12 June, Friday
I didn’t get a chance last night to write more than four words at Aux Trois Maries (a very nice restaurant in the old town, in a little cobbled square, Place de la Baleine) because the pretty, friendly waitresses kept bringing me stuff. A guy took the payment – he insisted – but I made sure to tell one of the girls there was a tenner with it, between the two of them. After that I went to L’Antidote (pub), only breaking out briefly to have a look at Johnny Walsh’s back up the street. A girl from Lancashire was serving there. A bottle of Heineken later I was back in L’Antidote, telling my new French pals, “C’était merde, j’étais curieux” before I realized I’d left my red cap behind.
It’s cloudy today so it doesn’t matter about the cap. I’m in the hotel as I write, near three. A black lad at reception gave me the wrong room yesterday, he seemed a bit confused, mixing me up with another Irish name with a ‘y’ in it (“Hooley”), and I won’t see what I paid for until tomorrow. This one’s a fiver cheaper, in theory. I didn’t demand a refund. It was hot, I’d showered immediately and then he came a-knocking so I packed my stuff and went downstairs with my bag. I’d paid him by the time he gave me the receipt with no. 115 instead of no. 114 on it. I asked was no. 115 my actual room and then he tippexed out the number before writing 114 on it. The same room. I told him I’d packed my bag and all, assuming I’d be moved, to correct his mistake.
“J’ai rangé mes effets.”
“Mais vous l’avez déjà utilisée,” he responded.
I had felt the need to tell him about using the shower, of course. At least I still have a double bed, a bathroom and I’m away from the street. Was it cock crow when I heard the breakfast cutlery being plonked out, nearby? Outside my window, it’s like being down a well. So much for the cour I was promised by email. I suppose it’s my own fault for forgetting to print off the booking.
In the garden of the Musée des Beaux Arts I came to the part of Gentleman Thief where Peter Scott robbed Aspinall. In L’Antidote last night I realized it’s one of those books that, a quarter into it, I regret there are only three quarters left. After lunch in the museum café – the terrace was understandably réservé – I bought half a dozen art postcards in the shop. I must get dressed now for the Fourvière ascent.
The rain came around six. By then I was having a burger and chips around the corner near Passage St. Vincent. It was what I felt like. I’d done the long, steep climb of steps and paths to the Basilica.
Sweat was dripping from my head but on top there was a cool breeze and room to sit in peace. From there I went to see the extensive Roman ruins with the two theatres still in use, fronted by modern concert stages. Back down on rue de Boeuf, via the steep Montée des Chazeaux, I was fortunate to be passing the doorway of the long traboule just as two quite elderly French couples (also tourists) were hesitantly going in. I followed and emerged near an empty pizzeria playing Brassens’ Les passantes.
I’m just past the half-way point of Gentleman Thief, having finished the chapter where he impaled himself on a railing trying to escape from a break-in. It’s an extraordinary book, even allowing for the odd sleazy sexual episode. His fondness for fellow Irish people is a constant; he explicitly rejects the bigotry of his Northern Irish Presbyterian background. More importantly, the book is constantly exciting, constantly surreal, constantly funny.
When I got back to the hotel a bunch of Americans were trying to check in. A woman among them turned to me and asked was there a lift, as they had “boxes and boxes” of wine outside. I said there wasn’t but didn’t bother adding that I was in the wrong room. Transporting a sensationally heavy cellar up a winding stair was their own daunting mission, should they choose to accept it and not just leave the wine shop where they parked. It’s ten o’clock. I must get ready and go down to L’Antidote again, for a few bottles. No pints tonight. I want a clear head for dealing with reception in the morning.
13 June, Saturday
Reception clarified the matter on the way out last night. The pale girl with the red hair said I’d be staying where I am; that the room was of the same quality as what I’d booked. I wasn’t complaining. That cut down on the packing. On the way down to L’Antidote it was still raining and I cut on spec into Johnny Walsh’s where the English girl presented my cap on request. Who knows what sun tomorrow may bring? I had a drink there again. It’s nearby other half, Johnny’s Kitchen, seems to be the half with life, young life, although all the scattering in the cap place were young too. L’Antidote was almost empty apart from a birthday party in the basement but I only wanted a few bottles. Franck (the owner) and I kept each other company until one. I wouldn’t have any trace of a hangover. The most to bear overnight and in the morning was the amplified sounds in the well and on the winding stair.
I must make an effort before dark to get up to Croix-Rousse. This morning I did the long walk across the Presqu’île (the peninsula between the rivers) to the Resistance & Deportation museum but at least it was on level ground. The sun is back. Before and after I took a look inside, there, I sat in the tree-ringed courtyard and thought it peaceful for a venue that had hosted Klaus Barbie and so much torture in the Forties. Most of the buildings are now college blocks.
After that I returned to the hotel for a second shower and some more kip. Before eating I wandered around the Vieux Lyon quartier that was packed like ants at a picnic and threaded with long queues for ice cream.
Though I took the Croix-Rousse métro (C-R is the hill north of the peninsula) from Hôtel de Ville, I was still melting aboard. There was nothing up there, I saw, except the view, but I sat by the statue in the square. Seated nearby, a husky mamie was teaching English words to two very small boys with roundy glasses. I gave them “mobile” and “cell phone” (“Ça dépend du pays”). Before they left she told them, “Dis au revoir au Monsieur” and they did, in unison. “Au revoir mes petits,” I replied.
From there I walked all the way down again, stretching the legs in a different manner. A fourth shower followed before I headed to L’Antidote. The air was changing but I hadn’t been out in it enough, right then, to feel it properly and even thought the constant flashes to the south could be lights from an event at the Roman theatres. They weren’t. The thunder came into earshot around the time the first drops fell.
I was soaked by the time I got to the packed pub, despite breaks in a couple of doorways. Clermont lost narrowly to Stade Français in the French rugby final and that emptied it like a yanked bath plug. “Qui a gagné?” asked the Lancashire girl then, of a chap beside me. She’d been drafted in for the match. The clear-out also made the wet t-shirt more uncomfortable, as the temperature inside dropped. I had to come back and change. Franck gave me an umbrella and later insisted I keep it but I gave it to two girls on the way back to the hotel, after closing time. They were searching in a doorway for something to protect them. I had a plastic mac over my head by then.
“Vous voulez? La parapluie.”
I threw it on the wet step. I pointed up at the mac, then down at the umbrella.
“J’ai besoin de ça, pas de ça.”
“Thank youuu!” I heard behind me.
It’s the early hours and I can hear a TV. It must be the original dude, downstairs. He was watching in an annex when I got back but I’m not tired enough yet to be annoyed. I’ve closed my window, it’s a bit better. My head still boils. Read more of the book. You’ll be out of here by eleven in the morning. Without a hangover. This trip was quite a workout.