Summer to Fall

Once again my collection of pictures has been growing unmanageable and if I don’t post some now I will have too many when the time comes for the final farewell. These were all taken in Annecy over the past couple months.

Mountains and lake from Avenue d’Albigny
Paddle boats sit empty during the August break
Quai Napoléon III
Looking towards Saint-Jorioz from Mont Veyrier
Annecy from Mont Veyrier
Quai de Semnoz
Vieille ville from Rue de la République
Côte Saint-Maurice
The river Thiou from Rue Perrière
Mont Veyrier from Quai de la Tournette
Near Rue Sainte-Claire
Canal du Vassé
Pont des Amours
Canal du Vassé

Lyon

Another trip, another town, more pictures of churches and other random things. I’m afraid to say these posts are starting to feel a bit repetitive, at least to me. But since I did take some pictures I will go ahead and post a few and mostly let them speak for themselves.

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière

Here is the Basilica of Our Lady of Fouvrière in Lyon. It is at the top of a tall hill on the west side of town. I climbed it twice and was like to die both times (spoiler alert: I didn’t die). On the way up brass roses are set into the path at regular intervals for those who want to pray the rosary as they ascend. I wouldn’t call it a pilgrimage quite, but you will definitely burn a calorie or two on your visit if that counts as any kind of sacrifice.

The interior of the basilica is beyond incredible, possibly bordering on the ostentatious, or blowing right past. I rather loved it.

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière
La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière
Cimetière de Loyasse

Lyon also has a cathedral which by the standards of your average American church is of course magnificent, but when compared to the grand cathedrals of northern France I think is rather plain. However each of these places has their own unique charm. In spite of everything that is going on in France I am thankful they have kept these buildings open for prayer and as sanctuaries of calm away from the tumult of life.

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste
Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste
Montée des Chazeaux
Lyon from Parc des Hauteurs
Église Saint-Just de Lyon

This statue stands on the west side of the river Saône near the appeals court building. It depicts a man with an uncertain expression, having possibly just come out of the water, carrying himself.

The Weight of Oneself

Lyon is currently one of the several large cities in France under a state of maximum coronavirus alert. Masks are required everywhere indoors and out, not just in crowded areas of town as is the case in Annecy. There is a metropolitan-wide curfew from 9 PM to 6 AM during which all restaurants and businesses are closed and all persons must remain indoors except for a limited number of exceptions, and then only with an attestation. On the street beneath my hotel a roadblock was setup and manned all night, to query the few travelers that might pass by.

Rue du Président Édouard Herriot – 30 minutes to curfew

Grenoble and Chambéry

In the past few weeks I was able to visit the towns where my family lived once upon a time, ages ago. I got to see our old apartment in Grenoble, our old house in La Ravoire (which still looked exactly the same), the old schools my brother and I attended, and other places that I still have memories of from childhood.

La Ravoire – 1985 vs 2020

These towns are not known as especially famous tourists destinations or anything, but I took a few pictures anyway. First is the large-ish town of Grenoble, in south-east France, not far from Lyon. I don’t know what its claim to fame is or if it has one, but the most visible attraction is the téléphérique (cable car) that ascends from downtown up to the old Fort de la Bastille on the north side of the river. From the fort you can get great views of the city. If you want some nature, you can take a hike from the fort uphill through forests to the Mémorial National des Troupes de Montagne, higher up Mont Jalla. The views are even better from there, you can get some exercise, and if you go on a random Tuesday as I did, you may be the only person at the top.

Over the Isère on the téléphérique – Grenoble
Grenoble téléphérique

Next we have Chambéry, a small town halfway between Grenoble and Annecy. I’m sure it has no claim to fame, but it really is a picturesque, quiet, clean and very beautiful town, nestled between massive mountains. It was an idyllic place to be a kid and it doesn’t seem to have changed much over the years (by comparison Grenoble has definitely changed over the past 30 years and probably not for the better).

There is a four-sided elephant fountain in downtown Chambéry that my brothers and I always thought was very exciting. It is approaching 200 years old and the elephants are still shooting water out of their trunks.

La Fontaine des Éléphants, Chambéry

The Chambéry cathedral is not very large and looks very plain on the outside, but the inside is covered in the largest collection of trompe l’œil in all of Europe (a type of painting meant to “trick the eye”). I have to say the effect is quite convincing and it fooled me completely at first.

Cathédrale Saint François de Sales, Chambéry

I don’t know if there is any special reason why anyone needs to visit their childhood haunts again after such a long time, clear on the other side of the globe, and that is not the reason I came to France in the first place. But since I am here it seemed a shame not to, so anyway, I can now check that off the list.

Otherwise life is going on here in Annecy. I’ve been fortunate to find a Meetup group where French locals get together with expats in order to practice English and other languages and generally just to meet new people and be exposed to other cultures. For the first time in a year I am no longer a stranger wandering around in complete isolation, in fact I have a more active social life now than I did back in America (which admittedly is not saying much).

I’ve been here about two months. The beginning was stressful as usual but the adjustment was relatively quick. By now I have my familiar bakery. I go to the cathedral every day, or the basilica. I know my way all around town without looking at a map, even around the narrow windy streets of the vieille ville. I take the bus all the time hither and fro without trouble. My French is still exécrable but has at least improved to the point where interacting in stores and shops is no longer much of a problem. I quit reading the news a few months ago, I am to the point now where I strictly avoid even glancing at a headline out of the corner of my eye. I have no idea what is going on in the world, nor could I care less. Life here is beautiful, and slow. The lake reflects the enormous sky in all her moods, the trees along the river Thiou have turned yellow, snow is slowly starting to creep down the sides of the mountains, and the peaks are swirling in mists. The nights are cold, but during the day the white swans still paddle around near the shore. I bought a nice coat and some better shoes that don’t need glueing every night. People blather on in French everywhere I go, and somehow, some of those people are actually in my contacts list on my phone.

Passage de l’Île, Annecy

I started this train of thought by saying that “life is going on here in Annecy.” Indeed, without being very aware of the process at first, I have discovered that in fact I do now have a life here. I have a daily routine, my job, a place to live, friends and acquaintances, things to do. I am not itching to move on to the next place or see the next great thing. Day-to-day life is satisfying. I have no desire to leave or change or do anything different, I could stay here indefinitely and be content. In fact, I am already happy. In double fact, about the only thing that would make me unhappy at this point is if I were forced to leave.

Which, therefore, is of course precisely what I will be forced to do very soon. Back in the real world which I have managed to forget about for a while, there are still such things as visas, and bureaucracies, and coronavirus, and who knows what else that I wished there wasn’t.

But there will probably be time enough for another blog post or two before the end. I will try to keep them cheerful!