Saturday, January 04, 2014

Vienne and Vienne are different cities.

Vienne, France

[Regarding the title of this post: Vienna, Austria is spelled Vienne in French.  So anytime I was searching for things about Vienne, since I am searching from French google, all these stories keep coming up about Vienna, Austria.  I admit I was considering a bunch of hotels in Vienna, Austria and almost booked a room in Austria before realizing my error.  Shhhh, don't tell anyone!]


Vienne, France.  Raining.  Has been all day.  I’m in a new hotel: Ibis Budget.  Really love it.  The desk is very uniquely situated facing a window that overlooks the street that passes directly under my room.  Yes.  It’s pretty cool.  So I keep seeing a stream of cars driving right at me, and then disappearing beneath my feet. 

Eva picked me up this morning about 10am.  We drove together here to Vienne, the city where she lives and works.  It’s about a 30 minute drive south from Lyon, and on the way towards Castres.  She and I will leave tomorrow for Castres.
Things I like more about Vienne than Lyon: much smaller.  So quaint, and more charm for sure.  Unlike Lyon, I was able to do a foot tour of the city in just two hours.  It was really nice.  Eva had to go to work, but she took me to the office of tourism and set me up with a walking tour map, and against my better judgment, I took her umbrella with me upon her insistence.  I had another lunch at Subway, then embarked on another historically rich tour.  Vienne too has an ancient Roman theater.  This one holds about 13,000 and dates to about 20AD.  The one in Lyon was a little bigger, and dated to 15 years before Christ.  FIFTEEN YEARS BEFORE CHRIST.  My gosh, how old Europe is.  And apparently, the one in Lyon was the very first Roman Gaul theater ever built.  And in Lyon, I rode down the mountain on the oldest funicular in all of Europe. 

This city (Vienne) is built on a very steep hill (more like a small mountain) called Pipet that overlooks the twisting Rhone river, a river that ultimately dumps into the Mediterranean Sea at Marseille.  I hiked my way up Rue Pipet, which is an old narrow (and very steep) Roman street, all the way up to the Belvedere de Pipet.  When Eva told me it was a beautiful view, I had no idea that she was totally understating the situation.  Wow.  Gorgeous.  And then I turned around and behind me found a charming and majestic church dating from the 1700 or 1800s (maybe much earlier).  I figured it had to be closed.  How could it be open?  Who comes up here?  Suddenly a wind gust blew and I saw that the door moved slightly.  Could it be open?  I walked up and a great smile came across my face when I realized it was indeed open.  I pushed the door and walked inside.  Wow.  A gorgeous European catholic church, lit by candles, with Jesus Christ beckoning me to enter and make amends with God.  I did. (How could I argue with Jesus, right?)  I took twenty steps towards the alter, looking up, around, everywhere, marveling at the architecture, embracing the silent echoing serenity, and perplexed that I truly was the only soul in that church on the top of Mount Pipet.  We all have a religious experience at some point, and this perhaps was one for me: I felt like I was meant to be there.  I kneeled at the alter, said a prayer, and of course, asked for the answer to the eternal question, “What is my purpose and why am I here?”  I did not receive a direct answer, but I do believe I saw Jesus wink at me.  We totally bonded.
I lit a candle for mom, wishing her the very best, and walked out.  If that view down upon the Roman ruins (and the quaint little town below, the twisting Rhone in the distance, and the even smaller town of Saint Colombe (spelling) on the other side of the river) was beautiful the first time, it was even more so as I walked out of that church.  This church stands directly at the top of Mount Pipet, looking out upon that very ‘belvedere’ (which means, “beautiful view” in Italian: bel vedere, though perhaps it is Latin and not Italian...) 

And then… it began to rain.  Ha!  I’m SO glad Eva overcame my stubbornness with her stubbornness or I would have been soaked in short order, and my walking tour would have come to a quick conclusion.  It helps that she works in a hotel here.  No wonder she’s such a good tour guide and is able to tell me where to shop, where to eat, what to see.  HA: while walking, I passed a bunch of shops, and in a sea of shoe stores, clothing stores, electronics stores, and restaurants, I saw another, just as normal as the others, but with a different sign to say the least: “Parti Socialist”.  Good to know the neighborhood socialist party office is but a stone’s throw from all else. J It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode when Elaine got her new boyfriend blacklisted for naming names. Ha! 

