Bourges

In spite of our hotel being right next to a large church, their bell stayed silent and therefore it didn’t wake us up in the morning. ‘No Sunday survive, today?’, we wondered as we got ready to check out from the hotel.

A quiet Sunday morning…

I left mum and some of our luggage on a side street and went to the car park and retrieve our car. That morning, we were heading to Bourges, 342km away from Lyon.

Lyon to Bourges!
Bourges, here we come!

After 4 hours on the road, we arrived at Bourges in early afternoon. The streets were virtually empty and the whole place seemed to be having a nap after a Sunday lunch.

Where is everybody?

I left mum in a hotel lobby and moved our car to a cobbled side street. The inside of the hotel was as quiet as the outside. And it took for a while until a receptionist to notice our arrival. ‘So sorry. I didn’t realise that you are here!’, she apologised and handed us card keys.

Our room was on the second floor and it had a large window facing a courtyard.

Sumptuous beds to stretch out!

After unpacking some of the luggage, we decided to explore Bourges’ old town centre.

Only a few people on the streets

Originally, Bourges was inhabited by the Gauls until Julius Caesar’s forces captured and destroyed it in 52 BC. The Romans reconstructed the town in the Roman style with aqueducts, Roman baths and an amphitheatre. Julius Caesar himself was fond of the place and as a result, the place was substantially equipped and fortified as a stronghold.

In the 12th century, Bourges became a royal city. It was because Eudes Arpin, the Viscount of Bourges, sold his possessions to Philip I, the king of France, in order to finance his crusade. In 1137, his second son, Louis VII, was crowned in the old Cathedral of Bourges while his young wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, presided. If you are into history of medieval Europe like me, the name like Eleanor of Aquitaine really excite you, doesn’t it? She ran away from her religious husband and into the arms of Henry II of Plantagenet! And this Henry, his feud with Thomas Becket, aka Saint Thomas of Canterbury! It’s so enticing…

After negotiating a few cobbled streets on foot, we reached at the perimeter of the old town centre.

Over the stair into the town centre

Beyond the stone stairs, there was Palais Jacques Coeur, a palatial house of a (very) wealthy French man. And I am going to write about our visit in my next entry!:)

Light traveller

This morning, I saw a traffic warden on our street for the first time since the lockdown has started.

They were standing a lot closer…

While the warden was issuing a ticket, a few construction workers came out from a building site nearby and approached him, protesting about the penalty. At one stage, the distance between them was less than 1m even though the confrontation lasted nearly 5 minutes. ‘Gee, is it really necessary? Where is the social-distancing rule?’ I was biting my lips while I was watching the exchange.

Issuing parking fines to construction workers, who weren’t banned from working but also were discouraged to use public transports, was one thing but also sending out those traffic wardens to the street without appropriate protections was another thing I really wanted to question Hackney Council. Sure, they would want to recoup some revenue they lost during the lockdown. But they must also remember that they had their duty to protect everyone from the virus.

Ok, it’s enough for my corona moaning.

As I mentioned in the previous post that mum and I were not light travellers even though we wished to be one. We would love to travel with a minimum luggage like a small carry-on each, instead of being laden with multiple bags of all sizes and makes like Samwise “Sam” Gamgee in The Lords of the Rings and trudging on down the street.

Sam, you travel in style…

When I fantasise about being an light traveller, one image pops up in my mind is a TV advert I watched when I was a teenager. In it, a guy in a pair of faded Levi’s 501 slipped his passport in to the rear pocket and casually walked towards a departure. Needless to say, he had no luggage to hamper his style. Oh, how we would love to be unshackled like him but sadly it would not gonna happen. Do you know why? Let me explain.

We stayed at Le Boulvardier and this was their reception / bar area.

Funky decor, huh?

We didn’t see the staffs when we arrived because the bar was closed then.

A view towards the bar entrance from the street.

During our road trip, we discovered that the majority of the hotels we stayed didn’t have a coffee maker or a hairdryer in the room. We, especially mum, loved drinking coffee and having no facility to make one in our room was a big headache. I imagined that the hotels expected us to go out and have our caffeine fix at cafes nearby. But mum didn’t like French style coffee (she preferred American style) and also she wanted to drink it and relax in the privacy of our own room. ‘I don’t want to go out for coffee first thing in the morning!’, mum would moan.

So, my solution was storing everything we imagined we would need during the holiday, such as a kettle, a hairdryer and a yoga mat(!) in the boot, and bring it (or them) to our room when necessary.

Le Boulvardier’s room was one of those minimalist kinds with very basic amenities – no coffee maker and no hairdryer.

‘Good job that we decided to bring a kettle and a hairdryer from the car then!’

If the car park was near the hotel, I wouldn’t have minded doing a few trips to transport our necessities to our room. However, the parking at Lyon was more than a few streets away from our hotel and therefore I decided to bring everything, a kettle, a hairdryer, cups, etc.

Shame, we didn’t drink at the bar!

One day, we should try to be light travellers by setting a baggage allowance, like one carry-on each. I bet it won’t be easy but we probably can learn to live with a little bit of inconvenience and even enjoy it as an out of ordinary experience…

Exploring Lyon

We alighted the metro at Hôtel de Ville and came out to Place des Terreau. As we approached the square, we saw some white tents and an event was underway.

What is this all about?

