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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lyon by Bus, Annecy by Train

On our way to Lyon by TGV
Lyon....Day 1

Our trip to France really started once we got to Lyon, the 3rd largest city in France after Paris and Marseilles. The city is laid out in three sections, the center a peninsula formed by the Rhone River on the east (the newer section, primarily business, known as “Lyon Part Dieu” and the Saone River on the west (the older section).  Lyon began as a Roman town and is the capital of what was then called “Gaul”. It is known as the gastronomic capital of France, also the birthplace of cinema, subsequently hijacked by Hollywood
Place Bellecour: large square in Lyon

We started out by taking a local bus (2 Euros) from our Hotel to Place Bellecour Square, the largest one in Lyon. The focal point there is a statue of King Louis XIV, presumably erected prior to the Revolution. I think he lost his head?  

King Louis XIV

Nola and MA and the Hop-On, Hop-Off

We love seeing a city from a hop-on-hop-off bus. You get earphones and a running commentary on the things you are seeing and you can pick where you want to get on and visit, then hop on the next bus that comes around (about every hour.) This is called Le Grand Tour.  It was 16 Euros with the senior discount.  On board, I took my favorite seat on top and in the front so I could take some photos.  The bus is equipped with an interpretive guide. You just plug in your issued earphone and listen in any of 6 languages. I chose English since Texan was not available.

One of thePainted Walls of Lyon

On the tour we passed a site of one of the “painted walls,” with an entire side of a building painted with figures from Lyon’s history.  They are life size and at first glance look like real people. As the bus neared the old city we got off and walked the cobblestone streets until the aroma coming from the cafes announced “lunch-time”.  We then “hopped on” and continued around the city going up to the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere. It is an imposing structure that locals say looks like an upside down elephant.  We didn’t have the time to stop and go inside, so I just got some passing photos.  It is a beautiful church.

Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere

As it turned out we had gotten on the last bus and so we ended up back at Place Bellecour. It was about 6PM.  We decided to “cab it” back to our hotel. Only for one problem: we neglected to write down the address for the cab driver. We knew we were in the suburbs to the south but it took a consultation among three cabbies and their Smart-Phones to figure things out for us!

Along the River Saone, Silk manufacturing houses

Old Prison on the Canal
Annecy....Day 2

The next day we were headed by train (2 hours) for a day trip to Annecy. We wouldn’t have known about this charming “Ville” except for Mary Alice’s son, Jim, who had said it was the “most beautiful” place he’d ever seen. Jim works for a Geneva based software provider called, RSD and that’s where they have a lot of business meetings.  Not bad, Jim!

We got our train tickets no problem. So with some time to kill, we breakfasted at Starbucks, very crowded I might add, but we found a table anyway.  From where we sat we could see the “big board’ listing the trains, destinations, the times of departure and which platform they leave from.

If you come to France, you will see a trio of French soldiers patrolling the train stations, presumably the airports too.  We’ve also seen them at places with tourists like the Eifel Tower in Paris.  They dress in battle fatigues, bullet proof vests and carry submachine guns and radios. Such are the ways in today’s world. (Sorry I wasn't about to take their picture!)

Annecy is in the north of the French Alps and is known as the “Venice of Savoie”. It sits on a huge lake by the same name.  The medieval town is built around a 14th Century Chateau.  The old part (la Vielle Ville) is dissected by small canals and streams.  Jimmy was right.  The area, the mountains surrounding the lake are perhaps the most beautiful I have ever seen. The water is absolutely crystal clear.  The brochures describe the color as azure, a deep blue.  Being so beautiful it draws a lot of tourist and there were a lot of them there with us.

We strolled through the old cobblestone streets and found one of the large canals with a sidewalk. It took us to the old prison, Palais de I’Isle, which dates back to the 12th century. It is one of the most photographed places in Annecy. 

We walked over to the harbor hoping to find a boat tour the lake.  None of the tours allowed us time to get back and catch our 3: 45 train back to Lyon.  So we had lunch at Le Taverne de Meitre Kanter, one of the many sidewalk cafes.  MA and Nola decided to have a local dish, fondue, a pot of hot cheese over a flame. The waiter brought us some bread squares and two long forks.  The bread is dipped in the hot cheese.  Two was all I wanted and I had my burger, salad and fries.   After lunch we walked over to the park next to the canal and enjoyed the cool shade of the large trees.  The weather has been warm in Lyon and also in Annecy so the park was a reprieve from the bright sunshine.

We walked back to the train station and caught the 3:50 train back to Lyon arriving in plenty of time before dark and elected to find a bus back to our hotel.  The first step was to get back to the main square, Place Bellecour, which we did.  Then we found where the No. 15 bus picks up passengers and we were back at our hotel for a third of the cost of a cab.  Friday we were bound for Beaune, a medieval town in the heart of Burgundy. I’ll pick up our adventures on the next blog!

* Written on the TGV train from Lyon to Nice, a three hour ride