We discover LyonSeptember 8, 2017 in France
Our only previous experience of Lyon was many years ago when we dropped a rental car off at St Exupery and flew back to Brisbane. More recently, several people had told us that it's a beautiful city with spectacularly good food and wine. What's not to like about that?
Waking up and taking in our surroundings, we realised that we had chosen well with our hotel, the Novotel Beaux Artes. It's in an old building, but the interior has been tastefully renovated in a very modern style. Our room was quite spacious, especially by European hotel standards. It is only 50 metres from the impressive square known as the Place des Jacobins. (We soon discovered that Lyon has a number of impressive squares, of which this is but one). Prepared for a day of exploring, we found our way to the tourist office, which proved to be very helpful and which supplied us with a map of the city and its recommended attractions. Even with a map it took us a little while to get our bearings. There are two rivers, the Rhone and Saone, which meet at Lyon, and the roads certainly aren't laid out in a grid pattern. For example, at Place des Jacobins, there are seven streets all coming off the square at various angles. Navigation, at least initially, was quite a challenge.
Eventually we sorted ourselves out and were able to take in the beautiful scenery and architecture of Lyon. We discovered that our hotel is in the middle of a very upmarket shopping area, with Pucci, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and every other prestige brand one may or may not have heard of all within walking distance. Not that they would ever benefit from us being there.
We first walked over the Bonaparte Bridge, bought two-day public transport passes then caught the funicular railway (cable car, in Wellington-speak) up the very steep hill to the Basilisque Notre-Dame de Fourviere, the massive cathedral which overlooks the city. We spent quite a bit of time in the cathedral and its precincts then took a leisurely walk down the hill to the city. We were certainly pleased that we hadn't pushed ourselves into walking up the hill, though many people did. At the bottom of the hill, we visited Lyon Vieux, the old town with its narrow cobblestone streets, and the nearby Cathedrale St Jean - also very impressive. Wherever one looks there are great things to view and to photograph.
By then, we'd done quite a bit of walking, so after savouring some excellent local ice-cream we decided to rest up at our hotel for a couple of hours before setting off to forage for dinner. There weren't all that many restaurants in our immediate area and given the tone of the other shops, we thought the prices would be so high that we'd need a bank loan to get a bowl of soup. We decided therefore to head towards the the old town, where we'd noticed a number of restaurants in the narrow winding streets. It was around 9pm, and getting there after the 15-minute walk we got quite a surprise. There were just so many restaurants, side by side by side, with tables spilling out on to the footpaths and roads. And all of them were absolutely jam-packed. The place was like Park Road, Milton, or Wellington's Courtney Place, times fifty. Eventually, we picked out a place from the many which had tempted us, and had a really great dinner. The city's bridges and major buildings are all lit up at night, and it really is a beautiful place. We'd known very little about the city beforehand, but were certainly very impressed by the place.Read more