Lyon: Walking and Wine day

Wednesday 2nd October.

There is about a week to go for our trip and we’re starting to feel weary. We’ve struggled to get out on early morning walks but, to be fair, this is probably also a factor of the late sunrise; still around 7.40 am here in Lyon.

So our first activity for the day was a 10 am walking tour of Vieux Lyon, the Old Town. Our guide for the tour was Paul, of Free Tour Lyon, who was Dutch but his understanding of the French history of this region was most impressive. Mark and I learned a lot on the two hour walk and key points appear below.

  • Lyon dates back to at least 43 bc: It was the capital Gaul. At that time Romans were located on hill at Fouviere:  a Roman word for forum ‘old forum’.
  • Basillica Notre Dame was basically crowdfund church to thank Virgin Mary that Lyon was not invaded during the Franco Prussian war.
  • Cathedral St Jean Baptiste: dates back to 1180-1480. Base of Cathedral sourced from stone from old Roman ruins aqueducts etc.
  • Cathedral St Jean Baptiste: Rose window dates from 12th Century. The window below destroy when German retreated in WW2.
  • Cathedral St Jean Baptiste: Astronomical clock dates back to 1383.
  • Lyon was once a great trading town: the greatest renaissance city after Venice.
  • Silk industry big in Lyon: The Jacquard Loom was a precursor to computer with similar punch cards.
  • Jacquard loom: only 5 left in city.
  • One cocoon spins 300-900 m silk.
  • Silk trade in Lyon collapsed after Suez canal opened. Farmers then switched to wine.
  • Lyon Old town: No a/c, lifts, car parks etc allowed as UNESCO listed since 1960s.
  • Traboules: narrow passageways from street to street under houses. They enabled French resistance in WW2; also the many cellars.
  • Neo classical Palais of Justice where leader of Gestapo Butcher of Lyon Klaus Barbie was tried. Jewish victims gave live testimony vs just written record at Nuremberg.


The walking tour finished down near Perrache and we went and had lunch nearby at Chez Mounier as this area was near the starting point for our 2 pm wine tour. There were 8 of us on the wine tour with our guide, Olivier. The tour went through the Cote Rotie area which translates to ‘roasted by the sun’ and we visited two vineyards. The wines were ok but rather expensive and so we didn’t purchase any bottles. Along the way we learned that the vines need to face south to catch the best of the sun and are better placed uphill as the soil is less water logged. Also, the oak barrels cost €800 and are used for up to 8 years and are then sold to whiskey distillery companies for around €50.

Our wine returned to the city by around 7 pm and so we headed home for another night in as we were both rather tired.



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