I did it before but only behind closed doors. Talking to myself that is. I suddenly realised I was walking down a street, speaking at normal volume and playing both parts of a conversation. I’ve only been travelling solo for 3 and a half weeks! The previous tendency was great I s’pose; my easy method to focus thoughts and actions – highly recommend it. Talking to yourself that is.
Whether I’m thinking of blog ideas, destinations, things I need to do like train tickets or sights and sounds. This is now all discussed out loud with me, myself and I. I still have the decency to look a little embarrassed when caught out. It’s when I carry on regardless with a bottle of alcohol in my hand that you need to worry.
I will start easy with this blog – I will definitely return to Lyon! So many activities I didn’t get round to, including the many pubs and eating establishments. Ideal for a city break with your other half and/or friends to catch up, to enjoy the social, the array of wines, the walk-anywhere city centre, soft harmonious tones of the buildings, the large river running through it and then even more out of town activities in the region.
You can fly with the above 3 airlines direct to Lyon from main city airports in the UK. The average price of return flight is £100; as always it depends on when you book.
My train was Paris to Lyon, the first opportunity to use my Interrailing ticket. As explained before, I paid one lump sum for the global ticket itself to travel 7 independent days (for as long as I like each day, I could train 24 hours if I wished) within a 1-month duration.
This cost me 318 Euro which in today’s weak Great British pound is £284.27. So logic says that each journey no matter how short or long should be an average of 45.43 Euro / £40.61 one-way 2nd class per person plus the seat reservation at the time of my booking. I purchased the Interrailing ticket the day prior to my journey so you really can leave your decisions to the last moment. I paid an additional 10 Euro for my seat reservation, primarily because I was travelling ‘at speed’. The intercity express and similar fast trains all have a higher reservation fee. It transpires though that this was to be my highest additional cost for all 7 days of train journeys.
You could drive towards Lyon through many a gorgeous town or village but I think after 5 hours you could join the French in saying each looked very similar to the last and “not another Chateau”. London to Lyon is 10 hours by car! That does not sound enjoyable to me but each to their own…
The train Paris to Lyon is an eye opening average 200mph 320kmph for just 2 hours on a TGV DUPLEX [Tay-Zhay-Vay] and well, here you go, it means Train à Grande Vitesse, “high-speed train”. Obvious! I’m downstairs on my double decker and it’s a full house, a busy route. I realise that the ceiling is lower than usual, the air was limited and the windows don’t open so overall this was the sauna carriage.
My first double decker train since oh I can’t remember. I loved AMTRAK-ing from Chicago to Los Angeles in the late 1990’s and I don’t think I’ve been on a double decker train since. Every seat booked, thankfully I have a table for my overpriced lunch I’d bought at the station. By the time I’ve eaten, got online and started faffing with my blog I’d forgotten about the oppressive heat in the room. I also have a plug socket for my laptop and I must have been having a ditz day because I hadn’t noted when the station was coming up. Consequently a frantic clear up of my belongings which didn’t need to quite be so rushed resulted in a UK adapter stuck in the plug socket for the next resident of the seat.
Week 3 and lost property already. Travelling lessons are learned from this though.
1) know your train end destination
2) don’t buy food at the train station
3) check your seat for all belongings – like the tannoy spells out
4) recognise when I’m in a ditz mood and register the above points that you do naturally when thinking straight
I arrive at Lyon Part-Dieu, which was built to accommodate the TGV and has become the principal railway station for extra-regional trains. The station name reminds me of Hot Shots! Part Deux. All of us has a little silly sense of humour don’t they? I don’t know why this makes me smile. The meanings are so very different; one translates to ‘by-god’ and the other is ‘part two’ of a 1990s parody spoof film with Charlie Sheen. Winning!
Gare de Lyon Part-Dieu is quite a big station, easy to wander around for a decent time with 2 backpacks wondering indecisively whats the best route to the hostel. I can say this now but that was one serious blond day.
