The following morning after my first afternoon in Lyon, I woke up early to prepare myself for my second day in the city. While my plan for that day wasn’t necessarily over-packed with things to do or see, it would be a lot of walking all over Lyon, and I had to physically (and mentally) prepare myself. Considering that I’d done the same the previous day, it was a matter of pacing myself for the day to come.
Heading out close to 10:00, I took the scenic route along the quay of the Rhône river towards the musée des Confluences, appropriately situated at the point (the “Presqu’île”) where the two rivers of Lyon– the Rhône and Saône— converge into one (hence the word “confluence”). Out of the numerous times I’ve visited the city, I had yet to check out its museums, so what better day to do so than then?
Weather was lovely that day, despite the bone-chilling wind in the morning– it soon warmed up as I made my way to the entrance of the museum, getting in for free with my *secretly-expired* university student ID, and spending the next couple of hours going from exhibition to exhibition. The musée des Confluences is a modernist structure that recently opened in 2014, and it’s dedicated to housing displays on science and anthropology. While I would consider myself as more of a “classic painting/sculpture” type of museum-goer, I ended up finding the musée des Confluences quite interesting, as I went through exhibitions on cinematic history in Lyon, the science behind poison, and the history of man and animals. Of course, I saw plenty of rooms with your usual dinosaur bones and fossils dating back to the Neanderthal era, but I also saw plenty of artifacts on photography and historic poison recipes, which were some things that I’d never seen before in the museums I’ve gone to throughout my life.
Upon finishing my visit of all the exhibitions– temporary and permanent– I ascended the ramp to the top floor where I stepped outside onto the terrace for some lovely views of Lyon along the Rhône, from the Fourvière on the left bank to the Tour Part-Dieu (aka “le Crayon”) on the right. I made my way out of the museum and towards the tip where the two rivers come together– there was also the “Only Lyon” tourist sign right outside of the museum and I took some *albeit touristy* photos of it.
Returning to the “main land” of Lyon, I made the 40-minute walk towards the Place des Jacobins in the heart of the city, where I got a quick boulangerie lunch at le Pain des Jacobins, which had been recommended by Catherine in her blog post about the best boulangeries in Lyon. I’d tried one of her suggestions the last time I was in Lyon, and this time was no different. Feeling bold, I opted for the foie gras sandwich, along with a white-chocolate pastry as part of my formule déjeuner, and it turned out to be a delicious choice. I enjoy foie gras on its own, but in a sandwich, well, that took it to a whole new level…Smooth and buttery, along with the baguette’s crusty exterior, it made for a texture-rich meal that was absolutely heavenly.
Well-fed and well-rested, it was time to continue with the second part of my day in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood– it was about another 30-minute walk from the Place des Jacobins (and this time steadily uphill), so I mentally prepared myself for the climb up. Along the way, I decided to keep my eyes out for more traboules, especially on the montée de la Grande Côte on which I was heading up. I came across one which actually intersects with three buildings (nos. 9, 11, and 13)– at first, I was uncertain whether it was in fact a traboule, since it appeared to be merely a residential courtyard, but all the same, it made for an interesting discovery.
Finally arriving at the top in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood, I made my way to another hidden gem in the city: the jardin Rosa Mir. I’d been meaning to check it out since reading Rosie’s post of her visit there, but when I tried during my OFII visit two weeks prior, I realized that it was opened only on Saturday afternoons. That said, I made it my mission to time my visit in Lyon for the weekend, so that I could get a glimpse of this famous “secret garden” before it closed its doors for the winter season– thankfully, I managed to go on the very last weekend before its closure and, with sunny weather, it made for an ideal visit!
When I say that the jardin Rosa Mir is a “secret garden,” I really do mean that it’s quite hidden– after all, the entrance is a small alleyway and gate with only a small sign to indicate its hours and information. However, the garden itself isn’t quite so secret with the public, as I found myself packed in a crowd of some 20-odd visitors who were just as excited to see what the beautiful garden was all about. To prevent overcrowding in the small garden, we were ushered in about 10 people at a time. Story behind the garden is that Jules Senis, a Spanish tiler and bricklayer, had fled to France during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and was later diagnosed with cancer. From there, he swore to build a garden should he recover– eventually, he did, and the jardin Rosa Mir then came to life. It took 25 years to complete it and afterwards, he dedicated it to his mother, Rosa Mir.
I’m not lying when I write that I was pretty much speechless at the sight of the garden upon stepping inside the courtyard. Filled with symmetrical columns topped with hundreds, if not thousands, of clam and oyster shells (apparently saved after much consumption of the seafood from Senis himself and his acquaintances), I was in awe at every little detail that the garden had to offer. What I found incredibly adorable were the tiny succulents planted inside the shells, thereby giving the place a very desert, temple-like feel. I also climbed up to the terrace for aerial views of the gardens, which were also stunning. As it’s located in a courtyard surrounded by residential apartment buildings, I can’t imagine the people who live around there to have the advantage of seeing the garden from their window…every day!
Despite being only 15:00 after the visit, I decided to head back to my Couchsurfer’s flat where I rested for the remainder of the day. The following day was relatively less-packed with activities, as I ended up just attending the annual Salon des Vignerons at the Halle Tony Garnier south of Lyon. The event was free if you printed out the invitation online in advance; it was also valid for two people, so my friend came for the day and together, we spent the late morning to early afternoon walking down aisles and aisles of different sorts of wines from all regions in France. We tried so many different samples from Côtes du Rhône to Provence rosé to even cognac from the Charentes region. I’ll admit that we were quite tipsy at the end of it, but all the same, who would pass up on the opportunity for a free wine-tasting? I ended up buying two bottles of white dessert wine from Bordeaux (strange, I know, since the region is known for their reds) after tasting and loving it– certainly was a *boozy* day, to say the least!
The following afternoon after returning from a day trip to Pérouges (more on it later), I decided to pop into the musée des Beaux-Arts for a look around its art collection. Unfortunately, admission wasn’t free for under-26 individuals like myself, so I ended up paying 4€. While it’s beautiful inside and contains a wealth of artifacts and paintings, the museum is pretty much similar to other “Beaux-Arts” that I’ve visited all over France (e.g. Rouen, Lille, etc.), so I didn’t find myself blown away by it. I hope, though, to see the musée d’art contemporain near the parc de la Tête d’Or on my next visit, since that interests me.
Any case, that effectively ends my recap of my time spent in Lyon this past October vacances. I’m surprised that I managed to pack so much into a mere four, five days, as well as had some downtime so as to not get burnt out. Granted, I walked so much in those few days, and I really believe that I got a more-authentic taste of the city while on-foot. I’m grateful to the Couchsurfer who hosted me, as we got along really well, as well as spent time with great company inside and outside of the accommodation. There’s no doubt that I’ll be making more trips to Lyon in the near future, so more adventures to come soon!
More on my October vacances is coming in due time. Next up: Pérouges, France!