Situated in central-east France, Lyon is a lively, thriving city of some 500,000 people and amazing scenery along its two rivers, the Saône and Rhône. The third-largest city in France behind Paris and Marseille, the city of Lyon is famous for its gastronomy and numerous sites and monuments that are sure to keep you busy, whether for a weekend or a lifetime.
I had the opportunity to go to Lyon last week. It wasn’t my first time going, though, since I’d gone during my first year as an assistante over a long weekend in January, then later that year for the fête des Lumières, which was incredible. While both visits had been for leisure, this time, it was for administrative purposes. In other words, I had both a medical visit and OFII appointment that day to process and finalize my immigration paperwork to legally work in France for the rest of the year. A hassle, to say the least, but I didn’t mind going, since I was in much-need of a break from my town, even if for just a day. I hadn’t been anywhere since moving to my town in August, so the OFII appointment gave me a reason to go.
Thankfully, my appointments had been scheduled on a day that I didn’t have classes to teach. All the same, I still had to wake up early to catch the 7:11 train to Lyon, arriving there close to 8:00 and making my way to my medical visit in Villeurbanne (a commune situated just a bit outside of Lyon’s city center). It was about a 20-minute walk from gare Part-Dieu, and I didn’t mind taking the walk over– after all, I had to stay awake!
My appointment wasn’t until 9:00, but I arrived half an hour early and was admitted in early to do the chest X-ray. For those of you who don’t know, it’s required for non-EU assistant(e)s and lecteurs/lectrices to get chest X-rays, for the reason of making sure that you’re physically fit to work, i.e. you don’t have tuberculosis. Strange, I know, but having done it twice as an assistante, I knew the drill: top off, boobs against X-ray board, breathe deeply, and done. The procedure took no more than five minutes and, after waiting a bit back, I received my X-ray to give to the doctor at the OFII appointment and I was out by 9:00 (when my appointment was actually to take place).
I had five full hours to kill until my OFII appointment in the afternoon: I took advantage of this free time to explore Lyon on-foot. Now, I’d already seen the main sites and monuments from the previous two visits such as Place Bellecour, la Fourvière, and Théâtres romains. In other words, I’d spent most of my previous visits in Vieux Lyon, so this time around, I wanted to explore other arrondissements. With that said, I set out on-foot to check out some places on my list to see for the day.
From Villeurbanne, I made the trek to Parc Tête d’Or, a massive park in the 6ème arrondissement. I’m not kidding when I write that the park’s massive: from Google Maps, I only saw just a small corner of the park, namely the botanical gardens with bright, multicolored flowers and a cute pond with ducks and plump lily pads that greatly reminded me of Giverny. I’m told that there’s a zoo within the park, but it’s well-deep inside and, with limited time, I had to forgo it. Perhaps next time!
Leaving the park, I decided to head out to the next place I was interested in seeing, namely the Jardin Rosa Mir. Known as the “secret garden of Lyon,” I discovered this place after reading Rosie’s time spent there, and I was immediately blown away by her photos of the intricate, but highly-aesthetic garden. I was set on checking this place out, and I made the 40-minute walk from Parc Tête d’Or over– mind you, I could’ve taken public transport, but I was being cheap. Plus, the weather was really nice that day, so a bit of sun wouldn’t hurt.
After crossing pont Winston Churchill and making the *rather tiring* hike uphill to la Croix-Rousse neighborhood, I arrived at the entrance of a hidden alley where the Jardin Rosa Mir was to be. I really meant it when I wrote that this garden was truly secret: aside from a small sign that said its opening hours, it would be too easy to miss. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the garden was only opened on Saturday afternoons (I was in Lyon on Tuesday), so I pretty much made the long trek for nothing! Although I was a bit disappointed, I know that I can always return to see it later– and that’ll make it all the more rewarding!
Thankfully, the secret garden wasn’t far from the mur des Canuts, a large fresco (fresque) created in 1986 that depicted the everyday lives of the neighborhood locals back then. The art work absolutely towers, covering the entire building on which it was placed from top to bottom: painting of the stairs in actual size gives it a very realistic feel, as if you could just merge into the art piece itself and join the locals who are reading, playing, or walking down the steps. Historically-speaking, this fresco is situated in the old neighborhood of silk workers (les canuts) who led a rebellion against unfair work conditions back in the 1800’s. It was incredible, then, to be in a neighborhood rich in working-class history: the fresco itself shows the everyday ordinariness of living, which was certainly refreshing compared with other works emphasizing grand moments, e.g. crusades, wars, rich people, that many of us couldn’t otherwise relate to.
Nearing 11:00, it was necessary that I returned to the heart of the city (near les Halles/Part-Dieu) to get ready for my OFII appointment, which was headquartered in that particular area of Lyon. Although my appointment wasn’t until 14:00, the walk over would take an additional 40 minutes (again, I’m cheap) and I wanted to get lunch near the OFII headquarters. That said, I made the descent, taking the charming, cobblestone streets of la Montée de la Grande-Côte all the way down. Before that, I stumbled upon a slightly-obscured, but nevertheless amazing view of the city from above– it just about rivaled that of the one from the top of the Fourvière!
I made my way back to the very center of Lyon, hungry and ready for lunch. After reading Catherine’s informative guide to the best boulangeries in Lyon, I headed to Le Fournil de l’Artisan for a baguette-sandwich/pastry lunch. It was close to the OFII appointment, so with that said, I ordered a formule déjeuner which consisted of a saumon-ciboulette sandwich, a chocolate tart, and water. For 6,40€, it was a solid deal and I headed out to enjoy my lunch near gare Part-Dieu. Aside from a gypsy begging the woman sitting next to me for money, I had a pleasant meal– definitely would recommend the boulangerie, thanks to Catherine’s suggestion!
There was still some time until my OFII appointment after lunch, so I spent some time inside the grand Centre Commercial near the train station, which was home to numerous boutiques and restaurants for people to shop or otherwise kill time between trains. The mall had a Primark, which is probably my favorite clothing store ever, just because it’s inexpensive! I didn’t buy anything, but I enjoyed myself by walking down the aisles of cute sweaters, leather jackets, and other accessories of which I don’t really need. I might, however, get something the next time I return, most likely after my next paycheck!
Nearing 14:00, I headed to the OFII appointment, which was just a five-minute walk from Part-Dieu. Showing the guard my convocation, I was admitted in and waited perhaps no more than 15 minutes to see the doctor’s assistant, who asked me questions about my medical history, took my height and weight, etc. Saw the actual doctor next, who looked at my chest X-ray, determined that I was in perfectly-good condition to work (of course…), and soon enough got my vignette affixed to my passport. The process took only 45 minutes, which greatly surprised me, since I’d expected hours after hearing of others who’d taken two, three hours and myself 90 minutes last year as an assistante. That said, I was extremely fortunate– plus, I was *officially* legal to stay in France!
I made a tour around Lyon afterwards before catching the 16:30 train back to my town– unlike the morning train, it was packed that afternoon with people getting off work. Luckily, I was able to snag a seat so that I didn’t have to stand– my feet were exhausted from walking everywhere that day, so sitting down was much-needed. Arriving back a bit past 17:00, I took the tram back to my flat, returning half-past and effectively ending my day in Lyon.
Although it was a long and tiring day, nevertheless I’m glad to have had some time to squeeze in some sightseeing in Lyon. I plan to return for the October vacances, so I hope to see more of what the city has to offer.
Until then, à bientôt!