Lyon to Canberra
Lyon has been an interesting place to visit. I really only saw the inside of a hotel room, a meeting room and the train station at Part-Dieu. These are the places where I spent most of my time. I went for walks early in the morning and after about 6 pm in search of food and coffee. Because it is winter, it was dark while I was out and it was cold. In the early mornings, it was about –3 °C. There was also a lot of traffic so the walks were not exactly in the fresh air. There was a constant smell of exhaust fumes.
That said, it was a blessed relief to be out of the hotel and its oven-like heating system. I turned the air conditioning off and had the windows open but the building heating was just full on. I would lay on the bed in just a pair of shorts and my skin would dry out like a potato crisp. I always had a mug of water by the bed so that whenever I woke up I could take in some water. There was also a lot of moisturising cream applied. It’s a pity the air couldn’t be humidified. I should have brought a small plastic pipette with me for my nasal mucosa. It got really dry and crusty. After a couple of nights, there was blood from cracks which had developed in my nasal mucosa. Hopefully, the blood washes out of my handkerchiefs.
If you ever stay in this hotel, ask for room 423, the Wi-Fi is really good. I managed to download and install updates to Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, Adobe Bridge, Adobe Camera RAW, Final Cut Pro X and Compressor. These were all large downloads (some >3 GB) and there was no problem. Please note, I didn’t wait to do these downloads for when I’d be away, they just happened to become available while I was away. It was a nice coincidence that I was somewhere with better Wi-Fi than the ADSL I use at home in Australia.
Jet lag and sleep
My sleeping pattern wasn’t too bad. I tended to fall asleep a bit after 8 pm and then wake just after midnight. I’d then fall back to sleep after an hour or so and wake again at 3.30 am. At that point, there was no value in just laying in the bed. I’d get up, shave, shower and make a cup of coffee. I’d then go through work e-mail and personal e-mail and listen to podcasts until it was time to walk to the meeting building which was the building for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on 150 Cours Albert Thomas, 69008 Lyon, France. This was a pleasant 25-minute walk.
See the Google map
I’ve already referred to my experience getting to Lyon and the reason for being here. Check out the most recent blog post.
As I began typing this missive, I was rejoicing in the warmth of the TGV5192 train from XYD (The Lyon Part-Dieu train station) to CDG (Charles de Gaulle International Airport). I had been waiting five hours for this train and the station was very very cold. It felt like 7 °C inside the station, and outside on the platform, it felt like it was close to 0 °C. My fingers wouldn’t move and my ears were freezing. I’d already packed my beanie and gloves deep in my main bag and didn’t want to risk opening that bag on the platform because it was packed very tightly. Can you imagine it springing open and stuff spilling out for all to see.?For those who would recommend it, no, I didn’t bring a scarf.
You may be asking why I spent five hours in a train station. Well, the check out time for the hotel was at 11 am and my train was scheduled to depart at 4 pm. I checked out at 10.30 and walked to the train station. After finding the ticketing agent I was told I could not catch an earlier train to the Charles de Gaulle International Airport unless I was willing to pay close to €100 for a new fair. There was no way I was going to fork out that kind of money just to spend more time at an airport. I spent the time in a waiting area either sitting on a hard chair or standing or pacing. The cold air rushed around the station slowly over five hours chilling me to the bone. Fortunately, with my Vodafone plan, I still had a few GB of data left so along with a portable battery I was able to keep in touch with family in Australia and friends all over the world via social media and a Slack chat space with some podcasting buddies from the USA. You can see what I shared on Facebook.
The discomfort of the cold was compounded by an abdominal distress consisting of griping colic and a significant feeling of gastrointestinal uneasiness. This is best described as a lack of confidence in farting. I hate messy surprises. I had a feeling the baguette I ate on Friday night for dinner may not have been that fresh. I hope it wasn’t the chocolate custard in the chocolate eclair because that was a fabulous tasting pastry.
I spent the day sitting or pacing around the train station listening to an audiobook by the QI elves who do the podcast, No Such Thing as a Fish. The book is titled, “Book of the Year”. So far, the highlight has been listening to Anna describe vaginal glitter and magicum. If you’re not familiar with the elves, including Anna, and the podcast “No Such Thing as a Fish”, I highly recommend it. I’d happily recommend their new book too. It’s full of fun facts.
Revelations on visiting Lyon
I’ve learnt some new things while travelling to Lyon. I’m not sure how applicable these observations are beyond Lyon or into France in general.
It costs money to go to the dunny
I remember as a young boy around the age of five having to give a coin to a person to be able to use a toilet in a department store. I also remember a few years ago when I took a holiday in Vietnam that I had to pay for the privilege of emptying my bladder in a ‘public’ toilet. Living in Australia, I’ve taken for granted that when the urge occurs, there are free public toilets which are well maintained all over Australia.
In Lyon, in this train station in Part-Dieu, I had to pay €0.80 each time I needed to attend the lavatory. Given my abdominal discomfort, this could have become expensive.
