Dad's Memories

- 27 August 98 - 27 August 98

"Bidets to Bullfights"

c - Arthur J. Langdon -1970

013d -- Paris to Lyon, and "The flower children" -- 013d

On any trips my wife and I have taken, we enjoy most of all getting a rental car and driving through the country side to see how the natives live, to go in their stores and restaurants, talk with the people even if it has to be in sign languange, and just to be where the scene is - instead of flying over it. This is what we term "seeing the interior at the expense of the posterior".

From Paris to Nice, our next stop, is about six hundred miles - and rather than drive that far, we had tickets on an air conditioned buss which stopped half way at Lyon for the night - and completed the trip the next day. The bus was a new one owned and run by the railroads of France. It had a capacity of thirty-five and started with six passangers, the driver, and a hostess - who acted much like an airline stewardess. Two passangers got off at an early stop, so only four made the six hundred mile trip. Our companions were a twenty year old Parisienne girl and her mother.

The French countryside is truly beautiful with rolling hills and immaculate farms. Some, in the most unusual places - like half way up a mountain side where the cows grazing in a clockwise direction seem to have two long legs for the down side, and two short ones for the up side (and those going the other direction are reversed).

There's a "oui oui" here and a "si si" there.

A "ya ya" here and an "si si" there.

For "old MacDonald's brought his pay.

From the good old U.S.A.

Our hostess spoke fairly good English, which she learned in the French schools and was most eager to expand on her English vocabulary. We could understand almost everything she said but often she would have trouble understanding us - because we were using unknown synonyms for the words she had learned. We might say - "mountain peaks", "Please - what is peaks?", "mountain tops", "Oh, yes I see". "Those are bulls", Oh yes, I see". I was tempted to complete the bull - steer exclamation by telling her steers were bulls - only without the family jewels - but thought that might get to involved.

She was a marvelous person, out at stops for lunch and dinner, which were included in the bus fare - she would arrange the details. It was against regulations for her to eat with us, so she would sit at a nearby table to translate the menu, see that we were properly served, and straighten out any little problems. Like, when I needed an ashtray and tapped my lighted cigarette to indicate none was on the table - the waitress brought me a pack of French cigarettes. Our little hostess came over, and in no time at all - an ashtray appeared. The proper word for "ashtray" in French must be the longest in the language, unless - as I suspect - the waitress was properly dresssed out for an innocent mistake.

When we arrived at Lyon it was seven thirty P.M. so we did not get to see much of the city - other than to see that it was a heavily industralized area. All arrangements were completed so that at the hotel our girl just gave us a slip of paper with our room numbers on it. The key was in the door and we were in the shower while others checking in stood in long lines. While it was against rules for the hostess to eat with the passengers, I don't know what the company rules about sleeping might be - and did not think my wife would appreciate my finding out.

The one with the shorter hair is probably

the girl - especially if the other has whiskers.

If neither wears a beard, the one with the

knapsack is the boy - unless of course - they're sisters.

Bare, calloused feet are used to meet

all pavements without blisters.

And, blue jeans are used to cover the seat

of both misses and their misters.

Our hotel at Lyon was bounded on one side by some innocent looking buildings which were quiet, and on one by a railroad station which was noisy. On the side our room faced - the gendarme station, which was temporarily quiet, and on the fourth side by a park which acted as a sounding board for about a hundred - knapsacked "flower children". After dinner, which included calf brains (the specialty of the house) and which neither of us had the guts to even try, we took a walk through the park - through the hippies. No acre of city land can exist in France without at least one outdoor eating and drinking spot complete with colorful tables and umbrellas. So, after having been cautioned that Lyon was not the safest place in the world for an after dark stroll - we took a small table on the side nearest the police station and ordered a coke and beer.

The flower children included many from the States, as well it seemed - as from all parts of the world. Each seemed like the next. Tired to the bone, as hungry as could be, in need of a bath, in a world of their own - where acceptance was complete, adjusted, and content with the life they had chosen. When a boy with his girl, both looking weak and near exhaustion - took a table to order a bottle of spring water for their evening meal - it signaled the futility of tryiing to do what we had talked about at our table - to buy hamburgers for some of the kids, for there were literally hundreds of them now in the park.

Our room was not air conditioned. The temperature was in the nineties ... so we swung open the two big windows facing the gendarmarie to catch what little air might be stirring. Almost immediately, we caught something with it. For, in the station house was an amplified receiver to pick up the patrolman's walkie-talkie units. The conversations went something like this -"What's your name son?" "How old are you?" "Let me see your identification papers." "Where do you live?" "What country are you from?" "Do you have any money?" "Do you have a job?" "Is this the first time that you have been arrested?" ...... Many of the queries were in French, German, Spanish, and other languages - but enough were in English so that even if we didn't know what the language was - the conversations were legible. Apparently, a push was on to clear Lyon Park of its transient population. For, the next morning, the roads were loaded with long haired, blue jeaned, boys and girls wearily carring their knapsacks to every which way the wind might blow them.

The Parisienne girl and her mother were very shy people but after having lunch and dinner together we had increasing fun as the ice melted. The girl's grandmother had lived in England many years, and on visits there as a child she had apparently learned some basic English words. As we talked, these long unused words and phrases began to come back to her and we soon were having a real ball with our friends - learning enough French to confuse her. When an impass developed there was always our bilingual hostess to straighten things out. Like, "No, they are trying to tell you that the arch we just passed through was built by the Romans in the eleventh century - not that the price of eggs had gone up to eleven cents."

On a Hawaiian trip several years ago, we had a comedian for a driver who kept every one entertained. For example, after a long non-stop trip through the pineapple fields he would announce over the P.A. system, "Pretty soon we will stop at a place where they have summer houses. Summa for boys. Summa for girls. Ha-ha-ha". Our French driver didn't have the same sense of humor, but made the same necessary stops. This gave us opportunity for further study of French plumbing fixtures to add to our knowledge of bidets. For, unlike the city dwellers with their fancy porcelain fixtures, the rural folk have kept things to a bare minimum. The little house out back - has a cement square about three feet each way - with a six inch hole in the middle. Two blocks are raised on each side of the hole to place your feet on and again - no instructions are needed, either for men or women. Very simple if you have good balance.

Index - Uncle Art & Aunt Clara's trip to Europe - 1970, "Bidets to Bullfights"

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