Week 3: Top Things to Do in Lyon Part 1
You that life is fairytale when going back to Lyon is hard. But leaving Nice was actually painful, so much so that we ardently discussed skipping the first day back at school where we were to start our new classes and be joined by the other international students. As you can probably imagine, I advocated for staying Nice. (forever)
But alas, we are back in Lyon and back in school. Though I daydream about sunbathing in Nice, I'm happier than ever to be here. Classes are interesting and challenging. I think "le Cyberjournalisme" is my favorite subject matter. I guess that's to be expected, given my dual major in French and journalism. I do however have one complaint. French keyboards are a royal pain in the you-know-what. QWERTY doesn't here and every letter is on the wrong key. It's kind of maddening.
On a positive note, I'm now surrounded by collective nationalities and different cultures from all over the world. Despite inherent differences, we all posses the ability to connect with through our mutual knowledge and love of the French language. I'm in classes with refugees from Syria, who are the nicest people that I've ever met; a young man from Cuba studying French while evading mandatory military service; Japanese students, Spanish Students and a large group of students hailing from Arizona State University. It's like a multicultural goulash and the kindness and open-mindedness shown by everyone is refreshing.
Anyway, to the point of this post. Here are some of my favorite things that I've done in Lyon thus far:
1. Take the Funicular to the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière
Perched atop Fourvière Hill, the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière was built between 1872 and 1876 on what used to be a Roman forum site. Like Sacré-Couer in Paris, Notre-Dame de Fourvière was built to exemplify the might of the Roman Catholic Church in France. Between its fortress-like presence over the city and gleaming white exterior, with slender turrets and neo-Byzantine style architecture, Notre Dame de Fourvière is recognizable in from every corner of Lyon and is a fundamental silhouette in the city's skyline.
If you are feeling ambitious, there are 287 steep steps to reach the basilica. However if you are like me and just noshed on a patisserie in Vieux Lyon, taking the Funicular to the top may be a more reasonable decision - it's ok, I at least took the stairs on my way down.
The interior of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is absolutely nothing like its somber external facade. Brimming with excessive gilt; intricately carved marble, mosaic and candlelit altars at every corner, the basilica is beautiful and a little bit too much. I think that's the point, though. Though the inside is ravishing, the highlight of my trek to the top of Fourvière were the panoramic views revealing every beautiful nook and cranny of Lyon to me.
2. Marchés en Plein Aire (Open Air Markets)
There are a handful of modest farmer's markets that set up shop on weekends in Kansas City. On any given day in Lyon, you can find and impressive array of local produce, cheeses and cured meats, books, art and antiques at outdoor markets
all throughout the city. I can easily get lost among the rows of stalls, searching for little treasures and fun foods to nibble on. With assistance from my host mom Sylviane, I've discovered some of the locals preferred marchés en plein air.
Marché Saint-Antoine Célestins is incontrovertibly the best market in Lyon. On any given day it's nestled on the quai de St. Antoine on the bank of the Saône River, situated on the Presqu'île side (peninsula). It's considered to be one of the most scenic spots in Lyon, but I would argue that I have yet to see a part of Lyon that ISN'T scenic.
Sunday mornings are when Saint-Antoine truly shines, hosting over 100 local merchants, the aromas of fresh flowers, juicy summer fruits and roasting meats all wafting through the air while you diligently peruse each vendor's offerings. I would languidly wandered all day, if not for Sylviane and her assured pace of someone who knew the market inside out. As you elbow your way through the throngs of people, you'll start dreaming up the perfect picnic lunch, comprised of all the goods laid out before you.
The mystic of Lyon's markets is not limited to food. I walked through a an art market this past weekend with Sylviane, where local artists keenly arrange oil-painted canvases and obscure statues creating a laid-back gallery al fresco. The display of artistry and craftsmanship was awe-inspiring. Though I didn't buy anything, I went on a mental shopping spree of all the pieces I plan to buy for my future flat in Vieux Lyon, overlooking the Rhône and Saône on either side.
I did however, find plenty of nicknacks and doodads a the local flea market that pops up on the weekends in front of la Cathédrale St-Jean.
3. Cathédrale St-Jean
Cathédrale St-Jean, by the way, is one of the most striking churches in Lyon. It was constructed between the 11th and 16th centuries, with it's twisted gothic facade finally being completed in 1480. I walk among this perennial antiquity daily. Lyon has subsisted since 43 BC when it was dubbed by the Romans, since then it has seen countless shifts in rulers, religions and configuration.
I live among history, yet this city is still constantly changing and evolving, a harmonious balance between the new and the old.
This burgeoning fusion of the old and the new brings me to my next top thing to do in Lyon.
4. Visit La Confluence
With over 2,000 years of history, Lyon is a visual feast of architecture and spectacular views. Recently, it's also been home to a major redevelopment project. At the physical meeting point of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, the project, aptly named "La Confluence" is a an ongoing regeneration undertaking that's changing 400,000 square meters (4.3 million sq ft) of industrial wasteland to an up-and-coming urban district.
La Confluence boasts a modern and massive mall, sustainable-living apartments, the bright green headquarters for the Euronews, and a lauded natural history museum, Le Musée des Confluences. It's a veritable blend of the old and the new, just on the other side of the river Saône, across from buildings straight-out of the future, I can see houses that haven't changed in over a hundred years.
This area is infinitely interesting to explore. In the mall I found modern and commercial restaurants (so what, I was really craving tacos one day) a marina that apparently allows swimming, one of the most scenic walks along the river, with the added bonus of being able to walk to the actual merging point of the two rivers, and the best Wi-Fi and coldest A.C. in all of Lyon. Living in ancient European city really is all charm and whimsy, but stepping back in to the 21st century now and then is not the worst thing in the world.