Monday, July 04, 2016
As usual, breakfast at the hotel was breads and cold cuts. Left Nevers at 8:00 AM to catch our flight out from Lyon, the second largest city in France. The journey wasn't as long, a little under 260 KM. What we did in the bus was very standard: prayer, hymns, rosary and the divine mercy chaplet. Never in my life have I prayed the rosary so much. A few times I just fell asleep halfway through.
The traffic into Lyon was atrocious. The only traffic jam in the whole trip. To celebrate the end of our pilgrimage, mass was celebrated at Chapelle de la Vierge, Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere. We were greeted by an old priest there who spoke Mandarin. No wonder they have Chinese mass there. A rarity. The main church was a work of art. My mouth gaped open when I walked in. Behind the basilica was an unobstructed view of the city. Not much time was left for sightseeing.
Proceeded to lunch at Les Bouchon de Carnivores for a final meal of French pork. The portions were surprisingly Asian and the taste good although it looked spartan. The restaurant was close to Place Bellecour where we saw the pretty Flower Tree sculpture by the side of the Rhone.
Lyon–Saint-Exupéry airport was quite big. So big that our driver didn't quite know where to drop us. An airport security vehicle actually had to guide us. The airport is a structure of steel and glass that looks like it jumped out of a geometry textbook. Much of the shapes reminded me of paraboles and sine curves. Security was quite tight with patrolling army personnel and thorough checks at security checkpoints. One auntie's metal altar piece from Santarem raised alarm bells and they checked her bags for explosives. Had some time to do some last minute shopping. The tour guide caused a bit of an OMG moment when he said that Longines was selling for EUR70 when he was referring to Longchamp.
Unlike Lisbon, Lyon was much closer to Istanbul. The flight time was just half of the inbound flight. The seats did not feature individual in-flight entertainment, so I had to crane my neck to look at the small screens suspended above. The movie of choice was "Joy", based loosely on the life of Joy Mangano, the inventor of the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers, a queen on the Home Shopping Network.
Transit at Istanbul Ataturk Airport was a bit longer because there was a one hour flight delay. That gave the aunties some extra time to go crazy at the Samsonite sale. In half an hour, they sold six lightweight multi-compartment sling bags that aunties love so much. Flew out of Istanbul at around 3:00 AM local time. Felt zombified but I forced myself to stay awake by watching "The Revenant" (amazing that it didn't knock me out faster) and "Agent 47" (kwa cheong action sequences). Managed to catch some shut eye before waking up for some breakfast. One hour before descent, we were already doing our farewells as most of them had a connecting flight to Kuching to catch.
SK had warned me about the weather in KL saying that the temperature had shot up to 40C. Fortunately I readjusted quite well. At least it wasn't like when I returned from Vancouver where I was welcomed with bad haze and peat fires. But it was weird to sweat again. A slight tingle to feel my sweat glands work hard again. It's good to be home.
Thinking back, I had much fun during the trip. Although the average age of the group was around 65, that didn't stop us from cracking jokes and laughing together. Hokkien and Foochow were thrown around, and although I didn't understand a word of it, it didn't matter. We looked out for each other constantly and moved together like a big family. We prayed for each other (one aunty hoped that I would enter the seminary XD) and helped each other (some were ill and weak) . Even the priest was very helpful, always lagging behind to make sure that there were no 'lost sheep'. Won't be complaining about having bread for every meal anymore as it's gonna be rice, rice and rice again. Plus no more stress about the correct cutlery to use. A very memorable pilgrimage indeed. There will be more places to see and I hope KH will join us next time. ;D.