Let's Welcome the Circus People
Yesterday was an uncommonly nice day for February, and taking advantage of the suddenly not-unbearable weather, I was biking back from a previously unexplored park on the eastern edge of town when the breeze brought to my unsuspecting nostrils the odor of barnyard--most unexpected in the no-man's land between the Part-Dieu railyards and the former prison. Looking around, I quickly spotted the source, a traveling circus big top thrown up on a patch of waste ground between the SNCF rail lines and the tramway/bike path. More intriguingly, the big top was surrounded by circus trucks full of tigers [2nd photo, click to enlarge so you can see them], and random camels stood around in the vacant lot [hard to see, in center of the 3rd photo].
Besides the circus folk, this stretch of ground is also occupied by a sizable gypsy camp [far right in the last 2 photos] of scavenged wood and corrugated metal. The gypsies (or Rom, as they are more politely known) are probably worthy of an entirely separate blog post by dint of their unique position in the French social strata-- below dogs and other domesticated animals but slightly above rats-- but it's tempting to imagine the dirty-faced children, weary after a long day of begging and pickpocketry at the train station, stealing away from the campfire to stare in wonder at the tigers in their cages, eyes glinting in the darkness, as laughter and accordion music carry from the tumbledown shanties across the vacant lot.