Day Fourteen: Lyon to Valence: Some very welcoming people - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

April 10, 2017

Day Fourteen: Lyon to Valence: Some very welcoming people

Our very small but for this city cheap room worked well for us. It turned out to be right in the centre of the city, walking distance (even for Dodie) from the old town section. Sure enough, the TI was right across the street, and in the cold light of morning it was fun to see just how they had hidden it from us. We looked again at all the signs on the streets that had led us in circles, and realized that you absolutely can not see the actual entrance from any street. Rather you have to be walking in the large Place Bellecour square, and have good eyesight to boot. Unless they are deliberately hiding (possible) this TI should hire us to spruce up their signage!

Dodie hunts the elusive Tourist Information
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Of course, also in the cold light of morning we had no use for the TI. Leaving our bikes and gear at the hotel, we just walked directly over the Pont Bonaparte, which crosses the Saone and accesses the old town. On the bridge, the Canadian flags on our backs attracted a lady who said hello. It was not the common reason of having visited Canada or having relatives there, but just general friendliness to visitors. The lady said that she lives "over there" and each morning walks her kids to school across the passerelle (pedestrian bridge) that is just south. Then she circles around and returns on the Bonaparte bridge. Each day whhen doing that, she said, she looks at the city and feels great about living in such a beautiful and vibrant place. We could understand exactly what she was talking about, for this really is a special place.

Having taken the "funicular" up the cliff in Quebec City, I had expected something similar here. But in fact the thing has a real station and is a multi-car train. Also confusing (to me - Dodie seemed to glom onto it right away) was the fact that there are two lines. One goes to our target, the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere, and the other heads up to a kind of suburb called St Juste. Of course, our line was closed for maintenance. So the drill was to go to St Juste and catch a bus shuttle across to the Basilica. It worked quite well, but still disorienting to someone who thought they were going to get on a little elevator.

Notre Dame on the hill with the steel tower (no relation to Eiffel) beside
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Moving in these old buildings requires ladders
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Long shot of the golden Mary
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The funicular works with cables. I think th eidea is still that one car goes down and drags another up
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Just our luck, closed for maintenance
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Modern funicular car
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Funicular from the old days. The brakes were sketchy and needed rethinking after a crash
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The Basilica is totally worth the trouble. It is undoubtedly the most recognizable symbol of Lyon on its own, and with its giant gold Mary looking out over the city. In this, she is like that Jesus of Rio or the cross atop Montreal's Mont Royale.

Pages torn from Rick Steves' book on France were our guide to Lyon. As usual, he had the whole thing nailed and described in detail. It was fun to stand where Rick said to stand and then to look at what he said would see. Other types of adventurers like to wing it, but we love guide books!

So we dutifully looked at the ornate facade of the Basilica, the incredible ornate interior, the mosaics of various Mary oriented scenes, the little Mary side chapel, etc. Our photos cover only a bit of what is there and explained by Rick, but hopefully they will give some of the idea.

This Basilica is clearly the most ornate thing we have seen in France. Maybe we can remember something equivalent in Italy, but this thing is really right up there. It does it with huge mosaics everywhere, and everything tinged with gold. In one mosaic, Pope Pius I is proclaiming the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Apparently this holds that Mary was born without "Original Sin". Frankly, I don't get that.

In another mural, Louis XIII offers the crown of France to Mary. While he has her on the line, as Rick analyses it, he seems to be asking for a son. It worked, because he got Louis XIV.

Aside from the stories in these murals there is the amazing artistic skill with which they are executed in stones. It really is super.

Another feature of this church is that the images are all Mary, all the time. In the basement is a Joseph chapel, but it pales by comparison and is now used as a concert venue. Consequently the ceiling is covering in orange acoustic foam. Seems kind of unfair to the guy.

Outside the church we were approached by a grey nun who told us that she was originally from Quebec. After some time in Saskachewan and years in Africa, she had landed in the convent just behind the Basilica. We had a lovely chat and she wished us well on our travels.

Beside Notre Dame is a large and well stocked general and religious souvenir shop. This netted me a Notre Dame sticker with an image of the golden Mary. I love such stickers. They also had a large display of Little Prince stuff, since Antoine de St Exupery the author was born here, in 1900. Also attracting a lot of attention was a large Mary statue, marked down from 980 to 400 euros. A good deal, but hard to carry.

A stroll to the edge of the cliff offered stupendous views of the city laid out below. You could see the two rivers, the Presqu'ile district, the "Crayon" and all the various types, densities, and ages of housing. Unfortunately my pocket camera had no hope of capturing all this. I could turn around, though, and capture the iconic Mary statue against a blue sky.

Part of the Notre Dame facade
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The grey nun from Quebec
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The steel tower is just used for TV
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A mural in Notre Dame
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All Mary decorations
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The Pope and his puzzling declaration
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Ornate interior
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The empty cradle
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Detail of mosaic from a wall
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Mosaic on the floor
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Lots of ravening tourists
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The humble Joseph church in the basement
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Good deal on a statue
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Little Prince stuff
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Many shelves of statuettes and stuff
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Mary on the tower
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View down to Lyon
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The "crayon" is indeed the Radisson hotel
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Back down the funicular we entered the Vieux Lyon district. This begins at the St. Jean Cathedral, at the head of Rue St Jean, the narrow, main tourist walking drag. St Jean must be about 1000 years old, and took 200 years to build.

