Vacances en France – 2018 – Arrival


After the dampness we encountered at Entraygues on Wednesday, Thursday started really wet and soggy. Even the cattle were looking a bit depressed by the damp.
Cow
The altitude of the gite meant that we were truly up in the clouds, with visibility changing from just a few metres, up to a kilometre and back down again. And all in the space of a few minutes.
Cow2
Given the inclement weather and with friends flying in on Friday, we thought we would take the opportunity to do a proper shop for supplies. So, we decided to head into Aurillac, and find a large supermarket.

Shopping is definitely not my thing, but I struggled manfully round the local Intermarché , the trolley laden down with essentials such as Prosecco, Beer, Fromage and assorted Charcuterie. We did also get some salad stuff and veggies as well as some coffee mugs.

You might ask why we were buying items that should have been provided as part of our rental. And you would be right, there are cups supplied. However, the ones provided were of the Pyrex glass variety and not very big. I think the French like to start their day with strong coffee, served in small quantities. Being British, we like a nice big mug of tea to start the day.

Two weeks later, when we left the gite, we donated the “large” mugs for the use of future residents.

Friday dawned, and the weather had done a 180 and the sun was shining again. A beautiful day, just perfect to welcome our imminent visitors. We had a slow start to the day, before clambering into the car and heading up to Aéroport de Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne at Aulnat.

Arrival3

Massiac – Chapelle Sainte-Madeleine

The run up to the airport took about two hours and we arrived early.

Arrival

Aéroport de Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne – What a fabulous monument to flying.

The preceding photo shows a memorial for the Breguet Bre.4   From Wikipedia ….

The Breguet Bre.4, also known variously as the Type IVand BUM, was a French biplane bomber of World War I. A fighter version of it was also produced as the BUC and BLC; some of these saw service with the British Royal Navy, which called them ‘the Breguet ‘de Chasse.

We made good use of the extra time by making use of the airports free WiFi. The alleged WiFi at the gite is actually non-existent, which is why I am making these posts after our holiday has passed. Lack of WiFi also meant that we could not download Kindle books or synchronise our phones and tablets. Mobile phone signals were also virtually non existent. My phone would register full signal strength, cycle through “E”, “3G” and “4G” to no signal. All within the space of a few seconds. So use of mobile data was pretty much a non-event.

Needless to say our friends flight was delayed, then the baggage was also delayed, eventually making an appearance on the carousel.  We loaded up the car and headed back south towards the gite. Lunch was mentioned and we made a small detour having seen a Buffalo Grill alongside the motorway. Unfortunately, our human navigation skills, further confounded by the satnag, led us round in circles and back onto the motorway, just as we saw the entrance to the eatery. We decided not to deviate again and carried on our way to the gite.

This did not deter us from playing tourist and stopping to take in the views.


We were soon at the gite and relaxing with a glorious cup of cha. Once again enjoying the long view from the lawn. Then, while our friends unpacked, we prepared our evening meal.

A long day for all was brought to an end puntuated witha glass of something alcoholic.

To Lyon via The Millau Viaduct


So, fed and watered we left Sainte-Eulalie-de-Cernon having programmed the satnag for Lyon. Now the one thing I knew about Lyon is that it was north and slightly east of our current location. So I knew there was something not quite right when I spotted that the satnag wanted us to head towards Montpellier. That is south, down on the Mediterranean. So before we joined the autoroute, we pulled off onto a small side road and dragged out our book of maps.

I could see immediately what it wanted us to do but I wasn’t buying into its logic. So, once again it was necessary to try and outfox TomTom. I reset its route with Clermont-Ferrand as a via. It did an about-face with it route plan. Not only that but it was a shorter distance and time than he original plan. Go figure.

Of we set again, back down the roads we had just travelled before eventually heading towards the A75. Now at least it felt right. Also the good news was that this route would take us over the Millau Viaduct. And here some photos to show the bridge from the deck along with the bug splats on the windshield…..

