24 Hours: Lyon (Terri and Finn’s European Adventure Day 18)
Even in the rain, Lyon is beautiful and easy to explore. We woke up to a thunderstorm and watched the lightening as we got ourselves together for the day. This was in stark contrast to the previous day when the weather was unbelievably beautiful with clear, blue skies. (See Day 17: Les Arcs 1800 — Lyon)
From our room, we had a nice view of Place Jacobins. It was a quiet Sunday morning and we were determined to see as many of the major sights as we could, despite the rain.
Just two blocks from our hotel and right next to the Saone River, a Sunday market was in full display. We both wished we had some high quality butter and salt to go with these French radishes, one of our favorite appertif snacks.
This chicken truck made the whole area smell delicious. There’s one of these trucks weekly at our local farmers’ market in Palo Alto (California Ave) but it just isn’t the same as the ones in France. They even have potatoes roasting under the chickens, catching the drippings. Yum!
We walked across one of the bridges to get to Vieux Lyon. I don’t know if it was the rain or because it was a Sunday, but there were very few people out which meant we had this all to ourselves.
Even the river was clear of boats.
Finn was not just enduring, but enjoying the rain.
We were both relishing what we thought was going to be our last day in Europe. Spoiler: we got stuck in Frankfurt the following night after missing our connection from Lyon to SFO.
We looked for frogs on the lily pads but sadly didn’t find any.
La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere looks so close but it’s up a pretty steep hill. The locals refer to it as the upside down elephant.
Finn wanted at least one eclair in France before we left for home. Since it was Sunday morning, our options were limited but we still scored a tasty treat at the tiniest of places. Finn said it was a perfectly mediocre eclair and absolutely perfect.
We did some last minute shopping where I picked up a bright red backpack with orange flowers on it at Pylones to carry home some of the treasures we’d picked up on the trip.
I love purchasing items on trips that bring back (usually) fun memories every time I use them. And I love Pylones. There’s one in Paris at L’Isle de la Cite that I’ve purchased more than a few gifts from. It may be a chain but it has some super fun and brightly colored items.
While some folks think a good hill hike is a great way to spend a Sunday morning, we opted for the lazier option up the hill on the funicular. This also meant we added another form of transportation to our already long list. I’ve lost count at this point.
As soon as we stepped out of the funicular station, this is what we saw, right across a small street. It was stunning.
The stone work in the portico area was impressive.
And around the side of the basilica.
We continued around the side of the building to appreciate the other parts of the basilica complex.
And then to a point in the back where we had a beautiful view of Lyon including the red roofs that Lyon is famous for. Finn remembers hearing the bells from here.
We continued down the hill and kept seeing these turtles on the ground in various colors. I think these were on the ground to help tourists find their way.
We wanted to see the Theatres Romains de Fourviere (aka Theatre Antique de Lyon) and consulted Google maps for the best way to get there.
Rather than take the direct route, we decided to follow the signs to the garden. This meant that we were setting ourselves up for a bit of a climb later but it was so worth it. More great views of the Saone River and the city of Lyon.
We had the place to ourselves. Finn LOVES nature so after being among so many people and buildings, Finn soaked in the serenity of the plants and trees.
More evidence of how few (none) people were out.
We went off the main path into the trees and very quickly had to retrace our steps as this trail went nowhere.
We consulted our trusty GPS once again and this time we followed the directions to get to the Roman theater.
While this looks like it’s in complete ruins, they still have events here include Les Nuis de Fourviere which has taken place every summer since 1946.
We missed the festival and the museum was closed so we walked around to take in the massive site (it sat 10,000 people at one time) and imagined what it was like in its prime.
Finn did some climbing.
I am sure that when the museum is open and it isn’t raining, there are a lot more people here. We were cracking up at the folks on the platform as they were taking some pretty funny videos of themselves.
The views from here were pretty amazing too.