I then took a walk across the foot bridge that traverses the Rhone and made my way into the opposing village.  I spoke with one of the shopkeepers who told me that it was indeed a different village and not a part of Vienne. 
A few notes on the French people:
a) why every teenage guy insists on having an absolutely revolting peach fuzz mustache is beyond me.  They look so gross, and yet, I’m surrounded by them.  Everywhere.  No matter that they are 11 years old.  15 years old.  Or 19 years old.  Peachfuzz mustaches.
b) the girls apparently dig these peachfuzz mustaches, because accompanying many of these peachfuzz mustached men are other young women, who apparently dig these yucky hairy growths, or don’t know how to tell their boyfriends that “Mec, tu vraiment dois le raser ca.
--dude, you totally need to shave that thing. 
c) After careful comparisons, I realize that I prefer German chicks.  Maybe most of the hot French chicks moved from Lyon and Vienne, and only live in Paris, and while I cannot confirm this, it would make sense: if I were a girl, and all the guys in Lyon and Vienne sported peachfuzz (as they appear to do), I too would move to Paris!
d) There seem to be a lot of French men walking around who LOOK like homeless people from New York City, but are actually just normal French people, going about their daily lives.  Also, there are some haut fashion French guys who wear their hip Italian cut suits, but they seem to be the exception.  Rome this is not.  Again, this may simply be a function of these smaller cities and villages, but it bears note.
e)  Overall, French people are very nice, and virtually every person I have spoken to in the last few days (more than twenty) have been helpful, kind, and most importantly, talk to me in French.  It makes me feel so great that no one speaks to me in English anymore!  I've finally gotten past that awkwardness where it's easier for them to speak English than me to speak French.  Booyah!

Gosh, another of my really good friends back home just lost his dad today too.  That’s two good friend’s father’s deaths in three days.  Very sad.

After my tour of Vienne, I returned to my room, and collapsed on my bed (another gloriously firm bed), ready to take a nap, when suddenly my eyes opened wide: “WHERE IS MY PILLOW?!”  See, I bought this really small travel pillow at Fort Drum in 2004 about 3 days before I flew to Iraq for the war.  It traveled with me everywhere in Iraq.  To every camp.  To every cot.  To every sleeping bag.  And it was the most comfortable pillow ever.  Well, I have not been able to sleep with any other pillow since because they are all so fat and thick and overflowing with feathers.  This little pillow is just perfect, and supports my neck just perfectly.  You can see pictures of it on Facebook I think haha.  I have kept it since 2005, and took it with me here to France and soon to China because no other pillow can even begin to compete.  I sat up, in shock, here in my bed.  I don’t know how I knew that it wasn’t in either of my two suitcases, but I just knew.  I went to the lobby and I asked to borrow the phone.  I called the hotel in Lyon.  I was right.  It was there.  Ugh!  I said, “Attendez!  Je vais sauver mon oreiller!” (Wait!  I am coming to rescue my pillow!”)  I raced to the train station.  Bought a round trip ticket to Lyon.  Arrived in Lyon 20 minutes after the train departed the station.  Got lost walking around Lyon until I eventually surprised myself by looking up and… seeing my hotel.  I took the elevator up.  Walked to reception.  The women smiled as she brought before my eyes the most beautiful jewel I have ever seen: my little pillow. J
I’m back in Vienne now.  With my lost love again cradling my neck.  How many amazing nights I spent with my love.  She always knows exactly how to make me happy.  (wink).  Gonna go grab a bite to eat in a few minutes.  Then come back and watch tv.  I was going to go to the theater and watch a French film but I realized I should save my money, particularly since I spent more than the cost of a movie ticket on my train tickets to and from Lyon.  Of course, did anyone collect my tickets on the train?  No.  But I suppose I’m glad to be an honest person.  I… suppose.  Haha.  I’m going to watch French tv for a couple hours instead.

And force myself to write another 1000 words in my novel.  Heck, even another 100 words takes me closer to it being finished.  Gotta do it!  Gotta do it.
And tomorrow?  Off to Castres!  A 4.5 hour drive, to meet my French host family.  Eva and I are going to do a little sightseeing together, and then Monday morning, on her way back up to Vienne, she is going to drop me off at… school. J  I’m really excited about meeting the students, and my fellow teachers, and really becoming a part of the community, rather than just doing the ‘tourist’ thing.  I think it’s going to be a really fantastic experience.

I still can't believe in just over two months, I'm gonna be living in China.  CHINA?  Really?  Ha!

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