Last weekend I spent 24 hours in the beautiful old city of Lyon in France. Lyon sits a couple of hours south of Paris by train and is in France’s Rhône-Alpes region. It sits at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. Its city centre reflects 2,000 years of history, with a Roman amphitheatre in Fourvière, medieval and Renaissance architecture in Vieux Lyon, and the modern, redeveloped Confluence district on the Presqu'île peninsula between the rivers. With only a short time in the city and predominately there for a game of rugby I had to be very selective on what I wanted to visit and see.
My trip started at St Pancras where I boarded a Eurostar bound for Marseille which stopped at Lyon and Avignon. St Pancras is my favourite station in London, the architecture, light and ambience of the space is just stunning. Arriving early I ambled around enjoying the relative quiet of the station, even thou there was some people around. St Pancras Station was opened in 1868 and is one of the wonders of Victorian engineering, it is a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic Architecture and one of the most elegant stations in the world. It has seen huge decline and restoration over the past 30 years and is now the hub for all Eurostar international travel. How amazing must it be to arrive in London for the 1st time via train and see this beautiful building and hotel.
With a simple check-in and boarding we were soon departing London heading for the Channel, I had when booking my tickets managed to grab a Business premier ticket for the same cost as standard fare. This was a little luxury for what would be 4½ hours on a train. With a complimentary breakfast, drinks and magazines the time flew and we were soon pulling into Lyon Gard de Nord to disembark.
Saturday was predominately filled with the rugby which left no time for exploring, however Sunday dawned bright and dry and before I headed back to the UK on the afternoon train I wanted to explore this city a little more. A lovely lady who I had met on the train advised me on 2 things; if time is limited then the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a must for beauty, culture and history and as Lyon is renowned for its food then you must visit the farmers / food markets that run alongside the 2 rivers within the city on a Sunday morning.
With my hotel next to the metro I jumped on a train and headed to the old town of Fourvière, where I then picked up a ride on the Funicular (a tram/cable car carriage which cuts through the cliffs up to the top of the hill) to the Basilica. Perched on top of the Fourvière hill, the basilica looms impressively over the city of Lyon, from where it can be seen from many vantage points; not unintentionally, the basilica of Fourvière has become a symbol of the city. As impressive as the basilica is from the outside, nothing prepares you for how stunning it is from the inside. The ceiling, guilt work and stained glass windows are just beautiful. I arrived half way through the morning mass and it was lovely just to sit at the back and enjoy the hymns, and the ambience of the space.
Exiting the basilica the views from the grounds are impressive across the 2 rivers and town. Leaving behind this gorgeous old town I headed down the cliff and across the river to enjoy the food market. The market was fabulous, filled with the most delicious aromas, produce, groceries and flowers. It was a tempting treat and I created a picnic breakfast/brunch of fresh treats; pain au chocolate, nectarines, apricots, and coffee to enjoy sitting on the river bank. I also bought some cheese, apple tart and fruits to bring home along with a beautiful bunch of peonies.
It was soon time to head to the station to pick up my train to Paris, where I then boarded the Eurostar home. I really enjoyed Lyon and would definitely visit again, especially as the train is really easy and also has great train links to other locations including South of France, Geneva and Barcelona.