Welcome to the city of lions.
This past break I spent 4 days in Lyon. I don’t live in the big city, so every time I want to travel I’ll have to first get to Marseille. There are only two options: bus, or train. The train is faster, but they aren’t as frequent and it’s about an hour walk to the station (that I won’t ever be doing again). There’s a few buses to the train station, but between catching that bus and then waiting for the train, I prefer to take the bus straight there. The catch? It drops you off on the edge of town, which is a 30 minute walk from the train station. And, as someone who now relies solely on my two feet and public transportation, that kind of sucks. I just make sure to give myself plenty of time.
From the train station, we took a bus. It’s a 5 hour bus ride from Marseille. It was very similar to the Greyhound and Megabus lines I’ve already used back in the states. So pretty uncomfortable, but doable, and we were able to get a round trip for under 20 euros each. One way train tickets, even with my Carte Jeune discount, wouldn’t have been that cheap in such a short notice.
After searching online, we decided to stay at an Airbnb. It was a pretty big apartment for the city. There were two common rooms, a kitchen, an entryway, and 3 bedrooms. When we arrived, two other girls from Argentina were already staying in one of the rooms. They were very nice, but didn’t speak any French.
I guess it’s possible to get by on just English in France, but it’s difficult. They were only in town for one more day and had hospitality jobs in the alps, which is pretty cool. I hope they’re doing well wherever they are.
We arrived around 4 pm. After finding the Airbnb, we decided to take in as much of downtown Lyon as we could before the sun set, even finding a market in one of the squares.
The market sold everything from handcrafted cheese, pastries, sausage, and beer. We ended up finding the market on its last day, so it was great to look at all the stalls and sample different flavors of honey.
It can be very cheap to eat while traveling. For most of the nights, we ate at the Airbnb and cooked our own food in the kitchen. Eat night, it was around 6 euros for the both of us to eat as much as we wanted in spaghetti, with drinks included. Granted, if spaghetti isn’t really your thing, there are many other cheap options. But you don’t have to eat out every single night to experience a city.
We ended up doing pretty much everything there is to do in Lyon all on day 2. It was a beautiful day, and the only sunny day during our entire stay there, so I was glad we ended up doing more than we had intended. We walked the streets of the charming Vieux-Lyon, wandered the passage ways of the old Traboules, and ate crepes beside a cathedral.
Vieux-Lyon was my favorite part about the city. It’s one of the oldest cities I’ve ever visited, and it shows. We explored cobblestone streets and popped into all of the tiny, touristy shops. I bought a few postcards to add to my collection. We found a tiny stall on the side of the road that sold crepes, so of course we had to get some. I got one with strawberry jam filling. And also my first crepe in France! We also ended up finding a small pastry stop and I had my first French macaroon. (Which was amazing, by the way. Best macaroon ever, hands down.)
The Traboules are one of the coolest things about Lyon. Behind certain doorways throughout the streets of Old Lyon are these staircases and courtyards that gave safe passage to silk merchants back in the Middle Ages. You can still walk up these staircases and through these passageways. The stone steps actually dip with the hundreds of thousands of people who have walked the same staircase.
We ended up walking through Vieux-Lyon rather quickly and decided to make the long trek to the famous Basilica of Lyon, which is next to the Not-The-Eiffel-Tower, as I called it. And I wasn’t disappointed in the least bit.
I think I understand what’s going on in my life and then I go see these amazingly built, ancient catholic churches and suddenly my life doesn’t seem so big anymore. This was also the first time I have ever seen and visited a crypt, which was about as cool and as creepy as it sounds.
The churches in Lyon are free to visit, which isn’t always the case. Of course, you can always book tours and pay a little extra to visit the towers, but me and my friend were content exploring the main floors.
And the view from the top of the hill is pretty spectacular.
That night we decided to try our hand at the famous Lyonnais food. And it sure lived up to its reputation.
After a lot of wandering and decision making, we settled on this tiny restaurant that was barely wider than my dorm room back in college. It was this little hole-in-the-wall, brick walled room that held no more than 10 tables inside.
We had 3 courses. The appetizer, or the entrée (confusing, I know), was a cheese spread with walnuts that looked like yogurt but tasted so much better. For my main course, I had some sausage and a potato cooked in red wine sauce. And for desert we both had a mini tart that was served with a spoon. So, of course, we thought it should be eaten with a spoon. But after a few minutes of struggling to cut the tart with the side of the spoon, one of the waiters came up and put us out of our misery and told us it’s supposed to be eaten with your hands. We laughed about that for the rest of the night. Why serve it with a spoon then?
I didn’t think France had very good food, but that was before I went to Lyon. It’s also known as the gastronomical capital of France. And now I know why. If you ever find yourself in Lyon, you have to try typical Lyonnais food.
And, depending on where you decide to dine, it doesn’t have to break the bank. We ended up choosing one of the cheaper restaurants, Chez Marie, in Vieux-Lyon. It was around 17 euros for the 3 courses, plus the bottle of wine we decided to split.
The next day we walked down the Rhône and explored the city’s museum. It rained a lot for the last two days, so we took some time to do some shopping. Lyon is a very high-fashioned city. H&M is very popular overseas and I discovered my new favorite, the more affordable, Primark. On our last night we headed up the hill towards Croix-Rousse and found a carnival as well as some impressive wall murals.
Our bus back was over an hour late and I had to run across Marseille at 8 pm in order to make the last bus of the night that went back to La Ciotat on time, but other than that, the rest of the trip went smoothly. Lyon is a pretty amazing city. I’ll be making another trip out there after Christmas and can’t wait.