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On the road in Lyon, Ecole des Trois Ponts, and Provence

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Sep 15th, 2004, 06:50 PM
  #1
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On the road in Lyon, Ecole des Trois Ponts, and Provence

We're not there yet ...
... but if all goes according to plan, at this time tomorrow we'll be in the air over the Atlantic on our way to France. We'd like to thank all the Fodorites who helped us in so many ways while we planned this trip.

When on vacation, we stay in touch with our family via e-mail, usually by dropping in to so-called "Internet Cafés". So I thought, as long as I'm there, why not drop a line to all our Fodor Friends?

Obviously, I'm not going to spend oodles of my vacation time writing a lengthy trip report. That will have to await my return. But perhaps I can say a word or two on some of the topics we discussed in our various posts: SIM cards, QWERTY keyboards, cashing in Francs, what to buy, what to paint, what is the Ecole des 3 Ponts like, and lots and lots of restaurant recommendations (we intend to eat shamelessly).

We're creating this thread to gather these in one place. No promises - if we don't have the time, you'll have to wait until we get back. But if you see this thread Pop to the Top, it probably will mean we've posted something from France.

Where we'll be when:
9/17 Arrive in Lyon on TGV from CDG
------- 2 nights at Hôtel des Artistes
9/19 Drive to Roanne
------- 6 days at Ecole des Trois Ponts studying French
9/25 Drive to Bonnieux
------- 4 nights at Le Clos du Buis
9/29 Drive to Mazan
------- 4 nights at Cante Perdrix
10/3 Return to Lyon, Hôtel des Artistes
10/4 Return flight from Lyon to CDG to US

- Margie & Larry
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Sep 16th, 2004, 04:42 AM
  #2
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Looking forward to your posts.
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Sep 16th, 2004, 08:02 AM
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Margie & Larry, have a wonderful, wonderful trip! I hope that you will have time to "post from the road" - it would be fun to hear your comments. voyages sûr
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Sep 16th, 2004, 09:22 AM
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Bon voyage and feel free to stop by if you have the time. We are just across the valley from Bonnieux...

Give us a call at 04.90.75.46.31 -

-Kevin
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Sep 16th, 2004, 11:03 AM
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Dear justretired,

I studied at Ecole des Trois Ponts for three weeks last fall, and loved every minute of it. I'm sure you will too.

Please say hello from Sandy H to Rene, Valerie, Pascal, Marie-Eve, Catherine, Julien, Marianne, Danielle, and everyone else. I'm sorry that I haven't kept in touch with them as much as I had hoped, but I have such fond memories of being there, and do hope to go back some day.

Sandy H
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Sep 16th, 2004, 11:16 AM
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Sandy- I printed your meassage and will say hello to our your friends at Trois Ponts. I'm a bit nervous about the week, in that I'm a bit language impaired and my husband is fluent. I'm hoping to improve, but it's only a week, so I don't expect much. Thanks for the note, Margret
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Sep 16th, 2004, 11:34 AM
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Kevin, we also noted your phone number, and will give you a call if we get a chance.

Leaving for the bus to the airport in an hour and a half.

- Larry
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Sep 18th, 2004, 08:36 AM
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Live from Lyon, it's Saturday night!
Well, Saturday afternoon, et nous voici à Lyon. All transportation worked as planned, but it was still nearly 15 hours door to door (from our house in a Boston suburb to l'Hôtel des Artistes in Lyon).

Lyon is a wonderful city that we think many Americans miss in France. hanl, we've been following all your recommendations with great success. Dinner tonight will be at Le Caro de Lyon. The reservation was easily made, because our mobile phone is working fine - no trouble with the eBay SIM card.

I have a lot of details about the TGV connection, but don't have the time to type it all now on this French keyboard. They won't let me switch to the US layout.

Off to Roanne tomorrow, and the Ecole des Trois Ponts. Much more later, as time allows.

