We soared over the French Alps yesterday to arrive in Lyon — touted as the gastronomic center of France. Given the excellent food available in this country, that’s quite a reputation! I have a week here in this city of about 500,000 eaters to sample the cuisine and see for myself.
Beyond food, Lyon has a history dating back to ancient Roman times. The UNESCO World Heritage site boasts France’s oldest ancient ruins, medieval quarters, and fine Renaissance houses.
We’ve rented a wonderful apartment in a 19th-century building in the 3rd Arrondissment. This is the modern, business district of the third largest city in France with easy access to the tram and metro to get to all parts of Lyon, including the picturesque Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon).
For our first trek out, we decided to walk the 1.8 miles from our apartment to the Parc de la Tête d’Or. That translates to Park of the Golden Head and I have no clue how/why the park got its name. It does, however, have the typical grand, gated entrance that I’ve seen at parks in Paris.
John and I secured a week-long bicycle rental at the rental station conveniently located outside the gate and cycled around the 290-acre park. You gotta hand it to the French, they know how to build and maintain urban parks.
We deposited our bikes and left the Parc de la Tête d’Or on foot, crossing the Rhône River via the Winston Churchill Bridge. The bridge is the first thing I recall seeing in France named after a Brit; but since Lyon was occupied by the Nazis in WWII and had a strong resistance faction, I get why I would see it here first.
Once across the river, we found an interesting staircase leading up to La Croix-Rousse, a hill and a neighborhood in the older section of Lyon. We climbed 345 steps to arrive in La Croix-Rousse. The name, The Red Cross, comes from a reddish-brown stone cross erected here in the 16th century.
This 15-acre square is the largest pedestrian square in Europe. It’s the third largest square in France, behind Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux and Place de la Concorde n Paris, both which allow automobile traffic.
Lyon isn’t known as one of France’s tourist hotspots. Yet, it has a laid-back feel which I like. I’m going to enjoy my week-long exploration here.