Tuesday, September 06, 2005

One day in Vieux Lyon…

Ahh, Vieux Lyon. What could be better for a first outing with the students than a jaunt through the medieval and renaissance part of town, complete with a stop at Lyon’s best ice cream parlor? Well, a lot of things would be better when it’s TEN MILLION DEGREES OUTSIDE. But I digress. Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, the outing.

Laurie had asked me to organize an optional outing for students on their first full day in Lyon. Not all of them are with host families, and some don’t know any of the other students, so this would give them something to do and a chance to meet the other kids. The last two Graduate Assistants, Ramon and Emily (oddly, one of my very close friends), had both taken the group to a café, then to the Parc de la Tête d’Or. Not that I don’t adore both of these people, but I decided to break free from the norm, and take them all skydiving. No, not really (actually, I wonder if skydiving is big in France too, and if you really could skydive in Lyon. I’ll look into it). I love Vieux Lyon and I love ice cream, so the thought of a trip that could combine the two made me very happy. Plus, sugar is good for jet-lag, right?

To prepare for the fated day, I had taken a (gasp) touristy guided tour of Vieux Lyon. Actually, it was very well done, especially since I did it in French. The Office du Tourisme, conveniently located in the middle of town at Place Bellecour, is great for things like this. Because it was raining the entire tour, I couldn’t take notes, but I did manage to memorize some things, and between that and the books various people had lent me, I could regurgitate information to my kids. Ha- they thought I was smart! It was a much better idea than I thought, this tour, because Vieux Lyon can get complicated. There’s the cathedral, Saint Jean, which has a clock with automated figures (including the Virgin during the annunciation- she looks surprised) and plays music. It’s not too impressive until you remember that it was built in the 15th century and still works. The cathedral itself actually took 250 years to build, and thus passes through a few architectural styles. Sorry, that was Tour-Guide Gina butting in. But anyway, there’s the cathedral, plus several other churches, the crowded streets, interior courtyards and the traboules. Traboules are interior passages between the narrow houses and can cross several streets. They can be especially fun, because people still live in the houses (now apartments), and so you get the thrill of passing through other people’s space and of passing through time.

But really, I wanted to talk about the visit. I met up with the kids (about eleven) and had them introduce themselves. Then I made them all go buy water. “Yes, I mean it. Yes, go! You don’t want to melt, do you? We’re going to be walking a lot!” After this grocery-store excursion came the first big hurdle- crossing the street. No, really. Traffic signals here don’t always have the same, umm, authority, that they do in the States. Sometimes cars don’t obey them, sometimes people don’t. Sometimes the only way to get cars to stop is to step out into the street. Sometimes when the crossing light is still red, you cross anyway. Which is what I made everyone do. “Go! Cross! Yes, now!” Then I saw a group of police officers and hurried past them.

It was at this point that I decided to count the number of students with me. My worst fear was (and still is) losing one of them, having one run down by a car, or get attacked by a roaming band of Lyonnais ninjas. (This fear was not helped any by the fact that the next day two students walked into the office and said “Gina, we almost got hit by a tram!”) I’ve been in charge of groups before, but never been the person who has to take them out places and be the only person in charge. I felt sort of like a mother duck being followed by her ducklings (and they really were all in a line, how sweet). Taking these students out was such a great feeling- I got to share my interests in the city and get to know them. It also increased my confidence knowing that I could do things like this. But I did almost melt.

After the counting, a few more street crossings, a bridge crossing and a nice little Centre Oregon line to get ice cream (yum, violet ice cream) we were on our way. After a bit of time in the cathedral, we met up with my friend Marc, who had agreed to help with the tour. Marc and I met in Eugene, where we were both French GTFs, and then he came back to Lyon, where he’s from. I figured a native would be an asset to the outing. At this point, it is still very hot, we’ve been out for about an hour, and the kids are still jet-lagged. Marc and I, in typical Gina and Marc style, then took them on a long, meandering tour of the streets of Vieux Lyon. We wove in and out of streets, courtyards and traboules. We shared information, both useful and random in both French and English. We couldn’t tell if the students were bored or just tired. Everyone was still really hot. Finally, a group broke off to leave. We walked the rest of them around for a while longer, then got them all back to Place Bellecour, where it took about fifteen minutes to explain to everyone how to get home on their various metros and buses and tramways. Marc and I then collapsed into a café, while I worried that people would get lost in the metro and we’d never see them again. Sometimes I worry too much. Everyone did make it back, though, and after resisting the urge to throw myself into one of the rivers, I eventually sort of cooled off.


At 2:02 PM, Blogger April said...

I will definitely have to hire you as my tour guide next time I'm in Lyon. But only if you promise to speak English.

The new blog looks spectacular, by the way. :)

At 9:13 PM, Anonymous Beth said...

Hey G! I'm glad you're doing well in Lyon. Can you email me your address? I have something I need to send you. Thanks!


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