Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
On to another country, but first we had to make it out of Italy. The car's navigator sent us down a tiny road, then onto a small road, but seemed to be avoiding sending us to the autostradas where we needed to get. After about 20 minutes, it occurred to me that I still had in the avoid-tolls setting from our local touring days. Oops. That's why our four hour trip was being estimated at over eight hours. I fixed the setting and we found a way to the big highway: a small victory.
Most of the day would be spent on the highway, the Autostrada in Italy and then the Autoroute in France. Almost all were toll roads and it seemed like every section had a different process for collecting money. Occasionally, there was a person, some were small fees, a euro or two, so throwing coins into a bucket was easiest, others had "touch-less" credit card readers - some worked, some didn't.
The biggest single toll was for the Mont Blanc tunnel at over 25 euros, definitely credit card only. Other tunnels and highway stretches were shorter and cheaper. Through the Alps, it seemed like the roadway was all bridges or tunnels.
We had one break, at the Aire de L'Abis, a French rest stop sandwiched between the east- and west-bound lanes. We needed to top up our battery at the Supercharger and on-line reports were that this was a good, high-power set of "pumps". That was the good news. The bad news was that the Tesla station entrance came and went before I noticed, requiring me to weave around, going the wrong way on several one-way sections. Fortunately, no one came to argue with my choices. And, as promised, the aire was clean and friendly.
The best part of the trip may have been the views. Mountains first appeared in the distance and then we were among them. (We never saw the largest, because the road went inside it.) I know mid-day, from-the-car pictures don't always do justice, but that's all we could do.
The trickiest driving was after we left the Alps behind and entered the greater Lyon area. Traffic picked up, and there were highway changes ordered by our GPS. And there was construction, slowing progress to a stop in a few places. (When going to a new place, I actually prefer slow stop-and-go to high-speed heavy traffic.) After about six hours from when we left Cascina Ghitin Relais, we were pulling into our friends' driveway.
Pedro and Isabelle proceeded to make us feel at home, starting with cake and coffee, always a good way to start. From about 7 to 10:30 pm we enjoyed a wonderful meal. Pedro made the main course from a recipe he "stole" from a nearby restaurant, and Isabelle treated us to the subsequent cheese and dessert courses. Throughout it all, we chatted about food, politics, old friends, French customs, and anything else that came to mind. This was the best way to spend an evening.
On Friday, Pedro went to work in Paris, leaving us three to accomplish whatever made sense. That turned out to be laundry for me and nails for Marianne and Isabelle. Nothing picture-worthy, but these long trips require days like this, ones where we get clean and tidy again.
Saturday started unplanned, but we soon settled on a visit to the Contemporary Art Museum. To add a bit of challenge, or rather a change from the challenge of city driving, we opted to take the bus. Isabelle guided us down to our bus stop, where we picked up the C5 for seven stops. The bus was clean, quick, comfortable, and much cheaper than parking would have been. We can see why our friends prefer public transportation.
The line at the museum was just a few people and the 9-euro-per-person fee was reasonable. (Unusually, no discount for "seniors". That is actually something I agree with, since seniors tend to be better off financially than young people.) Everybody we dealt with spoke friendly English.
The three floors of the museum started on "Floor 1", the one above ground level that Americans refer to as the second floor. The first exhibition was a collection of colorful cement sculptures by Sunday Jack Akpan, a Nigerian artist who started out as a gravestone painter before developing a distinctive style of colorful cement sculptures that are both life-sized and life-like.
Next on my short list was a wall-sized painting by Maxwell Alexandre, a Brazilian painter from Rocinha, the favela that used to be our neighbor when I lived in Brazil, 40+ years ago. His paintings depict his poor neighbors in poses more representative of the wealthy, in this case a family looking at a large painting. Interesting.
I show far fewer artists' work than the museum contains, not because most were not worthy of note, but just because diaries only have so much space. As always, my recommendation is for you to visit yourself.
Floor #2 was taken up by works from Aya Takano, a Japanese artist whoes colorful, cutesy-but-not-quite, young girls are recognizable from her early work. The show continued up through more contemporary clothing. Maybe I need a new shirt?
On the top floor of the Contemporary Art Museum Rebecca Ackroyd presented a large, walk-through piece that seemed to be an airliner interior, an airliner that had been reconstructed after an accident. The walls around the crash scene held paintings of eyes, just eyes. This may not be for everyone, but you have to admit that it required skill and imagination.
There was other art outside the museum walls, including a bent truck and a full-size railroad box car, a work by Yoko Ono. The car is laced with holes that become light beams in the dark. We need to visit after dark, I guess.
Next to the industrial buildings of the museum and neighboring offices and apartments is the Parc de la Tete D'Or, a peaceful urban oasis filled with lakes, strolling families, and locals generally enjoying the sunny day. A good place to end our excursion.
Back home, Pedro was preparing another gourmet meal. He enjoys cooking and we were again the beneficiaries, this time of perfectly-done steak, morrell mushrooms, both topped with a foie gras sauce, and simple green beans. Afterwards, Isabelle brought out a cheese course, followed by pineapple and ice cream for dessert. I don't know if this is their normal Saturday dinner, but we certainly felt like we were getting special treatment.
Sunday was another slow day. Marianne and I went out for a walk nearby, coming back via the old gate that allows authorized folks to enter the neighborhood. A gated community: at least one centuries-old gate. Most of the neighboring houses are largely hidden behind walls and hedges, but it's clearly a very nice area with spacious lots and a mix of very old and not-really-new homes. Some places have views from the hill out over the valley while others make do with looking out into yard nature. Unlike California neighborhoods with their armies of gardeners, these Lyon homes look good with a more natural, owner-maintained, look. Maybe we need to learn.
The highlight for the day was Sunday Dinner. Pedro and Isabelle each contributed, while Marianne and I enjoyed the patio and joined only in the conversation, not the work. I think this was their normal routine, a quiet weekend day, valued by working people everywhere. "Le weekend" has less meaning for us retirees.
An aside. Every long trip seems to have an encounter with food poisoning, no matter how careful travelers may be. Marianne had her turn this evening. (Fish? Cheese?) A difficult part nowadays is that one's mind wanders far beyond "normal" food problems to is-this-a-return-of-Covid or a-return-of-the-elephant. Nope. It was just a food difficulty, something that the body is well-designed to handle, after several hours of chills, sweats, nausea, and so forth.
By morning, when we drove away, everything was fine as we headed to our new destination.
John and Marianne