After a repeat breakfast of fresh croissants, I got on my penultimate train journey of the trip from Marseilles up north. I would be visiting Lyon for just one night, so aimed to make the most of the initial day before getting my final train to Paris early the next morning.
Arriving in Lyon, it was a clear continuation of the French cities I’d been experiencing; dodgy area around the train station and lots of smokers, before the beauty opens up around you as you near water. I would spend the night at SLO Living Hostel, very appropriate for a sloth lover, and just a short walk from the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône rivers.
Being situated on two rivers, the centre of the city has a natural feel as the rivers are lined with large trees, from which rises an impressive cathedral. I began my journey to this highlight by walking across the bridge in the sunshine, past the Saint-Pierre Palace and into the Place Bellecour. This large square was basking in the sunshine and felt very welcoming. The statue in the centre (classic man on horse) of Louis XIV attracted a lot of attention from selfie hunters, but I was more interested in walking around in circles to take in the huge buildings lining the square, and the view of the cathedral in the distance… which was in fact a twenty minute walk away.
En route, I’d recommend a visit to the Musee Miniature et Cinema, which houses tiny film sets made by hand from films such as The Dark Knight, as well as hand crafted costumes from Alien, Spiderman and Hellboy. I opted to view only what was on display in the considerable foyer as I hate to be inside on nice days. It was actually enough to see, not to devalue the complete experience which I can’t comment on.
Now, as I faithfully followed Google Maps, I went through a couple of parks on a steep incline and paused by a metro station that was named after the amphitheatre I’d read about but hadn’t included in my itinerary – shame on me! Realising I was nearby, I scurried up and was greeted with a huge display of not one, but two amphitheatres, one more restored than the other.
They are completely free to visit and offer sensational views; as I sat on the steps or I suppose seats, the heat from the stone was lovely, even though it was an already hot day. Looking out over Lyon, it was a teaser for what the Cathedral had in store. This Notre Dame, unlike Marseilles, is actually surrounded by restaurants, businesses, a park and even the Fourvier Hill Tower, which looks very similar to the Eiffel Tower! Interesting on the eye, it does mean there is only one main spot to witness the views and with a wedding going on, it was packed when I arrived. As with Rome, the trees, plants and bushes were overgrown and it was a bit disappointing!
I’m in two minds about letting nature overgrow in these spots; they’re an obvious tourist attraction and sold as such for providing a brilliant view, so shouldn’t they be well maintained? OK, I don’t have a second point, that’s it.
Crossing by the tower and walking down to level ground, I began the ascent up the other side of the city to the east and Croix Rousse, the older part of the town where I was informed there was exceptional chocolate. It took about forty minutes on foot, but again, public transport is available. The fun comes when you’re faced with a huge ‘staircase’ in the street and think you’re at the top, before another one emerges with a deeper gradient. Here, people race to the win or fade into the background! Brutal.
This story has a sad then happy twist; Chokola and their famous fountain was shut for August, so I opted for the connoisseurs across the street called Voison and treated myself to some individual praline chocolates to enjoy at Parc de la Tete for the evening.
At the park, the sun was descending and I sat with Canadian Geese by the lake side as families pushed strollers and many people were out for a run. It was quiet, but I relished the calm and silence. I was an hour’s walk from the hostel so I spent roughly an hour here as that seemed to make sense to me! The chocolates were very smooth and the serenity took me back briefly to Lake Bled. You’ll never hear me say ‘You must go to Lyon’, but why not? It’s a lovely break not far from the UK with plenty to do, especially if you like amphitheatres 😛
With Paris and Edinburgh remaining, I took my last chance to wander around new and unknown territory. Throughout this trip, this is how I have felt free and when I have been at my most content.