Walk with Me

{Feel free to ignore the intro paragraph as it’s of no relevance to study abroad but once I’d written it I couldn’t bear to mercilessly chop it out}

I grew up on a small farm nestled in forested hills. Since my family members owned a good portion of the surrounding land, I had ampleterritory for frolicking through creeks and across meadows. However, as idyllic as this setup sounds, I’m sorry to say I didn’t fully take advantage in my younger years. Sure, I spent a lot of time outside, but I rarely ventured into the wider woods of my own accord, only when my dad declared it was time for a walk. And, sadly, the time I spent outdoors decreased exponentially during my middle and high school years. Fast forward to college, where freshman year I was so firmly ensconced in the Georgetown Bubble I literally didn’t cross the boundaries of the neighborhood for nearly two months. Sophomore year, finding myself with more reason to wander further
afield and unimpressed by the inconvenient and pricey Metro, I one day plugged my current location and destination into my phone’s maps app and changed the settings to walking directions. The handy time calculator told me it would take less than an hour by foot. After some mental calculations, I realized I could easily spend that long doing absolutely nothing online or, even more pertinently, taking the Metro, and thus decided to spend it walking instead. Although much of my walking sophomore year took place within the confines of a soon-beaten path, I did challenge myself to walk through all seven wards of the city in a day during my Easter Break staycation (accomplished in 50k + steps booyah!).

Suffice to say that Lyon is the first city where I’ve walked almost exclusively (discounting my summer residences of the past two years—Diankou, China and Montréal respectively). Although I’d essentially made the resolution to privilege bipedal transport before I arrived, I was delighted to find that Lyon is truly an ideal city for exploration by foot. For one thing there’s the fact that, unlike most cities, Lyon has defined chronological layers, much like a flat—or flat-ish—onion. This means that a walk through the city can feel like a voyage through time—and place. Each of the diverse neighborhoods, from Vieux Lyon to Confluence to Presqu’île to Guillotière to Croix Rousse to Préfecture, has something completely different and unique to offer. Upon first glance, the city is not as showy as many of those on the primary Europe tourism circuit, but the more you take the time to appreciate the details of everyday life here, the more you come to understand the city’s understated yet authentic. Although, honestly, I think Lyon’s got its fair share of outright beauty.

In case I haven’t already made them abundantly clear, here are my the three main reasons I’ve decided to walk (almost) everywhere during my séjour in the gastronomic capital of the world (hey that’s what Wikipedia says, I’m just parroting the preeminent source of all knowledge):

  1. The abundance of free time, as mentioned in previous posts
  2. Walking serves as a replacement for regular visits to the gym (and I’m too lazy/intimidated to run along the quais or, worse, in the city—although there are slightly more runners here than I was prepped for, it’s still nothing compared to D.C. the exercise capital, which is both a good and a bad thing but basically I don’t like running and would prefer to walk for my exercise)
  3. Perhaps most notably, it’s an excellent way to explore the city

While I can’t exactly drag you on one of my daily wanderings with me, I’ve decided to do the next best thing and make a 12 Days of Christmas-style tally of what I saw during a recent day spent traversing the city, with the disclaimer that a few of these are pulled from other days or are extrapolations. So without further ado:

23 baguettes carried (11 individual carriers)

15 boulangeries

“I don’t like rain, I don’t like cold so rain = not here, temperature below 0 (celsius)= not here…” You get the picture (literally)

10 green neon crosses denoting pharmacies

9 piles of dog poop on the sidewalk (1 pile stepped in)

8 groups of people under the age of 18 smoking

7 rolling utility/shopping carts (6 dragged by women, 1 by a man)

6 flower shops

5 overheard conversations not in French (1 Italian, 1 German, 3 English—I would say this number is low compared to, say, Paris, and thus take it as a point in favor of Lyon’s status as a “Real French City,” perhaps even The Ultimate French City although I won’t go there any more than I just did 😉 )

4 people eating while not seated (3 not including me)

4 unsolicited greetings (1 in broken English when a pair of guys overheard my friend and I speaking English)

4 children seemingly without guardians (revealed to be half a block behind and apparently unconcerned that their young charges were far out of arm’s reach)

3 handwritten signs on doors explaining “exceptional” store closures

3 farmer’s markets (here just called markets)

3 dog owner interactions between people who seemed to be strangers to one another

2 groups of people doing les bises (cheek kisses in greeting)

2 Breton striped shirts (a lot more stripes)

2 people reading while walking

1 unexpected staircases much longer than expected

1 old woman asking me for the time

1 group of middle aged folks asking me to take a picture of them in front of a moving truck

1 young man asking me to hold his dog while he deposited his CV at a flower shop

0 people wearing sweatpants, yoga pants, or basketball shorts in public

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