- Larry and Margie


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Sep 19th, 2004, 12:48 PM
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Arrival at Ecole des Trois Ponts
But first, back to Lyon: I had to struggle with a French keyboard there, and didn't type much in my last message. But we had a terrific day yesterday. The weather was gorgeous; We spent the morning in the old city touring old passages and courtyards called "traboules". Then a funicular up to the basilica, and a walk down through gardens and parks. Then we took a boat ride down the Saone and up the Rhone. Dinner at Le Caro de Lyon was excellent. So far; the food's been great.

Today we picked up our rental car, and drove to Roanne. Since it was a Sunday, and we had to pick up the car early before the office closed, we had plenty of time, so we wandered off the main road and wandered through some small towns. We stopped to eat in a small village called Amplepuis, in one of the few open restaurants we were able to find. We were served by a charming 12 year old girl named Celine. The food in this random roadside restaurant was quite good.

On the way out, Margie started chatting with the chef, Celine's father, in French. He and a group of three friends then engaged us in a political conversation. They had strong feelings about US politics and the war in Iraq, and fortunately we agreed with them. This led to a long set of animated discussions in French. One of the men happened to mention to me that I was the first American he had met in 12 years (Amplepuis is not a major tourist destination). I don't think anyone spoke much English except Celine, who is learning it in school, and wanted to practice on us. This is the sort of interaction that we study French for. It was a fascinating and delightful experience.

We're now at l'Ecole des Trois Ponts, where we've been given the orientation tour, met the group, and had our first dinner. We chose a larger room, and it is quite large and nice. The grounds are attractive, and the dinner was very good. The chef, Daniel, explained all the cheeses, as well as how to cut them.

I also have good internet access, a DSL line, and this keyboard can be switched to an English layout, so I can touchtype. So you may hear from me more this week than later in the trip (for better or for worse).

Classes start tomorrow, and I'll let you know how it goes. There are only 9 students, only about half the maximum capacity, because the dollar is not doing well, and perhaps because there is less travel to France for political reasons. But six of the nine students here are Americans. Two are Canadian, and one is German. There are no beginners, but various levels above beginner, and we all spoke only French at dinner.

More to come; any comments will be appreciated.

- Larry

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Sep 19th, 2004, 01:17 PM
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Loving your postcards from the Road. Wish I were back.
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Sep 19th, 2004, 03:36 PM
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Look forward to your post, just.

>...it was still nearly 15 hours door to door (from our house in a Boston suburb to l'Hôtel des Artistes in Lyon).<

It wasn't that long ago that it took weeks.
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Sep 20th, 2004, 05:37 AM
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Hello
Glad to hear you enjoyed Lyon and have been eating well so far!!
(We've just returned from a cold, wet and windy week in Scotland - we were so glad to see the sun shining in Lyon!)

Good luck with your course at the Ecole des Trois Ponts.
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Sep 21st, 2004, 09:36 AM
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Ecole des Trois Ponts

hanl, welcome back, and thanks once again for all the tips on Lyon.

Things are going well at the Ecole des Trois Ponts here at the Chateau Matel. Of the nine students, two are taking private lessons, and the rest are divided into two classes. As expected, I'm in the more advanced class, and Margie is in the less advanced class. But everyone speaks French to some extent - there are no beginners this week. As a result, conversation at the table is entirely in French for all three meals, with only occasional lapses.

As a result of the classes and the immersion, Margie in particular is making rapid progress after only our first two days. For one thing, she's becoming more fearless about using her French, out of necessity. Then at the end of today's class, she realized she was understanding sentences directly for the first time without thinking of the English equivalent. I was surprised she was able to start doing this so quickly. She has been studying French at a once-a-week level for several years, on top of her long-ago High School French, but as an artist, she's more visual than auditory, and it doesn't come to her particularly easily. Thus we're very pleased with her progress.

