Lyon by day: Part I

Ok, so the challenge of writing a blog or any diary is keeping up the daily entries.  So apologies to those following that this post is now over a week old!   I have found it very hard to sit down at a computer while visiting with friends.  It’s a bit of an anti-social thing to do I’m afraid….so get ready for a flood of posts as I catch up to the present over the next few days.  Also this first post “back in the saddle” is a long one…. so settle in with a good “cuppa” or “chardy” depending your time of day.

Today we toured Lyon on foot with our expert guide : Hubert.    Hubert is a 4th generation Lyonnais and like Marie has always lived in the city centre.  We couldn’t have had better guide.   Tonight we will attend the Fetes des Lumieres …along with an estimated additional 1 million tourists!

Lyon is France’s third largest city with a population in the city centre of about 500,000 and the surrounding suburbs of about a 1 million.   The city centre is really an “island” bordered by two major rivers the Rhône and Saône.


Lyon also has some steep hills to the west and the north (the 4th & 5th arondissment). The huge Catholic church – Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière sits prominently on the hill overlooking the town.   The city has been occupied since Roman times with ruins of an amphitheatre complex close to the Basilica.   It has always been a wealthy city, in particular with silk manufacture.  It is also known as the French capital for cuisine.

The 4th arrondissement known as Croix-Rousse is on a big hill to the north of the city. This is where H&M live and it was formerly the location for all the silk manufacture in the 19th Century. The looms used to weave the silk were over 4m high.  All the buildings in this part of the city have floors with 4m+ high ceilings and big windows to let in maximum light.

But today, Croix-Rousse is not an industrial area.  Like so many working class areas of our cities, it’s been transformed by “yuppies” into a really “funky” area to live.  The streets are filled with an eclectic mixture of bakeries, plumbers, butchers and car mechanics.  Few of the apartment buildings have car parking and so the streets are jammed with parked cars. Finding a car park anywhere in Lyon is akin to water devining, especially during busy times of the day.   Good luck finding a car park –  and if you do – even more luck is required to get your car free again!  When we asked Marie about this – “how do you get your car out, if someone has blocked you in?”   She did the classic french shrug combined with a wry smile…”you just push a little!”    So this will explains the amount of panel damage we’ve seen on Lyon vehicles!!


First tour stop, the morning market at the end of H&M’s street.  This is truly a fantastic advantage of living in Lyon – the gastronomic capital of France.  Every morning except Monday, the vendors bring their freshest produce to sell.  Fruit, vegetables, cheeses & dairy, meats & fish.   It drives me crazy to think that in NZ & Australia we are so restricted by “food hygiene” bureaucracy that we miss out on true artisan and farmers produce.  Hubert goes to the market almost every day and he is very particular about eating only what is “in season”.  He is disdainful of tasteless winter strawberries in the supermarkets…and don’t even get him started on food imported from China!!

Following the market, we took in all the major sights of Lyon, including the magnificent Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière which sits high on a hill to the west of Lyon.  We were surprised that there was no entry fee and everyone was welcome to wander through. There was no photography allowed inside – so here’s the link to the google images if you want to see what the inside looks like.    There is no doubt that this Basilica was a massive symbol of the church’s power in a rich & powerful city like Lyon.

And so… here’s comes the first faux-pas of our trip so far.  Stay tuned, there will be many more!!!   As we were wandering through the magnificent Basilica, Graeme marvelled at how well preserved it was.  He asked me why it hadn’t been damaged in WWII?   Ooops!  “Gra….the french didn’t fight in WWII, so the Germans and Allies didn’t bomb the crap out of the city – that’s why the church is so well preserved!”   Unfortunately my reply was overheard by Hubert. “Nous avons certainement combattu !!  Certainly we fought!   A hurried contextual explanation of how the Lyonnaise suffered under the Butcher of Lyon and their work in the French Resistance and lastly the understandable surrender decision when France had already lost a generation in WWI……..eeeek!

Walking around the city can work up an appetite.  So true to Hubert’s word to show us the gastronomic gems of Lyon, he was to treat us to lunch at a very classic (and famous) Lyonnaise restaurant.   There is a set price menu from which you can choose an entree, main & dessert.   Traditional winter food is fairly rich and heavy.  Lyonnaise are also “into offal” so it’s necessary to just “gird your loins” and dive in.   I whimped out with some soup to start but followed it up with the inside of a pig’s stomach gratin.  Graeme had a baked whole egg entree, followed by a traditional hot sauscisson and potato.  We staggered out of the restaurant a lot wider than when we entered.

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After lunch we met up with Marie and went for a walk in Lyon’s extensive parkland – the Parc de la Tete d’Or [“the Park of the Golden Head”].   We forgot to ask H & M where the name came from?   A large part of the area has a lake, the other a zoo???  and the other just open park space.  A nice place to relax in such a densely populated city.

Yes that is a giraffe in the centre of Lyon!

On the way back home, we visited one of the famous painted buildings of Lyon.  These incredible murals are  massive.  Four or five storeys high.   Here is M and I testing our thigh muscles as we squat against a vertical wall but pretending to sit on the bottom stair of the mural.

One of the truly incredible murals of Lyon

Finally after the best tour you could ever do of Lyon… we climbed the 104 steps up to the Teste apartment to prepare for the Fetes des Lumieres this evening.

Today was so amazing…I’ve had to split it into 2 parts!!    Standby for Lyon by night!



2 thoughts on “Lyon by day: Part I

  1. Hi guys. Sounds like pretty good trip so far, enjoying reading yoyr blog. Sorry we wont be catching up in Wanaka this xmas but will have a xmas drink fir youin your absence! Enjoy. Xx


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