by Lauryn Crowe, Greenheart Travel Language Exchange Participant in France
Let me talk about the city of Lyon, France. It’s amazing. I’m from Boston originally, so I can truly appreciate the beauty of an urban, bustling city, that is relatively small in size and walkable. Lyon is all of that and more. There are two major rivers that run through the center of the city, le Rhone and la Saone. Between the two rivers is what is called le centre ville – it’s the most concentrated area of the city, complete with long pedestrian promenades lined with little shops, name brand shopping, small cafes, restaurants, bars, and of course traditional Lyonaise bouchons. There are two main “hills” or collines in the city, one called le Fourviere and the other la Croix Rousse. Both are enchanting neighborhoods with winding cobble-stoned streets, artisan shops, boulangeries, patisseries, charcuteries, boucheries, fromageries, epiceries, and of course picturesque cafes with seating spilling out into the streets. Both collines have a rich history that defines each neighborhood and their place in the city, which I won’t get into here for length’s sake.
Like any other European city, Lyon has a variety of parks, plazas, and other public areas. I definitely recommend le parc de la Tete d’Or. It is the biggest park in the city, complete with a zoo in the center, several public gardens including a green-housed botanical gardens, a succulent garden, and a rose garden among others. There is a big lake in the middle of the park, and several pathways meandering through the different areas of the park, where people are constantly jogging, walking, biking or otherwise exercising. It is truly a beautiful spot.
Lyon is a quaint city, easily traveled by foot, by bike or by car if you choose however it also offers an extensive public transit system, including buses, tramways, and a metro or subway system. And, all of the transit runs on the same ticket system! So with one ticket you can go from bus to tram to subway and back! Each ticket lasts for one hour and costs a little over 1 Euro – quite the deal if you ask me.
I’d say my favorite transit solution that Lyon has to offer however is the Velo’v system. For 1 Euro, you can go to any of the hundreds of bicycle stations around the city and rent a bike for an entire day. You can then return said bike to any of the various stations – it’s such a great way to get around the city I can understand why it’s so popular. And now with iPhones and smartphones everywhere, of course “there’s an app for that” – to tell you which stations have available bikes etc. According to my host sister Caroline, Lyon was the first city in France to offer such a system – and understandably it’s now being mimicked throughout the country.
While biking, walking, running or otherwise commuting around the city I can’t help but take in Lyon’s beautiful architecture and urban planning. It is such a seamless combination of old European, classic French-style and modern architecture. Where apartment buildings and old city buildings are adorned with classic molding, and big French windows complete with shutters and balconies at times, they are tucked in between some beautifully designed modern office buildings and other high rises. While it is easy to get distracted by the smell of fresh baked bread in the air, the gorgeous chocolates, pastries and other delicacies calling your name from window front to window front don’t forget to look up and admire the beautiful buildings and architecture around you as well!