I used to think my immunity to kids many illnesses was iron-clad, until this year. I have come down with everything I’ve encountered. It ended up being an quick induction to Italian health care, which has in equal parts infuriated and impressed me. The latest was a stomach flu which knocked me off my feet for a cool 24 hours. It began the night of Luca’s graduation. We’d spent the afternoon celebrating, and ended up at the train station to buy tickets for our upcoming trip to Lyon. As we waited in line, I started think as if the combination of sparkling wine and espresso was a bad idea. It was about 5:50pm, and I excused myself to the restroom. Luca kindly accompanied me, as you often have to pay for the use of public restrooms, and I wasn’t sure of the procedure. When we arrived back at the ticket office, it was closed. This should have been an indication of what was to come of our trip to France.
On Saturday, two days later (during which the flu took over my life, turned my stomach inside out, and then back again) we woke up to depart. Luca started to feel ill, and we knew immediately what he was in for. He spent the next two hours experiencing the same hell I’d just exited; but I will stray from unnecessary descriptions. Because we’d been planning this trip for over a month, and we were meeting friends from the US, we decided to try and go anyway. We took the car, which would provide us with some flexibility if he needed a travel break. In about an hour and a half we reached France and snow, and Luca was hanging in there..
In a total of 3.5 hours, we reached Lyon. What I’d not planned on was loosing reception while in France, so our GPS didn’t work once we had hit the boarder. Within the first few turns in the city limits of Lyon we were lost, even though our hotel was supposed to be within 5 miles. Once you’re lost in a foreign city, you’re LOST. We pulled over on an tried to distinguish one Rue from another, and made it to the hotel about 40 minutes later. Now we were at the 4 hour mark. Luca was turning green and we were hours late meeting our friends. We circled the block and quickly realized that parking would be an issue. I hopped out to check-in and let our friends know we arrived, thinking it would take Luca a half hour or so, tops. In the end, Luca drove around for 2 more hours. TWO HOURS. By the time he got our of the car it was all he could do to walk to the hotel and sleep.
My lovely friends Meagan and Dave, and I stepped out into the late afternoon in a city nothing short of magical. As in turns out we were one weekend early for the Festival of Lights in Lyon, where the entire city puts out an inspiring array of artistic lights to celebrate Mary. Many of the lights were already up and it is a sight I will forever remember. We settled into a quiet restaurant and filled each other in on our lives over a few drinks. There is something very special about traveling far and wide to meet up with people you love, in unknown cities. This delightful feeling wont ever loose its charm for me. After a dinner with the four of us in a swanky spot, and a quick stop at a wine bar, we all happily headed back to the hotel. As they were still recovering from a late night in Paris, and Luca and I from our day of travels.
In the morning we woke to snow, and a quiet quiet city. We wandered a French farmers market, stocked with Christmas trees, unique gifts, fantastic food and hot wine. We got comfortable in a tiny river restaurant, and had a few glasses to warm ourselves. Meandering through the city along the river we couldn’t help but be drawn to the hill where a large cathedral takes over the skyline. We crossed the river and began the assent through the tiny alleys and glittering shops to the church. I grabbed a crepe, and enjoyed every sweet gooey bite.
Along the way up we caught a view of the city. The icy street turned into a snowy path, with pops of yellow flowers for contrast.
Reaching the top we devoured another steaming glass of hot wine, and enjoyed the view with the few others braving the cold. Later stepping inside the massive cathedral, we enjoyed a few quiet moments. There is nothing like a crumbling church floors and walls from many people passing in and out, to remind you of what really matters. We gazed at the stained glass, lit a prayer candle, and quietly made our way back down the mountain.
Around 5, after a late lunch, we headed back to our car to return home. The nightmare of our previous travel day was a distant memory, and Luca was feeling much better. As we trudged through the snow with our luggage and arrived at our car, we slowed to a stop. We were blocked in by another car. After about 20 or so minutes of each of us trying to get out, it was confirmed; we wouldn’t be going anywhere. We left our bags and walked back to the hotel.. it was now dark, bellow freezing, and snowing. The concierge was kind enough to call the police for us, and we were assured they would come; after they finished some other business. Our friends oh-so-kindly joined us, after I tearfully explained what was happening. Back at the car, the boys had a second round of trying to get it out. In their lowest moment, they tried to lift the other car out of its spot, to no avail.
After an hour, we asked countless passersby to call for us. Though very few people spoke English, they could see our situation clearly and helped us out. The result was always the same; the police would come after they finished something else. A sad silence fell over our small group, and we took turns warming up in the car. Around hour two, a woman came down from the building to take her dog out to relieve itself. She peered over at the four of us, and made her way over. She too was enraged that someone would block us, as she has had a similar problem being a homeowner in this area. She took it upon herself to ring the bell of all the neighbors, in search of the cars owner. We knew better than to be hopeful, and we not surprised that the effort was fruitless. Though many apartment inhabitants looked down from their windows to see who was calling, no one claimed the car. We thanked her for her help, and insisted she warmed herself in her home.
As luck would have it, she insisted we come up as well. We cautiously climbed the stairs to her third floor beautifully decorated Napoleon era flat, not fully comprehending our decision. This turn of events turned into a evening that didn’t make sense until the next morning. As she dragged on her cigarette, she explained to her husband why, at 9:00pm on a Sunday, had brought up guests. He, carefully stroking his moustache, slowly warmed to the idea, and over the next few hours she (from Paris) and her husband (from Mexico city), told us of their love story. Pulling out appetizers and cocktails, we gave up trying to make sense of the evening and sat back to listen. Living in many countries, having three beautiful daughters (they pulled out all their albums) and experiencing many struggles; their life wasn’t easy- but it sure was colorful..
The next morning, (no, the police never came, and we lugged everything back to the hotel for another night), over cafe au lait, Luca expressed his belief that though this chaotic weekend presented many trials; we were destined to meet this couple. As an inspiration for a lifestyle; full of spontaneity, rich in culture, and strong in love.
**Only pictures I had from my phone, can’t find any on my camera. Meagan, Dave; help me out?!