Three days in Lyon.

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If you’re starting to suffer déjà vu from too many romantic weekends in Paris, then Lyon – a mere one hour and a half Barcelona by plane – makes for a very respectable city break alternative. The English Riviera, The Venice of America, The Biarritz of the North. Towns and cities are forever trying to compare themselves to better-known destinations to lure in the tourists. In Lyon, I lost count of the number of people who described their own city as ‘Paris on a smaller, more human scale’. They’re selling themselves short – the second biggest metropolitan area in France has charms aplenty of its own. The problem is, people love the French capital too much to see past it sometimes, conveniently ignoring the hordes of foreign visitors, unconquerable size and ready opportunities to get ripped off. But just two hours away on the TGV is a city that offers a completely different perspective on France, and a chance to validate any romantic and culinary Gallic stereotypes you might have. As in Paris, new building in Lyon has been confined to the outskirts in recent years, which might not do much for social integration but leaves a beautiful centre-ville rich in history and drama. Lyon is far enough south to enjoy an almost Mediterranean climate and sits at the confluence of two great rivers, the Rhône and the Saône. The city’s expansion to the west and north has been limited by hilly topography, and to the south by industry, meaning it has spread slowly in one direction over two millennia. It was established by the Romans in 43BC as Lugdunum, on the hill of Fourvière, and a well-preserved paired theatre and odeon, or auditorium, were excavated in the twentieth century (the banked theatre is used today for concerts). Here on the hill you’ll also find the basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière, an impressive structure completed in 1876 to thank the Virgin for the safe return of men from the Franco-Prussian War. The best approach is by foot through the peaceful Rosary Garden, although the more devout can climb the steep paths on hands and knees, proffering thanks to the various saints remembered in statuary along the route. Clinging to the slopes of Fourvière is Vieux Lyon, with its ornate cathedrals and pink-stuccoed renaissance buildings rising high over a cobbled medieval street pattern. This Unesco World Heritage site is the most pleasant part of the city to wander around, although without a guided tour (from €10, book at the tourist office) you might miss some of its most fascinating aspects. Traboules are narrow passages that connect the old streets and often hide beautifully restored courtyards and sixteenth-century spiral staircases. Many are open to the public during the day, although as most are behind unmarked doors you need to know where to look. Vieux Lyon (and the district of La Croix-Rousse to the north east) was the centre of the silk-weaving industry that tied the city so closely to renaissance Italy; it was from here that some of the 10,000 Protestant Huguenots fled to Britain following religious persecution in the seventeenth century. What was once a city-wide trade has shrunk to just nine practising canuts (Lyonnaise silk workers): you can visit a workshop at Soierie Saint-Georges. In the same area is a museum dedicated to another Lyon tradition: guignol, the hand-puppet shows copied by our own Punch and Judy. Guignol himself is often a silk-weaver, and his cast of pals includes Gnafron, a red-nosed gourmand whose picture graces the walls of all good bouchons. The Musée des Marionette du Monde, also holds more than 2,000 puppets from around the world. Further east, in the more modern Monplaisir area of the city, is the absorbing Institute Lumière, on the site of the factory where the Lumiére brothers invented the cinématographe. As well as a history of cinema, the institute holds film screenings and the annual Festival Lumière.

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Pubblicato il 25 maggio 2013, in Trips con tag , , , , , , , , , , . Aggiungi il permalink ai segnalibri. Lascia un commento.

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