Hopping on a plane and meeting up with Caroline in London just sounded too fun and jet set to pass up! So glad she had the idea and included me in it. Though two-ish days proved to definitely not be enough to see and do everything, I think we did all right… we definitely SAW all we could even if we didn’t get the chance to necessarily DO it. There was a museum workers strike (guess the French aren’t the only Europeans good at striking) just on the day we wanted to do museums, which was a bummer because they looked pretty cool (as far as museums go) and were all free! But we saw the sights, from a bus AND from a boat: Big Ben (turns out, no so big), Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Parliament, Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, plus everything that an American would expect to see in London and thus delight in seeing: the double-decker buses, red telephone booths, palace guards with funny hats, black cabs, Top Shop (I missed out on Abbey Road though, whoops). See what I did manage to see here in my pictures.
However, after spending so many months surrounded by the French, London did not meet my hopeful expectation to bask in the capital of everything Anglophone. On my first tube ride (the London Underground whose branding you’ll definitely recognize, really genius for its consistency and versatility), I heard so many languages, including French (dammit) and all kinds of others for which I have no capacity to identify. Very international. And of the ones that did speak English, their accent kind of annoyed me… maybe I’m over the whole British-accents-are-awesome thing? At least I got a good fill of English-speaking television. Gilmore Girls, Friends, The Hills, but the icing had to be Ferris Bueller. London did definitely fulfill its stereotypes as far as weather goes. We got to experience the perfectly London-y clouds and rain.
I also found myself really loving the architecture and just walking around on the pavement (NOT sidewalk) and enjoying it. It’s kind of a “duh” moment, but I could really see how American cities like Boston, New York and even D.C. were influenced by “Old” England. The buildings actually varied, not like France’s one town, one look rule, and I like how they are prim and decorated, but not overly so. Usually, I evaluate cities I visit by whether or not I could or would live in them. For example, cities like Washington D.C., San Francisco and Boston all get “yeses,” whereas New York, Paris and Atlanta are more like “nos.” Obviously, two days are not enough to completely evaluate a city or its people, but London’s leaning towards a “yes.” I at least know I’d like to go back! Hopefully with someone else whose company is as lovely and enjoyable as Miss Caroline!
I continued the SJA Class of 2005 Reunion by seeing Laura Rachal both before and after the London trip. She was so sweet to open up her apartment to not only me to catch my flight, but also three of my fellow Besançon assistants so we could tour Lyon, her current home. Her tour guiding skills and tips were fantastic and so above and beyond, if you read this, Laura, MERCI!
Lyon is either France’s second or third biggest city; they still seem to be arguing with Marseille about who gets the silver behind Paris (extra points for the timely Olympics reference?). But who cares, really? The buildings are so colorful! I know I’ve already complained about Besançon ’s monochromatic color scheme for awhile (or at least since November), but I never notice how much a difference it makes until I’m in a city with an actual color palette not involving 15 shades of gray. A small Lyon-Besançon connection? The Lumière Brothers, the inventors of movies, were born in my town and later made their cinematic success in Lyon. Another famous son of Besançon? Victor Hugo. So basically Besançon’s significance is birthing people who promptly left to make their successes elsewhere. Didn’t make it to the Lumière Brothers museum (not really my week for museums) but it worked out great that everything we did was free (except for eating and buying aviators at H&M). Mostly walking and sightseeing and searching for ice cream, all for which Lyon is a pretty good town. Including a National Tresure-esque walk through the traboules, passageways leftover from Lyon’s silk trading past. Pictures? Of course.
Other than the company, the food, and the colorful buildings, the best thing about Lyon was definitely the weather. I know the city and Laura Rachal didn’t actually bring the temperature up to a wonderful 15°C (about 60°F… basically perfect) or coax the sky into a gorgeously clear and perfect blue for most of the day, but I’ll always be very appreciative to them for it.