Lyon by Bus

Some time ago I booked tickets for the hop-on, hop-off bus tour of Lyon for today. We did a few such tours on our previous trip to Europe and really enjoyed them. They’re a great way to get an overview of the districts of the city you’re visiting, see where the tourist highlights are, and hear some of the stories behind them. And they’re self-paced, so if there’s something that compels a closer look at one of the stops, you can get off the bus and spend some time exploring it.

We weren’t due to board the bus until 10am, but we left our hotel at 8am, thinking we would have a leisurely early morning stroll through the town, find a cosy little cafe somewhere and enjoy a nice breakfast before the tour. I should have done my homework first. All of the restaurant district that was buzzing last night was boarded up. We walked quite a few blocks before we found anywhere serving breakfast. And we had to rely on Trip Advisor to make us aware of it. I doubt that we would have otherwise stumbled across it. So that’s something I wasn’t aware of – going out for breakfast apparently isn’t a thing to do in France, even in its ‘gastronomic capital’, Lyon. At least we got a coffee and a fresh pastry. But the place had no charm, so we left and found another place for a second coffee and a croissant. But both breakfasts were over and done with in what seemed like minutes, so we even had time to walk back to our hotel to grab a jacket before it was time for the bus. I’m glad I did grab the jacket – it got pretty chilly sitting up on the top deck.

We ended up staying on the bus for its entire circuit of Lyon, mainly because we’d already visited most of the places of interest on our walks around Lyon and the Old Town. But the bus ride was great. It’s a relaxing way to tour a very hilly city in places without expending any energy, the view from the top deck was terrific, and the audio commentary along the route was informative. The tour began at a large public square named Place Bellecour, and two hours later we finished up there as well. The bus route took us along the banks of both Rhone and Saone Rivers, and down to their confluence 3 km from the centre of town. It crossed into the Old Town, but left almost immediately because those streets, which date to medieval times, are not really built for bus traffic. And it climbed the steep slope to the Notre Dame Basilica at Fourviere, overlooking the Saone River. Here’s a few photos from the morning’s activities.

Back at Place Bellecour, we wandered over to the only object in the large public space, a statue of Louis XIV astride his horse. Parts of the horse’s anatomy were daubed with yellow paint and there were protest slogans against the French President adorning the plinth. A rather inglorious thing to happen to the Sun King. We headed back to our hotel, stopping only for lunch on the way. Thankfully all those restaurants which were closed earlier in the morning were now open for business and doing a thriving trade.

Back at the hotel, we waited for a friend to arrive. My brother’s wife, Cornelia, is Swiss. We know her family very well. Cornie’s older sister, Ursula, was coming down on the train from Basel in Switzerland to spend a couple of days with us. Ursula will be here for just a few days. She’s staying in our hotel and she has pre-purchased a ride of the hop-on, hop-off bus.

Together, the three of us walked back to the start of the bus tour. We got there just a few minutes before the bus was due to leave. We chose the top deck for the uninterrupted views and I made sure I sat on the opposite side to where I was this morning. I enjoyed the ride once again, although this time we hopped off at the top of the hill to visit Notre Dame. From there we walked back down the leafy paths to the Old Town.

The three of us found a bar and sat down for a drink, and then another. And then we decided we’d stay on for dinner. We hadn’t seen Ursula for months, so it was good to just sit and catch up on each other’s news. Following dinner we sauntered back through the Old Town again, looking for a suitable bar, one that wasn’t too crowded or noisy, and, importantly, one where clouds of vaping smoke would not interrupt our glass of wine. And we found one – about ten metres from the front door of our hotel. So we finished our big day with a glass of a wine from the region, and farewelled each other for the evening. We plan to spend tomorrow exploring other parts of the city with Ursula, but this time we’ll probably do it on foot.

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