It was with delight that I hauled our plastic canoe off the dock and into the Saône, jumped into its stern and started to paddle off down the river with Maddy and Angela. Saturday was a bright warm day, and we had wandered down to La Confluence to explore the Fête des Cerises, a festival with two purposes: one, to celebrate cherry season by showcasing the organic farmers in the area; two, to present Lyon’s newly-gentrified neighbourhood to the public.
Several stalls set up along the Saône offered fresh cherries, berries and organic wine tastings, including a Cuisine Co-opératif booth where visitors could help season and mix their own cucumber soup and gazpacho. Further down there was a small stage set up, with everything from flamenco to traditional African dance being showcased every hour and a few live bands starting in the late afternoon. Angela and I took advantage of one of the wine tasting booths and tried some delicious rosé.
But the highlight for us, although the fresh cherries and cherry ice cream were absolutely delicious, was none of these things. As a way to introduce people to the newly-constructed place aquatique, short canoe and kayak trips were being offered for free!
After one of the men running the program showed us briefly (and incorrectly) how to hold and use a paddle, we climbed into the canoe and started to head out toward the open river. The first half of the trip was upstream toward the Kitchener bridge and past all the houseboats and river cruise boats that line the east bank.
The day had warmed up to a sticky 30 degrees, but the cool breeze off the water made it a very pleasant ride. I was glad for the experience, as it was a nice new way to experience the river I loved and take advantage of my last weekend in the city, but all I could think as I did my best to steer the tippy plastic canoe with my ill-fitting plastic paddle was that I couldn’t wait to get back to Canada to do the real thing!