Three Days in Lyon
It was a surprise when we checked in to the hostel in Lyon. The hostel was packed with people, even more people than Paris! And we were sharing a room with four other girls, three of whom were German animators in Lyon for a film conference. But the best part? The hostel didn’t close for cleaning for five hours every day like the other hostels! We had a little more flexibility with our schedule that way.
The first day, we explored Vieux Lyon, which is the old part of Lyon. We found a church (as usual) and it was St. Jean, which also has an astrological clock. We never got to see it move, but we did hear it one day as we were passing by. We ran inside the church, but it finished before we got a chance to see it in action.
We also rode the funicular which has over 150 years of history in Lyon. We had to take the funicular to the top to get to our hostel. Lyon is very, very hilly. It reminded me of Morgantown, although I think the hills in Morgantown are more unforgiving, especially where I had to park my car my sophomore year (Price Street in Morgantown, West Virginia – don’t climb it unless you want a workout!). Lyon certainly has a lot of history though and it was exciting to run into Gallo-Roman fountains and the foundations of the oldest church in Lyon!
The second day in Lyon, we went to our last Notre Dame, which was actually partly closed for construction. We were able to get into the crypt though and it was nice, although I’m a little “churched” out. I saw so many churches…so many.
Our big event for that day was the Gallo-Roman museum and the Roman amphitheaters. But we couldn’t find the museum. We found the amphitheaters, but we wanted to see the museum first. We kept walking and walking. We got lost, but found some Roman aqueducts!
We asked for help and some nice men directed us to the museum, which was actually right next to the amphitheaters but was designed to be (and I kid you not, this is a direct translation from the sign) “invisible.” The museum was building into a hill side and, unless you knew it was there, you would never find it. Why would you build an invisible museum? Don’t you want people to come to your museum?
Regardless of their architectural decisions, I must admit, the Gallo-Roman museum was my favorite history museum. I find Roman history fascinating and I bet you didn’t know that Lyon was once Lugdunum, an important Roman city in Gaul. I didn’t either until I went to Lyon. There is so much history there and they are constantly finding Gallo-Roman artifacts. For example, we saw a statue there that was discovered when they were building the museum! How crazy is that?
After the museum, we went in to the Roman amphitheaters. The smaller one was used solely for music while the bigger amphitheater was used for plays and other performances. What amazed me the most was how accessible the ruins were. You could walk on them. You could eat on them. You could play on them. I saw lots of families there, just relaxing on stones thousands of years old! The Roman amphitheaters were free and open to the public.
All of that history got me thinking (which is super dangerous)…if the Romans left all of that behind, what will we leave behind when we are gone? How will this period be remembered? When no one knows our names, when we are piles of bones stacked together, when our skyscrapers are piles of minerals, what will this era be known as? What will be the legacy of our society?
The next day, we went to the museum of contemporary art. I think I like contemporary art. It’s weird, but colorful. I like colors and I like the abstraction of some art. For example, one exhibit in the museum was completely dark. You sat down on bean bags and then watched polarized, colored crystals moving at random on seven panels. It was pretty cool and very relaxing.
I grabbed a lunch to go and we ate in the Parc de la Tête d’Or. It is a huge park with a lake, an island, botanical gardens and a zoo. Yes. A zoo. Now, every zoo I have gone to, I have had to pay for. But this zoo? It was a part of the park. No one had to pay for it. You’re just walking along and…oh. There’s a zebra. Some gazelles. Monkeys. Cheetah. Bear. Tiger. Red panda. Crocodile. Flamingos…so many animals! I had to wonder though, who was paying for the upkeep of all of these animals? Lyon would be a great place to bring kids. You can entertain them for free at the zoo and then head over to the Roman amphitheaters, where they can play on the ruins. I was thoroughly impressed with that park. It was beautiful, but then it started to rain.
So, we went to the Lyon history museum, which was cool, but paled in comparison to the Gallo-Roman museum, which I adored. By gaining admission to the history museum, we also had access to the puppet museum. Yes. Puppet museum. Apparently, Lyon has a long history of puppets. From what I understood of the museum, Guignol is the name of one of the characters in the French puppet shows from the good old days and he is quite famous. We saw so many puppets, everywhere. Most of them were a little creepy, but some were cool.
We relaxed and enjoyed our last night in Lyon. That meant ice cream. Not to make you jealous or anything, but I had dark chocolate ice cream with a scoop of blood orange ice cream. It was so good.
The next day, our train left at 3:30 in the afternoon. Since we had a bit of time and we were pretty tired, we saw our first French film in a French cinema. We saw “20 ans d’écart,” which is a romantic comedy heavily influenced by American romantic comedies. It followed the same formula as American romantic comedies which surprised me. I’ve seen my share of French films and, for the most part, they don’t have endings. They are confusing and deal with philosophical topics and are just plain strange. Not this film though. It was definitely more western and I enjoyed that.
Our train back to Lyon took eight hours because it was a slow train and because it had twelve stops! I kid you not…we stopped twelve times. We knew it was going to be a long train when we bought the ticket, but it was only 38 euros…compared to the ticket that was 150 euros which was a direct train that only took four hours. More time or more money? For a college student, that was an easy decision to make. We took the slow train and I did a bit of homework, but mostly listened to music and watched the beautiful French countryside roll by.
I’ve seen a good chunk of France now. The north of France is really remarkable. But what about the south? I don’t know, but my semester isn’t over yet! I still have time to discover more of France.