Lyon Walking Tour

On our second full day in Lyon we joined a free walking tour. It started with a look at one of the more well known boulangeries in the old town.

Many of the pastries that Lyon is known for are nut-based, like the slice of tart below.

Our much-too-large group then moved to Rue de Bœuf, home to several Michelin-starred restaurants.

Next we walked through some of the treboules, private laneways that cut under buildings and between city blocks. Originally created to let people reach the river more directly, these alleys were vital to the Resistance during the war.

They’re kind of hard to photograph but they often opened up into tiny courtyards or atriums where ancient stairs and passages could be seen.

We heard about the history of the city, from ancient times to now and looked at another of the huge murals. I couldn’t find a map anywhere online but our guide had an old one that I photographed in case any reader wants to see more of them.

Map-mural-Lyon-2018

We walked past an Irish pub and later Luke and I went back to have a croque monsieur each. The only other food the pub served was fish and chips and the bar tender talked and sang loudly to himself almost the whole time we were there. Appropriately mad, I suppose.

We probably saw and did a lot more on this day but I’ve left the writing-up for a week and now I’ve forgotten what else happened.

After a last meal out that evening we packed up our things ready to move on to our next stop – Nice!

Lyon

On our way to Lyon from Geneva we found ourselves asking… why are we going to Lyon? We’d had the impulse to add it to our itinerary so long ago that we’d forgotten why.

Lyon is the second biggest city in France and we knew almost nothing about it. Food seemed to be the main notable thing, according to the blogs posts I’d read and the YouTube clips we’d watched, although we were a bit hesitant about the bouchons, restaurants that served the local traditional fare – fare that used every part of the animal. Tripe, liver and all that sort of thing featured heavily but fortunately there were other things to choose from.

First we checked into our hotel, a Best Western that gave us a tiny room but it was air conditioned (thank god – Lyon was our hottest destination yet at 37 degrees each day) and the location was perfect. Just across the river from the old town and around the corner from many galleries and restaurants. Although, to be fair, if you’re in Lyon you’re near restaurants. The city has more per capital than any other city in France… maybe in Europe.

Our first impression of Lyon was very good. It is a vibrant city where things are in good repair and, despite the heat, we were keen to get out and see it so we took a walk to Les Halles for a look around the food counters then lunch – a croque monsieur (the best we were to have during our stay) and some French wine. A very nice waiter gave us some advice on what to see in the city.

On our first full day we used a Lyon Pass. €25 for 24 hours and it included all museums, galleries and public transport. Here’s what we chose to do.

1. A ride on a city explorer train-car thing.

Like a bunch of little carriages towed along by a little train thing. To be honest, I think they look stupid and probably annoy the locals but it was included in the pass so we took it. The commentary wasn’t great, the volume was too low but it wasn’t a bad way to spend 40 minutes while we waited for the fine art gallery to open. Also we got to see the largest mural in Lyon.

The city of Lyon commissions huge trompe-l’œil murals and they are fantastic. Unfortunately they’re pretty spread out so we only saw a few but they’re really worth seeing. I couldn’t find a map online so here’s a photo of one if you happen to go to Lyon and want to find them.

Here’s my favourite – the theme was books!

2. The fine art museum.

It’s on a plaza that has a terrific fountain. There are many terrific fountains in Lyon but in this one fine mist comes out of the horses’ noses and they look very fierce.

The museum has a pretty impressive collection that spans over 2000 years. My favourite of all was this one. A painting of a photography session is a pretty unusual subject and even though photography had a huge effect on realism, this painter captures a lively and detailed scene, which the photographer probably did not.

We didn’t look at everything because I can’t handle looking at a thousand paintings in one day plus we didn’t have time.

3. Confluence Museum.

Next we headed down to the southern end of the central peninsula to see the new Museum of Confluences. We didn’t really know what to expect, we had just read that it was an interesting building.

Which it was. Turns out it’s a science and natural history museum. Good displays and a surprising number of Australian Aboriginal artifacts. They were part of every single room and probably second in number only to French artifacts. If anyone knows why this is please leave a comment because we found it a bit odd.

4. Next we took a bus then a metro train to the Old Town to visit the Miniature and Cinema Museum. It was a bit of a strange one. Everything in it had been collected by a man who made miniature scenes but the majority of the collection was Hollywood memorabilia and every item was original and had been used in films.

Lighting from The Fifth Element, probably my favourite item.

There were whole scenes from Perfume in the basement, then costumes, models, puppets and animatronic creations. Some very old and some very new.

5. One of the last things we did was catch a funicular up to the church at the top of the hill behind the city. The funicular ran through a tunnel, which was a bit of a disappointment but the view over the city from the church was very good.