I wouldn’t have minded so much but the toilets were dirty and the smell was offensive. I truly do not understand what anatomical position people put themselves in to be able to spray the seat and back of a wall with faeces.
The toilets accept credit card payments which make the lack of coins in my pocket less of a problem.
Note for non-Australian readers. The dunny is the toilet, from when we had outhouses and people would micturate and defecate into a metal can, known as the dunny can. The dunny cans would be collected each morning. I will always be grateful to longtime Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Clem Jones for bringing sewage to Brisbane before I was toilet trained.
While there is passive begging in Australia with people sitting on a sidewalk with a sign asking for money because times are tough, Lyon has people in shopping precincts coming around and asking for money. At first, I didn’t understand what was being said and when I said ‘English’ the response changed to ‘Money!’ With a handout and fingers rubbing against each other. In a five hour span, I was asked more than half a dozen times and the same woman asked me thrice. One woman was pushing her baby in a perambulator and asking for money. I only had a credit card so I couldn’t help them. Not that I would be tempted if the person pulled out a smartphone and card reader. I wonder if that will be a thing in the future, begging for credit card payments? Maybe that’s a business model that could be exploited. Maybe it’s already being done somewhere.
The French countryside is beautiful
The train ride revealed some picturesque scenery. Between 4 and 5 pm, the sky is dark, cloudy, and misty, but the fields are green. The farm houses look well kept and the sheep even look orderly. It is very pretty. Some of the farm buildings in some of the fields look like they are hundreds of years old just by the design. I didn’t see a shoddy shed amongst them. Between 5 and 6 pm it was too dark to see anything beyond the window of the train. The scheduling was spot on, board at 4 pm and alight the train at 6.02 pm.
Cigarette smoke is everywhere
It’s remarkable just how common smoking is. I’ve seen school children smoking and outside nearly every building there are people standing outside their offices all sucking in the carcinogenic tobacco smoke. Some are chatting with one another while breathing in each others’ exhaled smoke while some stand solo, durry between fingers while reading or looking at something on their smartphone. Being France, everyone was looking very fashionable, mainly in very dark colours and form-fitting clothes.
I wonder what the prevalence of carcinoma of the lung is in France. I see in the shops, unlike in Australia, the cigarette packets are on display and the packaging features the graphic pathological depictions of malignant disease or emphysema. For non-Australian readers, cigarette packages are no longer permitted to be displayed, cigarette packets must be beyond an opaque locked door. The plain packing in Australia uses a drab green colour (not to be confused with the colour olive). There is a market again for cigarette cases. What is nice in Australia is the significant drop in the number of people smoking.
Living a low carb life would be difficult
Every few hundred metres there seems to be a bakery or patisserie. Croissants and sweet pastry treats are everywhere in abundance. In the same places, there are baguettes, each about 30 cm in length and each looks like they have chicken and brie plus some lettuce and a sauce in them. Some baguettes have cured meats, others seem to have lots of olives in them, and occasionally I see tinned tuna filling a baguette.
In some places, the baguettes look like they require two hands to eat them. I’ve watched people eat them in public. Men tend to get crumbs all over their clothes while women seem to be able to eat a foot long roll of bread with sauce laden filling and not drop a crumb. I really wish I could go on a diet of eating baguettes every day.
At breakfast time I struggled to find a place that would do eggs. I didn’t find anywhere where I could get a couple of poached eggs and some bacon. As far as I know, bacon doesn’t seem to exist in Lyon, I didn’t see any the entire time I was here. I did see ham, but no bacon. I cannot imagine a life without bacon at least once a week.
I ended suspending my low carb life and ate croissants for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. I had a nice ham and cheese croissant one night for dinner.
I saw little evidence of obesity
Okay, in the train station on my last day, I saw one or two obese people, but other than them I struggled to see anyone who was overweight and I actively looked out for them. Apart from some of the meeting participants (who were from other countries), I didn’t really come across anyone as I walked the streets who I’d say was overweight. This is different to when I’ve attended work meetings in the UK, Canada and the USA. The other obvious difference between Lyon and North America, in terms of sophistication, was the lack of large V8 pickup trucks. One of the thrills of North American trips has been the ability to take in all the big V8 pick up trucks made by all the manufacturers, even Toyota. While it’s unlikely I’d ever choose a V8 Toyota pickup truck over a Ford F-250 twin cab or a Dodge Ram, knowing the option exists would be nice. Australia is so backward when it comes to decent motor vehicles. Soon we will be inundated with hybrids and all-electric engine monstrosities of ugliness. The future of motor cars sucks, long live the internal combustion engine with 8 cylinders in a V configuration and hemispherical heads. Yes, I am one of those people.
When I was in Helsinki last year for work I was also struck but the appearance of vigour and fitness in the Finns. The French also have a healthy look to them. I know they walk a lot, although I did notice a lot of people use scooters on the sidewalks and there were not a lot of cyclists.
Clearly, French fashion helps to show off the general lack of excess body fat.
Last evening meal in Lyon
I enjoyed the baguette which may not have been entirely fresh. It simply had some brie and lettuce along with some olives.
