Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Lyon, Day 2.


Hoh boy. That was pretty wild. Three countries in less than 24 hours (I had to fly in from Lyon to Milano before taking the train to Switzerland)....twice. Pretty fast and confusing trip, especially because in Switzerland everyone speaks 4 or 5 languages so when you arrive there and you first meet people it is difficult to figure out which one to choose to start with (Italian, as it turns out, was the correct choice in this case). But, it was pretty neat to spend a couple of hours in-between trip connections strolling down to the Piazza Duomo in Milan, with its neighboring glass-ceilinged Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and the doves and children in the piazza--brought back some nice childhood memories. Neat, too, departing from Lyon airport with the futuristic beetle-in-flight train station designed by my favorite architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava. {shrug}

Anyway, today I went on a rather exhaustive (and exhausting) tour of old Lyon organized by the Youth Hostel (free!) and given by a very knowledgeable and sprightly little old man who gave explanations twice as long as necessary: the first one in French, which I could understand only minimally, and the second one in Franglais, which I could understand even less. Still, it was pretty neat seeing the old traboules, which are little indoor alleyways shortcutting streets by transversing through patios and inside of buildings. These alleyways were built around the 4th century, but are still used to this day (if you know where to find them), and were rather useful at first for French resistance fighters to quickly disappear and confuse the invading Nazi army. That is, until the Nazis figured out where the traboules were, and simply pursued the fighters into them, while another Nazi soldier waited at the exit at the other side. Fine death traps they became then.

Anyway, after that since it was a very hot day I hung out at some of the Lyon museums, including the miniatures museum which was kind of amusing and even had some very nicely done wooden sculptures on an end of a matchstick, and the silk museum, which I found rather boring (Lyon together with Valencia was one of the most important silk trading cities in Europe), but mostly because the exhibits were more focused on the fashion and "beauty" of the patterns of the silk, than in the historical significance of the silk trade, though they did have one nice mini-explanation on how silk is produced and woven into different kinds of cloth, including why some of them have sheen while some have a matte finish, with explanatory diagrams and everything. I then headed over to the Museum of the Resistance (or, more correctly, the Centre d'Histoire de la Rèsistance et de la Dèportation), which is housed in the building where the resistance fighters were kept and tortured before being deported off to concentration camps, but luckily I arrived there only one-half hour before closing, because I found the exhibit a bit too depressing to stay much longer anyways.

So, all in all, a tiring day, but informative.

In the evening I strolled over to the Grande Pharmacie Lyonnaise, which sells every beauty and bath product you can imagine: lip balms, hand creams, anti-aging creams, moisturizers, exfoliators, soaps, medicinal teas, sun-screen--in short, a woman's paradise, and even a few men's judging by the number of them at the register and the volume of male-marketed products on display (yes, moisturizer, exfoliators, and anti-aging--in this case called anti-wrinkle--creams included!) as well. The variety of brands, too, for each kind of product is awe-inspiring also: Vichy, Origins, RoC, Saint-Gervais, Neutrogena, Biotherm, Klorane, Aderma, you name it. A lifetime wouldn't be enough to try all of the products on sale here. Unbelievable!

Oh, by the way, how to turn yourself into the heroine of the 6 people sharing your Youth Hostel room: use a little bit of 3 in 1 oil that I brought for oiling the bike chain on the hinges of the dorm room that have been squeaking each hour throughout the night as the roomies stumble in from drunken partying. The looks of awe, respect, and thanks that follow as you quietly test a now perfectly silent doorway without a word can be rather amusing...

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