If you’ve ever wandered the narrow streets of Vieux Lyon or meandered up the Pentes de la Croix-Rousse, chances are you’ll have seen the odd person peel away from the crowds and disappear behind a heavy, oak door. Some of these people will have been doing just what you assumed: entering their home. Others, usually with a map in hand, will have been touring Lyon’s vast network of traboules.
Lyon is a city that rewards visitors prepared to stray from the beaten path by the bucketful. While Lonely Planet has your back for most of the key attractions, it does – from a temporary resident’s perspective – overlook two of Lyon’s hallmarks, one being the impressive fresques (frescoes) which adorn the façades of numerous buildings across the city, the other being the city’s traboules (more on the latter in my next post). Over the course of my ten month stint in Lyon, I both stumbled upon and intentionally sought out two dozen or so of the city’s fresques. Since they’re scattered all across the city, many of them are but a minor detour away from the well-trodden tourist trail.
My life in Lyon was punctuated by visits to the city’s many boulangeries. Had a terrible time battling the infamous Administration? Or a bad day at the office? Need a bite to eat for that interminably long bus journey? Boulangeries are, in my experience, the answer to many of life’s problems. There is, quite simply, nothing a pain au raisin/ chausson aux pommes/ torsade au chocolat (delete as applicable) can’t fix, or at least remedy somewhat. The boulangeries have gone head to head in the Battle of the Boulangeries, and the results (following months of dedicated sampling) are in. (Disclaimer: 80% of these are located in the 6th arrondissement, as that’s where I lived. If you’d like a broader range of top-notch bakeries, check out this post by CatherineRose.)
Tucked away in deepest, darkest Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, one of the region’s best-kept secrets hides behind a stone wall, with only the smallest of plaques hinting at its existence. Le Palais Idéal – known in English as The Ideal Palace – is a remarkable creation, a childlike fantasy of epic proportions and, perhaps most surprisingly, the labour of love of a humble postman.
After the success of my first solo hike, I decided that another trip to the Parc Naturel Régional du Pilat was in order. With a string of sunny days on the forecast, I picked one, traced a new route onto my map in blue felt tip and set off for Lyon Part-Dieu. Although there were no huge peaks on the cards this time, the Massif du Pilat didn’t disappoint, for viewpoints were numerous and trails virtually devoid of hikers.
Much like Hiroshima, Nuremberg is a city that – through no fault of its own – remains intrinsically linked to the horrors of the Second World War. Gastronomic specialities such as lebkuchen (a soft gingerbready treat, somewhere between a biscuit and a cake in texture) and bratwurst reign supreme in the old town, with dozens of stalls and shops claiming to have the cream of the crop. A mere six kilometres away lie the Nazi Party Rally Grounds; once a malignant growth, today a benign tumour testifying to the unprecedented rise of fascism which began in Nuremberg over eighty years ago.
While other towns and cities across Germany were razed to the ground during World War Two, one lesser-known town in the heart of Upper Franconia escaped unscathed. Even under perpetually grey skies, Bamberg is a beauty. Labyrinthine cobbled streets were lined with original medieval buildings; wrought iron signs hung above bakeries and pubs (located, more often than not, side by side, according to tradition); flags fluttered in the breeze. With classes over and invigilating sessions few and far between, I finally had the time to take Simone up on her invitation to visit her in Bamberg.