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Tue Mar 17 2015: The Hidden City inside Lyon

We are actually staying in a small suburb of Lyon called Saint-Priest because the accommodations downtown are too expensive. That's the nice part about having the bikes in Europe, we don't have to stay in the touristy areas but when we get there, parking is free!

Neda is trying out something new. She's found a volunteer organization of city guides and has organized for us a free tour of Lyon! We always like it when a local shows us around town.

This is Jean-Jacques, our guide around Lyon!

We met Jean-Jacques in one of the main squares in the centre of Lyon, Place de Terreux. He was very helpful and asked us what we'd like to see in the city. We definitely didn't want to see any more old buildings and museums, so we told him we liked photography and asked to see the uncommon things that only the locals knew about. He nodded his head knowingly and proceeded to show us the Insiders Tour of Lyon! Cool!

Government buildings at the Place de Terreux

Lyon is built at the confluence of two rivers, the Saône, Rhône. The old city is built on the shores of the Saône

One of the many bridges that cross the Saône, this one is pedestrian only

Lover's Locks on the bridge. These are commonplace everywhere in the world!

Jean-Jacques shows us one of the city's official bouchons

A bouchon is a traditional Lyonnais eatery, not a fancy restaurant, but a place where you can nosh on deliciously prepared portions of meat - specifically pork. There are only about 20 official bouchons recognized by the city, and they are tucked away on side streets that many tourists would not otherwise give a second glance at. We take note of a couple of Jean-Jacques favorites.

Murals of Lyon

Lyon is also well-known for its murals painted across many of the buildings in the downtown and the old city. They're not really that old, but there are enough of them scattered all over the place that they give the city a very artistic vibe.

Some of the murals are very lifelike!

Vieux Lyon (Old town) is full of cafes and bistros lining its cobblestone streets

Wonder what's behind this door?

There is a hidden city within Lyon. There exist these mysterious passageways known only to locals that go through the ground floor of some of the buildings in the old city. There are many streets that run parallel to the river, but not many that run perpendicular. These passageways called Traboules allow pedestrians a shortcut to get between the parallel streets without having to go around the building to the next block. Kind of like entering the lobby of a building from the south on 1st Street and then exiting on the north door to get out on 2nd Street. Except much cooler... because these are secret!

Exiting a Traboule to get out onto the next street

Beautiful architecture that reach up the height of the buildings inside the narrow enclosed courtyards of the Traboules

Traboules were initially built in the 4th century and allowed the inhabitants to get from the river to the hill more easily. The doors are not marked at all and unless you live here, you need some kind of map or guide to show you where all the Traboules are. This played a huge role in WWII when the local resistance fighters would evade the invading Nazis forces and prevent them from completely taking over the city

All are welcome to use the Traboules, but they need to be quiet and respect the residents who live above them

Traboule entrances also double as the entrances to the buildings themselves

Jean-Jacques shows us more cool architecture inside another Traboule

The interior world of the Traboules really reminded me of the movie Dark City
with the claustrophobic buildings that changed configuration every night!

Lyon is world-renowned within the silk and textile industry. Long before WWII, these traboules were used by workers to transport their goods from the mills and workshops at the top of the hill to the merchants near the river. In fact, Jean-Jacques was in the textile business before he retired. As we walked around the old town, he weaved together stories of the history of Lyon with his own life story of growing up in this city. It made it so much more personal.

We're not sure what we want to do when our trip ends, but being a tour guide sure seems like a lot of fun!

Back out in the old city, a cruiser roars past us on the cobblestone roads

Saint-Jean Cathedral

Hanging out at Place Bellecour with Louis XIV looking down upon us

Another local secret

Jean-Jacques also pointed out on the map this great viewpoint that is in a little park hidden away on one of the hills overlooking the city. There's a plaque up there that informed us that Lyon is the sister city to Montreal! A Canadian connection!

We had done a lot hiking today, so we took a nap on one of the benches and woke up to a great view of the city.

Statue by the foot of the river

During WWII, this building was hit by a bomb that didn't explode, but left a scar on its face instead

Palais de Justice, right on the river bank

Lyon also has an amphitheatre! Of course, Neda has to investigate and report her findings back to the city officials in Pula.

Lyon is a really picturesque city. We are getting a much different impression of France than the one we got when we skirted the French Riviera last winter. It also helps that we've got a local to help guide and organize what we are seeing. I think part of our travel-fatigue stems from the effort needed to research all the things we want to see and do.

Brilliant, bright blue day above the old buildings of Lyon

We picked an amazing day for sightseeing! Yesterday's ride and today's weather gave us a bit of a boost to our travel-weary spirits. I'm wary that our moods do seem to be on a bit of a roller-coaster, but perhaps the warm season ahead in comfortable surroundings will give us a bit of an even keel.

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