While perusing the wares at the weekly international textile fair along Lyon’s Saône River, Little Man (11 months) let me know he was overdue for a feeding. Hubby took the girls exploring along the river walk while I found a bench in the shade. I got comfortable and baby started eating. . . and then I saw it. The “x” marks the spot near a notable bridge in Lyon where “it” happened.
An absolutely pathetic pigeon sat on the edge of the sidewalk, feathers in disarray, head tucked under wing, on the verge of dying, not five feet in front of me. Well, all birds die, I thought. I guess this is how it happens for some of them, right here on the bustling street. But this bird’s last moments on earth were not going to pass unnoted.
After several minutes of meditative solitude, several younger, properly preened pigeons strutted over. And to say I was shocked is an understatement. If my son had been watching and not immersed in his feeding, I might have shielded his eyes. The healthy pigeons began pecking the near-dead pigeon. Peck, peck, poke, stab. They aimed for the eyes, back, wings, all over! The helpless pigeon hardly winced. Maybe it was already in a standing coma. I was appalled. Here, on the idyllic streets of France’s culinary capital, I learned that pigeons may be cannibals. But I now also know they’ll eat things much worse.
Later that afternoon we took this picture in Vieux Lyon, the old part of the city known for one of the largest concentration of Renaissance buildings in France. Before Vieux Lyon we enjoyed gelato in Parc de la Tête d’Or, Lyon’s version of Central Park.
It was here that Lil’ P (age 4) initially mentioned her stomach was upset.
By the time we reached Vieux Lyon, she pointed to several spots on her stomach that weren’t feeling well. But she’s a trooper and made little mention of the condition of her health as we continued through the city, posing for photos such as the one above in front of John the Baptist Cathedral.
Then, as the American colloquialism goes, she hurled. She blew chunks. Mostly chocolate gelato, but also real chunks of crêpe still digesting from lunch. Over the course of 30 seconds, Lil’ P emptied the contents of her stomach across cobblestones that have probably been receiving such treatment for centuries. And then those chunks joined the food chain as numerous pigeons instantly descended upon the scene, spying the half digested morsels of delectable Frenchness. While Lil’s P was shocked at seeing the contents of her stomach no longer in her stomach (she has only thrown up once before in her memory), the pigeons piled on the mess like a rugby scrum until every last scrap disappeared. We didn’t have to feel guilty about walking away from the mess because it was mostly cleaned up. Just. . . like. . . that.
The girls got a great visual to accompany an important lesson. They’ve always been told not to touch the pigeons, but now they know they true reason why. Pigeons eat vomit! When they forget that instruction, as they inevitably will next time we’re in a city with overly familiar pigeons, I’ll let them in on the deeper secret. Pigeons are cannibals!
Looking out toward the bridge where the cannibal pigeons reside.
Roman ruins on the hill, one of the notable places to visit in Lyon.
This miniature cityscape in bronze is located at the overlook next to the Notre Dame de Fourviere Basilica on the hill. The children were fascinated by it.
This series is brought to you by the letter “B” and pertains to our family’s recent three week stint in Europe. If you want to be sure not to miss a post, sign up to receive the blog via email on the lefthand column.
If you missed the previous posts in this series, the links are posted below.
Part I: Surprised by BOUNTY
Part II: Beauty’s BOLLENE (or what it means to be French)