Walking the Lyon

On our third day we spent 6 hours on two tip based walking tours of Lyon, an excellent way to get a detailed view of the city’s major monuments and features. Vieux Lyon, the World Heritage Renaissance old town, is the subject of these tours. Vieux Lyon is divided into three neighborhoods, Saint Jean, Saint Paul and Saint Georges. The Gothic Cathedral, on the site of the first church built in 549 CE, is in the Saint Jean quarter, it’s facade bearing the injuries delivered by the Protestant iconoclasts who removed the heads of most of the sculptures. The current structure dates to the 12th century. Attached to it is the Manécanterie, originally built for the monks’ dining.

Lyon's Cathedral
Lyon’s Cathedral

In the middle ages Lyon was the main producer and processor of silk in France. There’s a small silk museum that shows the process from silk worm to final product. The workers were called Canuts. The Canuts transported materials up and down the steep hill ascending from the city’s rivers through alleys called traboul. These alleys and steep staircases snake through heavily populated areas. The twists and turns we walked through proved useful to the Resistance during the Nazi occupation.

Traboul entrance
Traboul entrance. The Canuts used these passages to transport silk
Walking through the traboules you come across staircases like these
Staircase in a troboule

Lyon is known for its murals, two of which are famous. The Fresque des Lyonnais depicts the city’s most reknown residents.  It is painted on the six-story building located at the corner of 49 quai Saint-Vincent and 2 rue de la Martinière near the Saône River.

Fresque des Lyonnais
Fresque des Lyonnais
Paul Bocuse on the Fresque des Lyonnais
Paul Bocuse, who made Lyon the culinary capital of France if not the world, on the Fresque des Lyonnais

Another major mural is Le Mur des Canuts.

Mural canuts
Mural before
The building before the mural
Peg at Mural of the Canuts 2

Then Came the Sound of a Roaring Lyon

After a short visit to Paris to see some old friends we took a crowded ride on Metro 6, switching to the 14 after just a short walk. In the Gare de Lyon we found throngs in front of the trains, especially ours, once a track was assigned.  It was smooth sailing after that though, from the Gare de Lyon to Lyon itself on a high speed train.  We are in the third largest city in France and the gastronomic capital of the world thanks to Paul Bocuse.

Paul Bocuse
Bocuse on the “La Fresque des Lyonnais.” All of the most famous citizens are depicted on this fabulous huge mural.

Our roomy flat is just around the corner from the Metro.  The owner’s friendly friend was waiting for us.   The former is somewhere in the Caribbean for a couple of months.  It was after 9 pm by the time we went to the local Carrefour City, the small version of the huge grocery train.  There are two very close by and somehow we walked right by the closest one, but provisions we found.

The next morning we went looking for a street market along the Rhone.  Maybe they changed the day of the week for the market as it was not on.  We walked to another in about 15 minutes.  We found olives, ripe figs, green beans and, lo and behold, some brocoletti aka brocoli rab aka rapini. These may differ but they are in the same family, judging by their flavor.  We must be getting closer to the Italy. You don’t find these easily in Paris, say, but the Italians consume them by the ton. Sauteed with garlic (add sausage if you will), they are one of my favorite veg.

As we walked around I gained the impression that Lyon is well managed and well served by public transport.  At rush hour there are attendants at all the train’s doors, inviting people on or holding them back.  I have never encountered this before. The cars are roomy, with the seats set parallel so there’s plenty of standing room. They use tires to reduce the noise, versus metal wheels, just as they do in Paris.  Another good idea- the tickets work on all the forms of public transport, metro, bus, electric wire buses (wire overhead) and trams.  

It turned rainy that afternoon so we skipped the walking tour at 16h and went to the Musee des Confluences.  It is not only a neat modernity of a structure but a very good science museum.  Some of it is presented for a younger audience, going though the basics of things like evolution, with some realistic full size presentations of three species of humans dating back 50,000 years.  There’s an excellent video that even adults enjoy, showing how the earth developed out of the chaos of debris, then the collision that produced the moon, actually going farther back to how stars are born, one of which turned out to be our very own. I’ve got the sequence out of order here, but you get the idea and you’ll love the graphics. See Musee des Confluence

The confluence of the Rhone and the Saone from the Musee des Confluences

There is a room full of life sized stuffed animals. You can’t fit that polar bear onto your bed for a warm snuggle and you would not want a chance encounter in the wild. There’s a whale skeleton with an enormous jaw open to allow filtering of plankton, and a dangerous looking dinosaur. The African art collection has a bunch of neat wood carvings. I wonder why they do such pointy and too high on the chest representations of breasts. A lively video records village dancers in costume to the rhythm of the drums.

The tram stops right in front of the museum so we didn’t have to walk long in the rain to obtain the stop’s shelter. A few minutes we transferred to the metro and then walked the 50 meters to our door. The broccoletti awaits.