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Europe » France » Rhône-Alpes » Lyon
May 19th 2015
Published: May 24th 2015
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We were too late yesterday afternoon to book one of the walking tours of Lyons included with our City Passes. Bernie rang first thing this morning and the only tour available today is at 2.30pm ... in French. Bernie asked if we could book onto the French speaking tour anyway so that we could be guided around some of the traboules - the hidden passages that the silk workers used to use to transport goods - in the old city. We figured that as long as we were guided to some of the secret passages to take some photographs we could manage without the commentary. We were booked onto the tour and asked to call at the Tourist Office before 2.30pm to collect our voucher.

We caught the train into the Bellecour Station, found the Tourist Office located in Place Bellecour and collected our voucher for this afternoon's guided walk. In the meantime the staff member at the Tourist Office suggested that we walk across the bridge and take the funicular up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who saved the city of Lyon from the bubonic plague, the Black Death, that was sweeping Europe in 1643.

From the basilica we walked to the Fourvière Gallo-Roman Museum. The ruins were covered in marquees that were being installed for an event so we didn't go into the ruins, just visited the museum which houses some remarkable Gallo-Roman finds from Lyon and the surrounding areas. The mosaic floors that they have in the museum are very well-preserved. The museum was hosting an event showcasing the work of students of the hair and make-up college. There were models that seemed to be made up representing womens' fashions through the ages.

We took the funicular back down the hill to the Cathédrale St. Jean which was almost as impressive as the basilica on the top of the hill. We crossed back over the Saône River and walked past the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) and the Opéra National de Lyon before making our way up the hill to the meeting point for the walking tour. We had to climb several flights of stairs - stopping to admire the view between flights - before we arrived at the exit to the Croix-Rousse Station where we were to meet our guide.

The guide arrived at 2.30pm and collected the vouchers from the participants for the walking tour. Once everyone was accounted for we walked back the way that we had just come and stopped on a terrace overlooking the cathedral where we had already paused on our way up and taken photographs. Because this was the French speaking tour the guide then delivered 30 minutes of commentary in French while we all stood in the one spot. What?! we knew the commentary was going to be in French, but we thought that this was going to be a walking tour not a stand around tour.

After half an hour, when even the French-speaking participants were starting to look restless, we finally moved to another spot which was a dark and dusty little park where a man was busily blowing leaves around with a blower vac creating lots of noise and a dust storm. Seemingly oblivious to the discomfort of these surroundings the guide delivered another huge amount of information in French. We were starting to wonder if we would ever get to see a traboule or if we should just leave and see what we could find on our own.

We persevered and, finally, on our third stop we found ourselves at a traboule ... a really, really ugly one. Once again the French-speaking participants were treated to more information which we sort of assumed meant that this traboule must have a really interesting history even if it is very ugly?! At one stage a returning resident heckled the guide - in French of course! We don't know what was said, but it must have been reasonably harmless because the guide and the rest of the group laughed at what he had said.

We were then taken down through the traboule which is really why we had taken the tour because there is no way we could have found this particular one on our own and if we did we wouldn't have been game to venture into it because it was so dark and dingy looking! The stairs that smelled like a urinal led us to another hidden courtyard that was a bit lighter and attractive but, midway through the guide's commentary, a disgruntled resident started to throw small rocks on the group!! Wow, this walking tour is just getting better and better.

I was standing near a doorway so I wedged myself in the shelter of the doorway but, undaunted, the guide continued on with her commentary. It took some very noisy bin rattling and some door slamming and another big shower of gravel from the peed-off inhabitant before our guide finally decided that we should move on! After a stop at another Roman amphitheatre ruin we concluded the walking tour at one of the examples of Lyon's street art.

After the tour we were heading back towards the river when Bernie ducked into an alley and actually found a rather pretty traboule for us to look at. We would have done a self-guided exploration if we had a map. Unfortunately the App that Bernie found on-line depended on internet connection so ... OK if you are on a French phone and data plan, but no good for international tourists on global roaming because downloading data costs far to much.

We popped into St. Paul's Church as we walked past making it a basilica, a cathedral and a church for the day! We paused for a quick beer and a hot chocolate before walking to the railway station to catch the train back to the hotel.

Steps for the day 21,795 (14.84 km)


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