02 July, 2011

Lyon – we walked our legs off

For those not familiar with the Afrikaans idiom- we set off and walked and walked and walked a long way in exploring the city of Lyon.  After the initial expedition on day one up the hill to Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere then walked down through the rose garden into the old city and along the banks of the Soame back to the boat located at the southern tip of the Pesquile.   A short afternoon, evening stroll to orientate ourselves.  We also established that there was an audio guide for hire from the tourist office at the Bellecour square.
Day two with audio guide at ear we took the metro to the Hotel de Ville – the Town Hall to get the background of the new Lyon National Opera house built inside and on top of the original walls.  The roof is a black barrel vault of steel and glass which hovers over the Neo-Classical shell with its statues and columns.  One wonders why Sydney Opera house is acclaimed as great?

From there back onto the metro for the ride up the hill in to the area of the silk workers of the past, the Croix Rousse or working hill.  (Fourviere is the praying hill with all its churches).  This area was the main silk producing district of Lyon which gave birth to the canuts apartments (not dissimilar to Venice) where the work was conducted on the ground floor with its long, large windows for light and high ceilings, the next floor for trade and the top levels for living.  This area is regarded as the site of the first social revolt of the workers against the silk merchants.  The local still view themselves as rebels and different which it is apparent in the architecture and streetscape.
From the top of the hill we walked down the main Boulevard to the site of Croux Rousse which was in the C16 a large limestone cross but today it is marked by the Gros Caillou – big pebble which now looks like a stone too large for a frontend loader to move so the city fathers turned it into a tourist feature!  It’s a long walk for a look at a rock but the view east over the city is rewarding and one realizes just how extensive Lyon is and how it has been built in waves extending outwards from the river and not in circles like other cities.
From here we took a Traboules - they are corridors that connect the internal courtyards of the adjoining buildings and apartments but also link the parallel streets.  A short cut to get to work quickly if you know the route.  The one we followed was through four courtyards and down many steps before we can out at the Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls said to be the largest in Gaul but not used then or today to martyr Christians or to host concerts.
We were back at river level and walked down the Rue de la Martiniere to a mural of the famous people of Lyon painted on the side of a five story building.  Next we crossed the bridge back into the Old Lyon - the narrow strip of land between the Fourviere hill and the bank of the Soame.  The largest Renaissance area in France so the tourist guide states.  Bounded by the three churches St Paul, St George and St Jean which we had visited the previous day and would return to hear a choir on Wednesday.  Inside we watched the astronomical clock of the 14C go through its routine right on the hour.

Back along the rue de Beouf for a snack – just kidding.  We entered a Traboules at 27 to come out in Rue St Jean.  The door is closed so all you have to do is ring the bell and the door will open and you will enter the world of the past with narrow corridors, steep steps and narrow internal courtyards, with people living in all the apartments.  Not the place to have an argument.
It was almost six o clock and we had to return the audio guide to Bellecour square which we did and took the Metro at 17:37 back across the Soame to connect with the venicular to the top of Fourviere to see the two excavated Roman theatres.  No people just modern lighting, speaker systems, scaffolding and a large stage.  It may have been great in its day but today it just looks like a construction site.  The heat was getting to Denny so we stopped on the steps for a rest.  The minutes ticked by.  We set off back to the venicular but just missed the down and had to wait.  The next leg across town was a few minutes wait thenout onto the street level for the tram back to Malua.
Lyons transport system is great, it works, is interlinked and simple to use.  Don’t ride it without a ticket. We had been checked twice that day. The other thing is that you can ride for one hour on the same ticket.  Jump on, jump off.   We started our hour at 17:37 taken four legs when we caught the penultimate leg across town to connect with the tram south to the marina.  The display board at the tram stop stated the next tram would arrive 18:36 and we would have just one minute to spare.  How good is the system and their clocks? The tram arrived at 18:35 I rushed in and punched the ticket and got a green light from the machine to indicate I had a valid ticket.  Relax, my legs where killing me. Just two stop to go.  Alas at the next stop six ticket inspectors stoped the tram and boarded the two carriages checking every passenger’s ticket with their portable machine.  I offer up my ticket, They swipe mine, a bell goes off, swipe again and some comment about un minute but gave it back.  Great system, it works because I could not have walked another block for I had walked my legs off in Lyon.

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