I like saying that I come from Lyon. But the truth is not as perfect as this sounds to me. No. The truth is that I come from Lyon’s countryside. And it’s even worse in fact. The truth is I’ve been born in Clermont-Ferrand, though I never really lived there. Then my parents moved to Orléans. When I turned 6, we moved to Marseille, where I got what I consider to be some of my happiest childhood memories. And then, when I turned 9, we moved to Chazay d’Azergues, which I consider as my hometown.
Chazay d’Azergues is some 20 km north of Lyon, in Vallée de l’Azergues, which is a natural frontier between what is called Le Lyonnais and the Beaujolais, a region famous for its vineyards. It sits in the middle between Lyon and Beaujolais. Though it might seem trivial, it is not to me : for a long time, I couldn’t consider myself as coming from Lyon or coming from Beaujolais. I felt like coming from a forgotten land that happened to exist between the two of them.
Though I only came to live there when I was 9, my father’s family had settled in the region for a long time already. My grandfather came from Villefranche-sur-Saône, which is located in Beaujolais, and my grandmother’s family came from Lyon, where my great grandfather had immigrated from Italy. When I was a kid, I would spend two weeks almost every year in my grandparents’ house in Lucenay, a tiny village 5 km north of Chazay d’Azergues. They had an old stone farmhouse in the centre of the village. I loved it. We would sleep in the old bedroom of my father, on the second floor (or third if you’re from the US) with my big sister. In the morning, we would be woken up by the sound of the bells from the nearby village church, get down to the kitchen where my grandfather would have already bought croissants and pains au chocolat for us while on his way back from the newsdealer’s. And then we would get entertained all day long by our fantastic grandmother, drawing, swimming, making cakes, and so on.
Quite intriguingly, I wasn’t that happy to leave Marseille for Chazay d’Azergues, though. I remember how it hurt to know I would lose most of the friends I had made there. Life in Marseille was sweet and simple for the kid that I was. And yet, when I moved to Chazay, I almost immediately made friend with kids around. For a long time, though, I would proudly remind everyone that I came from Marseille.
And yet, as the years went by, I forgot a lot about Marseille, and grew up between Beaujolais and Chazay d’Azergues. It was not before I turned 18, though, that I really got to know Lyon. At that time, I moved to the capital city of Gaules with a friend to study in preparation of the hard entrance exams of French business schools. For two years, I lived in the 6th Arrondissement of Lyon. I didn’t have any interest in the city, though, and every weekend, I would come back to Chazay, where my friends, family and dog were. Then when I turned 20, I got admitted to a business school in Lyon. I was quite proud of it, though when I come to think of it, I might have grown up faster in another city. But the years I spent in Lyon then enabled me to fully fall in love with the city, and to get to know all its nooks and crannies. This was when I first came to consider myself as a Lyonnais.
Yet, a year ago, when I came to visit Lyon with my girlfriend who had never been there, the best day we had wasn’t when we were in Lyon, but when we went to Chazay, picked bikes at my father’s home and cycled around the tiny villages around in Pays des Pierres Dorées. Cycling with her reminded me how great it was, when I was a kid, to grow up in such a marvellous place. My friends and I would ride our bikes all day long, climb up the hill which seemed gigantic at our young ages, go to the river and cross it with our bikes (it was a great adventure). Riding bike with my girlfriend felt like being that kid again. I guess I never loved her more than that day. Or rather, I did, but on that special day, I wished I had grown up with her, and I was honestly fancying about settling down nearby with her someday not in Lyon, but there, in the vineyards, in a golden stone house that’s so typical of the region which is also called “Pays des Pierres Dorées”.
Though my situation has dramatically changed now, I still have this hope somehow. Even if I know my father disapproves of this idea, thinking I would be happier abroad, there’s always this very special heartbeat I have every time I go to my hometown, every time the very particular smell of the ground there comes to my nostrils, that tells me this is where I belong, and where I want to settle down if I ever have a family. Like my parents did. Like their parents and the parents of their parents did too.