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Lyon, The Next Paris

By Melissa Schulz

Lyon is a city that you can have your cake and eat it too.  Quickly becoming a rival to Paris, it appeals to both the urbanite and outdoorsman.  Lyon has both an active romantic city with the peaceful escape of the rolling green hills and quaint villages nearby. The city offers a quick retreat from the strung out life in Paris via a quick train ride.

Lyons city center is the Presqu'ile, a peninsula joined by two rivers the Rhone and the Saone.  This is the shopper's utopia of trendy stores with out the Parisian price tags.  Even in high tourist season I found the prices reasonable.  There is an outdoor market along the quai des Celestins where you can find typical French products like aromatic cheese, fresh sausages, and a variety of fruits and vegetables direct from local farms.

If it is history and atmosphere you crave check out Vieux Lyon-Old Lyon.  With its narrow cobblestone streets and amazing colorful houses it is considered one of the best examples of renaissance architecture.  There are plenty of outdoor cafes along the small winding streets to get you in a relaxed mood.  Be sure to order a chocolate fondue cake and a glass of cider.

After relaxing in the cafe why not work off those extra calories by walking up the steep slopes of the Fouviere to the famous church Basilique de Notre Dame. I suggest you wear your walking shoes and take the path through the Jardin de Roseries which is filled with lush plants and incredible views of Lyon's dusty red roof tops.

Once you reach the top take a moment to breath, you will need it, and appreciate the panoramic views of Lyon. Once a clear day you can see the Alps and even in tourist season there is plenty of elbow room, a nice change from Paris.

The elegant church which presides over Lyon was built in 1896 during the Franco-Prussian war, but lacks the strength and presence of the cathedrals of Paris.  If you continue down the road in front of the church you will stumble onto the Gallo-Roman museum.  The museum is also home to Roman theaters which you can enjoy for free.  A great place to have a picnic with some gastronomic treats of region, this means meat and lots of it.

Lyon  has a reputation as one of the culinary capitals of Europe.  If you are not a strict vegetarian you can find many bouchons, small intimate restaurants, that serve plenty of local meat specialties. Still, for the non carnivores, you can find pizza and sand-which shops. 

At night the city of Lyon is transformed into a warm bath of lights.  A must see is La Place des Terreaux, the huge square in front of the city hall.  There you can have a coffee and watch the 69 illuminated water sprouts dance to the rhythm of the summer night. 

I enjoyed the city but was ready for a quiet day in a less industrialized place.  Luckily, we were staying with locals, thanks to my French boyfriend, and had our own tour guides.  We woke up early one stormy summer morning and set out for the village Izeron, about a 20 minute drive from Lyon.  One the way, we parked our car near a little path called Py Froid, and hiked through the green hills freckled with poppies, wild strawberries and pre-historic ferns.  It was a 

revitalizing promenade.  After, we enjoyed a crepe and a bottle of local cider in the small friendly village of Izeron.  The warm summer storms and teh sweet cider gave the village a surreal quality, like somewhere out of a fairy tale.

The next day weather permitted so we decided to take a private plane ride over the hills of Lyon.  Our friends are members of one the smallest airports in Europe, Aero Club de L'ouest Lyonais.  If you can learn how to take off and land here you are considered a very qualified pilot due to the strong winds and tiny landing strip (400 meters long).  Not for the faint hearted.

Even if you are not a member you can rent a plane and a pilot for somewhere around 50 dollars for two people (20 minute flight)

One last stop was the medieval of Perouges.  It is known mostly for its church Sainte Marie Madaline built in the time of Joan of Arc and its tarte sucre.  It is filled with history and small specialized shops along its cobblestone streets.  If  you are lucky you will catch the Troubadours, the village carolers carrying on the tradition of the times past.  I highly recommend stopping by these medieval villages in France which can leave you with a magical experience.

It is understandable why Lyon is considered a rival to Paris with its diversity and lower prices, not to mention its geographical location. The Riviera and the Alps are both about 2 hours away by high speed train.  Lyon's radiance has been compared to the likes of Milan and Barcelona, only with less crowds. The warmth of the people and surprises of its country side make it a must see in France. 

To receive more information on the events contact the tourist office of Lyon at 04 72 69 69 69 at the place Bellecour

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Email:  schulz_mel@yahoo.com (Melissa Shulz)

Melissa Schulz is an American living in France. She has been traveling over a year to various destinations like Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece. 

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