This was, believe it or not, my first visit to France – unless you count an ill-prepared hike with our snowboarding gear from Pas de la Casa across the border into France. I don’t have much to say, so I’ll keep the words to a minimum.
It was the morning after Bastille Day, and the sun was shining here in Lyon. There was a terrible incident that occurred in Nice, but thankfully no such violence here. Still, there was a distinct mood of a country in mourning.
Our plans were pretty flexible – visit the St. John Cathedral, climb the hill to the Notre Dame, wander around the ancient Roman amphitheatre, and eat all the French food we could find.
The cathedral was enormous, with an interior that was simpler than I’d expected. It was still grand, and very elegant, with the lovely glowing light – it just wasn’t decadent as expected. It was refreshing to be able to take photos inside, too. I guess the French aren’t as serious about Religion as some other European countries (I think I’d have been shot had I tried to remove my camera in Moscow).
Coming from London, where the summer had yet to even make an attempt at an appearance, we were shocked by the heat, and the strength of the sun. The walk up to the Basilica was filled with complaints about the heat, and the sweating. We’d heard that Lyon was rich in street art, but sadly we didn’t come across all that much during our wanderings. But, the moment we reached the top, and feasted our eyes on the outlook, it was content silence, with maybe a few ‘wows’ and ‘awws’ thrown in.
The Notre Dame was the complete opposite of the cathedral, with marble, and gold leafing applied to as many surfaces as possible. It was an incredible display of wealth, opulence, decadence and power.
The Roman amphitheatre was surprisingly large, and complete. There were opera performances that took place during the summer, so it had a bit of a hybrid feeling – these beautiful old bricks making up the seating, combined with the brand-new soundstages and lighting.
We weren’t pressed for time, so we wandered around aimlessly, passing through the main shopping district, and picking up a few sweet snacks.
The tree lined boulevards were lovely, doubly so with the unexpected dry heat.
We hired bikes, and acted just like every tourist (and local) acts on the Boris bikes in London. However, it did allow us to make very rapid progress around the city, including a really lovely lap around the botanic gardens – including the free zoo.
Dinner was at a great little bouchon called Chez Mounier. Highly recommended by a local friend, and was almost entirely filled with French. The food was simple, cheap, super tasty and representative of Lyonnaise cuisine – or least I was told that it is.