Lyon is France’s third-largest city after Paris and Marseille and the inhabitants of the city are called Lyonnais The city is known for cuisine & gastronomy, historical & architectural landmarks plus it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1998. Lyon hosts the international headquarters of Interpol, Euronews and International Agency for Research on Cancer. Much more to this destination than you would think. Plus, did you know Lyon is twinned with Birmingham, UK, has been since 1951.
My first hostel accommodation and I am extremely impressed. Booked online, I am staying at the Away Hostel and Coffee Shop. It had taken that bit longer to work out the best way to get across by bus, metro or tram. Too much choice when I am being indecisive and ditzy is not a good combo. I found the local transport website afterward – always the way – and this is a quick search engine in case you’re stuck. I’m impressed with all the ticket machines having multiple language options. I can’t remember if the London TFL ticket machines do or not, I had no reason to acknowledge. Can someone in London confirm for me? Once again the transport system is cheaper than London, no surprise.
It’s a little dreary and drizzling today so the city isn’t giving its best first impressions but all is forgotten when I arrive at a bright, airy, white hostel. The receptionist is funny and friendly, he and his fellow receptionist were styling their man buns. I cast my eye across the chill-out area, acknowledge the man bun was popular that day in Lyon. I come to love this cafe and chill-out area especially for their resident discounted 2 Euro 50 glass of red wine, quick internet speed and an easy atmosphere so I could work without too much distraction. I have been so very lucky to work with my client over the last couple of weeks during the Chateau volunteering and Paris, I’ve completed over 30 hours paid work which is icing on the cake that I’m truly grateful for.
The efforts to make the beds in the dorms more private are inspired. A simple design, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. The hostel does have singles, doubles, and quads. However, in the larger dorms, my bed is still a bunk bed but enclosed fully on one side and at the foot. A little shelf and plug socket, individual reading lamp and under bed storage. It was a large room, more white paint and lots of floor space. No air con during the height wave is a little surprising but we had the choice to open 2 huge sash/French windows for a preference of air over the musty human smell. The breeze was essential at night even if we were drunkenly serenaded at 3 am on Saturday. The pictures are exactly as per the dorm except of course more boarders luggage, shoes, and aroma. But I’m very happy with my choice, I paid only 23 Euro per night. If you are travelling with a budget solo or with friends or family, I highly recommend.
I appreciate now, this was to be my best experience so far out of 7 hostels. Even if I did fall on my ass in the shower but I’ll come to that later…
Where the hell did these hills come from!?! The city is surrounded.
The west incline is Fourviere known as ‘the hill that prays’ and this is the location for the highly decorated Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere, several convents, the palace of the Archbishop, the Tour Metallique which is an unmissable TV tower replicating the top of the Eiffel Tower (and you know what I thought of Tour Eiffel), Cathedral Saint Jean Baptiste and lastly the funicular railway as it really is a steep hill! Walkable but steps, steps, steps.
To the north is the Croix-Rousse, known as “the hill that works”. This area is traditionally home to many small silk workshops, an industry for which the city was once renowned. Thanks to the silk trade, the city became an important industrial town during the 19th century. In 1831 and 1834, the canuts (silk workers) of Lyon staged two major uprisings for better working conditions and pay. The city was built with the silk manufacturers and traders in mind. Traboules are passages through buildings that would be used to shorten and ease the walking/cycling/horse routes to transport goods. Later, during World War II, Lyon was a centre for the occupying German forces, as well as a stronghold of resistance. These traboules through houses enabled the local people to escape Gestapo raids. On 3 September 1944, the city was liberated by the 1st Free French Division and the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur. The city is now home to a resistance museum.
This leads me so quickly to my Lyon Travel 5
- ‘Fun’icular train up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere and Fourviere Hill panoramic views
- Walk through Vieux Lyon including a visit to Cathedral Saint Jean Baptiste
- Mural street art
- Place des Jacobins to Place des Terreaux or Place Bellecour and back again with all the food, bars and window shopping in between
- Any one of the walking and electric bike tours available
The Basilica is one of the most bling religious buildings I have ever stepped foot into but first, the train! The only method I was reaching the top of the steep slope on a hot day. Www.frenchmoments.eu states if you want to climb Fourviere Hill from Lyon Old Town (le Vieux-Lyon) then you must be ready to face one of the Fourvière Hill’s famous “ Montées” (slopes). There are several rises which link different parts of the “ Vieux-Lyon” to Fourvière Hill and some of them are stairs. The longest one is the Montée des Carmes-Carmes, combined with the Carmes Nicolas de Lange. You must use them if you want to join de Basilica from the Saint-Paul area in the northern part of the old town. But you had better be ready to climb their 798 steps!
