Lyon was our city of choice to visit.
We had been to Lyon in December 2011. At that time, it was the dead of winter. The idea was to visit the Christmas Markets and spend Christmas in London. The cold was not an issue as such, but, we were less experienced, less informed and, in retrospect, believed we had not fully appreciated Lyon. We had travelled by train, and on the return leg the snowfall had disrupted the train schedules. I remember waiting with throngs of passengers at Paris. I also remember looking out of the train window and seeing piles of snow alongside the tracks. The moment we exited the Chunnel and entered the UK the snow simply disappeared. This time, we had planned a short 4 night stay in Lyon, flying in and back.
Lyon is France’s third largest city by population after Paris and Marseille. From what we saw in our 4 nights, Lyon is not terribly affected by ‘immigrants”. Yes, a lot of the cabbies were immigrants – read Black and/or Muslim – but on the whole, in the areas we visited, relatively immigrant free. For some reason, on the street where we had our hotel, there were several Pakistani restaurants and Indian shops.
Silk is what made Lyon rich. There was a huge silk industry in the 18 and 19th Century. Lyon has the headquarters of the Interpol. Lyon is where the Lumiere Brothers Auguste and Louis invented the Cinematograph i.e. the movie projector. But most of all, Lyon is famous for its massive influence on gastronomy. That in a later post.
Getting from Lyon airport to the city is neither easy nor cheap. The simplest and most painless way is by taxi. This however will cost you about 80 Euro. You could do the bus train and tram way, depending of course where your hotel is located, but that will cost you about 50 Euro for two, plus a hernia as you will have to lug your suitcases and a bonus of your wife [and children] calling you a blithering fool in sotto voice and a ‘Chutiya’ in their minds. If you get in by train, the stations are far more conveniently located to simply take a taxi.
Lyon is located a mere hour away from Geneva in the foot of the Alps. Several famous ski resorts are 2 to 3 hour drives away – Chamonix, Meribel, Courchevel, to name a few. I did not realise how close it is to Geneva. Thinking about this, I am equally shocked as to how poor the food is in Geneva despite its proximity to Lyon.
Lyon, has an “Old Town” or Alt Stad or the Vieux Lyon. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This adjoins the Fourviere or the Hill atop which is the beautiful Basilica Notre Dame De Fourviere. Which is honestly stunningly beautiful especially from inside. Our Hotel was located in the Vieux Lyon area. The Hotel – Cour Des Loges – was stunning, really beautiful, full of charm and character with a 1 Star in Michelin restaurant, good bar and Café. Truth be told, while the Hotel was knock your socks off, I believe it was not in the best location. Vieux Lyon is not the best Alt Stad in the World, several European cities have better. Anyway, we had no complaints with the Hotel itself.
Above: the inside of the Cour Des Loges
Below: Basilica Notre Dame De Fourviere
On an aside. Our Hotel was located on a street called Roux De Boeuf. No Hindoos would stay on this road. One evening, i got the shock of my life. I saw several very blond children, aged say 5, running around with what were Trishul. I thought they were after me! I turned in panic to HRH the Queen of Kutch who looked at me as if I was nuts and said no, they were children with Tridents dressed as Devils for Haloween. I was indeed relieved.
From Vieux Lyon, a short 6 minute walk leads you to the first set of bridges that span the Soane River and connect Vieux Lyon to the central island with Palace Bellecour. This area is largely pedestrianized and has all the trendy shops and restaurants. Great place to walk around. If in Lyon, my advise is try and stay in this area. You will get a characterless hotel but will be staying where all the action is. A further 10 minute walk will take you to bridges that span the Rhone and onto the Part Dieu area that has the Central Station and the great Le Halles Paul Bocuse, the main market.
When in Lyon, you must keep a day aside to make a trip to a nearby Perouges. Perouges is regarded by many as the prettiest Medieval village in France. Medieval is regarded as the period AD 476 to 1500. Perouges is also very well preserved. Perouges is located some 30 kms away on a hill top. It was full of craftsmen, linen weavers and farmers. Then with a change in the local roads the population fell dramatically. In recent times Perouges has been used for films and TV, the local authorities have encouraged locals to move to Perouges, and now it has restaurants, hotels, Christmas markets, music concerts.
To get to Perouges you catch a train from the Part Dieu station and a mere 25 or less minutes later you are in Meximieux. Exit the station and a 20 minute walk will get you to Perouges. Perouges is small, very small, but very pretty. Its best to go there late morning, have a walk about and have lunch at one of the restaurants there. The Hostellerie du Vieux Perouges is the best. Their specialty is the Perouges Galette which is a Pizza like tart made with Sugar. Quite nice despite its very simple ingredients. Post lunch you could head back to Lyon. Perouges was very pretty.
There was a magic moment as I went into the Church at Perouges. The sun shone thru the stained glass and the coloured light fell on the floor. Almost supernatural.
If you are visiting France, Lyon is a nice place to go to. 3 days including the ½ day trip to Perouges is enough time. If you are a manic eater, plan for 1 more day. Lyon is nice. We have been to two really big gastronomy centres this year – Bologna and Lyon. The gastronomy in Lyon is far better and deeper and richer. Bologna is smaller and prettier and has several brilliant attractions nearby – Ferrari, Lamborgini and Ducati and several cities. Choosing between the two is difficult. You will not go hungry in either.