It’s quite a strange feeling passing over the bridge. I personally have never been that high off the ground and not either had my feet on a mountainside or been sat in an aircraft. When you look down on the town of Millau it is just like being on an aircraft as it make its last descent before touch down. Next time we will have to get down under this super structure.

Crossing over we pressed on toward Lyon. Passing through lovely countryside, superb views but we couldn’t afford to stop apart for the necessary pee breaks and a leg stretch.

And then we were approaching Lyon. For several kilometers we were on new roads and tunnels. The satnag knew they were there and, for several kilometeres, could  tell us the speed we were going, but couldn’t tell us if we were breaking the law. Then, due to road works, we had to follow a deviation. Stop, start, stop again. Nose to tail traffic. As we got further into the Lyon suburbs the traffic situation got worse. Amazing since this was a Sunday evening. All we kept saying was “Imagine this at rush hour”. Three and four lanes of slow crawling traffic. Eventually we made it to the city centre and the satnag did a perfect job of delivering us to the front door of the hotel.

Of course there was nowhere to park up, so I double parked and went inside to check in and ge access to the hotel parking. The guy in front of me was having a debate about parking and I heard the receptionist say that there was no parking available. The guy in front voiced what I was already thinking….”The only reason I booked this hotel was because you state that you have parking”. They managed to provide the guy in front of me with access to a parking space behind some bollards. Of course when it was my turn to speak they had no such space for me. I pointed out that my requirement for secure parking space was so that I didn’t have to fully unload the car which had our luggage for a month.

His response to me was I had booked via Booking.com. They had a problem with them not informing clients that if you wanted parking you had to book in advance. At the time I was ready to give Booking.com a hard time. However, since checking the hotels web site they don’t mention advanced booking so he was tossing me a line.

So, the best I could do was dump Gerry and our overnight luggage in the hotel foyer while I took the car to the Gare Perrache, railway station and its car park, which he ensured me was secure with CCTV. Things got decidedly iffy as I drove off to the station. Immediately on leaving the hotel you have to turn right. I’m driving in France so I keep right. As I pulled out the guy behind me pulled over to the left and joined a single lane. Then I noticed the railway lines, not railway, tram lines. Nobody told me there were trams in Lyon. Just as I got to a right turn, a tram appeared in front of me. I just made the turn before the tram occupied the space I had just vacated. I had to make a circuit of the streets again to get back to the station.

Entering the car park the first thing is you have to take a ticket. The ticket machine is on the wrong side. So I jumped out, ran round the car, pushed the button, grabbed the ticket, dashed back to the driver’s seat and drove through the now open barrier. I parked the car, grabbed a few bits and then moved on to my next challenge.

How to get out of the car park as a pedestrian. I found my way into the railway station, which is also the bus station and the tram station. I eventually found an exit but on the opposite side of the station from where the hotel is.

By the time I reached the hotel nearly forty-five minutes had passed and Gerry was beginning to worry. So, time to check out the room, we grabbed our suitcase, camera and laptop bags and headed for the lift. Challenge number one was to get two people, one large suitcase and three small bags into the tiny lift enclosure. Challenge number two was to find and push the button for the third floor, the control panel hidden by a melange of limbs and baggage straps. Next up was the challenge of keeping my butt and laptop bag clear of the concertina doors which also needed interior space to be able to close before the lift would move.confucious1

After reversing out of the lift enclosure we followed the wall mounted signs to our room. The walls of the hotel are painted either black or a very dark grey. There were no lights on and no “visible” wall switches. All was well as the lights came on, automatically, as we advanced into the darkness. A bit like those movies where the lighting either activates or deactivates with the sound of large solenoid switches clacking at each transition. We didn’t have the sounds.

And so we entered our room. Very clean and tidy. The decor was fresh and modern. Not much space though. With our suitcase on the floor at the foot of the bed there was hardly room to squeeze through. Although there was wardrobe space most of the lower half was filled with a fridge and the upper shelf was all but filled by a safe. So no where really to stow our luggage. Good job we were only staying overnight.

