Time seems to be flying by, and I don’t like it! I’m only two weeks away from moving in with my third host family, which means there are only 3 months left in the program 😦 How did that happen?! What am I going to do next?!
My immediate reaction has been to plan as many trips as possible during my time left here. This last weekend, some friends from the program and I hopped on a plane to go see the beautiful city of Lyon, France. Haven’t heard about it? Don’t worry, we hadn’t either. But tickets were cheap and, when we asked other people in the program if they knew anything about it, a few people said it was great. So off we went!
We had set off to the airport around 5am but, but after all of the hassle of getting to the airport, the flight, and the plane ride, we ended up ready to explore the city around noon… and we were ravenous. We heard from our hostel that most of the places in the center of the city are way overpriced, and that we should head across the river to the west side that had the La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. We heeded their advice and headed on over, passing some beautiful views along the way.
La Saône River, west side of Lyon
Paroisse Catholique Saint Nizier
I have a weakness for cities with rivers. I don’t know what it is about the water, but I absolutely adore it. I think rivers and beaches make cities 100x prettier. So the fact that Lyon was a city situated along two rivers really impressed me. The way the buildings reflect off the river, boat cruises, the lights at night… it is just fantastic. Oh, and hills… I have another thing for hills. Not walking up them, of course (that’s never fun), but seeing the views from the top. I love that you can look down a street and see the entire city laid out before you.
La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière on the top of the hill, and the mini-eiffel tower (Metallic tower of Fourvière) to the right.
Once we crossed the river, we began a desperate search for something to eat. None of us really spoke French, which was a problem… I tried learning the basic phrases but my accent just sucked. We ended up deciding on a little cafe (Crock ‘N’ Roll) that had a lot of locals inside, so it seemed to be a good choice. The menu had various options of a sandwich, salad, drink and dessert for about €13. I got a delicious ham sandwich with a dessert of “white cheese.” We were a little skeptical about the dessert but decided to try it since, hey, when in France… eat cheese. It was tasty! It came in a glass, pretty much purely liquid like yogurt. Then you poured honey and sugar into it because calories don’t count while you’re on vacation 😉
‘The Streets’ Sandwich. Pretty tasty! French Comte cheese, Ham, Mushrooms… yum! Everyone’s sandwich was pretty tasty.
The bathroom at the restaurant. A strange thing to take a picture of, I know, but I thought the collage was pretty cool!
After that, we wandered around the Vieux part of Lyon, a renaissance district and famous for it’s bouchons (nice restaurants) and traboules (old secret pathways used during the silk-weaving period and also the war). It was a really nice area to explore because it was just so French-looking. I’m sad we didn’t make it to a bouchon this trip (they were a tad pricy), but the whole area was beautiful.
Another thing about France that I suppose is to be expected… There are more pastry and chocolate shops than you can count. And everything just looked so amazing! Even after eating a full meal we’d always stop at one of these shops and stare into the window, salivating. They were very creative with the way they presented everything. Some of the chocolates didn’t look real, and others (like in this picture) were made to look like corks and wine bottles. Yum!
I happened to notice a couple tourists enter this small alleyway, so we followed them since I was aware of the Traboules. I kind of wish we had hired a guide to show us around because, during the whole weekend, we only found a couple of them and didn’t really know the history about them. You really have to know what to look for, I hear some of the traboules are only accessed by knowing which closed doors you can go through. I was afraid of knocking on someone’s front door! Especially with my limited French.
After that, we stumbled upon the beautiful Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Unfortunately it was under construction on the inside, so we didn’t get to see much, but I was struck by the exterior. I loved the detail in the circular window at the top, which was a bit difficult to capture by camera.
Because you can never see enough churches in Europe, we decided to trek up the hill to see La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. It is definitely worth the climb, but try to ask locals for the correct way to go! We ended up taking a very long and roundabout route and got lost a few times. Luckily, because we went the wrong way, we also stumbled upon the The Ruins of Lugdunum, Fourviere Hill. They are ancient roman baths, and it’s interesting to wander around and maybe have a rest by sitting in one of the grand ampitheatres.
Just a short walk away from the Roman ruins, you find the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. I am not impressed by too many cathedrals since I have seen so many in my life that they start blurring together, but I really enjoyed this one (another that stands out in my mind is the mind-blowing Sagrada Familia). There is a lot of detail on the outside, including the golden man on the tower, but the inside is what really impressed me. There was so much gold and color, it was incredible.
There’s also some amazing views from right outside the cathedral. I’m a sucker for cityscapes. We met some really nice guys there who were living in France, they were nice enough to show us around a bit.
On our way down the hill, we decided to take a different route. There are billions of stairs every which direction, such as the one shown below. We neared the bottom when a guy asked us nicely to wait a moment because they were shooting a film at the bottom steps. It was super cool to see all of the film equipment and the filming in progress. Now I want to see it!
After that, we just wandered the city aimlessly to take it all in. It is such a gorgeous city to walk around, but it was surprising because there weren’t many people around at all. Such a big city, so few people! But everyone came out at night in the clubs.
The coolest entrance I have seen to a bookstore!
We met some fun people at our hostel and went with them to the Boston Café right behind the statue shown above. I personally wouldn’t recommend anyone to go… it was alright, but (as with many French people, I have noticed) the staff were incredibly rude to non-French speaking people. Order in French or they’ll chastise you that you are, in fact, in France and need to speak French. Or (like me) attempt to order in French and have them still glare at you because your accent isn’t perfect.
Anyways, another thing to mention about Lyon is that drinks are pretty damn pricey. It was hard to find a beer for under €5.50, which was surprising because that’s on par with Dublin‘s crazy pricing (which makes more sense, since Dublin is known for their beer). We ordered beers at Boston Cafe, and a couple of the girls added syrup to theirs. I guess it is common in France to flavor your beer with syrups like peach, raspberry, strawberry, etc. I had a taste of one of my friend’s and it didn’t taste awful, but I definitely prefer my beer straight up.
The bar played some strange music… we were there for about two hours and the music didn’t get any better. There were some old hits that we could get down to, but the majority was really strange. Again, I wouldn’t recommend going there.
We ended up leaving and pretty much as soon as we left, we were approached by a group of 4 guys begging us to go back into the club with them and they’d buy our drinks for us. I was really thrown back by this; I guess it is really difficult for men to get into a club without women because they want a higher ratio of ladies. We politely declined but they kept insisting. We got even further and yet another group of guys approached us asking for the same thing. After saying no for the 5th time, a girl from their group came up to us and said “You guys want drugs?” Wow, that escalated quickly. We quickly said no and rushed off. A definitely strange end to the night!