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Published: February 2nd 2010
View from the hostel.
A strange name for a blog you may think, but apparently that's what the name Lyon actually means! (And here I was with lions on the brain *shakes head*) And it was to Lyon, France's third largest city, that I headed next. Mind you the city doesn't actually feel all that large. Perhaps because of the two rivers, la Saône and la Rhôn breaking it up.
After hiking up quite possibly the tallest mountain in France, with my magic backpack which seemed to get heavier with every step, I finally made it to my hostel. I have to admit it had a wonderful view across old Lyon (though that was about all the character this hostel could muster up). Tip: I've definitely learnt that for the indipendant traveller ie. someone not travelling with kids, the privately owned hostels you can choose from on websites like hostelworld are much nicer and have more character than any of the YHA and associated ones I've stayed at in Europe.
Just wandering through the old part of Lyon I noticed a few shops displaying some slightly scary looking wooden marionettes (think Punch annd Judy carved more roughly). The most common of which was
Parisian restaurant, Belle Epoque
International Museum of the Miniature
the famous character Guignol. Despite the apparent popularity of these puppets I have to admit that I didn't go anywhere near them because they slightly freaked me out. They weren't nearly as cute as the pictures online suggest. What WAS worth a visit though was the fabulous International Museum of the Miniature.
Founded by Dan Ohlmann this museum is full of detailed scenes created by miniaturistists from around the world. One of my favourites was of a real Parisian restaurant, Belle Epoque, and included tiny hand painted china plates. There were also a couple of theatres with their lovely red velvet chairs. Pity they hadn't added people to some of those scenes. Downstairs in the basement Dan had also recreated full size scenes from the movie Das Parfum including wax figures which were immensely realistic. Alone down there in the half light with the strange background music it was a bit creepy! I definitely want to see the movie now. This museum was definitely one of the most memorable and unusual museums I've ever seen. Well worth a look!
The best part of Lyon to wander around is definitely the old section (right below he hostel if you
Scene from Das Parfum
In the International Museum of the Miniature, even though it's full size.
stay there). It's full of hidden traboule's, which are passages originally used by the silk merchants to move their stockmore easily. More recently they were used during the first and second world wars as a quick way to escape. Many of the traboule's are on private property now though and those which are open are only open during certain times. And they're so hard to find! I wanted to do a tour but there wasn't one available when I was there. I did find two to slip through though. To be honest they're not all that exciting. Just run down old passages. I walked through one and thought 'what, that's it?'. But I'm sure there are some which are a bit more interesting. The tour would have been great because you'd get more of the history. It's quite fun appearing in a different street too. I felt a bit like a kid exploring a maze.
Overlooking all of this, dominating the top of Fourvière hill is The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. As it's name suggests it's a wonderful large cathedral. ('What, ANOTHER one?!' I hear you exclaim. Yes I know, for a non religious person I certainly go
to a lot of churches! BUT it's often here where you find the most beautiful art and architectural design of a buildings era. And they're often free. Plus, what can I say, I'm nosy.) This Notre-Dame is nothing like it's more famous sister in Paris but it's still stunning both inside and out. Rather than being known for it's carvings and stained glass windows this one is decorated inside with incredibly ornate but tasteful paintings and gold leaf all over the ceiling. The way the light reflects off the gold creates a wonderfully bright and alive space. If you only go to one cathedral/church in Lyon, make it this one. (I did wander into a couple of others but they're not really worth mentioning.)
On my last day in Lyon I was starting to run out of ideas for free entertainments. Then I discovered Le parc de la Tête d'Or. This place is so much more than a mere park. It has a free zoo inside it as well! Including elephants, lions and my personal favourites the giraffes. (They weren't my favourites until I stood and watched them for aaaages. I fell utterly and completely in love with their
Aren't they cute?
Le parc de la Tête d'Or
weird gangly bodies and gentle eyes.) The park also has a lake, deer park, botanical garden, green houses and a couple of educational spaces. It's a fabulous way to spend at least half a day. Unfortunately it was a little cold when I was there and even more unfortunately the only toilets on the site are the squat toilets I encountered in Malaysia. I've never used one of those and I never intend to! I was amazed to see them in France! (Or perhaps horrified is more accurate.)
And finally, for something else a bit unusual there's the Tony Garnier Urban Museum. Essentially this is a series of murals painted on the side of apartment blocks within a few blocksof each other. You can pay 2 euro for a map and a sheet with an explanation of each one or you can just wander the streets and discover them. Most depict things to do with architect Tony Garnier's urban designs, but the most interesting ones are contemporary images of the 'ideal city' done by artists from six continents. It's great fun exploring the streets in this quiet area and discovering the different murals.
Lyon is a fabulous place
Mural - The perfect city
Tony Garnier Urban Museum
to go if you want to see and do some unusual things. And especially if you want them to be free! There are actually heaps of other museums etc. but none tickled my fancy. There's one about the Lumiere brothers but I'd heard it was very dull if you weren't a film studies student. There wasn't as much on the silk trade as I would have expected either. But I think in summer there's more on. A great place to spend three days anyway.
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