01/12/12: Alter-Ego trip to Pérouges: Winter has arrived!

Alter-Ego trip to Pérouges: Winter has arrived!

Saturday 1 December 2012

Last week, I decided to sign up for the trip to Pérouges, the medieval town, organised by the university for foreign students. There had been other trips during the semester but it is often quite difficult to get a place because they are very popular. It is quite deceiving because I liked the idea of going to Annecy or Grenoble for a fraction of the price of a train ticket, but still, Pérouges is better than nothing.

I booked my place two days before by paying 5 euros on Thursday night to the head of the International Relations department. I had to go to their office on Berges de Rhône campus which is around 30 minutes away from Porte des Alpes campus in Bron, where most of my classes took place. I had to get back to the centre really quickly to make sure that I got to the office on time. I got there, after having took the line D metro to Bellecour, where I withdrew some money, and I walked, well virtually ran, to the building opposite the Rhône. I arrived minutes before they were closing the office! After securing my place on the trip to Pérouges, I went back to my house. I was excited for Saturday because I thought it would be good for me to get out of Lyon for a few hours.

Saturday came and we met next to the horse statue at Place Bellecour at 8. 15am. I knew that it was early for a Saturday and so I had to get up earlier to make sure that I had everything ready. After a night of not sleeping very well, my alarm went off at full blast, at 6am in the morning. My alarm was the voice of an English singer, Laura Marling, and the soothing song was called ‘Rambling Man’. I was so tired that I was really tempted to get back under the covers, close my eyes and sleep for longer. But the trip was a good chance for me to see more of France, so I forced myself out of bed and endured my cold room and took a shower. I had to wait 10 minutes for the water to get warm.

I left my house just in time to catch the 49 bus to Perrache. When I scanned my card, I remembered that it was the first day of the month and I had to top it up. So, I paid 2 euros for a ticket but I'm not sure if I had to because the driver didn't seem bothered either way and I think I would have got away without paying, but then I'm not sure about the protocols of buses in France, especially on the first day of the month.

When I got to Perrache, I topped up my TCL card so that I wouldn't have to do it later on in the day. Because I knew that when I got back later on, I would want to get home as soon as possible. I took the metro and I arrived at Bellecour with 15 minutes earlier than I had to. I could tell that it was going to be a cold day, despite the fact that I was wearing half of my wardrobe.

I waited on my own for the others to arrive. A few seconds later, another English girl arrived, who like me, didn't know anyone else going on the trip. In England, she studied in London like me, but she was only in Lyon for a semester because she was going to Russia for the second, as she also studied Russian. We spent most of the day together talking about different things. And I thought that the fact that we both shared a love for London would help to break the ice a little. We both admitted that even though we loved Lyon, we still preferred London because there are so many different things to do. I think that only someone else that lives in London can understand how I feel living in Lyon and the reasons why I find it impossible to fall in love with the city.

After having spent a lot of time in Place Bellecour waiting for the stragglers to arrive, it was finally time to get on the coach that was waiting for us, it was a little warmer inside. Our first destination of the day was a small village where we partook in typically French activities, eating cheese and drinking wine.

On the way there, we could see the dramatic scenery. We went past the rapids formed by the River Rhône, woods and frosty and icy meadows, that lit up in the few rays of sunshine that were breaking through the fog. There were tall hills and cliffs, so I could tell that we were getting closer to the Alps. But the mountains weren't visible from where we were.

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The further away we got from Lyon, the more frost and fog appeared and I realised that the temperature indicated on my phone was completely false, because it was obviously much colder, especially at Poncin, our first destination.

It was like a school trip, travelling through the French countryside feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere. Just as I was getting comfortable in the coach, we arrived and I had to leave the warmth of the coach for the freezing cold village.

I couldn't see the village when we first arrived, it was quite weird when the coach turned around in the car park surrounded by large factories and warehouses. It was too quite and too quick, and well, it was like the whole day, everything was so calm.

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Because I love cheese, I was happy to visit the factory that produced a local cheese called Comté. Everything was very simple, we had to sit and read the sheets about how the cheese was created in a small room. It was interesting to learn about the temperatures required and the amount of milk needed to make a block of cheese of 65cm. It was something like 550 litres of milk for one block.

After, we were able to taste the cheese, one had a fruity taste and the other was softer. I think the taste varies depending on how long it has been left. I prefer fruitier cheese. There were loads of free samples and after everyone had tried the cheese, some people, including me, started to eat more. I suppose that we were all hungry really. After, we had the opportunity to buy some cheese but I didn't want to pay 9 euros and I didn't need any since I had plenty of emmental in my fridge at home.

When we finished in the cheese shop, we went to the Sedan wine sellar, a popular wine that is produced in the region. The wine is sold is a number of different countries, but not the UK unfortunately.

When everyone had finished in the shop, everyone was waiting outside in the freezing temperatures before going to the distillery. At the entrance, there was a shop where we drank wine which was nice and warm and a pleasant change from the freezing cold. Before we tasted the wine, we went on a guided tour of the distillery but it was bloody freezing. It was so cold I felt as if we were outside still. It was that cold that I was finding it hard to focus on the things the woman was telling us about the wine and the production process. It reminded me of my school trip to France and Germany, where we visited the place where they made champagne, wine and the beer Kronenbourg. On this occasion, only the teachers were allowed to drink the alcohol.

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Eventually, we were able to taste the wine, although I was quite apprehensive because I don't really like wine. I was actually pleasantly surprised. The rosé sparkling wine was fruity and ripe, and I could not taste the bitterness of normal wine. We were given two glasses each of two different wines, one had less alcohol than the other and the other one was stronger. Our glasses were accompanied by the Compté cheese and some sausage, that I didn't eat.

