The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Unexpected Frisson of a Bomb Threat

Just because I haven't posted anything in a while, thanks to our trip to Vezelay, some short bits and pieces:

The other afternoon I got a call from V. She'd been on her way home with the boys, after stopping in to have lunch with me at the cafeteria (the Trough, my French boss calls it; actually pretty darn good for a cafeteria) and doing some shopping. On her way home on the Metro, the train had gone straight through the Bellecour station without stopping, and let the passengers off at Vieux Lyon, the next stop across the Saone. She had to walk back across the Pont Tilsitt, wheeling the stroller with the boys on board. I could barely hear her voice on the phone over the wail of sirens.

That's odd, I thought. I checked the TCL (Transports en Commune de Lyon) website, where they usually list breakdowns, strikes, etc.--and there are a lot of these--and sure enough, Bellecour station, the busiest on the line and 3-level hub where the main lines cross, had been evacuated because of a "suspicious package".

By the time I got home, an hour or so later, having got off at Guillotiere and walked the rest of the way, Place Bellecour was still aswarm with gendarmes and firemen, hanging around their trucks and looking bored. It turned out to be a false alarm, of course, but given the subway bombings in London and Madrid, evacuation was the right thing to do. Nothing like a good bomb threat to quicken the pace of your afternoon.

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I am now the proud owner of a Republique Francaise Permis a Conduire (driver's license), thanks to my International Diplomatic Man of Mystery status. My employer, through special arrangement with the appropriate Franch ministries, can simply swap foreign licenses directly for French ones--given the proper documentation, of course. So I traded in my worn old NCDL and got in return this giant pink trifolded piece of stiff paper with my picture in it. It's too big to fit in my wallet, even the larger wallet I bought here that can accomodate 100-euro notes ('cause that's just how I roll, you know). This partially explains the man-purse epidemic that infects Europe; Europeans have to carry so much crap around with them that just won't fit in a wallet.

One interesting fact that explains a lot about French drivers: A French permis is permanent, never having to be renewed. Ever. If I lived in France until I was 100, I'd still have the same license with the same Dorian Gray photo in it. Point being, French drivers have to work pretty hard to get their licenses in the first place, but once they have them, they can forget everything they ever knew about driving.

And most of them do just that.

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We finally broke down and bought the marble coffee table we saw some months ago at our favorite used furnitre/junk store, The Box of Used Stuff. Finally, slowly, we are getting rid of the cardboard shipping boxes we've been using as furniture six months after the move.

The matching Goodfellas ashtray, sadly, had been spoken for.

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Pictures: In case you'd forgotten, this Thursday is Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the first day you can buy this year's crop of the cheap, fruity young wine mad just up the road from us. We've been up there in the vineyards twice--the vintners are really nice and invite you down to the cellars (first pic) for a tasting. Some will let you have a peek in the vats (second pic; the fermenting grapes sound like Rice Krispies) and poke around in their vineyards eating grapes right of the vine (third pic)--they're unexpectedly warm from the sun.

Lyon has a big to-do in Place Bellecour for Beaujo Day; at the 12th stroke of midnight the mayor taps the first vat of wine and starts passing out glasses. I'll try to go and get some photos. Though it's just a block or two from us, the midnight timeframe makes it problematic with the kids and all. Maybe V and I will go in shifts.

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