The chocolate eclair was filled with a chocolate custard and it was delicious.
The final breakfast
I had some funny little pork sausages, scrambled eggs, croissants and a caramel pastry.
The flights back to Canberra
So I’ve mentioned the trip between Lyon and Paris was by rail. It was a fantastic ride and at one point the train was travelling at 300 kilometres per hour.
Can you imagine if we had a fast train between Canberra and Sydney. I would spend more time out of Canberra that’s for sure. I don’t understand why the ACT Government is spending vast sums of money on a tram line from a northern town centre to the CBD, when, in my opinion (which counts for nothing), it should have worked with the NSW Government on a very fast train line between Canberra and Sydney. It could have touted the tourism benefits and draw fresh money into Canberra. Very few people (again in my opinion) living in Canberra will really benefit from the tram. I will never use it given I live in Belconnen and work in Woden. If there was a very fast train to Sydney though, I’d use it frequently to get out of Canberra and spend time in Sydney. Given the price differential in airfares out of Canberra compared with Sydney, it’s entirely possible I could avoid the airline price gouging and get cheaper travel to Brisbane albeit it would some extra time to the journey.
Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG) to Abu Dhabi (AUH)
I didn’t get much time to explore the Charles de Gaulle International Airport. The train arrived on time but the border control process was lengthier than I expected. Boarding for the Paris to Abu Dhabi flight also began early.
I’m one of those people who likes to board as quickly as possible to make sure I can get space for my bags and so I can settle into my seat before the cabin fills up with passengers. I know this behaviour annoys other people and travelling companions, but that’s me and I’m not about to change.
Are you one of ‘those’ people too?
This Boeing 777 flight is 7 hours in duration and I used the time to get a little sleep and to just relax. In fact, I managed a solid four hours which was pretty good.
On arriving in Abu Dhabi, the weather was pleasantly warm but there wasn’t time to do much.
Passengers deplaned (the word deplane always sounds strange) onto the tarmac and buses were waiting to move passengers to the terminal. The bus I boarded got full quickly and the driver began remonstrating with passengers who were standing to get off and onto another bus. No one budged. I had got on early and was seated down the back so it would have been awkward to get off, and besides, trying to set an example probably wasn’t the thing to do. The driver gave up, got into the cab and began driving but he let everyone know in no uncertain terms he wasn’t happy. He was speaking in what I assume was Arabic given the expression of many passengers who looked like they had arrived home. Some passengers got upset and began banging on the perspex partition between the driver’s cab and the passenger cabin. He eventually stopped. I was very tempted to ask someone what he said, but thought better I don’t know. It wouldn’t have any bearing on my life.
More bad news
On getting into the terminal I quickly connected to Wi-Fi and sent a message to a brother who is caring for my sick relative; who, unfortunately, isn’t doing as well as expected and is now in the intensive care unit. The post-surgical recovery has become complicated. I will be there in Brisbane soon.
Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Sydney (SYD)
Boarding the flight to Sydney was slow going. There are now enhanced security measures at the airport for flights into Australia. Bags are searched and some passengers find this unnecessary and vent their frustration. I’m not sure there is anything to be gained by upsetting the security personnel. They are just doing their job. A couple held up the process for some time because they had bound their carry on bags with plastic freight/cargo tape. They didn’t want their bags opened just scanned via the imagine machines. That resulted in a pair of scissors appearing and the tape being cut. I’m grateful that when my bags were inspected the dirty underwear and socks were well secured in a compartment and no one had to finger my grundies (note for non-Australian readers, grundies are underpants).
The Airbus A380 gets between Abu Dhabi and Sydney in about 14 hours. After a 2 hour stop in Abu Dhabi, all I wanted to do was get some sleep if I could. After drafting my meeting report for my bosses, there’s not much else to do on the flight apart to listen to podcasts, listen to a book on the Audible app, and read a book on the Kindle app. I refuse to connect to Wi-Fi on board a long haul flight. Work e-mail will still be there when I land. As far as I know, work will not pay for onboard Wi-Fi. I hope that situation doesn’t change.
I downloaded quite a few of my favourite podcasts to listen to and I also downloaded “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” narrated by Stephen Fry.
Sydney (SYD) to Canberra (CBR)
Getting from the Sydney International Airport and the Virgin Australia terminal in the Sydney Domestic Airport is always potentially dicey depending on how long it takes to get through border control and customs. I had nothing to declare and only carry on bags so the wait wasn’t too long. The transfer between the international and domestic airports is one of the reasons why I prefer Melbourne Airport. The international and domestic terminals are colocated. There, I said something nice about Melbourne, I know that doesn’t happen too often!
I arrived back in Canberra on Monday and as soon as I got back to the flat I put all the dirty clothes into the washing machine, bought some groceries and got ready for my flight to Brisbane to begin some carer duties.
Being a Monday, the Medical Fun Facts Podcast drops at 7 pm Canberra time. This week’s show is on the Vagus nerve. I’d love it if you listened, subscribed and shared a comment with me via the show notes or via the Facebook page or the YouTube channel.
Catch you next week.
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