We were able to look back at the basilica and see only the towers and spires. We had definitely taken the long and scenic route to get to this spot.
We walked back down the hill a short ways and took the other funicular that had the stop at this Roman theater.
This map was on the street outside the Roman theater and I thought it was a good depiction of the rivers surrounding the area where our hotel was, as well as the other side of the Saone where Vieux Lyon and the basilica and the Roman theater were.
As we made our way to the Cosy Corner (where we had drinks the day before) for lunch, we walked by Cathedrale Saint-Jean. It has an impressive facade with beautiful red doors.
We enjoyed the drinks and the service the day before at Cosy Corner (still a ridiculous English name in a Vieux Lyon) so much that we decided to have lunch and experience the food.
It was really good. Finn had veggies with burrata.
I had what I think was an Asian spice short rib that was delicious.
After lunch, we decided to walk back across one of the bridges and explore more of the area near our hotel. The sun was coming out and the day was heating up.
We walked back by our hotel and saw an Esprit store. I had no idea Esprit was still alive as a brand.
Since our hotel was situated between two prominent plazas, we felt compelled to see both of them. Our first stop was to see the Hotel de Ville. This is it from the front.
And this is it from the other side. We wanted to go in and see more but there was a private event going on.
We walked into the nearby square which I think was Place des Terreaux.
There was some activity but still not as busy as some other places we had seen on our trip. Beautiful nonetheless.
We thought for sure the couple behind us was getting engaged.
This is the Fontaine Bhartholdi in Place Terraux that we walked to on our way to see the Rhone River.
We really liked how walkable Lyon was, especially where we were staying, and enjoyed being between the Rhone River (pictured here) and the Saone River in the previous pictures.
We walked back toward the hotel and the plaza that was on the other side. This was the only area where we felt uncomfortable on our trip (until Frankfurt). We walked by groups of men who were drinking heavily and were somewhat unruly.
This was in Place Bellecour which was nearly empty. It is apparently one of the largest open spaces in Europe without greenery. There was a lot of concrete. This is a statue of King Louis XIV that is in the center of the plaza. Checked this one off the list and walked back to the hotel.
At check in, we were given some drink vouchers that were burning holes in our pockets so we ventured back to the hotel to have a drink in the lobby.
The Mercure hotels we stayed at had a similar vibe in that they were modern without feeling stark, and made good use of space. This felt similar to the hotel in Nice.
We freshened up a bit and walked back across the Saone River to Vieux Lyon to make our dinner reservation at Café-Épicerie. We were greeted warmly by the woman from the previous night and I, of course, had to have a glass of champagne as I perused the menu.
They were very excited to offer up to Finn a new vegetarian meal and we started with an amuse bouche. Dinner was excellent and afterward, we walked back to the hotel to gather up our things to begin our trek home.
The following day, at the airport, we set up camp near our gate at which point I realized that I needed a special stamp to get reimbursed for the taxes I’d paid on the frames we’d purchased in Paris. I left Finn (and my glass of champagne) to search for the kiosk or some help.
The lady at the currency exchange booth said I needed to go back out of security. At security, before I exited, I asked one of the security persons where to go and he personally escorted me out of the secured area, and to the machines where I quickly got the required stamp and walked back to the security checkpoint where I breezed through saying ‘merci’ to everyone working there.
We had so many helpful people on our trip including the helpful United representative that I needed to call to make arrangements for our flight from Frankfurt to SFO as our Lyon-Frankfurt flight was delayed and I knew we were going to miss our connection.
More on that in Day 19: Lyon — Frankfurt — Home!
Terri Hanson Mead is the multi-award winning author of Piloting Your Life, Managing Partner of Solutions2Projects, LLC, and an advocate for women through all of her platforms including YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and this blog. Terri is the mother of two college aged kids, is based in Redwood City, CA and in her spare time, loves to travel, cook, play tennis, and fly helicopters around the San Francisco Bay Area, especially under the Golden Gate Bridge.