Saturday, September 25, 2021

France 2021, Day 12, Lyon and Perouges

We woke up in Lyon, anchored next to a fitness park where locals come to exercise by the river. The city seemed bright and sparkling. I finally tried a made-to-order omelet for breakfast but much prefer the French toast.  Of course, having breakfast prepared for me every day is bliss. Cruising is the life!
Basilica of Notre-Dame, Lyon
We set off on a tour of panoramic Lyon with guide Celine and the gray morning turned into a lovely day. Lyon is the third-largest city in France and I suppose I had been thinking about it as an industrial city without realizing how beautiful it is, with two rivers and corresponding attractive riverfronts, over 2 million people in its metropolitan area, and its own Roman antiquities.
A candle for my father
The bus took us to the Fourvière district, high on a hill overlooking the city. A Roman theatre, built in 15 BC is still used for festivals and as a park, but the pièce de résistance is the stunning 19th century Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.
It was dedicated to Mary for protecting Lyon from the plague and built to thank God for the victory over the socialists in the infamous Communes of the 1870-1, a socialist anti-religion takeover by military forces and radicals. The church is gorgeous with stained glass, mosaics, multiple chapels to Mary but the design is so ornate that you can see why locals call it the upside-down elephant. Later, we realized the Basilica is a landmark from below in the city and at night it is lit up.
The view from the plaza adjacent to the Basilica is equally impressive. Even with our limited knowledge of Lyon, we were learning the landmarks. There are a lot of nicknames in Lyon (or else it is part of the guide’s patter). She pointed out the Tour du Crédit Lyonnais, a 42-floor skyscraper in Lyon, known colloquially as Le Crayon, or the Pencil, and Tour Incity, Lyon’s tallest skyscraper, known as the Eraser. Someone once told me you can’t be at home in a city until you can recognize and name three buildings in the skyline.
Looking down from Fourvière at the Eraser and the Pencil
Then we went down to Vieux Lyon, the Medieval and Renaissance quarter of the town, with shops, restaurants, and cobbled streets. The guide pointed out traboules, hidden behind ordinary doorways, a sort of secret passageways associated with Lyon which are basically used as short cuts or for deliveries. We returned to the ship for lunch and sat with a couple from Virginia, retired Foreign Service who had met in Beirut.
Perouges has been restored but it has a population of about 100
In the afternoon, we visited Pérouges, a medieval walled town 45 minutes northeast of Lyon. Known as the prettiest medieval village in France, it did not disappoint with narrow cobblestone streets and narrow houses.  Our guide told us that French toast originated as “pain perdu”, which means “lost bread” and was a way to use stale bread.  There was another example of a medieval building with a midlevel shelf for vending: a bakery with its wares on offer, including more galettes.  We walked up to the village’s main square – La Place de la Halle, where a linden tree was planted during the French Revolution and still survives.
Also in the square is the Hostellerie du Vieux Pérouges, one of the oldest inns in France, where Bill and Hillary Clinton were brought for lunch in 1996. It might have been nice to sit there for a drink but we walked back to look at Église Sainte Marie Madeleine à Pérouges (maybe they were telling the truth about Mary Magdalene coming to Provence).
On the right is where Bill and Hillary lunched,
on the left you can't see the linden tree
On our drive back, I might have been falling asleep until the guide told us we were passing Interpol! Headquartered in Lyon, Interpol is a multi-governmental crime-fighting organization with 194 member countries that shares data on crimes and criminals - and is featured often in real life and fiction. I snatched a photo as we drove by because I suspected my mystery-loving friends like Tracy would find this as exciting or more than Roman ruins.  There was lots of signage, unlike the CIA headquarters, which is notoriously not identified.
We sat out on the deck for dinner, talking to Istvan, our Hungarian waiter, and admiring the Lyon skyline as it grew dark and lights began to appear, including the Basilica.  Dessert was melt-in-your-mouth Crepes Suzette.  I wish I'd asked for a second helping!

1 comment:

JaneGS said...

Wonderful post--love the pictures and the stories and the details about your travels. Lyon has never really been high on my must-visit list although your post is making me rethink that. I do prefer towns and villages to cities, but the cathedral is breathtaking.

I like the idea about knowing the skyline and the nicknames.