The meals here have been good. The breakfasts are pretty basic, but the lunches have been quite interesting, and the dinners have shown a good deal of imagination. I think this is because there are students taking cooking classes in the afternoon (as there usually are), and they help prepare the meal. Thus, the chef always wants to prepare something particularly interesting at dinner.

At both lunch and dinner, there is always an excellent cheese selection, and as I've already mentioned, the chef explains each cheese and how to cut it, and the order in which to eat them (milder cheeses first, stronger ones later). New cheeses are always being introduced. The wines at dinner are chosen for the meal being presented, and I've enjoyed them all. And the bread ... well, we're in France, so I needn't say more.

The classes are tailored to each group. In the first class, we were asked what our individual objectives were. Of course, in any group, there are some compromises. But the instructors are knowledgable and energetic and engaging, and arrive well-prepared (they've been doing this for a long time).

In short, we're enjoying our stay, and making good progress with our French, so we're very happy so far.

- Larry
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Sep 21st, 2004, 10:24 AM
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Travel with a PDQ

I think I've mentioned before that I travel with a PDA, a "Personal Digital Assistant", meaning a pocket computer. Mine is a Pocket PC type; the other operating system, the Palm OS, runs on Palm Pilots. I love it, although it makes people look on me as a techno-geek, but that's their problem.

All PDA's bring your Outlook records with you. That means when we got a message that there was trouble with a credit card payment back home, we had the number of the vendor, and could call and straighten it out. It was not a number I ordinarily would have carried, but on the PDA, you have everything.

Once you've got it, the idea is to put everything possible on this compact, lightweight device. I use if for:

An alarm clock (no separate clock needed)
An English-French dictionary (separately purchased software)
What the heck - three other dictionaries:
- English-Spanish
- English-Italian
- English-German
Microsoft "Autoroute" mapping software
Dozens of files of information, e.g."
- hanl's restaurant recommendations for Lyon
- All the Provence recommendations from Fodorites
----- Margie made a file which we'll share with you later
- Lots of other recommendations from Fodorites
- French food dictionaries downloaded from the internet
- All sorts of tips about France, from the internet
- Emergency contacts in case of credit card problems

And so on.

I use the English-French dictionary the most. It's faster to look up a word than in a paper dictionary. I just write it on the screen, and there I am. If I then want to look up one of the definitions in the other direction, I just double-tap it.

But I've also used the mapping software, only in Lyon so far. A woman stopped me on the street and asked if I knew how to find a particular restaurant. I said I didn't but I'd look it up. I did a location search on the restaurant name in Pocket Streets, from the Lyon Center map I'd loaded up from AutoRoute, and there it was, shown on the map, two blocks up and one block over.

And I've consulted my two French Food files numerous times, and information about our itinerary too. It would be hard now for me to go without it.

For this trip, I didn't buy the Michelin Red Guide for France, partly because of all the recommendations we got from all you Fodorites. And I haven't yet added a GPS unit, which would tell me where I am on the map. Someday.

As I said, I'm a techno-geek, so this might not be of interest to everyone, but I love it.

- Larry
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Sep 22nd, 2004, 10:27 AM
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Highway signs

sandyh, I haven't mentioned yet that we printed your greetings to the staff at 3 Ponts, and they passed it around to all involved. They remembered you.

Let me mention a few points about driving in France. Fodorites who have done so are probably familiar with all this, but somehow I still get confused even though I've driven here before. There are certain things about the signage that are taken for granted here that are not obvious to the foreigner.

There's a common sort of sign indicating a direction to somewhere which is more or less a wide rectagle with a single name in it, which might be the name of a city or town (such as "Paris"), or a place ("La Gare"). But a triangular projection on one side turns the shape into an arrow.

You might be driving along towards Paris, for example, and as you pass over a cross street, you see one of these to the right of the street you're on, on the far corner with the cross street. It says "Paris", and it points to the left. As an American driver, my impulse is to interpret this as "Turn left here for Paris", and I have often done so.

