Highlights of Lyon

October 9, 2011

I travelled to Lyon from Exeter, conference hopping. On the little Flybe aircraft across the channel I sat next to another conference goer. He was leaving Exeter and returning home to France rather than continuing to another conference like I was. (When you have flown the 25 hours to get to Europe from Australia, you may as well make the most of it). He was a PhD student originally from Pakistan, who learnt French to obtain a scholarship at a French University. He knew Lyon. I dictated notes onto my iphone as he told me what to see and where to go in Lyon.

Things to see and do in Lyon:

  1. bellecoeur – beautiful heart, city square – biggest in France
  2. vieux lyon – old city, museums (free), restaurants
  3. cathedral – biggest in Lyon
  4. close to Cathedral climb up small tower and view of whole of Lyon
  5. statue of Mary near cathedral also
  6. Rhone – the bigger river, on bank: Quai Claude Bernard, walk on bank in evening (popular promenade in the evenings) Close to this is the old university (conference is in new part)
  7. near Parte Dieu there are two towers: 1. pencil tip, 2. like a half pipe, shopping centre Center Commerciale Parte Dieu – beautiful, not expensive, fountain.
  8. biggest park in Lyon, Parc Tete D’Ore, beautiful lake, underground and come up in centre of the lake.
  9. public cycling stands, 6 euros for seven days: there are machines for hiring, select how many days. if you return to any stand within half an hour there is no extra charge. there are cycling tracks.
I can now add my own reflections to the list.

Lyon is the second largest city in France. It was the centre of commerce for a region in France settled by the Roman Empire some time BC. The ruins of the largest amphitheatre I’ve ever seen are on the hill in Lyon. If you climb the stairs to the top of this hill you have a vista back across the whole city and can even see the alps in the background. This is where you can go into the cathedral (3). The old town (2) is back down the hill. It has wonderful shops to browse. I had a crepe dinner here on my last night in Lyon. The delicious crepes were cooked on a cart and we sat out of doors.

I found the city bikes (9) on the first day and I’m glad I did. Its unusual when you are in a city for a conference to have such freedom in your travel. I rode the bikes everyday and enjoyed not being reliant on transport timetables. The ride along the river from the city centre (where I was staying) to the conference venue was spectacular (6). The river is wide. There are beautiful public spaces, from fabulous children’s playgrounds to picnic areas to fountains, to grassy enclaves where people in bikinis tanned.

I didn’t go to the shopping centre he recommended (7) but the Parc Tete D’Ore (8) is wonderful. I was surprised to find in the park a free zoo. I came upon the animal cages before I realised I had entered a zoo. (wtf is that a giraffe?) I spent time wandering the gardens with friends from the conference here as well because it was within walking distance from the conference venue.

But the list did not include recommendations about finding good food. Firstly I would add that any bakery in Lyon is a great start, and there are numerous. Secondly, I highly recommend an eating institution which everyone in Lyon seemed to know about, Brasserie Georges. Luckily I have colleagues who always find fabulous restaurants in faraway cities.  The restaurant was a wonderful French experience: the ambience, the food, the service. Getting to the restaurant also turned out to be a French experience for me.

I rode a city bike from my hotel to a bike stand that I now realise was opposite Brasserie Georges, except that the road was split. Between where I parked and the restaurant was a wide motorway and nearby a large rail terminal. Not realising this I walked my half of the road without seeing it and became lost. My French is poor to non-existent but I had a little routine that I could use for emergencies. Upon realising I was lost I approached a woman at a bus stop and said in French,

Bonjour, I am Australian, I don’t speak French.

I showed her the address of where I was going but it was not until she read Brasserie Geroges that her eyes lit up. ‘Ah Brasserie Georg-geh’ she said (I’m trying to capture the accent and you need to pronounce the ‘g’ softly with an ‘h’ sound in there as well). She pointed me in the right direction and told me how to get there (in French). I followed the direction she pointed but because I didn’t understand the directions soon became lost again.

I approached another person. This time I used my routine but added ‘Brasserie Geor-geh’ to it with a little palms up, shoulder shrug. The recognition was instant. Again I was pointed in a direction and given instructions in French. Of course I walked in the direction pointed but soon became lost again. I went through this routine with four more people before finally arriving an hour late. I had walked a large three-sixty to appear upon the restaurant from exactly the opposite direction to which I had parked my bike. But I made it! My friends had saved me some of the antipasto entree (sensational) poured me a glass of wine (also sensational) and I ordered duck (sensational) and coffee icecream parfait for dessert (magnificent but it kept me up way too late that night).

I was proud of myself. As you know its quite stressful being lost. I consciously calmed myself down and thanks to the friendly French people had a wonderful experience of it rather than tears.

The view from the top of the hill in Lyon

The beautiful Rhone in Lyon

My first day on the Lyon city bikes

Eating the sensational antipasto at Brasserie Georges


2 Responses to “Highlights of Lyon”

  1. We loved Lyon, especially the food. I have just been to Georges in Paris. I wonder if is related. I also have found the French to be friendly and helpful. I get tired of people grizzling about them.

    • ejenne said

      Hi bagnidilucca

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve added you to my ‘comments by’ links below. I love the travel photos in your recent post! They brought back memories for me. As always upon returning I wish I took more.

      I found the French friendly. I wish I could speak more French though. I am determined to do a course once I finish my dissertation at the end of the year, particularly since my daughters are becoming fluent. One is even spending December in Lyon this year on exchange!

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