At our table, we drank the wine and food and we chatted amongst ourselves. We spoke about where we lived before we came to Lyon, and where in England we came from. It is clear that London is a fantastic topic to start a conversation, everyone there had their own personal stories about London.

My friend and I were talking about what part of London we lived in last year. My friend came from Camden, which is very well known and popular amongst tourists but I came from Roehampton, which is a small neighbourhood in South west London. I said that it was close to Richmond.

  • 'Ah, do you know Richmond Park', someone said.
  • 'Of course', I said. 'It's virtually on my doorstep'.

I was very happy to be able to talk to someone about the London that I know, and not only the tourist sites.

After finishing the food and drink, we got back on the coach. I decided not to buy any wine for 7 euros but I regretted not getting any really because the one I tasted was delicious. But I have never bought wine over 5 pounds (except if it was a gift), so that is probably the reason that I have never liked wine, because normally I pay less than 2 euros!

From Poncin, we went to the Abbey in Ambronnay where we ate in the park, but the cold! It was nearly midday and there was still ice on the floor. I couldn't think of anything worse than having to eat my cheese baguette in the freezing cold.

We walked around the Abbey and some parts of it looked like scenes out of the Harry Potter movies. The streets in the village were completely empty and we couldn't hear a single sound. Where was everybody? It was a Saturday afternoon! I thought they must just have been very wise and decided not to leave their houses on his freezing cold day, I know I would rather have been inside.

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After eating, we still had half an hour before we have to go back to the coach. Instead of having to wait outside, we went to find shelter inside of the Abbey. After 10 minutes, we realised that we weren't the only ones who had this idea, and nearly half of us on the trip were stood inside the walls of the ancient Abbey.

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The clock sounded 1pm and we finally went back to the coach to make our way to Pérouges, the medieval city, which I had researched before we came, to find some things to do there. I slept on the coach before we got there, it was still cold, surprise surprise.

We did a guided tour once we got to the Gaelic town (something I studied in my culture and languages of the world class). Pérouges had stone walls and doors, and cobblestone paths. It felt as if we had been transported back 1000 years to the Middle Ages, but there was no waste or animals in the streets which was normal during that period according to our guide. Human waste was thrown out of the windows onto the streets in the past, too.

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Our tour started in the church. When we left the church, we saw a statue of Saint George and a dragon. Our guide told us that the locals of Pérouges celebrate Saint George's day which me and my English friend found quite bizarre but still interesting since Saint George is the patron saint of England. But I wanted to know whether the dragon represented the one that Saint George killed because something must have inspired the story because obviously everyone knows that dragons are not real. Aliens and the Lochness monster maybe, but dragons, no!

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The guide was definitely interesting, but it was horrible to be traipsing around in the cold most of the time. I couldn't feel my toes it was so painful taking off my faux fur gloves (which a lot of people laugh at) so I could take photos of the little houses and the beautiful Pérouges.

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When the Industrial Revolution started at the end of the 18th century, Pérouges was almost abandoned because lots of people left and moved to bigger towns. So Pérouges started to fall apart and decompose, until it was discovered and restored to its original state at the end of the 20th century. The modern street lamps that use electricity were very subtle.

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It was interesting to learn about medieval life and the strict laws and punishments that were ensued if anyone broke the law. After the tour, it was definitely time to go to a restaurant and warm up and recover from the busy morning.

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The last thing on the list of things to do on the trip was to eat a sugar tart which is a Pérouges delicacy and drink cidre in a little restaurant opposite the main square in the city. Inside, there was a fireplace where lots of students were gathered, trying to warm up after spending the day braving the freezing temperatures. It was the only thing I wanted to do!

The sugar tart is like a pizza that is covered with a generous sprinkling of sugar. Because I love sugar, I loved it but I can't say that it is the most imaginative delicacy that I have ever seen. I also liked the cider although I had never tasted it before. But like the wine, it only had a low alcohol content.

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We had an hour before we had to make our way back to Lyon. We were given the choice to stay in the restaurant or to go out and explore more of the city. Me and my friend decided to stay in the restaurant because we had seen a lot of the city, and it was still cold. I was still struggling to feel my toes!

After having waited for an hour, we left the small medieval town. It was difficult to imagine that a lot of people had once lived there. When the coach left, I tried to get some sleep whilst some Chinese students were trying to take some photos of the beautiful sunset. But my camera was in my bag and I was too tired to bother getting it out.

I woke up when the coach was just on the outskirts of the city, near the Parc de la Tête d’Or. I was woken by the sound of a Korean song, which was very popular, 'Gangnam Style' by Psy which played on the radio. I didn't really know the song because I am not so interested in chart music. I have to say that it wasn't as nice as being woken up by Laura Marling in the morning!

I thought that it mustn't be long before we get to Bellecour and so I would be home soon, but I couldn't have been more wrong because for some reason, the traffic was horrendous. I think we got to Bellecour 30 minutes later than I had expected.

Like yesterday, it was a while before the C20 arrived, and also like yesterday, it was full of people. I considered taking the nest bus but it was too cold and my bed was the only thing that I wanted. Eventually, I got home to the warmth of my room with my small heater. I was only missing one thing...

All in all, the day was really nice and if it hadn't have been so cold, it would have been even better. But I enjoyed meeting other students and getting to know more people. I loved Pérouges, it was a very pretty and interesting city. The places around Poncin were also very beautiful, especially since they were covered in ice and frost. It was very picturesque but I didn't have chance the take any photos of the passing landscape because the coach was driving too quickly. I was very happy to be back in my bed and I planned to stay there because snow was forecast in Lyon over the next few days!


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