I only spent two nights in Lyon, which was definitely not enough time. Lyon is the third largest city in France, and there was a lot more I would have liked to see! It's definitely on my list of places to visit again the next time I'm in France.
There are a number of must-see sights on Fourvière hill, but I decided to save them for my last day so that I could spend the morning sightseeing without having to subsequently climb all the way back up the huge hill to my hostel. After a light (and free!) breakfast of tartines (bread, butter, and jams) and café from the hostel, and after finishing packing up my new duffel and bidding the old one adieu, I set out to enjoy my last few hours in the city.
The tourist maps handed out in Lyon had a unique feature I didn't see anywhere else: they marked the spots where you could find the best views overlooking the city. With the two enormous hills to the West and North of the city, there were many incredible vantage points all over, but I found my favorite one on a whim when I decided to visit the Jardin de l'Abbé LaRue on my way to the remnants the Roman theater and odeon - but more on that later. The park is tucked a little off the beaten path on a ledge overlooking the city. You have to walk down a short path where you don't see much of a view at all, but then it starts to come into sight:
It was a perfect morning, and the view was magnificent.
If I had another day in Lyon, I absolutely would have come up here to watch the sun rise over the city. I stayed for maybe 15 minutes, soaking in the incredible panorama before heading on my way.
In addition to the Amphithéâtre des trois Gauls I had seen the day before, Lyon also has the remains of a Roman theater and odeon (music hall), which are right next to each other carved into the Fourvière hillside. Around the theater and odeon, there are some walls that show where homes and shops used to be just across the street from the theaters.
Lugdunum, the Roman settlement that became modern-day Lyon, was the most important Western city in the Roman empire, and there today there are still many reminders left of its ancient glory.
The seats of the theater and odeon are well preserved, but the wall behind the stage (as seen in Orange) is completely missing - but I suppose you could say that's not all bad, given the spectacular view over the city. Here is the theater; the odeon is further back in this picture.
While walking around the theater and odeon was free, if you wanted to learn more about the history of Lugdunum, you could visit the Archaeological museum right next door.
Speaking of that church, that was my next destination. It is the basilique Fourvière, perched at the highest point of the hill, visible on top of the hill from all over the city.
As I traveled around France I visited my fair share of churches, I visited my fair share of churches, and I have to tell you - this was the most opulently decorated church I think I've ever seen. Every inch of the facade, the crypt below, and the basilica above was adorned with marble, mosaic, sculpture, frescoes, stained glass... It was certainly impressive.
When you enter the church, you can go down into the crypt:
...or up into the basilica:
When you first enter the crypt, on your right there's a mosaic that was completed in the last decade or so. It tells the story of the life and legend of St. James, and the myriad details of the story are identified on a sign in front of the mosaic. The sign also identifies the artist, and notes that she did the work entirely for free - the only thing the church paid for were the materials, which came to a paltry 50,000€. For the one mosaic. And the entire basilica - ceiling, walls, floors - is covered in decoration.
I can only imagine how much building and decorating the basilica must have cost!!!
Given its visibility from all over the city, you can bet that the courtyard outside the basilica offered some pretty amazing views as well. Being so high up, as you walked to the edge of the cliff it looked as though all you could see was sky:
Around noon, I headed back to the hostel to pick up my bag and then headed down the hill to pick up some lunch before heading to the train station. I selected a small pâtisserie with a nice lunch menu, and ordered a quiche aux poireaux:
Poireaux means leeks, and this quiche was full of roasted leeks that tasted tart and almost a little fruity, kind of like a Granny Smith apple.
For dessert, I ordered a slice of tarte à la rhubarbe:
Rhubarb is one of my favorite vegetables, and I get really excited each year when it first shows up at the farmer's market in early May. The base for this tart was a nice, crumbly, sweet pâte sucrée, with a layer of strawberry something just above that. Next was a beautiful layer of rhubarb, covered in a fruity glaze. It was nice, but being something of a rhubarb purist, I would have preferred a tart more solely focused on the rhubarb without the other fruity distractions.
And of course, a café to finish the meal:
After lunch, it was time to head to the train station to head for Switzerland to spend the weekend with Justine!
Coming soon: Switzerland, land of cows, cheeses, chalets, & chocolates!