You may or may not have heard of Lyon before. I hadn’t until about a good month ago when my French roommates in Glasgow highly recommended it to me. They may have been a little biased as Lyon was their home. But after arriving in Lyon I was inclined to agree.
Lyon is a large city in the middle of France. No beaches or the warm temperatures of the South but it is a really lovely place. I would consider even living there if I wanted to live in France. The city is clean with an excellent public transport system. The people are friendly and the food amazing. It is set on hilly ground which made for an amazing view from my hostel looking out over the city.
Image curtesy of umpa.engs-lyon.fr as I accidentally deleted my own photo of the view from my hostel window
Even the homeless beggars looked happier as there were far less of them and generally more buskers instead. Walking to my hostel to check in at dusk, I felt safe and welcome.
After an amazingly cozy sleep, I began my day with heading up the hill to do some laundry at a laundromat. Such a mundane thing to do but laundry day is always my favourite day of the week. Usually with such a limited selection of clothes, I have to wear every item a few times until I enevertibly spill food on it. Apart from underwear of course. That’s just ick. My micro-fibre travel towel (supposedly fast-drying but not really) gets pretty gross and is often packed into my backpack still damp when it’s time to travel onwards. After laundry day I finally have the huge range of my clean clothes to choose from. And even better – clean underwear! There is always the washing clothing in the hostel sink option which I haven’t needed to do yet, as usually most hostels have washing machines or there is a cheap laundromat nearby.
My outfit on laundry day is usually pretty hilarious too with wearing the last combo of my cleanest clothes in my backpack. I may have had to even go commando once as laundry day was just one day too late for my underwear supply. Or I could be just just making that up ;)
After such a thrilling morning, I walked further up the hill to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. I had always originally thought that Notre Dame was a building just in Paris but it turns out they’re all over the place. Notre Dame translates to our lady essentially meaning that it is a cathedral church dedicated to Mary. The Lyon one was very pretty and nice on the inside. It made looking at the Saint Jean cathedral at the bottom of the hill afterwards look very plain and boring.
St Jean Cathedral. The inside was too boring to photograph. Left photo is from Wikipedia
For the afternoon I caught a bus out to Parc Tete D’or. This park was actually really cool and I could totally see why it was number one on tripadvisor. First off, it’s a beautiful park. Filled with luscious trees, gardens, pofty green grass, and lovely lake water with geese and swans. What’s not to like? Then there is a botanical garden, hothouses and a rose garden. Oh and a zoo with free admission. Bonus! Although zoos are same most places, the siren-call of free admission lured me in and I was captivated by tigers and monkeys within minutes.
From top left: a red panda peeks through the tree leaves, a tiger says talk to the hand lady, and moi sitting in the botanical gardens.
Then I found another park gem in the form of a greenhouse cathedral. It was the coolest greenhouse ever. It was a massive beautifully designed glass building shaped like a cathedral, filled with carefully cared for plants with artwork strewn throughout.
The artwork made what would have been a nice greenhouse into something amazing. Each piece of art was artfully placed in a complimentary natural manner. I have never seen anything like it before, and spent a good hour walking around inside snapping photos.
From left: Tree moss umbrellas, the outside, and some robots stand guard at the window.
I was tired after that and headed back to my hostel to curl up with a good book. I was reading Belle by Lesley Pearse. Highly recommend it if you like gripping Jodi Picoult-type stories.
I brought a treat for myself in the form of a special Lyon praline tart dessert to go with my dinner. It was an amazing tart and super French. You should try a slice on your visit if you want to taste heaven. Later I ended up playing monopoly (the card version) with some new Egyptian friends and a neat french chick which made for a great evening.
Not the best photo as I was too excited about eating it
I stayed up too late trapped in the grips of my book and found it hard to get moving the next morning. I just wanted to keep reading :3 eventually I did shift my A into G and meandered out to île Barbe. It was just a small island in the middle of a river but pretty and picturesque to look at. After that I meandered through the city just looking at the shops and the people. I had a yum sugar and lemon crepe from a street peddler, and French herbal tea at Starbucks. I found a museum with miniature cinema sets and a cool horse fountain.
The hostel was my favourite French one so far. It is part of a chain called Hostelling International [HI] which I think has a Christian background like the YMCA as unmarried males and females weren’t allowed to share a room. You do have to have a membership to stay there. But as Lyon was similar to Montpellier and Marseille in that a HI hostel was actually the only hostel in town anyway, I was happy to join. The Lyon hostel had that cheerful friendly atmosphere that I like and the rooms were really cozy. The view was the best hostel view ever with looking out over the city. Another thing I have found is that all the hostel reception staff (not so much the cleaners) have been bilingual in both French and English. Makes it so much easier as I like to be able to ask advice on where to go and how to get places.
I stayed up too late reading again. And then discovered my German roommate liked to talk loudly in her sleep and bang around in her bed above me. Thank gawd for earplugs. The morning arrived too soon and it was time to head to the bus station.
Next stop – Paris.