Arriving in a city with no map, no internet and just armed with a few screenshots from Google maps is not a fun experience. But for the most part I just need to be able to navigate myself blindly to the nearest tourist office where I can pick up a map and then find my bearings. This is how most of my day trips start as they are usually pretty last-minute and all I have time to do is quickly research the top things to do in that particular place before hopping on the next train. I’m learning to love this way of exploring as it is pushing my control freak boundaries, forcing me to be more spontaneous and means that I arrive in a place without much expectation. This usually results in me being wonderfully surprised as it is way better than I’d had time to hope for. My day trip to Lyon was no different.
The sun was shining, it was a Friday and I could immediately feel an atmosphere of new beginnings as people came out of their homes to welcome spring. All around the city there were trees heavy with gorgeous white and pale pink flowers. The cafes were open, old Frenchmen were playing boules in the courtyards and the river banks were lined with teenagers enjoying their lunch breaks in the sunshine at the water’s edge.
I made my way to Place Bellecour crossing the Rhone River. The only way I can use to describe the colour of this river is the french word ‘azur’ meaning ice/sky blue.
I had read that there was a daily market along the Saint Antoine quay of the Soane River. I wandered through the stalls looking for something to eat for lunch along the river bank. It turned out to be more of a farmer’s market selling fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese and chacuterie. I instead opted for a 3 cheese panini from a nearby bakery which I took with me to enjoy by the water’s edge. I wasn’t the only one with this idea and so joined the many clusters of teenagers enjoying their lunch break in the spring sun.
Crossing over into Vieux Lyon (the old town) the streets became narrower and tar turned to cobble stones. I breathed a sigh of satisfaction for this is what European city beauty is for me: an incomprehensible network of narrow cobbled streets, cafés sprawling out into the streets and tall, multicoloured buildings. I let myself get lost for a little while just soaking in the quaint beauty.
I then began the hike (not exaggerating) up the hill towards the Fourvière Basilica. The steps were killer steep and I suddenly didn’t feel so bad about my over indulgence. It was very refreshing though to feel hot after the climb after the cold of the past few months. Looking out over the city I admired the magnificence of the view.
I walked down and after meandering a bit more through the old town crossed the Soane River to the Croix-Rousseau district. This was filled with more squares of boule games and cafés. I walked up and up again passing through parks littered with sun-soakers and green grass dotted with spring flowers. Walking back down towards the Rhone River I stopped a while and absorbed the last of the sun’s rays on the river bank. It was so lovely to have the time to relax, see a place I liked, stop a while and then move on.
Lyon is commonly known as the Food capital of France. I, of course, wanted to take full advantage of this delicious French cuisine and so went out searching for the best deal with the best atmosphere. Finding a good place to eat in Lyon is no problem but choosing where to eat becomes a challenge because every restaurant will be of top quality. I eventually settled on a gorgeous little restaurant nestled in the Old Town. I had never expected to be able to afford a three course meal in such an incredible location. But there I found an amazing deal of a three course meal of delicious Lyonnaise food for only 11 euro. WOW! An onion tart, boeuf bourguignon (yeah I had to break my 3 month stretch of being a vegetarian for this special occasion) and traditional Lyonnaise praline tart later my tummy was very satisfied.
I walked to the train station and flopped my tired body down into the train seat. I am just so baffled by how much I am getting to see during my stay. I have traveled way more than I ever expected to, visited places I’d never even heard of before arriving and I know that the adventure is only beginning. Having said that I have been here for 3 months already. A quarter of my time in Europe has passed- crazy!