We arrived at Gare de Lyon in very good time for our booking on the TGV train bound for Lyon Perrache. We have booked ourselves (with help in the choosing thereof by Claire) into a small hotel for an overnighter on the Presqu’ile which passes between the Rivers Saone and Rhone. Our seats are on the upper deck which gives us a great view over the countryside as it speeds past. It has a maximum speed of ~350mph.
Arriving at Lyon it was a short walk to Hotel Vaubecour for which you gain entrance via a door off the street into a vestibule, through some double doors where you take the lift to the first floor. Before showing us to our room the hotel proprietor spent a good 10 minutes marking routes and recommendations on a map and how helpful was that! We at lunch at an excellent café-restau round the corner. We walked north and crossed a bridge to find ourselves in the heart of the old town. At the tourist centre we bought City Passes which would cover all our transport needs, including a guided river cruise and entrance to all the museums.
Without delay we took the funicular up the hill to visit the Basilica and then on to the Gallo-Roman museum which is stuff full of goodies including mosaics, statuary, glass, ceramics, artefacts, coins………. You enter the museum at the upper level and spiral down through the collections to emerge at ground level into the amphitheatre.
We hoped to take in the Musee des Tissus/Musee des Arts Decoratifs but we arrived at the end of the afternoon with the ticket office closed. So we repaired to the hotel to get ready for dinner, at the famous Chez Georges Brasserie, recommended by Ty. It feels like a restaurant laid out on a railway concourse, rows and rows of tables cheek by jowl and it was filled with the world and his wife and intermittently the lights dimmed as birthday cakes were delivered to celebratory tables and much applause. We are glad to be part of a tradition that has endured since 1836. We wondered if there might be any chance of our making their duo centennial anniversary!
Although our hotel fitted the bill in many respects we would have loved a bit of air-conditioning. The night was very warm and we slept poorly. But it was only one night. The following day we acquainted ourselves yet further with Lyon. We stumbled upon the market and such fabulous produce, the vivid colours, and it does put our St Vaast market a bit in the shade. But that’s the sunny south for you. I bought a bargain batch of 8 fat garlic bulbs for 2 Euros.
At 10 a.m. we were waiting at the river cruise ticket office, ready to book ourselves on the 11 o’clock when it opened. The trip was excellent, taking in the old Lyon river frontages and hinterland motoring north and then we turned and cruised south towards the confluence which we had not anticipated seeing. Much of the development there is situated on reclaimed land and the modern buildings though diverse, sit comfortably next to each -the orange and the green! There was definitely a joined-up feel to the concept and execution of that whole complex.
We ate lunch at Cafe Gadagne then visited the museum, taking a trip through Lyon history, glancing also at the temporary exhibitions on the Rose and world Marionnettes. We then took the Lyon metro out to Monplaisir-Lumiere and spent a good couple of hours at the Musée de l’Institut Lumière. I knew nothing of the famous Lumière brothers Auguste and Louis and what remarkable men they were. We owe them film, and the concept of commissioning film-makers to go abroad to make shorts, filming from a moving rickshaw for example as native children ran behind, laughing and careering from side to side in a tumble. Early documentaries. And we owe them colour photography – Autochrome preceded Kodachrome and the other processes that would follow. The Institute is the former family home, with some lovely original wallpapers. A gracious airy room with numerous windows and family portraits on the ground floor the family is called The Winter Garden.
So that was a hit, very much the best till last, and feeling thoroughly cultured out we headed back to Bellecour for a stroll down rue Victor Hugo before we rounded up our bags, bought a sandwich and caught the train – very impressed with TGV, great views from the upper floor.