The website also suggests you could use Montee des Chazaux which links the central part of Fourvière Hill to the Saint-Jean district in Lyon Old Town. Even if quite short at 228 steps, it is said to be a difficult climb. Of course, I would not choose 798 steps even if my last blog said I was going to love stairs. There’s just no way that’s happening if the alternative is the world’s first urban funicular railway. Ok so it’s not the exact same trains or tracks as was built between Lyon and La Croix-Rousse in 1862 but….
The basilica is simply beautiful. It stands on the hill majestically overlooking the river and the city but peaceful as it is solely white stone reminiscent of Paris’ Sacre Coeur, it doesn’t look over bearing. The interior is stunning. The simple white exterior belies the craftsmanship of the interiors. So pleasing to a magpie such as I am. I love all things sparkling, a real sparkle that is. I don’t think I’ve seen this much gold gilt in a church. It’s not gaudy at all. The attention to detail and mosaic effect appeals to me. Each wall depicting a different tale all shiny and glittery.
However, both elaborate constructions have been the target of controversy and speculation over the years. One author, Bertrand Taithe, made the statement back in 2001 that: “The reaction to the communes of Paris and Lyon were triumphalist monuments, the Sacré-Coeur of Montmartre and the basilica of Fourvière, dominating both cities. These buildings were erected with private funds, as gigantic ex-votos, to thank God for victory over the socialists and in expiation of the sins of modern France.”
Fourvière actually contains two churches, one on top of the other. The upper sanctuary is very ornate, while the lower is a much simpler design pictured with the yellow ceiling. Once again it is unbelievable that the work is achieved without electricity or motor powered machinery. The large weighty glittering basilica sits on top. This was referred to simply as the crypt.
Construction began in 1872 and finished in 1884, however, finishing details to the interior were not completed until as late as 1964.
Just around the corner of the basilica front door is an awesome jaw to the floor 180-degree panorama. The clear blue skies resulted in visibility for miles across the French landscape. I couldn’t see Mont Blanc but on the clearest of days, it is possible to see in the distance. A great place for stand still and just take in the expanse of space.
After much gawping, you can amble back down the hill to the cobbled streets in the Old Town. I took a rest to catch up on people watching and blogging in some lovely pubs. I usually avoid anything that looks too wine bar like. I prefer traditional even if its fake vintage. I have read this is a city of 4,000 bars and restaurants with 15 Michelin stars. The city is full of students and tourists and most definitely caters well for them. Wikipedia states there are 33 universities and institutes for tertiary education and it is said to have over 120,000 students in the city and surrounding areas.
If you like ale or beer then try the local lager with Picon. It makes the lager caramel coloured and gives the lager a faint orangy bitter taste. The citrus is very faint so don’t be put off. The addition of Sirop de Picon is a tradition in the east and north of France. I’ve never heard of it before now but it is really easy to drink so if you see it, try it!
Talking about pubs, I cannot believe I see this named pub whilst pottering around the town on day 1. The location is following me. Out of all the names in the world, this is quite surreal. Clearly, the owner is an ex-pat Brit and brought the name with them. I do miss London but I don’t wish I was there. This is how it should be!
I fell in love with the tonal colour scheme of the buildings. Whether residential or business the district/region government have it right. The street art specifically. A series of impressively large murals painted by the CitéCréation cooperative are dotted around the city, and tell the story of Lyon’s neighbourhoods and its most famous citizens. There are around 100, some of which you can follow on a trail like a huge pictorial guidebook.