That is NOT what is intended. The sign is pointed to the entrance to the street right in front of you, and it means "Go straight here for Paris". Sometimes it is angled slightly into that street, but basically, it points left. But don't TURN left, or you'll be on the wrong road.

Another quirk of signage: On the highway, you'll see a white sign indicating an exit to somewhere, let's say "Amplepuis", with an arrow pointing up and to the right to indicate the exit. Right under it is a blue sign containing one or more names, such as "Roanne". That sign has no arrows on it. I have interpreted this as specifying additional places served by this exit. This is not the case. The key is that the sign is blue. That color indicates "highway", so the signs mean "exit here for Amplepuis, but stay on the highway for Roanne".

- Larry
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Sep 22nd, 2004, 10:53 AM
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ira
 
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Thanks for the note on the signs, Larry.

If you find other interesting quirks, please let us know.
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Sep 22nd, 2004, 12:53 PM
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Bonsoir!
I'm enjoying your posts - hope there are more to come. You're right about the confusing signs here. I still get caught out by those "arrow" signs :-s
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Sep 22nd, 2004, 01:29 PM
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I'm enjoying these reports immensely. I loved the one about signage. My personal favorite sign is the huge one in Le Bugue (small town in the Dordogne) that says "bis ESPAGNE" - as though there might be a lot of people passing through wondering how to get to Spain - I don't think so!
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Sep 23rd, 2004, 07:44 AM
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TGV from CDG

Thanks for the replies! If I don't hear from anyone for a while, I wonder if I'm just typing into the void.

I was thinking back to the TGV from Charles de Gaulle to Lyon that we took, which was a subject that was discussed before we left. Here are some thoughts:

Signs to the "Gare" in the airport are not that easy to find, but the map is clear on the general direction. It's about a ten minute brisk walk, but the luggage carts are free.

In many cities, there are different stations for the TGV than for other trains. At CDG these are all together, but nothing tells you this.

There's a specific window to pick up tickets if you have come in by air, and your ticket is part of a multi-part air ticket (that is, the train is considered a continue "flight", sort of).

I had a "non-fumeur" ticket waiting for me, pre-printed for a specific train. It was marked "non échange non remboursé". I'm not sure what would have happened if the plane were late and I'd missed my connection.

As has been previously noted on Fodor's, you have to watch the big electronic sign to determine your track ("la voie"). The destination shown may not be yours (ours said "Marseille", the ultimate destination, when we were going to Lyon), but the train number on your ticket matches the sign.

You can descend to the tracks from either side of the waiting room, via the "Acces Nord" or the "Acces Sud". It wasn't clear to me if this took you to two different areas (one for trains going north, the other for trains going south) or if both went to the same tracks (which is in fact the case).

Also as noted here, you must "composter" (validate) your ticket before going down to the track.

At the track, you have to consult another monitor to see where to stand for your car (the car number is on your ticket). It tells you your "repère", or "mark", where you will "répérer" (spot) your "voiture" (car).

The number of the car is on a small LCD display on the side of the car. Don't be confused by the big "2" on the side of the car, which means "second class". You need to spot your car fast, as the train will only stop for a short while. The cars in our case were two-level, and you can only walk through the train on the second level, and it would be very difficult dragging a lot of luggage.

There's not enough space in the cars for a lot of luggage - it was all over the place near the doors.

The elevator from the platform in Lyon was very small - we waited five trips or so before we could get on it.

The TGV really moves! I don't want to sound as if I'm complaining. It was a pleasant trip, and given that it came in at the station Part Dieu instead of at the airport, I don't think it took much longer than flying.

- Larry
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Sep 23rd, 2004, 12:53 PM
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Justretired, Glad you are having a wonderful time. Did you eat at any on the Bouchons in Lyon?
Did you notice in the Dordogne area the figures on wood painted black along the roads to show where someone died. In other parts of the country there are bouquets of flowers atop a bamboo pole.
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