by Davie Pocstar, Greenheart Travel Correspondent Scholarship Winner in France
vendredi le 30th novembre, 2012; 16:00
I have been traveling for more than 1.5 years now. My little wandering feet have taken me to faraway lands where amazing, life changing experiences left goosebumps on my skin. Left me speechless even.
But not everyday is a major life-changing event. I would be exhausted if it were! Instead, one of my favourite things to do in a new city is stroll through the narrow streets and laneways of old towns. D’aller faire une promenade if you will.
On one bright, crisp morning, I did just that. Taking the bus into Lyon from the little village where I’m currently living was a nice getaway from the host family. Lyon is a city full of lovely bridges so I started my walk on one of them. The rivers Saône and Rhône split Lyon into three major parts. I always remember that the Rhône is on the right side and the Saône is on the left side. Together, they meet up southwards in the Confluence area. Between the two rivers, the Presqu’île is the city’s central heartbeat. It is also known as “The Island” and pulsates with modern French life.
Starting my walk on one of the city’s many bridges.
As I headed westward from the bridge, I started to make my way into Vieux Lyon, the city’s old quarters. I highly recommend going on a weekend morning meander when most of the city is still asleep. I especially enjoyed this “alone time” because I got to experience the quietness of Lyon before it roared to life.
Traversing the narrow streets, I spotted a girl going to dance class? Maybe…
Another thing I love about taking a walk in a city is smelling and touching the textures along the way. As I made my climb upwards in the old city, I took in simple pleasures all around me.
For example, figs! As I write this post, they are probably ready to be picked!
I also stopped every so often to take in the views, stealing glimpses as the sun slowly warmed the rooftops. I could feel the city waking up from its Sunday morning slumber. The air was still crisp and the soleil lightly roasted my chilly cheeks.
One of the many stops on my way to the top where Fourière awaited me.
Alas, I made it to the top where the statuesque church known as Basilique de Fourvière towered over the city below. This church is definitely a touristy place but luckily for me, I pretty much had the place to myself. Ah, the reward for beating the crowds…
Getting fancy by using the self timer on my camera at Fourière.
This quiet time at the top allowed me to inhale the entire city at my own pace. There was a board map at the terrace by the church outlining places of interest of the city. I especially liked seeing Part-Dieu, a tower filled with offices and shopping madness.
It is also known to locals as “le crayon.”
After a good while up there, I made my descent into the streets below to see what else the morning had to offer. With very little traffic on a Sunday, I was able to wander in and out of the narrow pathways to find something Lyon is well known for: Tromp L’oeil. In English, it literally translates to “trick the eye”. Tromp l’oeil murals are found all over Lyon. They even have a university program here dedicated to this art.
One of my favourite pieces was the “La Bibliothéque de la Cité”. The wall looked so real that I actually thought there was a library inside. I love libraries. But, alas, I was fooled!
As I chewed on my baguette, I just marveled at the attention to detail in this kind of artwork.
I absolutely loved that a Velo’V station, the city’s bike sharing system, was situated here. Speaking of Velo’V, Lyon was the first city in Europe to implement a bike sharing system where you can rent a bicycle by the hour very affordably. Lyon proper has a Velo’V station roughly every 300 meters. It’s impressive and many cities around the world have adopted this concept.
These beautiful bicycles line the city in an upbeat row of red.
After a few hours of exploring the city, it was time to head back to my host family so I could give English lessons to my two host sisters. Another thing I love about Lyon besides its bicycle sharing system, is it’s transit system. It’s reliable, fast and affordable. At €55/month for a metro pass, this allows me to go on all the transit systems including the buses, subway, tramway and funiculars. It’s probably one of the best values I’ve found so far in France. A ticket is €1.60 from any tabac shop or metro agency and is good for 1hour.
Anyone planning to use Lyon’s transit system will benefit from this portable phone application.
I think one of the best things to do in a new place is to explore it on foot to experience its heartbeat. And Lyon definitely has a pulse worth exploring.