Even in an adopted city as beautiful as Lyon, it’s easy to get into a routine. The metro becomes a much easier option than the admittedly stunning walk home, and you begin to develop that little bubble around you that stops you experiencing new things. Welp, a day back in spring 2016 really taught me to reconsider my laziness and get myself out there more. I’m talking about the Frenchest experience ever, and it went something a bit like this…
Working up on the hill of La Croix Rousse allowed me to become well acquainted with an area of the city that I’d never have explored much otherwise. A bit bouji, the neighbourhood was historically independent from Lyon due to it’s politics and geographical location atop the hill. It had retained a stoic independence and in a way, it felt like a little town of its own. Nowadays, it was filled with older couples who had lived here their whole lives and still held hands walking amongst the weekly bric-a-brac market stalls, or younger middle-class families who had moved up from other arrondissements. It was the young children of these well-to-do families that I taught English to, at a small company franchise just behind the Mairie 4e or town hall. Of all the places in Lyon I’d worked, from right in the centre at La Place Bellecour to the quaint outskirts of Tassin La Demi Lune, La Croix Rousse was my favourite. The old ladies that waved at you from their windows, the little bakeries, the jaunty carousel in the little square and, of course, the view across the whole of Lyon. However, all that didn’t stop me from getting into a mundane routine that saw the extent of my daily exploration limited to the market between the school and the metro stop. I really need to get a grip on that!
But as the city began the slow winter thaw and the days stretched longer, I found myself one day determined to make the most of the late spring sunshine. Grabbing two baguettes rustiques from my favourite bakery across the road, I popped them into my bag and set off down the hill. Glorious views! So many steps!
Anyway, as I got to the bottom of the hill and wandered into Place Terreaux I realised I was still a good 40 minutes from home. The sun had well and truly dipped under the cool stone buildings of the Presqu’ile and it was getting cold. Getting impatient for my dinner, I started to lose a bit of enthusiasm but was determined not to get the metro. So I grabbed a velo’v and set off through the busy square. I have a thing with bikes, I can’t be one of those cool people who peddle along gracefully. If I’m peddling, I’m going full throttle (which probably isn’t that fast anyway but whatever). So, I leave Place Terreaux and zoom (ahem) up to the opera, a carefully restored classical building with a great, glass, domed roof. It was a true landmark of the city, and you couldn’t help but look up at it. To my delight and dismay, the cobbles outside were full of opera goers in all sorts of get up. Distracted by the building and trying to dodge the crowd, I hit a big bump in the stones and one of my baguettes, which had been sitting nicely in the front basket, flew out and hit the pavement.
And then one of the best moments of my life happened.
A guy, which I will casually mention was wearing a TUXEDO and those Clark Kent glasses, had seen the spectacle from his spot with a group of friends and exclaimed ‘oh la la, la baguette!’ He then RAN over to me, dropped down and grabbed the soggy bread, and STILL ON HIS KNEE, offered me the bread. At this point I was flustered and a tad sweaty, looking every so slightly windswept with a scarf half covering my face but I’m pretty sure it did little to cover my dumbfounded expression. That’s right, I said nothing, I did nothing. I just stared. He stood up, put the baguette back into my basket, smiled and walked back to his friends. That’s the moment I’m pretty sure my French experience peaked, and I am soooo ok with that.
I like to think I half managed a smile back but I’m not so sure my face moved for a good five minutes. Until I got my wits about me and set off back on my bike. I grinned the whoooole way home, and the whole way through dinner. Lets just say I walked home a lot more after that.
So there you have it, if you’ve never had a French guy in a tuxedo get down on one knee and offer you a fallen baguette, you just have been in France long enough.