Only Lyon

Lyon, FRANCE //  Wednesday November 10 – Thursday November 11, 2010

Unlike in Canada, Remembrance Day is a statutory holiday in France. My roommates and I decided to take advantage of the day off work and plan a little trip to Lyon! Lyon is located in east-central France and is either the 2nd or 3rd largest city in the country. Why the uncertainty? Well, depending on who you ask, you may get either response; The Lyonnais insist that Lyon is the 2nd largest city in France, and the Marseillais insist that Marseille is the 2nd largest city in France! Whatever the answer, one thing is certain – Lyon is a beautiful city!

We had no real agenda, our only tool, was a map of Lyon. From the Part-Dieu train station, we took the subway to Place Bellecour and that is where the adventure began. The best way to discover any city is on foot, and so we let our feet lead the way, glancing occasionally at the map. Not far from the Musée de l’Imprimerie, Jenny found LaLaLère, a cute boutique that sells gifts and house-ware items. With our purchases in hand, we continued walking until we stumbled upon the Place des Terreaux, which is where the Musée des Beaux Arts and Hôtel de Ville are located. There, we pondered on the significance of the rather interesting, but random wood sculptures that had been installed in various locations, and our ears were treated to music by a street band. We strolled down another street and found ourselves standing in front of the Opéra Nouvel. We wandered some more, and more, and eventually found our hotel. After a long day, we decided to put our feet up; I think they did a pretty good job of guiding us today, no?

Day two in Lyon started at the top of the Fourvière hill with a visit to the Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière. This 19th century Basilica’s interior is elaborately decorated in millions of mosaic tiles – I had never seen anything like it! An interesting fact: the Basilica is dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Notre-Dame) who is believed to have saved the city of Lyon from the Plague in 1643. In fact, each year, on the 8th of December (the day of the Immaculate Conception), the city of Lyon honours the Virgin Mother with the Fête des Lumières (I’ll write more about this event in a later blog). As I mentioned earlier, the Basilica Notre-Dame is located at the top of the Fourvière hill, so, after our visit of the Basilica, we stopped to enjoy the wonderful views of the city.

Once again, with our map at hand, we began to explore the area around the Basilica. We knew there was a Gallo-Roman Amphitheatre (15 BC) not too far off, we just weren’t sure how to get there! Eventually, while walking down a hill, Kristie spotted a sign pointing in the direction of the ancient site – we were heading in the right direction afterall! We visited the Gallo-Roman museum which houses an impressive collection of Pre-Roman, Roman, and Celtic artifacts before walking through the Amphitheatre. The Basilica, the Gallo-Roman Amphitheatre, and the surrounding area were all named to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1998.

Hungry from all the walking we had done that morning, we decided to make our way down the hill to Vieux Lyon. This Renaissance neighbourhood is characterized by its narrow, cobble-stoned streets and traboules (passageways), antique shops and fine restaurants. We dined in one of the restaurants, sampling traditional Lyonnais food like the salad Lyonnaise, which is a salad topped with bacon, croutons, mustard dressing and a poached egg – yum! With our stomachs satisfied after a wonderful lunch, we decided to walk some more (surprise, surprise!). Also situated in Vieux Lyon is the Cathédrale St-Jean. Unfortunately, we were not able to admire its medieval architecture as it was covered sky-high in scaffolding! At this point it started to rain, and we took the change in weather as a sign that we should return to our hotel; After all, we still had to check-out before making our way to the train station. We were early for our train, so we decided to go to the Shopping Centre located conveniently across the street from the train station; the Part Dieu, and with its multiple floor design and central city location, it actually reminded me a lot of the Eaton Centre back home in Toronto. Finally, after a slight train delay, we were on our way back home.

Street band and random wood sculptures in the Place des Terreaux

Opéra Nouvel

A close-up of the Basilica’s impressive detail work

An example of the beautiful mosaics inside the Basilica

The view of Lyon from the top of the Fourvière hill


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