In the catherdral we made our way to the sacristy to see if they had a stamp for our creantiales. The man in there looked at me like I had crawled out of the woodwork, but he listened to my request and did come up with a stamp - this one a unique red.

Then he made to hustle us out, saying he had a lot of work to do. I think this lasted until we had turned our backs, revealing our Canadian flags. Now he asked about where we had started. etc. and he talked about his sister who now lived in Canada and how long the trip was for his mother to go visit her.

That was fine, and we continued our tour of the cathedral. But twenty minutes later the very busy man found us and showed us his cell phone, displaying the address of hs sister in Pitt Meadows. Did we know where that was? (Of course). Then the man proposed to show us a secret chapel, closed to the public. We followed him and he unlocked a door, revealing a fairly plain space but with nice woodwork. A discussion ensued about whether plain or fancy chapels were the most pleasing. Finally we were allowed to continue on our way. It had been just a little uncomfortable because of the amount of bowing and kneeling the man was doing upon entering spaces, but still we enjoyed meeting him. Chalk up friendly Lyonais number three.

Rue St Jean was our favourite kind of walking street, with lots of restaurants and bakeries. We jumped into the first bakery and got a chicken sandwich and two apricot tarts. We had thought little tarts like that were pricey in Cluny, at about 2.80 each, but it was exactly the same here. Stuffed on these we unfortunately only then arrived at a bakery specializing in Michel type praline rose brioches. We could only helplessly gawk at these, since even our bakery capacity is not unlimited.

Between the streets in the old town are many covered alleyways, called Traboules. From the 16th to 19th centuries Lyon was a major player in the silk industry, and is said to have had 30,000 looms working at some point. The traboules provided cover as silk was moved from one building to another. Later, all the little alleys provided cover for Resistance fighters. Inside a couple we found unique hidden courtyards, some with little boutiques and most still used for housing.

We returned to the hotel and collected about 10 pounds of stuff to mail back to Canada as we tried to lighten our load. The postage cost was about 100 euros! But hey, in a Russian sleighride you can not count such costs.

Then we loaded our (few?) remaining things onto the bikes and threaded our way back through the city to the train station. After yesterday's culture shock we were now old hands, and waded into the station crowds with no problem. We bought tickets, choosing Valence - about 130 km south in a fit of exuberance, and broke out our REI chairs to wait for the departure time in comfort. We had just gotten comfortable when we realized that what we thought was the departure time was actually the arrival time in Valence. A big scramble put us on the track in time. It was easy to get there because they had a long ramp going up.

When the long train arrived we saw that the first car was the bicycle one. This carried on way way down the platform as the train came to a halt. So we tried zooming down there, but of course people were trying to board the train all along the platform. It was a little tense. However this time the train had a wide door and not so high a lift. The mailback helped too, and I just hoisted the whole darn kit up there in one step. Soon, we were barreling down the Rhone.

Out our window, the river I claimed to have not seen last time was in plain view, together with acres of Cote du Rhone vines and also many fruit trees. We passed by Tain l'Hermitage, where the chocolate factory is, and got off at Valence. We will have to hit that chocolate next time. If not, they have lots in Trader Joe's in Seattle!

L'Hotel de Paris in Valence is one of three or four near the train station, and we found a room there easily. Dodie fired up our gas stove on the window ledge (we have not sent home all our equipment, eh. but the windscreen, a rare and precious find, slid off the ledge and fell into a courtyard below. It took some cagey talking for me to get the proprietor to go retrieve it for us.

So here we are with a headstart on the Via Rhona cycle route, with a Via Rhona direction sign outside our door. We are set to go, except that we spotted the cathedral Saint Apollinaire in Valence. It was consecrated in 1095 by the Pope, who at the same time was preaching the First Crusade. A pamphlet we picked up says it has a "deambulatoire" to permit free circulation of pilgrims. We don't know what that is, but together with a photo of elaborately decorated columns, it's enough to send us off looking for it, rather than immediately hitting the Via Rhona.

A hidden couryard accessed by a traboule
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The St Jean cathedral
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A whole bakery of praline rose
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Lots of restaurants
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St jean street
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We think this could be the red roof silk neighbourhood
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The mailback, probably to be known as mailback #1, since we still have lots of heavy stuff
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The bikes head south, for Valence
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A Note on Lyon Cuisine

We read about but did not try one of Lyon's "Bouchons" or restaurant featuring working class specialties. Here are some of the things we may have missed:

Andouillette: sausage made from pig anus. Stinky. Clapotons: Salad of sheep's feet in vinaigrette Tablier de Sapeur: Fried bread crumbed tripe Tete de veau: Calf's head

and so forth!

Today's ride: 4 km (2 miles)
Total: 642 km (399 miles)

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