Lyon Day 2

Posted on May 31, 2010 in category

Hotel des Celestins prepares a great buffet ‘petit dejeuner’. Croissants, various cheeses, French bread rolls, boiled eggs, freshly prepared fruit salad and yoghurt -they were all there along with French radio news. All combined to make us realise that, “Yes you really are in France!”

Roman Theatre

With batteries recharged, we headed literally for the hills- La Colline de Fourviere. Although raining at first, my borrowed hotel brolley gave me enough ammo to storm the highest hill in Lyon. Notre Dame de Fourviere Cathedral is without doubt the standout feature of Lyon. However, our first stop was even older and arguably more impressive- the Gallo-Roman theatres.


Cut into the side of Fourviere hill the large theatre was being prepared for an annual Lyonnaise musical event. I don’t know the expected audience capacity now but an estimated 10,000 people attended the theatre in Augustan times (circa late 1st century B.C.). Its neighbouring, smaller ‘Odeon’ theatre is dated later, circa 1st century A.D. Many Gallo-Roman shops and residential buildings were removed to build the Odeon theatre which was mostly used for speeches and poetry recitals. Some shop foundation walls still remain at the back of the theatre revealing an incredible drainage design. Gallo-Roman audiences at Lugdunum (Lyon) had a commanding view across the confluence of the Rhone and Saone Rivers. On a clear day a spectator could see as far as the French/Swiss Alps, today’s Mont Blanc. Unfortunately not much remains of the beautiful marble that dressed this centre of ‘otium’ (leisure). Medieval Lyonnaise were great believers not only in God but also in recycling !!


After wandering around the theatres or ‘ancient rocks’ for close on two hours, we walked with back packs to Notre Dame de Fourviere Cathedral. This cathedral has attitude. Its extravagant decoration is impressive. Rarely would you come across stone columns that are decorated with such elaborate carvings and huge golden mosaic wall decorations.



Like Assisi's cathedral in Umbria, Italy, Fourviere Cathedral has another underground second church. This grand design obviously provided a lot of skilled artisans or tradesmen with jobs in the past as it does even today as revealed by the network of scaffolding on one of its side walls. 


Our next adventure took us down the hill through the magnificent, lush public gardens. One open park space demanded a ‘stop and revive’ moment. Classic French with its cast iron seats and lampposts, smooth yellow gravel and a focal fountain.
Where are those ‘traboules’ that people rave about? Yes it’s a question worth solving. Constructed from the 15th century onwards, some 68 tunnel-like constructions weave their way among the Renaissance built and inspired apartments of ‘Vieux Lyon’ (Old Lyon). Hidden stairwells and walkways suddenly open out into courtyards of all sizes and grandeur each containing a deep well for its residents.     


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