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Death and breasts in Lyon

Visitors to Lyon cannot avoid spotting the Basilique, a church/cathedral which dominates the largest hill overlooking the city. To climb the hill on foot is a challenge worthy of a saint but for us the crowds inside took away much of the beauty of the modern frescoed interior. It lies in the old quarter of the city whose narrow twisting streets were filled with tourists, mostly French it seemed, but all of whom seemed to be enjoying the warmth of the day.

Elsewhere dotted around the city are less remarkable but somehow intriguing statues which on careful study revealed some sort of a theme, something I just couldn’t put my finger on at the time.

Meanwhile back at the home of our hosts, Guy and Noëlle a deadly drama was being played out. A lone turtledove, one of many who share the garden with the hens, the tractors and the various assorted bits of machinery, was in full flight trying to avoid becoming dinner for a hawk, a kestrel we think. Diving towards a dark hole in its effort to escape, the dove failed to detect the window glass and with its hunter being so close behind, sadly both birds impacted with shocking thuds. The window glass survived intact but both birds fell to the ground instantly dead. Remarkably the bodies were almost unmarked externally, both birds’ eyes closed and wings folded as if asleep. Inside the house the noise of the double blows had been loud and shocking, frightening until the explanation became clear and then exciting, something so rare and bizarre had occurred that required the birds’ bodies to be posed for photos and emailed to relations abroad. Readers of this blog are saved this.

Not far away from the village of St Bernard, where we were staying, Adolf Hitler’s car rests peacefully amongst an intriguing museum collection of vehicles – cars, motorbikes and cycles going back to the dawn of the transport age. Weighing in at over four tonnes with all its armour plating, one of the toughened windows of this car bore the marks of bullets apparently fired from the gun of a German soldier. It was not immediately clear whether this was from an assassination attempt or some sort of a test of the strength of the glass but nonetheless there was a dark presence to this exhibit, somehow out of step with its surroundings. It was not there solely as a car but also as a reminder, I felt, of France’s past.

Maybe the same could be said of the Papamobile, as used by the late Pope John-Paul when he went on his holidays. Unlike with Hitler’s car, Kate was prepared to stand proudly next to this one. Of all the exhibits at this motor museum, however, our favourite of all was the ‘Tue Belle-Mere’, a three-wheel motorised tricycle designed with an open basket right up front for the mother-in-law to sit in whilst her loving relatives drove safely from behind. For those not fluent in French, ‘Tue Belle-Mere’ roughly translates as ‘mother-in-law killer’.

Regrettably our sojourn in Lyon came to an end this week and we are now back ‘home’ in Torri. The 3-hour delay on our journey back showed that even French railways can be less than perfect at times but none of this really mattered as we were warm and comfortable, the sun shone for us and we had been heavily pre-loaded with pieces of a delicious savoury tart cooked by Noëlle. We arrived back to a cooler Torri, the air feeling damp in the evening as the dew falls. This, so we have discovered, is typical of the place, something the locals refer to as ‘umido’ meaning damp, but which is really little more than moisture condensing out of the warmer air as it is cooled by the river in the valley bottom. We console ourselves that the shortest day of the year is almost with us and after this the sun will arrive earlier each day in our bedroom window.

This little eye-catcher turned more than a few heads in Ventimiglia yesterday, an off-roader with real Italian country style. Is this possibly the equivalent of the Range Rover 4×4 urban runabout seen in UK cities? I find it Interesting to speculate which of the two vehicles is the first to make it into the Lyon motor museum.

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