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.)
My time in Lyon was full of ups and downs, highs and lows. At times, it felt like a game of snakes and ladders: I would triumphantly ascend a miniscule ladder with each email written in error-free French, only to slide down the longest snake known to mankind two squares later. Living abroad is a steep – and occasionally unforgiving – learning curve, and I’ve learnt a lot from this particular séjour. With that in mind, it’s time for Nine Lessons (and one Carole*) from Lyon . . .
This time tomorrow, give or take a few hours, I’ll be flying home to the UK. I’m simultaneously ready to leave and try something new, apprehensive about The Future (due in part to the ongoing quest to find a job) and sad to be leaving one of France’s most beautiful cities. (That said, the prospect of leaving the humid heatwave behind is an immense relief.) Summer is already in full force here, and I’ve been busy making the most of the new season peaches, nectarines and local cherries on sale at the local market. (Can cherries for the equivalent of €2.90 a kilo be a thing in the UK too, please?) Alongside revisiting some of my favourite haunts across Lyon, I have (of course) found the time to venture out to other corners of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes before my stint abroad comes to an end.
By and large, I visit museums which fall into one (or both) of the following categories: free museums and museums related to World War Two. Beyond that, I rarely step foot in these shrines to items of cultural, historical or scientific value. This year, I made an exception. Lyon’s Carte Jeune Musée was just too good an offer to resist. At €7, it nets you entry into Lyon’s six municipal museums – so even if you only plan on visiting two museums, you’re quids – or euros – in. (If you’re older than 25, you’ll need to purchase the Carte Musée, which costs €25.) Once you’ve bought your card and attached a passport-style mugshot to it, you’re all set to visit as many of the following museums as your heart desires: Musée des Beaux-Arts; Musée d’Art Contemporain; Musées Gadagne; Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation; Musée de l’Imprimerie et de la Communication Graphique; and Musée de l’Automobile Henri Malartre. Over the past few months, I’ve visited each and every one of these museums, so here’s the lowdown on each of these cultural havens.
As my time in Lyon draws to a close, it feels as though time has cruelly sped up. I’ve begun to make a dent in the unexciting list of departure-related chores, but I still have a list the length of my arm of places in and around Lyon that I want to see (and of boulangeries I’m yet to try), though the time is disappearing – and fast. Fortunately, I’ve already whipped out the felt markers and drawn up a calendar to hold myself accountable to making the most of the remaining weeks in Lyon.