By now my temper was not good. I was pissed of at Booking.com regarding the parking, I was pissed off at the hotel for their misleading pictures. Gerry calmed me down and we left to go and find somewhere to eat.

Lyon

View From Hotel Window – Lyon, France

By now my temper was not good. I was pissed of at Booking.com regarding the parking, I was pissed off at the hotel for their misleading pictures. Gerry calmed me down and we left to go and find somewhere to eat.

According to the hotel staff, with it being Sunday, many city centre restaurants open during the day but not in the evening. Which is exactly what we found. Several, were still open in the evening, but only for drinks. Sunday was the day Ireland were beaten by France, I think.  Of the open establishments serving food, most of the outside tables were occupied with footie fans drinking. Judging by the number of green shirts in evidence, these were consolation drinks. To be honest they were very good-natured and not too rowdy. We eventually found ourselves a bar serving food, mainly burgers, and took a table inside.

Refreshments - Lyon, France

Refreshments – Lyon, France

We both had burgers, not something Gerry normally has, on the basis that this establishment didn’t look like they were up to cordon bleu cooking. And that they couldn’t really screw up a burger and fries. The food was surprisingly, OK. The beer was good.

During our previous three weeks in France, I have been surprised by the variety of beers on offer. Often, when I have asked for a “bière pression” the waiter will ask if I want blonde, amber, rouge, white or on at least one occasion noir. And that is before asking what brand I would prefer. For some reason they always seemed please when I declined Heineken or Carling, especially when I followed my response with a mime of spitting.

We completed our meal and sat watching some of the Hungary / Belgium match while I finished my beer. There was a guy, sat at a nearby table, built like the proverbial brick outhouse. I think he was a Hungary supporter, judging by his reactions to the near misses near the Belgium goal. We left before we became witness to his disappointment at the 4-0 defeat.

River view - Lyon, France

River view – Lyon, France

The following morning, after a fairly meagre buffet breakfast, it became time for me to retrieve my car from the Gare Perrache. Having delivered Gerry and the bags to the hotel foyer. The walk to the garage was executed in short order and I was soon at the floor where I had left the car. Unfortunately, the ticket machine was being worked on. Eventually the engineer closed the cabinet and I submitted my ticket. The display requested that I deposit 20 euro but steadfastly refused to accept my 20 euro note. It was then that the engineer stepped forward and informed me that the cash section was not working, that I could only pay by credit card. The machine had not such indications displayed. So, having settled up, I arrived at my car.

Thankfully, untouched and intact. Navigating my way to the exit I then had to repeat the previous evenings athletics. Arrive at ticket machine, jump out of the car, run round to the opposite side, insert ticket into machine. Dash back to the driver’s seat and wait for the barrier to rise.

It didn’t rise. Now what ?

Looking across the car I spotted that it wanted to give me my ticket back. So it was out of the car, go grab the ticket, back to the drivers seat. Up goes the barrier, I moved forward only to be presented with a second barrier ,which only went up when the first barrier was down. I assume this is to prevent tailgating.

Eventually I was allowed to exit the garage but on the opposite side of the railway / bus / tram station. I didn’t recognise the roads so I had to program the satnag and wait for it to calculate the many thousands of possible routes. Meanwhile I was having to drive away from the garage, so as not to cause a roadblock, for those who knew where they wanted to go.

Thirty minutes, or so, later I arrived back at the hotel and we loaded our luggage into the back. And then, satnag reprogrammed for Troyes, we were off to play with the Monday morning traffic. Amazingly, the traffic was a lot lighter leaving Lyon than the previous evenings traffic had been

I have probably done Lyon a huge injustice by not spending more time as a tourist. Also, it was probably a dumb decision booking a hotel in the town centre when it was just an overnight stop.

I guess I learnt another lesson.