I Continue From Here
Backpacking France & Spain: Day 2 (07-Dec-2017)
Fête de La Lumière
The city of Lyon did not see sunlight until 8:15 AM. The breakfast at SLO living was good. Croissant, Baguette, Pancakes, cereals and fruit. Of course, it came with a price of 5 Euros. After having my breakfast, I walked towards Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon). Two rivers pass through the city of Lyon - La Rhône and La Saône. The churches and buildings along the river banks formulated a formidable landscape like often captured in postcards.
At one of the parks, I saw this mischief. A moustache was drawn on the face of the lady in the sculpture. That reminded me of Marcel Duchamp who recreated Mona Lisa painting with a moustache. Many such sign boards and walls in France seem to have such scribbles. Most of them are left as is.
While I was planning to buy some food at a shop on the street, a boy (perhaps in his teens) approached me and requested me to buy him some food. He was well dressed and it took me a while to realise that he was actually asking me to buy him food. I asked him to choose what he wanted and he did. It was strange. I always think that its difficult to be poor in a developed country where the living expenses are high. More so, if you are an immigrant.
I visited the impressive Cathédral Saint-Jean Baptiste. The cathedrals here are no less than a museum. Its magnificent architecture, humungous and beautiful paintings, creative mosaic work, soulful sculptures and colourful tinted glass are an impressive work of art.
An old astronomical clock built in 1383 was destroyed in 1562. Another was built in 1661 and it exists till date at the cathedral.
I climbed up the hill to reach La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. From the hill one can get an excellent view of the city below.
Fête de la lumière that means, the festival of light is celebrated around the 8th of December every year to thank Mother Mary. In 1643, when Lyon was struck by plague, the municipal councillors promised to pay tribute to Mother Mary if the town was spared. Ever since, a solemn procession makes its way to the Basilica of Fourvière on the 8th of December to light candles and give offerings in the name of Mary. The exteriors of the church is amazingly detailed. Built in 1870, it is filled with marvels. Painted walls, tinted glass, ceramic work and many incredible pieces of art in display. I believe these pictures can speak for themselves.
Having read a bit about the history of France, I was excited to see an ancient Galo-roman amphitheater on the hill as well. Music concerts are often held here and I could imagine how this ancient theatre could still function so effectively.
As you walk along the old Lyon, you find several preserved old buildings. Some of them are renovated and protected for tourist viewing.
Lyon is also the gastronomical capital of France and there are many top end Michelin star restaurants. But, there are also the famous lyonnaise Bouchons - Small family run restaurants that serve great local dishes. It was on my list of things to do and so, I walked into one of the Bouchons. Every restaurant in France displays their menu outside and if something interests you, you can walk in. I checked with the server if they had vegetarian and they did. She suggested me their Formule (A drink, starter, Main course and Dessert). Formule's are usually cheaper than going with À la carte. The bouchon itself was situated in an old alley, in an ancient building.
Cervelle de canut - Soft white cheese with herbs and garlic. It was served with some tasty boiled potatoes and bread.
I had Lasagne aux légume (Vegetarian Lasagna) for main course. Accompanied with vin rouge - Crozes-hermitage.
And Fresh cheese with strawberry sauce for dessert. Every dish was extremely delicious and well prepared.
I loved my walk along the tiny streets of old Lyon. What was most impressive was that there were shops dedicated to a type of cuisine. I mean, there were Patisserie that mastered in pastries, Boulangerie that mastered in baking, Chocolaterie that made delicious chocolates of all kinds. For people here, food is a work of art. They referred to their products as Artisanal - A creation by a skilled craft worker (Artisan). However, it also pertains to high-quality products made in small quantities by hand or traditional methods.
I bought some sweet dishes called Cannot & Quenelle that are the specialties of Lyon. They were as delicious as they look. Almond seems to be a key ingredient in these desserts and it provides them a rich flavour like cashew nuts provide to some of the Indian sweets.
I returned back to the hostel before stepping out again. I had to make reservations for the next day. My Indian credit card did not seem to work with Air BnB website. Hence, I had to rely on Hostel world for my trip. Air BnB could have been a bit cheaper. I did not find any hostels in Vienne, so I decided to head towards Valence, a commune (Small town) about 100kms south of Lyon.
In the suburbs of Lyon, there is a good amount of Arab population, perhaps mostly from the Maghreb region. Some of them seem to have blended well with the French culture. I saw a wedding couple and their friends on a photoshoot at Place Bellecour. The group appeared to be Arab but were dressed very much in Western outfit.
The display of structures at Bellecour was very interesting and there was a very lively atmosphere around.
At around 8 PM, I walked back to the St-Jean cathédral to watch the magnificent light and music show. I was totally impressed by the way everything was managed. There was additional security everywhere, bags were checked at key entry points and routes were made to guide the visitors methodically. There was a huge crowd but everyone maintained discipline and distance. The light show on the front wall of cathédral using its own architecture as base was very impressive. A similar event was once arranged by Alliance Française de Bangalore and French artists had come over to put up a similar show. This indeed was in a larger scale. I leave you with these images from the show that remained the highlight of the day.