It turned out that the event was promoting Paris 2024 Olympics game, letting kids ride stationary bikes and doing some ball games on a makeshift turf.

How could anyone in the square ever imagine Tokyo 2020 would have to be postponed? I sincerely hope we all can cheer the Olympians and Paralympians in 2021 without the fear of COVID-19.

Musée des Beaux-Arts
Fontaine Bartholdi
Hôtel de Ville

‘Shall we walk around the south side of the square as they recommended it?’

One of the shop assistants, who helped mum to choose a pair of sandals after our unsuccessful visit to Monoprix, suggested that the area would have more private shops than Rue de la République area.

Looks promising!

True to her recommendation, we saw more than a few interesting shops along Rue Romaine and Rue Saint-Polycarpe. I bought a canvas tote bag and mum bought some beautiful cards.

Vintage and handmade gems!

After satisfying our pleasure shopping urge, we strolled down Rue Désirée and came out to Place Louis Pradel…

Warm Saturday afternoon
Lovely weather!

As we headed towards a metro station, we encountered a crowd coming out of Opéra National de Lyon and much to our delight, they started singing and dancing!

Carefree joy of pre-coronavirus…

I will most definitely dance in the street when the world is free from this nasty virus, COVID-19!!

Lyon, oh Lyon…

The lockdown has entered its second week and we are coping OK so far. We have established a kind of routine and started to feel less stressed about the new normal. Having said that, having too much time on our hands isn’t that great, is it?

Bella is sad about having to stay indoor…

During the time like this, I should be diving into updating my blog. However, I end up fiddling with my iPhone, checking Facebook, Instagram, BBC app, etc… instead. I must be more disciplined and productive.

So here we go. I’m gonna recount our time in Lyon!

Mmm…, I have only myself to blame but the memories of our stay in Lyon are rather hazy and patchy. For nearly two years, they have been left alone in my head and now I find them fading fast like vintage photographs!

A hotel I booked at Lyon was a rather strange one. I can’t recall how I got hold a key to our room – maybe it was through an instruction via Booking.com – we had to let ourselves in and find the room.

Staircase was rather sweep…
The decor was eclectic and fun!

Our room was simple but pleasantly decorated and had a high ceiling and a tall window.

Airy and inviting

Our window was filled by the view of a local church. Would a church bell wake us up the next morning, we wondered.

Beautiful, huh?

After sorting out our luggage, we decided to visit another Monoprix on Rue de la République for mum’s favourite top.

I wished if we were light travellers!

‘Shall we have some lunch here?’ We saw a vegetarian cafeteria around the corner and decided to grab late lunch.

Yummy!

We ordered two lasagnes, one with mixed beans and another one with courgette.

After lunch, we strolled towards the Monoprix…

Early summer in Lyon…

It was Saturday afternoon so the streets were busy with locals and tourists.

The style of the buildings reminded me the one in Paris…

Ornate and elegant…
A tram!

The video reminds me how precious our “ordinary everyday” is. Under this COVID-19 lockdown, we can’t do anything normal, such as sauntering in town, meeting up with friends or going out for drink. Streets are deserted and filled with the fear of virus. How sad is that!

The street then was filled with pedestrians…

The sun was shining…
Balloons!

We looked for mum’s top at the Monoprix but it was sold out. She was disappointed but I consoled her that we would try another store if we come across it.

‘Let’s catch a metro from here!’

On y va!

The ride would be only one stop to Hôtel de Ville but I wanted to reduce the burden on mum’s knee…

Stroll around Sisteron

Our impression of the town was “quiet”. We saw not many people on the streets, locals or visitors, even though it was the beginning of tourist season. We scratched our heads as we wandered around the town centre.

It was an early Friday afternoon and the weather was fine as you can see on the photo. However, there was hardly any pedestrian in the town! What is going on?

A better view of the amazing ridge was available from the citadel but mum didn’t want to tax her left knee so we decided to walk to a viewing point near the river.

We walked through a short tunnel and came out to the riverside…

Until we visited Sisteron, we never saw anything like it so we were very much impressed by the sight. ‘Isn’t it amazing?’, mum gazed up towards the summit as I read the information board by the handrail.

After admiring the ridge, we walked back towards our hotel, hoping to find a supermarket…

Hmm…, where is everyone and where is a supermarket? Apart from a couple of souvenir shops, there was no shop or cafe opened in our sight.

At one of the souvenir shops, mum came across the exact tea towels, which she bought in Avignon, being sold much cheaper, and she was rightfully disappointed. ‘Oh dear, I seemed to have paid a premium price!’, she huffed irritably.

We tried another part of the town, hoping if there was any grocery shop…

But no, there was no such luck…

A bakery was firmly shut! No croissant or cake was available.

After escorted mum to the hotel, I went out to scout for a grocery shop…

Eventually, I found one shop which sold basic stuffs like milk and bread. The place didn’t look great and the shop mistress was rather grumpy but I was happy to replenish our supplies.

A thunderous rain came down in the early evening after I came back from a shopping expedition.

The sky went dark all the sudden and the rain came down with such ferocity, we were pretty shocked. ‘Aren’t we lucky, mum?’, we nodded in agreement. I said so because during the time we visited France, the weather was pretty awful. With some luck, we had been dodging all the bad spells.

Let’s have our fingers crossed! We nodded and munched on pains au chocolat I brought back from the shop…

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