn’t believe it; I actually got a bit overwhelmed and ended up writing her a thankyou note on a shitty piece of scrap paper I had in my bag, which I gave to another usher to pass on…I hope she got it!

After that I headed to Primrose Hill in north London where I met up with Aislinn, one of my dancing teachers now living over there. We had a great catch up over cider and pizza as it had been a couple of years since we last saw each other! After a couple of hours it was sadly time to say goodbye as I had an unpacked suitcase waiting for me, as the next day it was off to New York City on the final leg of my trip.

London from Primrose Hill
London from Primrose Hill

The next post about NYC will be the last one on this blog so if anyone has any…unfinished business (?) speak now or forever hold you peace!

A la prochaine (et dernière) fois!

Catherine x

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