I visited the French city of Lyon some time ago for purposes outside this blog. To my surprise this visit turned out to be very interesting. I must admit I knew nothing of Lyon and because of my reasonable extensive knowledge of the French renaissance I did not expect to find anything truly interesting concerning this period in time.
How wrong I was!
Lyon happens to house one of the largest Renaissance districts in Europe. It is called Vieux-Lyon and harbours a great many typical renaissance streets, residences, shops and the traboules: passageways situated underneath the existing buildings allowing pedestrians to pass vast distances very quickly without being seen or having to walk the streets. In the past goods would be passed via the traboules into the city and there are stories that the traboules played some part in the defence in the city in World War II making the area hard to control.
The traboules have small courtyards in which you can peak up to the sky. Some are very beautiful with small shops, gardens and old doors, railings and wells and give a unique inside into the city’s passed.
The city has been greatly influenced by the influx of Italian bankers and rich merchants. Eager to make their mark on the city they build great manors called hôtels particuliers of which the Hôtel Bullioud and the Hôtel de Gadagne (home to the Lyon historical centre) are examples.
Another great feature of the city is the Cathédrale Siant-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon, which was finished in 1476 and bears the marks of the religious struggles of the 16th century: which can be seen by the many demolitions caused by Hugenot rage against the Catholic church. Still even without these knocked of ornament the Cathedral is still a truly splendid site, with many terrifying gargoyles and depictions of witches, and other devilry as ornaments on the outside to signifying the sharp distinction between good and bad inside and outside the church.
What makes this part of the city and indeed Lyon itself even lovelier are the many small restaurants and café, where you – afters spending an afternoon roaming the narrow cobbled streets – can enjoy some of the best that France has to offer, wine, great food and the best of ambiances.