LYON – A TOURIST’S HEAVEN IN THE RHÔNE-ALPES by Lucy Franklin
A friend asked me the other day whether or not I considered Lyon to be a tourist destination in it's own right.
Having 'done' other major European capitals she wondered if it was worth spending the weekend in France's second city, or not.
Like many people the only part of Lyon that she had encountered was it's airport-Saint Exupery, en route to the South of France or ski destinations in the Alps.
The question itself had taken me by surprise, as my husband, Brian, and I had always loved spending time in Lyon, considering it a treat akin to a weekend in London or Paris.
When we first began our love affair with France whilst renovating our first original holiday home, some 13 years ago, so derelict was our 'Stables', and so tempting was the sophistication and ambience of Lyon, that we would jet over to make some major decisions with our property then drive the hour and ten minutes to Lyon so that we could spend 2 or 3 nights there.
We loved it, and still do. Although now we have our second holiday home up and fully functioning we find fewer excuses to spend the night there.
That, of course, certainly doesn't stop us from going for a day out!
Lyon has so much to offer, so where to start!?
I think, as with most views of the city, the place to begin is the highest vantage point. The truely breath-taking Basilica of the Notre Dame, perched magestically high on the hill of Fourviere, directly above the old town (Vieux
Once you have ascended to the dizzy heights overlooking the city,(you can either climb by foot or there is a brilliant funicular railway to take the strain off your feet!) the views are to 'die' for!
All is laid out for you to see, the picturesque terracotta tile-roofed buildings creating a 'toy town' appearence and spreading between and beyond the two major rivers that cut through this city (the Saône and the Rhône).
At this vantage point you are on the western side of the Saône, below are the medieval turrets and towers of the old town, a fantastic maze of cafe and restaurant-lined streets with tiny shops and ancient courtyards.
Between the two great rivers lies the commercial area-fabulous shops, beautiful streets, and yet more bars, cafes and restaurants, theatres, galleries. And, early each morning, along the Quai Celestins the most fantastic market. But make sure you get there early, as by one o'clock all is being efficiently and quickly tidied away.
Along this riverside, on the Quai Celestins, nestling amid lots of interesting little shops is a real treasure called Antoine au Jardin.
A wonderful emporium owned by a couple who we have got to know over the years. Katherine and Herve sell beautiful hand-made furniture, lighting and tableware. They have a real eye for style, and their collection of baskets, vases, candles and the like, make perfect mementoes or gifts for home. We have certainly spent a few euros there in our time!
On the far side of the second river, the Rhône, can be seen the modern towers of the financial district and the university. Then in the far distance, to the east, are the snow-capped Alps and Mont Blanc.
On a clear blue-sky day, the most amazing view!
Back to the Notre Dame, this is only one of many churches in this city, but it is certainly the most impressive.
It's creamy white, architecturally ornate form, when viewed from the streets below, reveals the most amazing detail when you get close- it is stunning!
Then once inside, the interior truly takes your breath away, the mosaic ceilings are second to none. In my opinion the most beautiful church I have ever visited.
If you investigate further, within walking distance of the Notre Dame there are Roman ruins including an ampitheatre, and gallo-roman museum. (A separate route on the funicular railway also takes you there directly.)
You can travel, too, on a picturesque river boat along the Saône, lunch during the day or dine in the evening, taking in the sights.
The zoo at Parc D'Or is also well worth a visit if you have small children. Then there is the famous Opera House, the Museum of Modern Art and so much more.
Visit the Tourist Information Offices, one at the foot of the Funicular railway, and another in the beautiful open space of the Place de Bellecour to find out more, and also to pick up maps and information about local events and festivals.
I think that it's safe to say that the answer to the original question is very definitely 'yes', Lyon is certainly well worth a trip in it's own right!!
In fact, Purefrancenow are currently offering excellent, special 'luxury gourmet week-ends' in the Rhône-Alpes, which include superb overnight stays in Lyon and the Côte-Roannais.
So, take a look at their website www.purefrancenow.com
for initial details or e-mail them direct at: firstname.lastname@example.org