Category Archives: valence

Lyon and Catching Up

Where does the time go? I think I’m going to still be catching up on blogging about France when I am back in the States. I returned from a wonderful weekend in Paris with my friend Helen last night and am leaving for six days in Rome tomorrow. Things that probably won’t get their own blog posts include my visit to Grenoble with Kat and Liza to see the crazy David Altmejd exhibit at Le Magasin. It was an amazing room full of what I can best describe as giant mirror transformer werewolves. There was also the Fête du Printemps in Valence, that featured an odd Texas/Oklahoma area complete with “authentic” outlaws and Indians as well as horse tricks and awful lassoing. Pictures here, here, and here. The festival also had one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen in France: a performance of vegetable people, like Giuseppe Arcimboldo paintings come to life. I also went to Voiron with Kat and Leslie to visit Jaime to mark her last day in French with a climb up the hill behind her home. We didn’t factor in the fact that it had been raining, so not only was it an incredibly steep hike over slick leaves, there were also huge disgusting slugs EVERYWHERE. But the trek up slug mountain was worth it for the gorgeous view of the Alps and Rhone-Alpes.

As you can tell, it’s been a busy time and I feel like everyday I have to say goodbye to someone. I know that we’ll stay in touch, but I honestly don’t know when I’ll get a chance to see my friends again. I guess I feel lucky to have met so many wonderful people in such a short period of time. It’s only been since September that I stepped off the plane, a stranger to everyone in a city I had never seen.

Lyon in the fog.

Lyon in the fog.

On my parents’ last day in France, we took the train to Lyon, the second-largest city in France. The weather was a little foggy, but we had a nice walk around the city and a delicious lunch on one of the boulevards. I believe I had a can of my favorite soft drink in France: Schweppes Agrumes.

Someone had painted landscapes on the steps leading up to the Basilica.

Someone had painted landscapes on the steps leading up to the Basilica.

I had no idea that the day after Easter was a holiday in France, so unfortunately a lot of things were closed. We took the stairs (I’m always going up steps in France) up to the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière and passed a lot of miniature landscapes that someone had painted on the walls.

Flowers at the statues feet.

Flowers at the statue's feet.

After admiring the view and seeing the inside of the Basilica, we saw the nearby Roman theatre and then took the path down the hill to the old town. Flowers had been placed at the feet of this statue of Mary, probably on Easter.

Weird rabbit swastika-thing.

Weird rabbit swastika-thing on the Cathédrale Saint-Jean.

Unlike the rest of the city, the old town was bustling. I guess because it’s one of the most popular parts of town, and also because it was the only area open. We went into the Cathédrale Saint-Jean where we saw my new favorite thing in Lyon: the Horloge Astronomique. At certain hours of the day, it has 19 different automatons that move. Although one woman hilariously freaked out when it didn’t work right at 3 pm (according to her watch), it was not at all disappointing and bordered on spectacular. This video is the best I can find, but doesn’t really do it justice. It’s one of the oldest astronomical clocks in the world and was created in 1383. And the music it plays might end up in your nightmares.

Coffee in Lyon.

Coffee in Lyon.

Afterward we had coffee and strolled around the streets and passages of the old town before sitting for a while by the river and then catching a train back to Valence. The next day I saw my parents off on the train to Paris and it felt a little odd to still be in Valence.

Château de Crussol Hiking

Donkeys at the ampitheatre near

Donkeys at the amphitheater near Château de Crussol.

The Saturday my parents were visiting, we started by going to the outdoor market and buying picnic essentials like green olives, fresh fruit, Comte de Savoie cheese, and crunchy baguette to take up to the Château de Crussol. The market has gotten better and better as the temperature has improved and it’s definitely one of the things I’m going to miss the most about living in Valence. It’s always different due to the season and since Drome, the department where Valence is located, specializes in fruit and olives it’s constantly changing with the weather. Currently, red strawberries and green and white asparagus are covering the market tables.

A shepherd herds donkeys at the ampitheater.

A shepherd herds donkeys at the amphitheater.

