We’ve been in Lyon for 3 nights now and I’m finally getting my feet under me. Saturday we took the metro to Presqu’ile, a peninsula formed where Saône and Rhône rivers converge. It is the heart of Lyon. Our first stop was the Place des Terreaux, a beautiful square dominated by the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) built in the mid 17th century. The square also features the Fontaine Bertholdi. Installed in 1892, the massive lead and iron statue depicts France represented by a woman holding the reigns of 4 charging horses. The horses represent the 4 great rivers of France: the Seine which runs north through Paris to the North Atlantic, the Loire running north from the Massif Central in south central France eventually turning west and meeting the Atlantic near Nantes, the Dordogne running west to the Atlantic from the Massif and the Rhône with it’s headwaters in the Alps and mouth in the Mediterranean.
We stayed on the square for lunch and I sampled my first Lyonaise beer, a golden brown Belgian style ale which was delicious. The craft beer movement is in full swing in France!
After lunch we ambled south to Place Bellecour, the huge square that is the hub of the Presqu’ile. France loves a good protest and sure enough there was an anti-landmine demonstration with a huge pile of shoes brought from all over the city symbolizing I’m not sure what. Kay and I secured tickets for a walking tour of Vieux Lyon (old town) on Monday at the TI before strolling up the Rhône and back home.
Sunday I was a little under the weather so after an attempt at sight seeing I took a three hour nap before dinner in.
Monday morning found Kay and I in Vieux Lyon for our tour. Tucked into a narrow strip of land west of the Saône and east of the steep embankment topped by Fouviere hill, the old town sports a beautiful Gothic/Romanesque Cathedral and some of the best preserved renaissance buildings in France. In the Cathedral there is an amazing astronomical clock, with animatronic figurines, an astrolabe, and dials for time and date, dating from 1383. The astrolabe still shows the earth as the center of the solar system.
As the population of Vieux Lyon increased, reaching 60,000 in the 17th century, the multi story houses were built so close that some had no access to a street. Passage ways were built within the buildings called Traboules. Though privately owned they are maintained by the city and open to the public. They provide and intimate look into the houses with small courtyards in the center, galleries and spiral stairs, each with a well.
Following the tour we had a wonderful lunch at Fiston Restaurant, a traditional bouchon. Bouchons are unique to Lyon serving Lyonaise specialties in a convivial atmosphere. We had wonderful traditional salads and dynamite coffee before heading home.
For le dîner we went to Daniel and Denise, another marvelous bouchon near Ann’s apartment. The food was absolutely top notch served by a friendly, helpful staff in a warm atmosphere, a true Lyonaise experience. The wait staff at the bouchons is the exact opposite of the stereotypical haughty french waiter. They pride themselves on warmth, charm and comfort.
I’ll sign off for now. Today it’s more quintessential Lyonaise culture as we visit the Croix-Rousse neighborhood.