Lyon - the Paris alternative
Paris might have the Seine River, the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame but Lyon, France has two fabulous waterways, the Rhône and Saône rivers, the statuesque Tour du Crédit Lyonnais and the stunning pious delights of the Notre-Dame de Fourvière and Saint-Jean Cathedral. Not to mention all the pre-requisite patisseries, cobblestone streets, charming nightlife and, of course, oodles of culinary delights. After all, Lyon is the gastronomy (culinary) capital of France.
Lyon is nestled in the mountainous Rhône-Alpes region, located 470 km from Paris and 320 km from Marseille, its location between the two cities allows it to be a major centre of business. Lyon forms the second-largest metropolitan area in France after that of Paris, with the population of its urban area estimated to be nearly two million.
But amidst all those people, you will find a city that hasn't forgotten its history, its charms...or how to eat!
The Saint-Jean Cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Lyon
Why is the church thanking Mary? Well, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who is said to have saved the city of Lyon from the plague in 1643. A small church was erected in gratitude, to which the gilded statue of the Virgin was added in the mid-nineteenth century, to mark its bicentennial. Each year in early December, Lyon thanks the Virgin for saving the city by lighting candles throughout the city, in what is called the Fête des Lumières.
The basilica has a very prominent location on the top of Fourvière hill, which overlooks the city. This same hill is where the Roman forum of Trajan, the forum vetus, was located (along with the Roman Theatre) and has one amazing view. To get to the top of the hill, you have to ride the Ficelle, the world's first funicular train.
Passageways - called traboules - are abundant in the Saint-Jean and the Croix-Rousse areas of the city. Though many of them have been turned into private courtyards, these narrow passageways pass through buildings and link the streets either side. These mysterious streets were designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
Located in this area, and among the old cobblestone streets of the enigmatic Old Town, are scores of wonderful restaurants called bouchons. Bouchons are usually convivial restaurants serving primarily local dishes, and local wines. My first night in Lyon - blinded by jetlag - I snacked on escargots. They were local, fresh and cooked to perfection. My jetlag judgement won on that matter.
Traditional local dishes include saucisson de Lyon (sausage), andouillette, coq au vin, esox (pike) quenelle, gras double (tripe cooked with onions), salade lyonnaise (lettuce with bacon, croutons and a poached egg), marrons glacés and cardoon au gratin.
And hot mulled wine, sold on the street was a perfect accompaniment.
You can literally spend weeks walking around Lyon, eating your way through the city....it has cute, tucked away restaurants that only locals know about (and gives away free shots of chesnut liquer!)...
...and many entertaining bars, such as The Wallace, the only Scottish bar in Lyon. The locals love this place, if not for its extensive array of Scotch....
...you can also pick up many local eats at the Saturday market, held along the Saône river.
Whatever you choose to do in Lyon, you'll find a French city steeped in culture, braised in history and sprinkled with latin sensibilities.
And like it's classic layout and return to simplicities, so is the fashion and style inspired by Lyon. To purchase my clothing items for a true Lyonnais feel, please click here.
The Lion of Lyon (Lyon is french for Lion, d'accord?)