Our hike up to the Château de Crussol was a little extended due to a wrong turn I made with the bus, but we finally made it up to the amphitheater to have our picnic. We were surprised to find the whole amphitheater filled with donkeys, about 20 of them, each with a bell ringing on their neck. Their owner was letting them graze on the green grass and, since they seemed very focused on eating, we decided to just have our picnic alongside them. I literally could have reached out and petted the donkey as I ate my sandwich, although I didn’t really want to get fur on my food. As we were finishing lunch, a shepherd came out of no where with a black and white sheepdog and the donkeys were rounded up and ran out of the amphitheater in what couldn’t have been more than a minute.

Rainy weather at the castle ruins.

Rainy weather at the castle ruins.

After lunch, we hiked up to the Château de Crussol, a castle that is now in ruins. You might remember I visited it in March. Although the weather was a little rainy, we could still see most of the valley with Valence surrounded by the Rhone-Alpes.

Flowering tree in the ruins.

Flowering tree in the ruins.

My parents nicknamed their trip “Fitness in France” because of all the uphill climbs and hikes we seemed to do. Crussol was definitely not an exception and it had some treacherous walking, although we did make it to the very top. I tend to spend a lot of my time in France walking uphill. Just today I was visiting a friend in Voiron who is leaving France tomorrow and we scrambled up a wet leaf-covered hill at what must have been a steady 45 degree angle. There were also disgusting giant slugs, but that is something I will describe in more detail on another post.

Wall of Crussol.

Wall of Crussol.

I would love to know what the castle looked like when it was still standing and what rooms were where. There isn’t any information in the ruins themselves and I can’t find much out online. I imagine not many people lived there as it would be a pain to have to hike up and down the hill to get anything. Then again, you would have a perfect view of the valley and I can’t imagine anyone would go to the trouble of attacking you way up on the hill.

I only have one more day of teaching and it’s tomorrow!

Valence/Tain l’Hermitage


The Suisses were all dressed up for Easter in Valence.

I’m still without internet and am reduced to using it in the creepy McDonalds in Valence, because that’s absolutely the only thing open on a Sunday. And as I type, a woman with few teeth is sitting across the room from me singing along to the music. Or muttering along to it in imitation English. Now I know how all the odd people in town pick up the random English phrases… Anyway, I’m going to try to make a quick post.

After visiting Nice and the French Riviera, me and my parents took the train up to Valence. We mainly walked around the town that day and saw the river. The next day, we visited more of Valence and saw the big sites like the park and the cathedral. It’s interesting how a city changes when you see it through someone else’s eyes. I’ve lived in Valence now for over six months, but being with my parents made me notice things all over again. This was mostly good, like appreciating again how spectacular the park is on first viewing and how charming the cobblestone streets are. It was also a little bad, as the creepy men in the streets and the trash on the sidewalk stood out a lot more to me.

Flowers at the vineyards in Tain lHermitage.

Flowers at the vineyards in Tain l'Hermitage.

Their second day in Valence, we took the train over to Tain l’Hermitage. Every other time I’ve visited Tain, I’ve gone to the Valrhona chocolate store first and then climbed up the vineyards. This time, in order to avoid that ill feeling you get scaling a hill with a stomach full of chocolate, we did the opposite. It was a clear and beautiful day and little yellow flowers had grown amongst the vines. I was surprised that there were still no leaves on the plants, but I guess it’s still early spring.

Vineyards at Tain lHermitage.

Vineyards at Tain l'Hermitage.

I still haven’t found the most direct route up and down the hill of vineyards, but it was nice to wind around and see the Rhone Valley from the top. Later, after the chocolate store and on the way back to the train station, we stopped at a wine store and sampled some of the regional wines. Apparently the Hermitage wines are only produced on the hill behind Tain l’Hermitage where we walked and are therefore more valued. There are also Crozes-Hermitages that are produced in the surrounding area. We ended up buying a Saint-Joseph that was produced in the Ardeche across the river.

Church at the top of the Tain lHermitage vineyards.

Church at the top of the Tain l'Hermitage vineyards.

Eventually, we made it over to the church at the top of the vineyards. It doesn’t get much more picturesquely French than the old stone Church surrounded by vines and flowers. When I’d first come up to the church when my friend Randall was visiting, we took the most direct, but nearly deadly steep route. I had sworn to never do that again. Nevertheless, this was the way we decided to take down and it was as much sliding as walking. Luckily, I didn’t have to use my French health insurance and we somehow all made it down the slippery 45 degree angled dirt path. We were rewarded with many chocolate samples at Valrhona and then had lunch across the river in Tournon-sur-Rhone before later going back to Valence for the evening.