We have taken three nights, two days to rest and experience Lyon, France and it has been amazing.
On Saturday, Adam & I biked over 70 miles from a petite ville called Verdun to Mâcon. It was our longest day so far and also one of the best. In a town called Chalon-sur-Soâne a man saw us reading a map at an intersection. He used to work in tourism (at least, I think that’s what he said…) and pointed us in the direction we should go. It was opposite of what we were planning to do and we are so grateful for his input. The trail to Mâcon was well-marked, paved entirely and so fun! A few steep hills, but mostly rolling with fun descents and great views.
From Mâcon, we hopped a train to Lyon and arrived in France’s 2nd largest city an hour later. And here’s where it gets good…
Adam and I had no plans for Lyon. No idea where to stay, do, whatever. We tried someone via Warm Showers and never heard back and that was it. So when we got off the train in Lyon, we had to pull off to a corner of the Part Deux station and started researching hotels. We found the Hotel Iris, make an online reservation and bike our asses off across Lyon to get there in 20 minutes before they close the reception.
We made it with 5 minutes to spare and the front door was locked. No one there. I thought I was going to cry. We were sweating, we were hungry and thirsty and the #%! hotel is closed. And there’s a couple guys standing next door, smoking and one of them says something (I can’t even remember what), and I ask if he works there and he says no, but what can I do to help you?
And this is Esteban, who is now a part of our Lyon lives.
Esteban works in the restaurant across the street from Hotel Iris. I pull up my email and see that I mistakenly made a reservation for the next night (oh, I was so mad). He calls two hotels for us and finds an available room only blocks away. So, we end up at St. Pierre des Terraux for night one, and it was lovely.
We slept in the next day then went out to explore Lyon. We pushed our bikes up the Grand Côte, visited Vieux Lyon and went to a free concert in the afternoon. And three times or more, we saw Esteban walking around the neighborhood.
We did spend time yesterday seeking out Lyon’s trabouls, the hidden passageways between streets and homes in the town. Apparently, Lyon has deep history in silk trade and the trabouls were how merchants got goods in and out of the city safely. Our friends Natasha and Sara recommended them to us and it was the only thing I wanted to do in Lyon.
So we biked up to Croix-Rousse yesterday to see if we could find any. And after biking in circles, I finally decide to ask someone. And I bike up to two young men and say “escusez-moi monsiers, parlez-vous englais?” And they say, Oui. And I say… Can you tell me where the secret passageways are? The (I totally butchered the name the first time)?… And they look at me like I’m crazy.
Adam has had a field day with this. He has teased me mercilessly for asking strangers about the secret passages, because not a lot of locals even know about them and I sound like a weirdo when I ask for secret passageways in mangled French.
Well, whatever. They pointed us in the direction of Vieux Lyon and we did find some trabouls in the afternoon!
Later in the evening, we were walking back to the hotel when we saw Esteban at a bar table across the street. We joined Esteban and his friend Alex for a drink, which turned into bottles, which turned into pizza, which then lead us through the streets of Croix-Rousse to another traboul, perhaps even cooler than the others, and drinks in Alex’s amazing Lyonnaise apartment.
Esteban and Alex were so awesome. They spoke English with us, some French with me. On top of helping us the first night, they made us feel at home in Lyon and showed us a great night. Adam and I are both really happy from a night well-spent with those two.
From Lyon, we are carrying on south. Tomorrow, we’ll take a train to the end of the Rhone and pick up a velo route that runs along the Med for a while before heading inland. Once in, we’ll see a walled city, Bordeaux and ultimately hit the Atlantic. There, we’ll get on EuroVelo 1 and bike north to Brittany and Normandy.