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August, 2017

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Lyon is Frances third largest city at the confluence of the Rhone and the Soane rivers. It was first settled by Romans veterans around 43BC and was the focal point of their network of roads around Gaul. The remains of the the remains of the Roman theatre can be seen set into the slopes of Fourviere Hill.

The city was important in the Middle ages for silk manufacture and wealth from the merchants funded many fine Renaissance buildings and churches. The Old town nestling under Fouviere Hill retains its medieval street pattern with a network of narrow cobbled streets, with narrow passageways providing short cuts between the streets and the river.

Now the city is more dependent upon oil refineries and chemical plants for its economic wealth. It is also renowned for its cuisine.

We berthed at the Soane, near the Confluence. The area between the two rivers was once an important port but this was relocated further south in the 1960s as boats got larger. The area became derelict but there have been major reconstruction projects over the last 20 years. Many of the old warehouses have been pulled down and replaced by cutting edge architecture to project a brand new image. This includes the bright orange ‘Swiss Cheese’ building.

The “Museum of the Confluence”: is the crowning glory, coming in at five times its initial budget. It was built on marshy land and there were problems with the foundations and several constructions companies gave up after difficulties. The inside is equally cutting edge, covering the history of the planet from the origins of the Earth, evolution, and sections on humanity and society covering different cultures.

We had a guided tour of Lyon, beginning with the “Basilica of Notre Dame de Fouviere,”: standing on top of the hill and dominating the city. The inside is magnificent and the walls are covered with mosaics. It was a dull, dark and damp day, which wasn’t good for photographs.

We then dropped back down to the Old Town, parking by the former Court of Justice with its splendid colonnade of twenty four columns. Opposite was a bicycle park. Lyon is the city of bicycles and operates a self service system of hire bikes, recognised by their bright red wheels.

The old town retains its network of narrow cobbled streets lined with tall houses. The silk merchants in their large houses lived on the flatter land, particularly around the Hotel de Ville and Bellecourt Square. The silk weavers lived on the slopes.

Most of the streets run parallel to the river and there is a network of passageways called traboules which were used to provide rapid access for goods and workers between workshops and the river. They also kept goods dry in wet weather. The passageways are closed off by doors at either end. Stairways give access to the upper floors. Now most of the buildings are social housing and there are large banks of post boxes. These were fascinating to explore. Fortunately we had a guide with is it isn’t always obvious which doors lead to one of teh passageways and it would be very easy to get lost.

The House of the Chamarier off Rue St Jean and reached down a narrow passageway, was built in the C14th and was the residence of one of the high church officials responsible for finance. The vaulted ceilings of the open archways are covered with paintings.

We had some free time to ourselves before returning to the boat. I used to visit the “Cathedral Church of St John the Baptist”: in the old town.

This was Day 2 of Burgundy, the River Rhone and Provence, a river cruise with Riviera Travel.

My full account with all the pictures can be found “”:


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