Thanks for checking back in to the blog to see what we’re getting up to on our latest trip. Following the long travel drought of the pandemic years, Marg and I were keen to head overseas again for a really significant holiday.
In 2019 we’d had our first experience of travelling with the Australian travel company Scenic. We’d done the Budapest to Amsterdam river cruise and loved every minute. So in September 2022, when Scenic put on a showcase of some of its popular travel destinations, I registered to attend. We’d been talking about Canada and Alaska, so I booked a spot in that session. Immediately afterwards there was a session on French river cruises, so I booked for that one too, mainly just because I’d already be at the showcase event and also because I just wanted another look at some of the beautiful French villages and countryside we’d fallen for last time we were in Europe.
Canada and Alaska looked pretty good, but the French cruises looked even better, so I came home and convinced Marg that France was the place to go. And last time we were in Europe we’d spent five days touring Scotland. In that brief time we’d both found there was something to love about the place and were keen to go back and see more of it. So when the French river cruise was booked, it just made good sense to tack on a few more weeks in nearby Scotland.
So that’s why we’re here in France again and I’m posting the first blog of this 50-day tour from Lyon. It took us quite a while to get here – 32 hours from our wheels leaving the tarmac in Melbourne until we stood at the reception desk of our hotel in Lyon. 32 tiring, cramped hours. I think the first leg of the flight, Melbourne to Singapore was the hardest. It was certainly the most cramped. A highlight was the beautiful Australian outback, which I never tire of – red dust, rocky ridges and salt lakes.
Our second leg, from Singapore to Frankfurt, was due to leave Changi Airport just before midnight on Saturday. But a technical issue prevented us from boarding and eventually the announcement was made that it wouldn’t take off for another two hours. As you might imagine, there were some disgruntled passengers who immediately made their feelings known to the poor ground staff from Singapore Airlines. To placate the angry masses, we were each given a sample bag of sugary goods in lieu of our delayed airline meal. It was poor compensation indeed.
By the time we landed in Frankfurt, our connecting flight to Lyon had already departed. Some of the others on our flight also missed their connections to other destinations, but most of them were handed new boarding passes upon leaving the flight. No one was there to help with our missed flight. Eventually we found a really helpful lady at the Lufthansa desk. She made several calls to Singapore Airlines on our behalf and finally got us onto the next flight to Lyon, four hours after the one we’d missed. She told us she hadn’t been able to get any info on our baggage, but we all figured it would just be loaded on to the next Lyon flight that we would also be passengers on. After all, they had four hours to get it off one plane and load it on to another.
So we sat around in Frankfurt for a few hours waiting for the next plane to Lyon. I was easily distracted by the Collingwood v Adelaide AFL match that was going on back home at the same time. I kept refreshing my screen through a desperate final quarter and eventually was delighted to see my team victorious by a single point over the gallant Crows. Collingwood had only led their opponents for the final twenty seconds of the match. I guess I had a smile on my face all the way to Lyon.
But upon arrival, we were the only ones from our flight to walk away from the baggage claim area empty handed. I found a woman who looked like she could help, but she just looked at me grimly and directed me to fill out a lost luggage claim on one of the computers against the wall. It all felt so impersonal and we were both a bit downhearted that nobody seemed to care that we’d arrived on the other side of the world without even so much as a tube of toothpaste. But there was little we could do after filling out the claim form, so we headed out of the terminal and found the fast tramway and train network that could transfer us to our hotel.
Our train passed through a station called Massena. I have a family connection to this name. Antoine-Francois Massena, born in Nice in the south of France in 1733, is my five times great grandfather on my Dad’s side. A nephew of his was Marshall Andre Massena, one of Napoleon’s military commanders. He led the French Army to a key victory in the Second Battle of Zurich. Marshall Massena gave his name to a number of places in France, and it’s likely this is how the train station originally came to bear the name. My three times great grandmother, born Eliza Massena, made her way to the colonies and is buried in Bairnsdale.
We left the train at the Hotel de Ville (town hall) station. From there it was just a short walk to our hotel. The Rhone River is just a couple of blocks away. It’s a beautiful part of Lyon, featuring similar 18th century architecture to what we’d seen in Paris on our last trip. We’ll have a good, long look at this part of town and others over the next few days.
But we were tired and a bit grubby after 32 hours of travel. The hotel staff were lovely and did what they could to compensate for our missing luggage. They found a couple of toothbrushes for us, organised some towelling bathrobes and lent me a power adapter and phone charging cable. They promised to let us know when, or if, our lost suitcases eventually were delivered. In France, no shops are open on Sundays, so we could not replace anything that was missing, but one lady at the desk remembered one shop that would be open. She gave me its address.
We walked back the way we’d came, towards the Hotel de Ville, and soon found the shop. It was a small French supermarket. All it sold were regular grocery items, so we soon had some toothpaste, but there was nowhere to buy a clean t-shirt or perhaps some underwear. The colourful fruit and vegie display reminded me that Lyon is reputedly known as the ‘gastronomic capital of France’, so that put us in the mood for some good French cooking. We took a table at the restaurant next to our hotel and ordered some typically French dishes – onion soup, crusty bread, steak tartare, crepes and blue cheese. Oh, and a local wine to wash it all down with.
Over dinner I checked my emails. Good news, the luggage had turned up in Frankfurt and been loaded on to the next plane to Lyon. The plane has arrived, but our stuff is yet to be delivered. I’m hoping it turns up tomorrow, although May 1 is a national holiday in this country, so we may have to wait a little longer. But these things happen when you travel. You just have to have a Plan B in case stuff-ups occur.
Welcome back a Massena ! Bienvenue !
Hi Marg and Garry
Oh my goodness. Hopefully any further travel mishaps will not come your way for the rest of the trip. I can only imagine how you felt – nothing better after a long haul flight than a shower and clean clothes. What fabulous adventures you are having though.
The closest I have come to French architecture is the old quarter in Hanoi.
I look forward to the next update.
The luggage arrived Deb. All good 👍😘
What a challenging start. All sorted in the end.
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