Our first two days in Lyon had been full of food, sunshine and lots of exploring. I had already fallen in love with the old town and was ready to get out and see some more of the city and the surrounding area.
The alarm was set for bright and early and we were soon on our way out of the hotel. The plan of the day was to spend the morning outside of the city and to explore Pérouges, a medieval walled town some 40km north-east of Lyon. The first stop was the main train station at Part Dieu, where we bought our tickets, and then paid a quick visit to the nearby patisserie to grab something for breakfast – croissants and a pain au chocolat of course. When in France!
The journey from Lyon to Meximieux/ Pérouges lasted for just over thirty minutes and once we got off the train we spent a few minutes getting out bearings, semi-hoping to find a bus-stop which would take us up to Pérouges itself. Sadly though, this was not the case! So, from the station we set off up the rue de la Gare and into the town in search of either a form of transportation or the Tourist Information Office. Whilst no transportation was to be found, we did locate the Tourist Office and ventured forth to get some local insight. Despite it still being before 9.00 (just!) and ‘rural’ France we were pleasantly surprised to find the place open and ready for business. Unfortunately, we learnt there was no public transport linking the town to our destination so, once we had received directions we set off on foot. Good exercise I suppose?
In the end the walk wasn’t quite as bad as we had expected and 15 minutes later, we entered the medieval town of Pérouges via the Lower Gate. Once through this gateway we followed, what appeared to be, the main route around the town, the rue des Rondes. The streets were very quiet, it being outside of the main tourist season (and probably because the folk were still tucked up in bed), but the buildings provided plenty of evidence of the history of the place and one could see why it has been favoured by film-makers over the decades.
The rue des Rondes takes you on a circular tour of the town and allows plenty of opportunity to explore the old streets and buildings. It is said that the town was effectively divided into two, the wealthy residents taking the higher ground and the poor occupying the lower ground, often under mud and rubbish.
Winding our way through the town, it was not long before we reached the fortress church and the Upper Gate. An attempt to see inside was thwarted (it not being open!) so we headed through the arched gateway to explore the area and take in the view across the valley. It was no surprise that a fortress had been constructed on this site as the strategic position was obvious, even to the likes of us.
Back into the town it was possible to glimpse workshops and evidence of various industries of olden times as well as grand houses of the merchants, which we found along the length of the rue des Princes.
The centre of the town was just around the corner at the Place du Tilleuls, a pleasant, open square with its 200 year old tree of liberty planted soon after the French revolution. Situated on one side of the square was the Ostellerie du Peroges which appeared to be the only place open for coffee etc. so we ventured inside.
Despite the apparent quietness of the town, the staff were busy preparing for the day ahead and in no time at all our hot drinks were placed in front of us, followed by a welcomed slice of galette (the town’s speciality) which I was keen to sample.
The day was improving as we exited the hotel and there were signs that the town was slowly waking up. A final look around the square, and conjuring up an image of the town in high summer, with locals and visitors sitting out and sampling the local beer or wine, we set off to complete our circular tour. One thing that caught our eye was the various places that had corn-cobs hanging from the ceiling, acting as yellow decorations or lights and adding that extra touch of rustic charm.
Having completed the ‘Grand Tour’ of this medieval gem, it was time to set off back down the hill in the direction of Meximieux. Had the weather behaved itself, we may well have explored the town, but as we approached the centre, we felt spots of rain and so decided to head for the train station with the intention of heading back to Lyon.
It was shortly before midday when we reached Part Dieu and after being directed to the shopping mall directly across the street we set off to find somewhere for lunch. Most of what was on offer in the mall itself was ‘fast-food’ so we decided to try Les Halles de Lyon – Paul Bocuse which we had been told was not far away. This covered market was a gourmand’s delight, with everything from cheese, fish, charcuterie seafood and patisserie. Fascinating, but a little beyond the budget! Still, if you want to sample some of France’s most dazzling foodie delights or just feast your eyes on really high-quality produce then this is the place to go.
A final look around and then out, once again, into the ‘real’ world of food and drink and a good, hearty Menu du Jour. Not far from the station we came across the Brasserie Deruelle, which offered enough choice to satisfy all tastes and at a good price. The restaurant was airy and had a busy but cheerful atmosphere and, the majority of the clientele was French – always a good sign! We all benefitted from the lunch-break and took the opportunity to plan the rest of the day.
After lunch, we set off on the Metro to Perrache, which was to be the first part of our journey to the Musée des Confluences and the southernmost tip of the Presqu’île – the heart of the city. Changing from the Metro to the tram at Perrache our route took us down through the major urban development area that is La Confluence. The object of the project is to regenerate the city’s former docklands with a mix of tall and not so tall buildings, old and new, all different shapes and colours. The centre-piece is the Musée des Confluences, a futuristic, radically designed building with a structure of glass and steel which looks a bit like a spaceship. It houses collections that aim to ‘set up a dialogue between all the sciences to better understand the world’ and tells the story of mankind throughout the ages.
Our intention was just to see this remarkable architectural masterpiece and explore its surroundings. As we wandered around, the angular structure and reflective surfaces provided all ever-changing perspective, dependent on the light of day, the weather (and the seasons). Positioned, as its name implies, at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône, it certainly announced that Lyon has cultural ambition.
With daylight fading we decided to re-trace our journey as far as the Hôtel de Ville, catch a few more glimpses of the area, with the strategically located lighting bringing the buildings to life, and then head back, once more, over the river and back to the hotel.