Nearly Perfect Weekend in Lyon

Lyon is one of my favourite cities, not just because it hosts the annual Quais du Polar crime festival. Yet, no matter how often I come here, I never seem to have enough time to visit everything. So I was determined to do two completely new things this ‘weekend of adieus’: see a show in the Roman amphitheatre for Les Nuits de Fourvière festival; and get to see the Brothers Lumière Museum about early cinema. Well, one out of two is not bad…

The stage is ready in the oldest Roman amphitheatre in France.
The stage is ready in the oldest Roman amphitheatre in France.

The Blues Night featured American blues music legend Taj Mahal; a ‘Mali meets New York’ session with guitarists Habib Koité and Eric Bibb; and local boy (relatively speaking), saxophonist Raphaël Imbert and his band. The atmosphere was very special (at least until the cushions went flying onstage), and it was delightful to see people of all ages and backgrounds enjoying this kind of music. Thank you to Emma from Book Around the Corner, who suggested I join her for this event!

But the rest of the weekend involved doing a few of my favourite things.

Some eating at a traditional Lyonnais bouchon may have been involved...
Some eating at a traditional Lyonnais bouchon may have been involved…
Wandering through some of the spectacular old traboules.
Wandering through some of the spectacular old traboules.
One of my favourite 'hidden gardens': the cafe at the top of the Gadagne Museum.
One of my favourite ‘hidden gardens’: the cafe at the top of the Gadagne Museum.
Visiting the Art Museum, with its beautiful shady gardens.
Visiting the Art Museum, with its inner courtyard, a haven of peace.
I didn't go to see a Guignol show this time, but I do like the French equivalent of 'Punch and Judy'.
I didn’t go to see a Guignol show this time, but I do like the French equivalent of ‘Punch and Judy’.
Popping into the boulangerie for a croissant (old shop sign in the Old Town).
Popping into the boulangerie for a croissant (old shop sign in the Old Town).
Looking through the second-hand books on the quay.
Looking through the second-hand books on the quay.

Of course, it’s the last thing I needed right now, but a few books just seemed to sneak their way into my bag. I will write more about the bookshop I got them from in a follow-up post.

With HUGE thanks to Emma for the Romain Gary book.
With HUGE thanks to Emma for the Romain Gary book.

So what prevented it from being the perfect weekend? Not the fact that I didn’t make it to the Lumière Museum, but that when I sat down for breakfast at a local café, there was a disturbance outside. A group of diverse young men, some black, some white, some drunk, some sober, started making a great deal of noise and one of them grabbed another by the neck in what looked like a rather violent incident. The police were called and managed to walk one or two of the worst troublemakers away. Then, as I passed in front of the remaining group, I heard them speaking Romanian.

I wanted the pavement to open up and swallow me right then and there.


39 thoughts on “Nearly Perfect Weekend in Lyon”

  1. Sounds like you felt as I do when our English football fans get out of hand. But of course in both cases it’s just the small minority that attract the attention. Your weekend sounds wonderful: sunshine, gorgeous city, food, music and books!

  2. I’ve never been to Lyon: it looks lovely. Was in the Languedoc-Roussillon last month for a week, also a beautiful part of France. What’s a ‘bouchon’?

    1. A bouchon is the traditional ‘eatery’ in Lyon, where you get to eat home-cooked fare typical of the region: lots of sausages, pork, offal. It’s certainly not healthy nor haute cuisine, but much like what my grandmother used to cook.

      1. Thanks for the explanation. As an ex-vegetarian myself I’ll probably give them a miss!

  3. A familiar feeling if you’re British given the stag night phenomenon but as Sandra says it’s a tiny – although very loud – minority. I’ve been ogling Lyon via The Disappearance and now feel I have to go there!

  4. What a lovely weekend (well, save for the incident which could have happened with any group). Lyon is a beautiful city. I’ve been a couple of times both for business and for pleasure – would love to go back again at some point.

    1. I was calculating that it might be cheaper for me to go to Lyon for the literary festival rather than Edinburgh or Hay or one of the UK ones (since all the conferences/panels are free, so it’s only the flight and hotel that you need to pay in Lyon, and there are cheap flights now). So I might well be back…

  5. Delightful Marina. Perhaps I will get there before winter? I’ve driven through Lyon but didn’t get the chance to stop…

      1. Well that would be lovely as my best friend is planning to arrive in mid-September. She doesn’t speak any French but her Polish and Russian are very good… When she reads your post I won’t be able to keep her away.

  6. Very nice pictures. It’s a beautiful city. We were lucky with the weather and the concert was great.
    Sorry about the incident you witnessed but it could happen anywhere with people of any nationality.

    It seems like your post will be good for tourism in Lyon. 🙂

  7. What a lovely city, Marina Sofia, and a lovely weekend. So glad to hear that most of it went so very well. I do know what you mean about your ‘pavement’ story, though. Once, my husband and I were in Mexico on a holiday. We’d had a great time, and done everything we could to dispel the ‘horrible American’ myth. We saw some amazing ancient places, had fine food, the whole thing. It really was fabulous – until the point when we were leaving our hotel for the flight back to the US. We were on a bus with several other people, one of whom started to complain loudly to his companion about Mexico. Both were American and their complaints were as stereotypical as you get. They were rude and insulting, and the more strident they got, the more I sank down in my seat.

  8. Looks like it was a great weekend! You told me I should not apologize for French strikes earlier this year, so I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to apologize for other countrymen, you can’t bear the responsibility for them all, nor can you teach them by example… 😉 !

    1. Merci, you’re right, but it still hurts! However, you should take credit for the beautiful city of Lyon – France is such a wonderful country to visit (in spite of strikes and the state of emergency).

  9. The place looks lovely, and in among the culture and the sightseeing I’d definitely give the bouchon a try. Americans tend to turn their noses up at offal, so I’m starved of it here!

    Taj Mahal, eh? I’m delighted to hear the old guy’s still active. That must have been a treat.

  10. I’ve driven through/stopped many times in Lyon, but only overnight. Never as a tourist. Your description and pictures made me realise it’s absurd, so next time I visit my relatives in Geneva, I’ll work out something 🙂 Thanks for the tip!

  11. Not your fault! We all have times when we quake at the doings of our fellow countrymen, whoever they are (drunk Brits, Germans in sandals, Greeks jumping the queue…). Never been to Lyon, it looks nice…

    1. That’s interesting: because neither of them really have a connection to the place. Voltaire lived for 20 years in Ferney (my neighbouring village), which is closer to Geneva than to Lyon, while Mme Bovary of course is stuck in her dreary provincial town in Normandy. If she had been in Lyon, things might have been very different!

  12. Yes, Marina Sophia, what are we to do with all the extreme violence breaking out in seemingly every corner of the world! It is sickening and appalling! As a young U.S. Marine (18-19 years old) I fought in the Vietnam War. I am still haunted by the crazy and unnecessary violence I witnessed and, sadly, participated in. I was young and brainwashed, but I cannot forgive my actions because, as a human being, I should have realized such violence was wrong. And what good did it accomplish? NOTHING!

    Thank you for such an interesting and intriguing site. Blessings to you, and best wishes for your writing!


    1. Thank you for your bearing witness to the senselessness of war and that endless fight for power and resources. I’m sorry you had to go through such a traumatic experience. I can imagine it must have changed something profoundly within you. I wish that all of the leaders who advocate war could see at first hand the consequences of their actions.

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