An unexpected day in Lyon, France

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Lyon? What on earth made us choose Lyon for a stopover? Well, in planning the trip I saw it as one place we had not visited and we had to break our journey somewhere. It did not inspire us to visit there again. As I mentioned in my previous blog it took us a while to find our hotel as it was close to a Metro station not the Central Station as expected.

Having booked in, and had a coffee which was made in the kitchen, we had to go out again to find something to eat. There was a small cafȇ down the street and we went there for a light supper which was mediocre. Definitely an early night was what we needed.

Again, why Lyon? Well, the research I had done on what to do in Lyon before we left South Africa seemed really interesting. There is the Basilica, a 19th Century Park, Fourviere Hill for amazing views of the city and a number of other things besides.

We went down to breakfast the next morning and were really disappointed. There was not one item of cooked food. When there had been only a Continental Breakfast on offer previously, there were at least boiled or scrambled eggs and no cereals or fruit except apples. Added to this, the cost of breakfast was a separate charge and this was higher than we had paid anywhere else. The lady who appeared to be in charge of the kitchen/dining stood very determinedly in the doorway which linked the 2 rooms and watched us eat. To add insult to injury, there was a large sign stating:

ANY FOOD REMOVED FROM THE DINING ROOM SHALL BE PAID FOR

There is no doubt that those 2 little old ladies who owned the hotel (see my previous blog) were tough nuts to crack.

We ventured out into a cold but dry morning and made our way back to the tram station. Then we caught the tram back into the City centre. Fortunately, here our Eurail Pass was accepted on the trams so there was no extra cost involved. At the Central Station, we made our reservations on the train to Barcelona the next morning. We asked where the Tourist Information Office (TIO) was to be found and were told to go down to the left, turn left and the office was on the right.

As our time was limited, we wanted assistance with how to get to them and in what order to visit. We followed the directions to find the TIO but it was not there. We retraced our steps and confirmed the instructions and finally realised that we were being directed to the office for passengers who need special assistance. Well, we had used the word ‘help’ I guess. We had asked where we could get help on where to go but we had also used the words ‘Tourist Information Office’.

One of the ladies at the Passenger Assistance Office spoke good English and showed us how to get to the Basilica first – ‘Sorry, but no trams or trains go near there. Catch the Metro to this station, change to this Metro, get the bus just across the bridge ...’ she told us speaking faster than the proverbial nineteen to the dozen. They did not have any maps and, just as at the hotel, what pamphlets they had were in French. We asked about the hop-on hop-off buses which I had seen on the web pages but they too were on the other side of the river. So we decided to take the Metro as it seemed as if the interesting parts of the city were “across the river”. As we approached the Metro Ticket barrier we showed our pass as we had done elsewhere and this big, burly French guard came and told us that it could not be used there. We were stunned. This was part of the rail network and we used it on the trams. He chased us off that Metro platform as if we were criminals.

We gave up and decided to wander around the local area which turned up to be quite fascinating.

I had read in an article which said that it is the Minister of Finance (or whatever title used in France) who announces the dates on which the post-Christmas sales will start and finish and for 2016 these were to be 6 Jan to 15 Feb. We were in Lyon on 6th Jan 2016. In our wandering we had seen a new shopping mall and taken a brief look but decided to continue past. Around a corner we found another mall with a particularly lovely entrance so we decided to go and look at this one. It turned out to be the main entrance to the other one we had seen. We later learnt that this had been 2 malls which had been upgraded into one very large one.

Within the next few minutes there were hundreds of people swarming around. It was 1 o’clock and the shops had all their sales goods ready for the people. It was truly amazing. It is a 5 storey Mall and the people were going up and down the stairs in their myriads. We just sat on a bench and watched the constant movement. We have no idea whether much was actually purchased though.Lyon Inside shopping centre5-storey stairwell in the mall

After an hour of people watching, we left the mall and went into the building next door, the City Library. We found a most interesting display in the Science Section and, even though we could not understand it we worked what some of them were. We also played some of the computer games. 

Very importantly we found a toilet that did not require 5 Euros (R105) to use. Once relieved of this burden, and it being after 4pm and getting dark, we returned to the hotel. Not the day we expected but interesting anyway. That is what we have learnt about travelling. Everywhere you go is new and different and if you plan does not work out enjoy what you can do.