We had a very nice three-week holiday in France in May and the beginning of June. The main reason why we had to go in France was to participate in my sister’s wedding celebrations in Toulouse but we also decided to go back to Lyon, the city where Christina and I studied more than fifteen years ago. We managed to meet our friends, visit a lot of places we knew and a few we didn’t and, most importantly, made Anya and Kyan discover the beauty and culture of this great country.
Leaving Mauritius, transiting in Dubai and arriving in Paris
We left Mauritius on 21 May on an Emirates Airbus A380, transited in Dubai before arriving in Paris on 22 May. Emirates was a wonderful experience for all of us compared to the other airlines we already knew and we felt that its reputation was well deserved. The service aboard was top-notch and the A380 had very good legroom for such a tall guy as myself. The on-board entertainment system, ICE, was very well designed and featured a great collection of music, series, movies and games. Dubai was also a first for us. We were not amazed by the duty-free shops (which we believed were somewhat expensive) but I loved the fact that we could relax between the two flights and that I could take a shower. This allowed me to arrive in good shape (and ready to party!) in Paris.
Driving to Normandie
The next day, on 23 May, my uncle offered to drive us to Normandie to discover his secondary residence in Saint-Pierre-Azif, a small village not very far from the coast. On arriving there, we could easily picture scenes from the 1900’s with ladies in their large dresses, gentlemen in their striped swimsuits and driving vintage automobiles. We went to Deauville for lunch where we met Delphine, a good friend of the family, and her two children. We spent some time walking on the beach at Deauville and I can tell you that the sea was cold. No wonder no one was swimming… My uncle asked me to drive to Trouville and then to Honfleur, a typical fishing town in Normandie. Honfleur was brimming with life, with a live concert taking place and loads and loads of people, both foreigners and locals, enjoying the atmosphere. Driving in France was easier than I thought. In fact, it’s much easier to drive there than in Mauritius.
Discovering Parc Astérix in Paris
Anya and Kyan wanted to experience an amusement park again (after having discovered Universal Studio in Los Angeles and Disneyland Paris in 2011). On 24 May, we opted for Parc Astérix because Christina had already gone there fifteen years ago and had great memories. Angela, my aunt, managed to obtain discounted tickets and we spent the whole day there. We had glorious weather and it was a public holiday as well, which meant that the park was full. We had to wait quite a lot to get on the rides, and we even skipped some of them because the lines were too long, but it was ok. As Anya and Kyan were too young (and Christina and I getting too old…), we opted not to do the scariest rides. The fact that we were constantly hearing people screaming was not very reassuring too. We enjoyed the delphinarium which featured an excellent dolphin show.
Visiting Le Louvre and stumbling upon Thierry
Believe it or not, we hadn’t visited Le Louvre before. On 25 May, we corrected this serious omission. Of course, we had to wait quite a lot of time before getting in but it was amusing to watch the Japanese, Chinese and the Indian tourists being so excited to be in Paris. Quite a lot of people were using these stupid contraptions known as selfie sticks and, personally, I am happy that, little by little, they are being banned in museums. The whole point of going in a museum is to discover works of art and taking a picture of yourself should only be a secondary concern. Le Louvre is beautiful with so many different eras to discover. Naturally, we saw La Joconde and the other classics. But we also enjoyed the Egyptian wing. We couldn’t visit everything so we’ll have to go there again. After Le Louvre, we went to Les Halles to have lunch and, by sheer coincidence, we stumbled upon an old friend, Thierry. He brought us to a nice crèperie and made us discover Restaurant Café Georges at the top of the Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou. The best part was visiting the toilets there…
Going to Lyon, visiting INSA and having dinner at Bocuse
On 26 May, we left Paris to travel by TGV to Lyon, the city where Christina and I had studied more than fifteen years ago. Since then, we hadn’t been there and, as you can imagine, we were very excited. My good friend, Jérôme and his wife Charlotte graciously hosted us for the two nights we stayed in Lyon. On the first day, we visited INSA Lyon where we met two of my teachers. One remembered me while the other didn’t but that was ok as so many years had passed… I was very happy to show to Anya and Kyan the place where I spent so many years both suffering and enjoying. We had lunch in one of these small kebab shops which students love and the kebabs were exactly as we remembered. The kids loved them.
After visiting La Place des Terreaux and La Place Bellecour (where we had watched the World Cup final between France and Brazil in 1998 with tens of thousands of other people), we relaxed at Jérôme’s place. Then, we had dinner at the Brasserie de l’Est of the famous French chef Paul Bocuse. Christophe and Florence with their two boys met us there and, together with Jérôme’s family, we had a great time. I was telling Christina that everything was the same as fifteen years ago, except that all of us now have kids. In fact, there were more children than grown-ups. That’s life, I guess…
Vieux Lyon with Stéphanie and dinner with Blandine and Emmanuel
The next day, on 27 May, we showed our previous apartment near Métro Garibaldi on Cours Gambetta to Anya and Kyan. It’s a pity we couldn’t get in the apartment itself where we had so many parties and great memories, but that’s understandable with people being so security-conscious now.
We met Stéphanie and her daughter for lunch in Vieux Lyon. We ate in a bouchon, a typical restaurant, where we enjoyed food and wine from the Lyon neighbourhood. Visiting Vieux Lyon and rediscovering La Cathédrale de Fourvière as well as the Roman Ruins, made us realise how important it is to preserve historical landmarks, memories and culture. If only we knew how to do that in Mauritius…
We took the kids to the Parc de la Tête d’Or where we met Blandine and her husband, Emmanuel, with their two small children as well as Pascaline and her daughter. Blandine and Pascaline were at university with Christina. The Parc was as beautiful as ever and we managed to see a blooming garden of roses. We then had a nice Lyonnais dinner at Blandine’s and Emmanuel’s place.
Leaving Lyon and arriving in Toulouse
On 28 May, we bid goodbye to Charlotte and the kids before they left for work and school as we were taking the train to Toulouse a bit later. We visited ENS Lyon where I did my MPhil and Lyon III where Christina had studied and this brought back a lot of souvenirs. We were very happy to see how the city had been transformed with the emergence of a new area near Perrache called Lyon Confluence and the arrival of the tramway (which we didn’t get to experience when we left in 1998). We also met Frank, another good friend, in our favourite kebab shop and it was so nice to see that he had my music on his phone.
We left Jérôme’s house in the afternoon to take the TGV to Toulouse. We arrived at 20:00, which, in summer in France, is still day. We were greeted by Yves and Ghislaine, Stéphane’s parents who brought us to their beautiful house in Castanet-Tolosan, a small village just next to the city. There we met my parents (who had travelled to France with us but who went to Toulouse directly from Paris) and, later, Cherina, my sister, and Stéphane, joined us. We had a wonderful three-course dinner together and I have to say that we were amazed by the quality of life enjoyed by Yves and Ghislaine in their cosy home.
Getting things ready for the wedding in Fiac
On Friday 29 May, after lunch, we drove to Fiac where the wedding party would take place the next day. There, we met Cherina’s and Stéphane’s friends who had come to Mauritius one month before for the Indian-style wedding. We all helped to decorate the garden and the room where the wedding dinner and party was planned. Yves and myself had a lot of difficulties setting up the arch but we were delighted with the results. Meantime, Christina, the kids and the others, were helping in setting up the tables, the flowers and the sound system.
Part 2 of this post (the wedding, discovering Toulouse, Narbonne, Carcassonne, Perpignan and Albi) will follow soon.