Monday, July 30, 2012

Up the Saone

A chalet in the Beaujolais region

It may have been the steak tartare in the outdoor cafe. Or perhaps the soft, very stinky cheese we had bought Sunday and were still eating Tuesday night. Or even, I suppose, the beautiful sausage with its white skin and dark red and white filling. It's even possible it had nothing to do with food but was just a bug left on a museum railing by someone who hadn't washed their hands.

When you feel really sick, you spend a lot of time trying to figure out how you got that way, but in the end (and that pun is intended) it makes no difference.

I awoke the morning we had to go from Paris to Lyon with a bad tum and Stage 2 diarrhoea. Stage 2 is when the first Immodium has no impact at all. I try to avoid Stage 2 because, although it usually works, it often overdoes its job. Not only is the crack in the dam plugged, but it may be days before any of the water finds its way down the sluice.

All in all the trip to Lyon was about as easy as could be. Taxi to the station, porter to the train, sleep like the dead until just outside Lyon, drag the bags to a taxi, check in, sleep like the dead for four hours, go to dinner and marvel at what it feels like not to come close to finishing your plate and quickly back to the room and sleep like the dead for 10 hours.

I can add that LK was not up to par, either, but seemed to be at about 20 percent of my condition. The best news to report is that the next morning we both woke after our long sleeps and were miraculously restored. Maybe too soon to try coffee, but lunch loomed large and how are you going to have lunch in France without a glass of rose?

So, tums all better, we boarded the river cruiser in sweltering heat, ready to join the dozens of Americans who, we assumed, had flown in to tour the Beaujolais and Burgundy wine districts with us. That had been our expectation since we had booked through an American tour organizer and their web site talked all about the flights Americans would be taking to get to Lyon.

Apparently our tour company wasn't quite as successful as they may have hoped. Our first hint was when we were approached in the reception area by the maitre d' who asked if we were with the Gate1 tour. How perceptive of him, I thought, because we were. Right after that the man in charge of excursions asked if were with Gate1 and said we had to choose between two conflicting excursions on the last day of the cruise. I better started to understand what was going on when I looked on his screen and saw that LK and I were the only two listed from Gate1.

A few moments later she explained to me that she had already understood what was happening because of what the maitre d' had said.

I, of course, had nodded and pretended as if my hearing was perfect and even gave an answer to what I assumed his question was. The fact is he had told us that there were only two English speaking couples booked on the cruise and would we mind if the other couple joined us at our table in the dining room. I did not come close to guessing what he was asking and yet it did not stop me from immediately saying no to his request.

The 1,000-year-old Abbey at Cluny

I am sure he must have assumed I am the most anti-social, uncharitable man he had met in ages. Oh wait, the boat is full of Germans. Cancel that last thought.

Anyhow, that night in the dining room LK sorted out our apparent lack of hospitality and we were joined by what the maitre d' called "the other American couple". My ears, unnaturally sharp this time, heard Tony say, "We jist chicked in" and I knew we had met a couple of New Zealanders. Who, by the way, have turned out to be very interesting and entertaining and have definitely made the trip more enjoyable. Since the four of us are lumped together for every excursion and meal as the only four English speakers on the cruse, I hope they aren't too unhappy to be saddled with us, as well. We are all learning what it is to be a member of the minority.

The first few days of the tour involved going up the Saone River to Macon, where we toured the Beaujolais wine region, and Cluny, a fantastic medieval abbey that at one time was the largest church in the Catholic world. The next day we walked around Chalons sur Saone and then took a bus tour to Cormatin,  where we wandered around a castle built
during the reign of Louis XIII. The gardens have been re-created in that period's manner and they were especially beautiful.

Yesterday back to Lyon and we just had the wander around that we didn't take on Bad Tum Day. And today we have gone through a dozen locks on the Rhone River on our way to Avignon. We will spend the next few days in the Provence region here in the south of France where the weather is classic mid-summer Mediterranean. In other words, gorgeous.

The internet connection here is so bad I am not going to even try to upload pictures to Shutterfly. I will wait until Thursday night when we are back in Paris, overnighting before our flight home.
The gardens at Cormatin Castle

One final observation from this trip. After dinner Saturday night the bar was having a bit of a trivia quiz/ dance party (it is that kind of ship, we are discovering). We wandered in for a nightcap and stood somewhat dumbstruck as we watched seven or eight oder German couples cavorting on the dance floor, dancing to "Hava Nagila". They where loudly hummung the notes because they didn't know the words, of course, but they did seem to be having a grand time trying to replicate the Jewish folk dance. It's not the first time I have wished I understood German so I could figure out what they were saying.

Lyons from the Old Town

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