HAPPY AND ALONE BETWEEN THE RHONE AND THE SAONE IN LYON
Located in the Rhone valley in southeastern France in the heart of Beaujolais wine country, lying just south of the Burgundy region and just north of the Provence region, is Lyon, France’s third largest city in terms of population, culture, and commerce after Paris and Marseille. But, for most visitor’s, Lyon is most famous as France’s capital city of cuisine. With an abundance of fresh ingredients from the surrounding fertile region as well as an abundance of famous and inventive chefs, Lyon can’t be beat for the best in food and restaurants.
The main heart and soul of Lyon lies on a long, narrow peninsula formed by the confluence of the Saone River with the larger and more dominant Rhone River. This long sliver of land, called Presqu’ile, exudes a busy and bustling ambience with the look and feel of Paris, including monumental squares, regal statues, and a very large reflecting pool with performing fountains and when I was there, large floating glass orbs. To the west, across the Saone River, is the looming Fourviere Hill with its bright white Notre Dame Basilica overlooking the whole city and the Museum Gallo-Romain with its restored Roman amphitheaters and expansive history museum which depicts Lyon’s history as a major roman metropolis founded in 47 A.D.
Just below the hill is the lively Vieux Leon neighborhood with meandering narrow cobblestone streets lined with colorful Renaissance buildings and full of fun shops and fantastic cafes and bouchons (bistros). I had dinner here several evenings, trying out a different bouchon each time. Good eating in Lyon.
On the southern-most end of the Presqu’ile peninsula where the Soane River joins the Rhone is Lyon’s totally new and modern neighborhood aptly called La Confluence (where the rivers join) which has a fantastic array of modern cutting-edge structures, from chic and playful housing structures to a huge high-end multi-level enclosed shopping mall, some cool office buildings with what looks like blasted-in craters on their facades, and, at the very tip of the peninsula, is the new La Confluence Museum, a huge hulking structure that looks like either a long lost creature from some jurassic period, or that looks like a huge mother ship just landed from the Constellation of Orion. All in all, it’s quite an impressive experience.