The wall depicting the history of the Canuts (silk weavers) in the Croix-Rousse neighbourhood (Boulevard des Canuts and Rue Denfert Rochereau) was the first to be painted 30 years ago and is updated every 10 years. The Fresque des Lyonnais (Quai Saint-Vincent and Rue de la Martinière) represents 30 people who “made Lyon”, including author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the first film-makers in history Auguste and Louis Lumière, director Bertrand Tavernier and master chef Paul Bocuse.
Lyon has established itself as a cultural hub with an innovative list of events, don’t instantly think of Paris for culture. I would recommend Lyon instead:
- Biennale de Lyon for art and dance – www.biennaledeladanse.com/en – 14-30 September
- Biennial Contemporary Art Festival – www.labiennaledelyon.com/la-biennale-d-art-contemporain – 20 September to 7 January
- Lumière film festival – www.festival-lumiere.org – 14-22 October
- Fête des Lumières contemporary light show – www.fetedeslumieres.lyon.fr/en – 7-10 December
- Nuits Sonores electronic dance music – www.nuits-sonores.com – 2018 to be announced
- Bocuse d’Or chefs’ competition – www.bocusedor.com/en and www.sirha.com/fr/bocuse-d-or – end of January 2019
And don’t forget the sport! This year Lyon hosted 2017 Lyon Open (also known as the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Lyon); a men’s tennis tournament played on outdoor clay courts. It was the 1st edition of the Lyon Open and part of the ATP World Tour 250 series of the 2017 ATP World Tour. Phew… hope you got all that!
The Parc Olympique Lyonnais was the location for the 2016 European Rugby Champions Cup Final and in 2018 will hold the UEFA Europa League Final.
I didn’t have time to visit the Lyon Printing Museum nor the Resistance Museum so I’ll pop in next spring for another visit. The tourism website is a wealth of information and the offers they give for the 48 or 72 city passes may well be a good saving on this occasion.
I felt excited to be leaving but wishing I could stretch out my time and my budget. Unlike a holiday I cannot visit every museum and purchase lots of fridge magnets or arty postcards. I ordered what would soon be my last big cup of good cappuccino and a quick bite without checking my train time. At the time, I felt confident it was a good hour away and the hostel cafe staff assured me I had ages yet.
As soon as I settled into my coffee, I caught a glance of my train time, 20 minutes sooner than I remembered. What a doughnut! Thankfully the hostel cafe staff continue to assure me I’ve loads of time and the trolley bus was the simplest route with no changes.
Dear lord, I was holding my breath throughout that journey. Not only because the French clearly have a smaller area of personal space than I do but the trolley bus travels at what feels like 2 miles an hour. I was about to miss my first train. It was a small seat reservation fee but I hadn’t yet got the mindset that another train will come and I can just book the next train. Missing this train had a knock on effect to my connection in Geneva and the hostel in Zurich wasn’t cheap. The route from Lyon Opera House to the station is badly planned for my purpose, whilst it was nice to have a slow tour of the streets of Lyon. The interweb worked wonders and I found the departing platform which was closest to the station door I entered! The travel gods once again with me.
Last lesson I told myself loudly “give yourself more time to get to the station, waiting near or in the station is more relaxing than rushing.”
A delightful couple of days that in hindsight could have been a whole week or more but I have to maximise my InterRailing ticket and now I’m in south east France then to me, my natural next step is another city whose name has held a curiosity to me. Think watches, Lindt chocolate, clear crisp water, and cheese. I’m headed to Zurich, Switzerland.
Ah yes, my hilarious moment at the hostel that I must feedback to them. The showers don’t have a foot grip nor any thing to grab when both feet decided they had enough of holding the weight for the first 30 minutes of the day. I went down like a sack of spuds. So funny. I can remember going down in slow mo. My first naked fall of my trip.
Now that I write that, I think my first naked shower fall ever. I vaguely remember someone on the outside asking if I was ok but I was trying not to laugh at my misfortune and carry on washing my hair, now with a cowboy stance. I wonder what the person outside heard. I’m so so lucky I just came out with 3 small bruises, it could have been much worse. I don’t bruise as often as I used to. I’m careful in every shower now. Maybe I should wear those plastic sandals in my backpack that I am carrying exactly for that purpose. Ah, an insight into the conversations I have with me, myself and I.