Tucked away in the south eastern corner of France with a reputation for culinary delights, Lyon has long eluded our French travels. It was just that bit too far off of our usual path and each time it came to mind, the thought of it elicited a deep sigh followed hastily by a “we must go there one day” exclamation. It’s another spot Rick Stein teased us with on his “Long Weekends” series. It was that, combined with our change in direction towards Croatia this year, that make today’s visit possible. It’s a steep approach from the south, but we finally drag ourselves up, perched with great views over the city.
We’re near the furnicular railway thankfully – it’s a steep climb down (not to mention back up). It doesn’t take long to settle and zoom down.
It’s immediately clear that Lyon is a beautiful city. Whilst it’s very reminiscent of Paris in its architecture and arrondissements, where Paris has the left and right banks of the Seine, Lyon has four river banks: the city is split into three by the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers.
Lunch is first order of the day. Our expectations are high but we’re not in the least bit disappointed with our choice of bistro, Le un, deux, trois. Lyon’s reputation is safe. We have a herbed local fresh cheese to start, with the most insanely good bread. It’s so tasty, I forget to take a photo until it’s almost gone.
Chris has the very traditional Lyonnaise sausage with red wine sauce for a main.
I have a scallop souffle, served in a richly flavoured, delicious bisque.
The food is truly superb, too good to refuse dessert: a white chocolate, pistachio panna cotta for Himself,
prunes in a red wine reduction, flavoured with warming spices and orange for me – it tastes just like Christmas.
Armed, or perhaps, slowed down by happy tummies, we set off to explore.
Lyon looks enormous on the map, but it’s quite easy to explore on foot.
We start off in Vieux Lyon, the oldest part of the city, progressively making our way through the 1st and 2nd arrondissements of the centre.
At every turn, there’s another fabulous sight.
When we first went to Paris I was mentally armed with a long list of places I knew well, but had never seen. In Lyon, a city I know very little about bar its food culture, each corner offers up a new surprise across the centuries from Roman ruins to modern design.
We see the Roman amphitheatre where the earliest persecution of Christians took place, in 177 AD.
There are pockets of art nouveau buildings including this school for girls and nearby theatre.
Central squares and green areas create community spaces, often adorned with fountains and statues on a grand scale.
I’m rather fascinated with this fountain where the horses “breath” steam.
There are hundreds of restaurants here, offering local specialities and endless choice. Here, you could make exploring food the work of a lifetime. You’d need a hamster wheel to run it all off, but it would be worth it, if lunch was any guide.
It doesn’t take long for us both to fall headlong in love with Lyon.
In between its gorgeous architecture, extensive shopping, waterways and delicious food, it would be impossible not to.
We spend happy hours exploring far and wide until dusk falls and our parking ticket threats to expire. It’s time to catch the furnicular back up the hillside, but not before we climb yet further, to the very tip, to visit the extraordinary Bascilca of Notre Dame de Fourviere.
Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, overlooking the city, its setting owes much to the history leading up to the church being built. From the early Christian persecutions, in times of plague and disease, through to times of war, the city prayed to Mary, seeking salvation. Each time, their prayers were answered: the city was spared. In recognition, the Bascilca was built.
Inside, it’s exquisite. Every surface is decorated in mosaic art.
Given the history of how it came to be, I like to think each tiny tile represents a prayer, a heartfelt request for safe deliverance from what ever threat was to hand. It’s easily one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen.
Chris eventually drags me away, but not before I’ve captured a shot of the church against the night sky
and the spectacular views over the city.
It’s with tired feet but a light heart I end the day. I’ve fallen utterly in love with Lyon. We both have.