As I said in my previous post, I left Avignon early, about 8h30 and the TER-network train to Lyon (Lyons in English - again... why?) took around 2 hours, passing some lovely countryside on the way. The final station, Gare de la Part Dieu, is situated about 2km east of the centre-ville of Lyon, the city itself situated in central south-east France. It has the second largest population in France with around 2 million inhabitants, and it is easy to see why so many people choose this as their home, it just has such an air of grandeur about it. And while it appears a lot more commercial than many of the other cities I have come across so far in France, with some fairly upper-class stores and a few wide pedestrianised shopping strips, Lyon is also one of the country's cultural heavyweights, second only to Paris, meaning there is always some sort of festival or event going on at pretty much any point in the year. Interestingly, Interpol has had their headquarters here for the last 20 years, although I didn't get a chance to find it...
To give you a sense of orientation, Lyon is divided crudely into 3 sections by two rivers, the Rhône and the Saône, that actually meet at the southern end of the city. The 5th arrondissement (or district; Lyon is divided into 9 of them), comprising Fourvière Hill and Vieux Lyon (old Lyon) and cut off from the other 2 areas by the river Saône, is the smallest, oldest and most visually exciting area. Sandwiched between the two rivers is the main shopping and cultural area of Presqu'île, with a number of large public squares dotted along the roughly north-south axis. On the eastern bank of the Rhône lie the districts known collectively as Lyon-Rive Gauche (left shore) with the predominently commercial areas a little further out.
My last 5-and-a-bit days in France were spent with the awesome CSers Anouck and Vincent, and their soon-to-be ex-flatmate, Greg. These guys were very welcoming and accommodating: they took me to a huge house party the first night I arrived where I met a whole bunch more cool French guys; they made me their temporary interior designer, rearranging their living space to make it more agreeable for potential new flatmates; they cooked dinner for me on a couple of occasions; they took me out to see a bunch of live local music; and they introduced me to the wonderful world of Woody Allen films!
After pulling myself out of bed (well, technically, off the couch) around 10h30 the morning after the house party, I took a stroll around the Presqu'île area and then worked my way through colourful Vieux Lyon - I don't think I've ever seen so many vividly couloured buildings, each one distinct from the next - before ending up at the white Basilique Notre Dame situated at the top of Fourvière Hill. Nearby on the hilltop is the famous Tour Métallique (metallic tower), a transmitting tower that looks very much like a mini Eiffel Tower - the original of which is, coincidentally, also used primarily as a broadcast tower. From this vantage point, the entire city sprawls out before you in a sea of red roofs.
Fête de la Musique: An absolutely brilliant idea that I think should be brought to Australia immediately - although, having researched a little, it looks like capital cities in Australia have already been celebrating this day (the 21st of June) for the past couple of years, but calling it something along the lines of Musicfest? I've personally never heard of it. The idea behind la fête de la musique is that the government loosens restrictions on public music performances, with bands, DJs, solo artists, etc. able to perform on the streets freely (and for free) for the entire day throughout the entire country. Starting from Place des Terreaux, the large open square near the guys' appartment, I had such an awesome night roaming the streets by myself, watching and listening to all sorts of music being played on basically every block - there were some great acts too; my favourites being an army brass band, a DJ with keyboard and trumpet accompaniment causing a stir, and another group on the brass pumping out such hits as Daft Punk's "Around the World".
Some more noteworthy things I got upto in Lyon include: visiting the fabulous and famous museum/fine art gallery known as Musée des Beaux-Arts; checking out some more of those impressive painted building murals I saw in Montpellier (in fact, in a few of the other cities I've visited as well) showing everything from 25 local famous personalities to an artist's impression of 'the ideal city' to an entire building of huge books; learning (and, er-hem, winning) a cool new card game called Jeux de Tarot; and lastly, exploring the early history of film at the Musée Lumière, situated in the building where the Lumière family (coincidentally the word lumière translates as "light" in English) lived in the late 19th century while producing some of the world's first (silent) motion pictures.
Most of my time in this city, however, was spent just relaxing as opposed to constant sightseeing. I played Vincent's guitar quite a bit, chilled out eating pains au chocolat (so bad but oh so good..), and just generally wandered about. I really liked this place and it was certainly a good choice as an ending of my time in France - so lively, warm and friendly... I will be back!
count the vineyards...
some interesting folk at the party..
Place des Terreaux and the Hôtel de Ville
looking across the River Saône with the Basilique in the background
the view from Fourvière Hill
the grand buildings of Lyon
Fête de la musique!!
across the Rhône
enjoying a quiet beer
now that's a bookshop!
inside the Musée des Beaux-Arts
ONE of the cheese sections in the supermarché
checking out some live music...