A visit to Lyon

Are you tired of Paris? (Sacrilege!) Ready for something new? (Never!) But if you find yourself looking for a new venue, then Lyon could be the place for you. We visited this lovely city last weekend, and we all plan to return. Lyon is about two hours south of Pairs via TGV. It’s nestled around the confluence of two major rivers: the Rhone and the Saone. These waterways definitely add to the beauty of the city, allowing visitors to sit along the banks and people-watch, or gaze at the fish in the shallows. (My fly-fishing arm is twitching.) The city itself can be divided into two main areas: the old city, which is the world’s largest UNESCO World Heritage site, and the new city. The old city, where we spent most of our time, is a great place. It’s full of very old buildings which hearken back to the days of the illustrious silk trade that made Lyon rich. On nearly every street, there are at least two or three cafes. In fact, food is Lyon’s strength. Every meal we ate there was excellent—even at the simplest bistro. Really, this comes as no surprise, as some of France’s best chefs (such as Paul Bocuse) live and operate in Lyon. Compared to Paris, Lyon is much more relaxed. I suppose the best way to describe it is that Lyon seems to lack the hardness of parts of Paris. Many of the people were very communicable, and almost everyone we met was pleased to give assistance if needed. I really can’t think of a person we met who was surly, except for this one taxi driver. But, that’s not something I want to get into…. Anyway, back to the comparisons. I think that Lyon has slightly better food than Paris. Don’t misunderstand—there are many fabulous places at which to dine in Paris: the Jules Verne, La Tour d’Argent, La Petite Chaise (a personal favorite on the Rue de Grenelle), etc. But, fine restaurants aside, the common food seemed to be of a slightly better quality. Like Paris, Lyon is a great town to walk in, but with less traffic. Also, if you don’t want to walk somewhere, Lyon has its own subway system. Or, you can go with the reliable taxi service. (Just watch out for that one bad driver….) Lyon has shopping opportunities. Don’t go expecting to find a huge array of choices, but there are some good places; in particular, some very nice silk shops. One entire street is crammed full of antique stores. And for chocolate lovers, there are three excellent chocolate stores on the Cours Franklin Roosevelt: Bernachon, Richart, and Tortillier. If shopping is not your fancy, then maybe you’d like to take a funicular ride (for a small fee) to see the Basillica at Fourviere. If you’d rather walk, that’s fine too. Once at the Basilica, you should have a look around by yourself first. Then take the guided tour that leads you to the top of the cathedral. Be warned: it is possible that your guide doesn’t speak English. If he/she does, it will probably not be very fluent. I speak enough French to get the general idea of things, but if you speak no French at all, listening to the commentary could be challenging. Regardless, it’s worth going because the tour takes you on the roof of the Basilica, inside interesting rooms, and onto the very top of one of the highest towers. Two last words of warning. First, beware of the steps. There’s a LOT on this tour. And next, ladies, wearing skirts is a bad idea. Pants and shorts are fine, but NO skirts. On the tower, the wind blows down hard from the Alps, and if you wear a skirt, then you will almost certainly share more of yourselves with your fellow tourists than you want to. (Yes, I speak from experience.) Surly taxi drivers aside, Lyon is a great city. Its close proximity to Paris makes it an ideal place to visit for the weekend. The excellent food and warm atmosphere of old Lyon ensure that you’ll want to return. I know that it’s hard to leave Paris, but please, give Lyon a try. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did. Taylor Horton is a high school student who considers himself very fortunate to be writing for Bonjour Paris this summer.
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