European Vacation: March-April, 2010

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Tuesday, March 30 - First Day in Lyon

Breakfast was downstairs in a lovely salon with beautiful woodwork and murals. There were fruits, yogurt, meats, and of course, baguettes, croissants, and pains au chocolate. Mmmmmm. Since it was raining, we decided it'd be a good day to start out by going to the mall at Part-Dieu train station, upon Chris' recommendation, to get a power converter for the rechargeable camera batteries. The magastore Carrefour was out of stock of the ones that were specifically for USA devices; we found one a home furnishings store called BHV that worked like a champ.

View Photos from the morning of March 30 (21 images)

It took a while to get down to Part-Dieu and back, but it was a good trip for two reasons: it was raining somewhat, so our tourism wasn't really cut short; and this gave us a chance to scout out exactly where to go to get the Satobus to the airport, since we'd be doing that early in the morning in a couple days. Late in the morning, we set out from the hotel, crossing the Saône off the Presqu'île to Vieux Lyon, the west part of the city where the older cathedrals and ancient Roman ruins are. We took the funicular to the Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière at the top of the hill. The story goes that during the Franco-Prussian war the people of Lyon prayed fervently to the Virgin Mary for protection from the war and the plague. When the city was spared, they built the basilica in her honor.

View Photos from Fourvière (24 images)

We then wandered down to the Parc Archéologique to see the two well restored ancient Roman amphitheatres, the Théâtre Romain and the Odéon, which are over 2000 years old, having been built in the first century BC. After walking down the hill, we stopped at a boulangerie to get a sandwich for lunch -- big enough to share and only 1,90€!

View Photos from Théâtre Romain and the Odéon (33 images)

In Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste (Cathedral of St. John the Baptist) there is a 14th century astronomical clock which we wanted to see. Each hour between noon and 16:00 it chimes out a song and the figures move to show the Annunciation. After wandering around outside and missing it for the 14:00 hour, we found out the clock is actually inside the church and made the 15:00 show. This cathedrale is where Henri IV married Maria de Médici in 1600.

View Photos from the afternoon of March 30 (39 images)

It was then across the Saône to the Rue de la Republique where there is shopping galore and down to Place Bellcour, the largest "clear square" in Europe, meaning the largest "city square" without obstacles like trees and such; it's also Europe's largest "pedestrian square", meaning one that does not accommodate vehicles. Then Rue Victor Hugo took us to a particular bookstore Ginger wanted to go to get a book Sarah had shown us the night before, a picture book that has a lot of vocabulary in English, French, and Spanish. We took a break at the hotel before going to dinner -- Chris was nice enough to stop by the hotel and drop off stuff we had left at his place the night before - a print-out of cool things to do in Lyon. Dinner was at a place Chris had recommended: Le Petit Gluton (The Little Glutton), where we had salad and "savory" crêpes, Ginger's with mushrooms and Neil's with ham & cheese.

View Photos from the Presqu'île (40 images)

After dinner we headed up to the Croix-Rousse area for great views of the city -- we took the Metro line A from our hotel straight up the middle of the Presqu'île (and up in elevation quite a bit) to the top of the hill and then made our way down on foot. We darted down a couple streets for views of cathedrals and from scenic overlooks, and descended long steep stairways for part of the way. After joining the top of Rue de la Republique and passing by the opera house, we stopped for ice cream and espresso at a Häagen-Dazs shop. Wanting to get back to the hotel without walking too much more, and making use of our Metro all-day pass, we hopped on the Metro and rode back a couple stations to the hotel for the night. Neil got caught up with the soccer news, being able to catch the last 15 minutes of the daily UEFA Champions League matches, Olympique Lyonnais vs. Bordeaux and Bayern München vs. Manchester United.

View Photos from the evening of March 30 (35 images)