After a long and busy day it was a slow start to our one and only full day in Lyon. The ibis breakfast buffet had fresh fruit decoratively presented in tumblers so was noted as an hotel to return to. Love fresh fruit in the morning, especially if I haven’t had to prepare it myself!
Virginie, our pet guide to Lyon, had suggested we meet later, giving us a chance to explore the Croix Rousse. We were very close to the Mur des Canuts, a huge trompe l’oeil, representing the life of the silk workers, so that was our first stop.
It was enormous and truly ‘tromped’ our eyes. We debated whether the bank depicted at street level was indeed a real one…it wasn’t!
Walking further on we came to Place des Tapis where a less stylised painted wall rose behind us. This place had several cafes and an Irish bar. There was a definite village feel to the area and I was glad we had a dry day for exploring it.
We turned a corner towards the Croix Rousse metro in order to find the viewpoint from beside the Gros Caillou. But first there was a wander past a fish counter with oysters, a cafe terrace and Christmas trees being sold. Shouts from the children playing in a nearby maternelle added to the cheerful atmosphere
The sun was trying to come through but the view when we got to the edge of the plateau was too misty for good photos. we had decided that to walk down the long and apparently magnificent descent into the centre ville was too much for either of us. my dodgy knee meant I was walking with my souvenir walking stick from the Great Wall of China! yet another thing to juggle with, but we had popped into an optician next to the hotel and bought a string for my glasses to dangle on when i got exasperated by the ‘bouee’ caused by my obligatory mask and it was proving to be really useful.
So it was back to the nearby metro where we bought a day ticket for all transport from a machine that offered English amongst its choice of languages. this city is really well organised.
Once back by the Hotel de Ville we walked towards the Saone river. our friend’s daughter had suggested we look out for the Mur de Fresques of various Lyon celebrities. however, on arriving at the river side we discovered the water was running high and the lower quai was underwater. assuming, wrongly, we found out later, that the Mur would be partially submerged we headed south along the embankment.
It was a pleasant walk as we spotted interesting buildings down side roads and traversed a market with the usual display of fabulous cheeses…
and all the time with the cathedral on the Fourviere hill looking down on us from across the river.
We walked as far as the pont de Bonoparte and texted our friend where we were. desperate for a sit down and a coffee we walked into place Bellecour and down a side street to a patisserie/salon du the. we were told later that it was a branch of the best patisserie in Lyon! although it was French lunchtime we were able to sit in a corner with our coffee and recover.
Out into place Bellecour once again where we met up with our friend near the torn paper installation looking sad in the daylight…
Virginie had suggested some of her favourite places that we might visit, the first being the Grand Hotel-Dieu. What I have been calling the centre ville is actually referred to as the Presque-Ile, nearly an island, the area between the two rivers, Saone and Rhone. The Grand Hotel-Dieu faces across the Rhone for several hundred metres and truly lives up to its name.
We entered through one of its many doors on the opposite side to the river. Our friend remembers it as a huge hospital but after closing in 2010 and lying unused for a while it has been refurbished and now houses boutiques, restaurants and a museum and is recognized as a UNESCO site, as is most of the area around it.
There are a series of beautiful courtyards with neat gardens, some of which are furnished with sunbeds in summer for lazy passing of the time..
The walls and window frames have been painted in the original 18th century colours and architectural features retained where possible. There were tantalising glimpses of towers and cupulas above the roofline. Finally we came out into the Place de l’Hopital outside the front entrance of the Chapelle Hotel-Dieu.
pausing to photograph a particularly spectacular door, our ‘guide’ pointed out the stone above it commemorating a poetess.
the Lyonnais equivalent of a UK blue plaque?
now we headed for the vieux ville across the Saone, threading our way through the streets past the place des Jacobins where lumigions were being sold the night before to raise funds for this year’s chosen charity. I hadn’t realised the significance but took a photo as they looked pretty!
historically, this square has changed its name several times and evidence of Roman settlement has been found here. In the Renaissance era, Florentine merchant bankers moved to Lyon and adopted a now vanished church on this ‘place’ as their own. There is so much fascinating history to Lyon that I look forward to discovering.
in place Celestines we passed a theatre and crossed the river by pont Bonoparte and into place Saint Jean. Feeling peckish we sought out a restaurant still happy to serve us a late lunch. A surprising possibility for us in a French city used as we are to country kitchens that shut firmly around 1.30pm!
we were now in vieux Lyon, an area saved in the nick of time for posterity when about to be demolished in the gung-ho 60s. The buildings are mostly of the Renaissance era with arched windows and entrances on the ground floors and rising three or four stories above narrow and cobbled streets.
Virgie led us up a steep chemin to the entrance of a narrow alleyway with a sign that announced this was the oldest building in the area. Somewhat neglected but presumably with some sort of protection order on it. It still had typical wooden balconies on each floor.
i wondered aloud if we could contemplate carrying on up the hill to Fourviere but was advised it was a tough climb. Better to take the nearby funiculaire. Happily, as we all had day tickets, we could bypass the queue! Virginie had said she wanted us to see the view from the top at dusk and we had timed it well but first the cathedral or rather, the Basilique of Notre Dame de Fourviere….