Spring in Roanne is acting just like the stock market. It just can't seem to get started. Every bright, sunny morning all of the cafés put out their outdoor tables and chairs. The boaters start their painting projects, and everyone smiles and waves to each other. Optimism is in the air, but so far spring has not yet taken hold. One day of sun is followed by several days of rain. We have had more rain in the last month than we had during our sunny and mild winter.
While waiting for the sun to come out for more than 10 minutes at a time, we have been working on small projects. We are fabricating screen doors for the wheelhouse and window screens for the rooms downstairs. We find that there is a lot of looking in creating something like this. Sometimes that means just looking at the door or window until a friend walks by and looks with you. Ideas are formed, discussed and reformed. More neighbors, more looking. Then you go wandering around the bricolage stores looking at what materials might be available to complete your ideas. With all of that looking, no wonder we can't figure out where our days go.
Since there has been more rain than sun lately and we can't paint, we decided to take a vacation. We rented a car and headed back to Lyon. The countryside between here and Lyon is beautiful. We never fail to comment on how far you can see or the richness of the colors. The winding road offers, with each turn, a new picturesque view of a small village snug in a green valley. The last time we drove this road there was snow at the higher elevations. Now it is green and the trees are beginning to blossom.
When we checked in to our hotel, Toby got a big hug from the owners. We have stayed in this hotel several times before, and they were happy to see Toby looking so well after his operation.
Entering Lyon we saw how high the Saône River had risen, it was approaching the bottom of the bridges. When we walked over to the river to get a better look, the ships chandlery located on the bank of the Saône, where we were going to shop, was under water. People living on barges moored nearby could only come to shore by dinghy.
The sun came out in the afternoon, and we roamed around enjoying the relaxed pace of the city. We happened upon one of the 150 murs peints, painted walls, that are scattered around the city. This one was of the celebrities of Lyon.
Some friends had sent us a newspaper article from the travel section of the San Francisco Sunday paper on Lyon's beloved bouchons. These are family owned bistros that have simple menus and food like grandma used to make (if your grandma was French and lived in Lyon). Armed with the article and our trusty Gault Millau we forced ourselves to try new restaurants this time, rather than returning to old favorites. Saturday night after dinner, watching the world go by from a sidewalk café on the Rue de la Republique, we decided that there are no bad restaurants in Lyon. Now our list of favorite restaurants is even longer than before.
Sunday morning we went to the market where you can buy food, clothes, household items, and even puppies. Planning ahead, we had brought our kitchen knives to have them sharpened by the man on his bicycle. While he sharpened our knives, we shopped and then found a nice sidewalk café table with a good view of the market. While sipping our coffee, it made us happy to see several puppies leaving the puppy market in the arms of new owners.
Outside of Lyon we stopped in Perouge, a fortified hilltop village of medieval stone houses and cobblestone streets. Perouge's heyday was in the 13th century, and in 1909, it was saved from demolition. Since then it has been restored by the government. Now it is a village of craftspeople.
Leaving Perouge, we drove for awhile on the back roads, enjoying the scenery and watching a bicycle race roll by, until the speed of the toll road lured us.
It was getting late and we had plans to meet friends who were returning to France after wintering in the states. We had all booked rooms at Nathalie's gîte in St.Symphorien sur Saône. This was where we lived last year from January to June, while our barge was being remodeled. It was like going home again as we drove up our little country road and pulled into the courtyard.
We got out of the car, and shouted, "Nous revoila", but no one was there.
Our friends had not yet arrived, and Nathalie was not home. We let ourselves in and found a Canadian couple in the TV room. Since the doors were open, they had let themselves in and they were waiting for the owner to see if they could have a room for the night.
Knowing the house so well and feeling right at home, we helped them get settled into the downstairs room. We found towels for the downstairs bathroom and shower, and made sure they had everything that they would need.
Soon everyone arrived and as we all gathered in the kitchen laughing and talking, it felt like we had just stepped back in time. The wine was poured, and appetizers appeared on the counter. We invited the Canadian couple to join us, and they told us that they were here to buy a barge. When they learned that we all were boaters, the questions began. We all had to laugh at the fact that now, instead of being the people looking for barges and asking the questions, we were the people with experience answering questions. What a difference a year makes.
We gave them our best advice. They had not yet found what they were looking for at the two brokers that they knew of in town, so we sent them to see Jean-Luc Broudic, a broker that we were happy to recommend. Through Jean-Luc they found a barge that they were really excited to see in the south of France. We look forward to hearing the rest of the story. E-mail addresses were exchanged, and hopefully another friendship is forming. Our gîte has a magical way of bringing people together.