Buoyed on by the Friday night heroics of my countrymen, I set foot towards Mt. Thou. A sweltering day of 32 degrees seems perfect for a long walk. Lyon is about 200 metres above sea level and Mt. Thou is 678. Not the Eiger; a hump in comparison, but a pleasant stroll all the same. For readers of this blog, Mt. Thou is the hump next to Mt. Verdun, the hillock I finally found and conquered a few months ago.
I park my Velo’v in Vaise and head into the Casino supermarket to buy picnic items: bread, garlic sausage, cheese, half a bottle of wine, piece of fruit. Standard picnic fare. For me at any rate. The French however have pushed the art of picnicking to new levels.
I’ve started heading up to the park in Pierre Scieze in the evenings as it’s elevated position halfway up La Croix Rousse affords good views of the city and is away from the polluted streets of Lower Lyon. There’s no such place as Lower Lyon, but that’s the name I’ve given the flat grid-ironed streets of the deuxième arrondissement where I live.
As I sit on the grass in the park reading, I’m always pleasantly distracted by the luxury picnics the people of this area serve up. Bowls of wildly coloured salads, foil wrapped home cooked savoury delights, platters of cold meats, grilled fillets of duck and rabbit. Plastic tubs containing everything from quail’s eggs to sautéed asparagus, marinated avocado halves to poached lobster. All laid out on expensive Tuareg rugs as though expecting royalty. Freshly squeezed juices for the kids, organic wine for the adults, mineral water for the dogs. No rounds of white sliced cheddar cheese sandwiches, Dairy Lea wedges or pipes of Pringles here.
I leave Casino and walk to the start of the track that leads up to the Mont D’Or region. Having already wrote about this walk in Lyon 9, I’ll paraphrase: the path follows the stream up through the forest to the village of St. Fortunat.
Despite the searing heat, it only takes me an hour. In Lyon 9 it took me an hour and a half, so I conclude that my running has been worth it. Saying that I’m sweating buckets. A chain of cyclists pass me and power up the hill hardly breaking sweat. ‘I could do that,’ I mutter and wander into the bar. This place was desolate in winter. Now it’s teaming with folk, happy in the knowledge that up here in the Mont D’Or, they are safe from the terrors that lie below them in Lower Lyon.
On the walk up here I saw a gigantic house with a swimming pool, a tennis court and a good looking family having lunch outside. The father was sitting proudly in a white patio chair overseeing his adoring family. I was tempted to ask if I could join them. Just to see what they would say.
The difference between ending up on Mt. Verdun or Mt. Thou is the decision you make at the crossroads outside the bar in St. Fortunat. A right turn leads you up to Mt. Thou. Straight on leads you up to Mt. Verdun. Simple if you’ve been here before. If you haven’t, you’ll probably go the wrong way. But that’s life.
I’ve been to Mt. Verdun four times so I take the right turn and head up through the fields which are as picturesque as anything you’re ever likely to see. Meadow after meadow littered with acres of wild flowers too varied and colourful to describe.
Thirty minutes after leaving the bar, I hit the summit and sit amongst the waist-high grass of the plateau. If you quickly scan the field, you wouldn’t think there was anybody else here but you. But look harder and you’ll see a hundred families nestled in the tall grass munching their way through award-winning picnic hampers.
I unwrap mine and despite not having the sort of delights I see in the park most evenings, I’m happy with what I’ve got. Bread, sausage, cheese, wine. I chop the sausage and cheese, cut my baguette in two and uncork the wine. After a slight struggle trying to cut rock hard French dried sausage with a blunt camping knife I finally put together the greatest sandwich ever made: a whole white baguette loaded with garlic sausage and camembert, held together by half a jar of Dijon mayonnaise. I pour my wine into my plastic cup, raise my glass and say a toast. ‘To Lyon,’ I cry loudly into the air. I take a sip and prepare to devour my sandwich. If only the people of the park could see me now.