In the morning, you can find people from around the world that gather in this place, this place of extreme tourism.Still, you can find moments of interesting, thoughtful, and intriguing exuberance.
Like the young ballet dancer doing his routine in the middle of the street, pausing so that cars could pass, often times, they would honk at him, and he would kindly bow to their ability to move through his space. But keeping his composure, he just starts from where he stopped.
It is a mix up of people if there ever was one. Guys selling cold Heineken from buckets full of ice. Tons of cameras flashing. Classical musicians playing on the steps. Few people gather inside, because it is summer, and outside, the lights of the city are just starting to come one. Just beginning to light up the boulevards.
We drank wine from the bottle, and ate a baguette.
Lyon, the second biggest city in France and the home of fascinating people. Slightly contemptuous and weary from a long bus ride, we pulled into our hotel and immediately went for a walk to discover what sights we could before a dinner at the famous, but terribly overrated, Le Nord. To our amazement, we stumbled upon a parade, but one that, in any other moment in time, would be considered absurd, but in Lyon the home of absurdity, it was absolutely ordinary. Celebrating the Dance Biennale for 2010, each troupe had constructed quite elaborate floats so to speak, complete with ornate costumes, music and dancing. Arriving about half way through the event, we approached the route and found a very interesting group, dressed completely in pink, with their leader dressed as pink Elvis. “Pink is love, love is pink”, the slogan that was repeated again and again in song, and in lyric gave us a very inspired impression of the city. The warm afternoon air, the sun on our skin, the crowd of people gathered in celebration of absurdity left us in the most uplifted, slightly euphoric mood. We followed Mr. Pink Elvis around the main square of the city, following his banter of loving each other, his talk of love, and his cries of passion for what seemed like hours. My time felt suddenly short. Thoughts of past lives sprang to mind, and I had an instant feeling of déjà vu – this is something I can’t explain, except possibly through the absurdity that was Lyon, that beautiful, amazing autumn day, walking, laughing, and experiencing all that Lyon, its people and my mind could offer. Soon enough, upon returning to our hotel, feeling fresh, the absurdity of Lyon continued in what was probably the most absurd dinner of our trip, at Paul Bocuse’s Le Nord.
Part 2: Dijon, It’s Not Just Mustard.
Dijon gives you the feeling that if you lived there and moved away, you would instantly regret your decision. We arrived, without flourish on a cold afternoon, walking through the cobbled streets with our suitcases in tow, creating the most awful noise several blocks long. I was sure that since we are mainly Americans, we would be considered rude, and in fact, probably were. Our hotel, nothing of notoriety, but cozy none the less actually provided us with a small kitchen set up, for which we used only the electric tea kettle and the refrigerator. Without fail, we were given time to explore the small city, and with bags in hand, wallets out and ready, we realized that apart from Dijon mustard, we had no idea where we were, or any clue about what to look for. Mustard, we realized, was only a very small part of what made Dijon tick. Food was the most central expression of what it means to be from Burgundy, of what it means to live in Dijon. Food there was idolized in a new way that we didn’t see in Lyon, perhaps because of lack of time, or really, lack of motivation. We didn’t realize the extent to which Dijon affected us as a group until we began to realize that we had to leave it. No one wanted to talk about it, but it was a realization that we all made at some point in time. Wondering through the cavernous market the last morning, each person scurrying around for those hard to find items, those French specialties, those little nibbles in which we can attach our memories of our time there to – we loaded up the bus back to Italy. We bought a whole hell of a lot of stuff, the bus was jam-packed with people, pork, wine, cheese, bread, and delectable treats of all other sorts. We bought mustard, sure, but not from the slightly cheesy, brash La Moutarderie Fallot that we officially visited, but instead from the other one, Maille with only slightly less flare for spectacle. Sure, the mustard is good, and it is from Dijon, and we bought it in France, but its just mustard in the end. The bus ride home was tedious, because we knew what we had done; overindulged in the loveliness that is the food from Dijon, from Burgundy, from France. We knew that we had not only done serious financial damage, but apart from that, serious damage to our palates, realizing that now, this place of succulent gastronomic items would be lingering in our minds. Arriving in Italy, forced back into whatever kind of reality it is that we live here, unloading our bus at the usual spot, we realized that our purchases left us with no option; we had to get the car and drive all of it back home, resulting in a rainy walk for those less fortunate. Dijon is more than mustard, it is the product of our imagination, if we lived in a world where food is elevated to magnificent levels, people are genuine, and mustard is just another condiment.