By this point I wasn’t feeling great and I’d also noticed a few people with dogs in the Old Town and they’d had tight muzzles on their dog’s mouths in the extreme heat. Dogs can’t cool themselves if they can’t pant and some looked quite distressed. I couldn’t say anything to these people because I didn’t speak French and this, combined with being tired and hot, really upset me. I’d had enough and even though Luke could’ve done more we ended up going back to the hotel for a rest.

In the evening we tried to fit in a river cruise but the boat wouldn’t go with less than 20 passengers and so we missed out. We took a walk through the old town and had dinner at a charming restaurant that was totally over the top in terms of decor but did lovely food and had a great waitress who spoke excellent English.

We didn’t end up going out for dinner until about nine pm and didn’t finish until eleven. Finally we are getting used to these late dining hours!

At many places in France a two or three course meal is offered for a set price so we had an entree, main and dessert but none were too big or heavy and it was very nice to sit over dinner for a couple of hours, especially in an air conditioned room.

Next: more Lyon and then we arrive in Nice.

Geneva: CERN

When I searched Pinterest for ‘things to do in Geneva’ not a single listicle/travel blog or article mentioned CERN. This was strange because it was pretty much our main reason for visiting, but I guess Pinterest darlings who like photographing themselves in white trousers with armfuls of designer-label shopping bags aren’t the sort of people who like to look at science stuff. Either way, it was to our advantage because there was hardly anyone there.

To get to CERN you take a number 18 bus/tram for about half an hour from the city centre. The trams in Geneva are the longest carriages I’ve seen anywhere and thank god they were fairly well air conditioned because it was another stinking hot day.

When we arrived at CERN it looked like there was a big wooden sphere and not much else. I had read that there were several displays open to the public and so we went in and it was one big room with pod chairs that played audio on various science subjects, interactive things and other bits and pieces. While interesting I have to admit that I didn’t really understand much of it.

The room transformed into a cinema with a short projection about the beginning of the universe and the mission of the scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider.

I had promised to send blog-responders a postcard from CERN and there was no place selling anything on the premises. This was weird because I’d read online that they had a gift shop so we googled it and followed the directions to a rather plain and official building about 300 metres down the road. From there we were sent back to the building that was across the road from the wooden sphere. Not only did this have the gift shop (17 postcards acquired since I decided to get one for everyone who responded and not just the first 10. You’re welcome!) but it also had many more displays on the work being done at CERN. I even sort of understood some of them!

There was a full-sized composite image of the bit that opens up where the smashing of atoms happens (I’m pretty sure that’s how they refer to it) and it was amusing to see that there were ‘Don’t step on this’ stickers on this multi-billion dollar instrument.

Our visit took a couple of hours all up. CERN do offer guided tours (you do not get to see the LHC) and I had set a calendar alarm to book one but it hadn’t gone off and we missed out so I can’t tell you if it’s worth doing. I think CERN is certainly worth visiting if you’re in Geneva, even if it’s jut to buy postcards for your nerdy friends.

Speaking of which, if you do buy postcards wait until you’re out of Switzerland to buy stamps – France and the UK have cheaper postage. If you’re one of the people who asked for a card you might have to wait awhile. I haven’t sent them yet (writing out that many postcards takes time) and my last cards took SIX WEEKS to make it to their destinations. Ridiculous.

In my next post: we are underwhelmed by Geneva… or is it just that our apartment is crappy and the weather is boiling? Or both?

Lauterbrunnen to Geneva by the Golden Pass Railway.

Before we left Lauterbrunnen Luke made a quick trip further up the valley to visit the Trümmelbach Falls. These are falls that flow through a mountain and are apparently so loud and violent that at times they can make the whole mountain vibrate! I’ll let Luke post about the details of it himself – I stayed at the hostel to pack up and I also wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it after having a panic at Saint Beatus’ Caves.

I might have had a little something in my eye when we left…

We left Lauterbrunnen at 10:30 and then had to sit on the platform at Interlaken for about an hour and a half waiting for our train to Montreux. Fortunately the day wasn’t too hot and so we read our kindles and ignored the man who wanted cigarettes and a lighter from Luke.

The Golden Pass, if you take it from Lauterbrunnen, is two trains. The first trip lasts an hour and isn’t terribly fancy but the second one, which was about two and a half hours, was on a train that had large viewing windows.

Please note the teenager looking at her phone and not the glorious views. I could see the chargrined look on her mother’s face.

We’d probably have been more impressed with the scenery if we hadn’t just spent a week in one of the most scenic valleys on the planet. Still, it was beautiful and worth doing. We’d sprung for first class tickets and bought ourselves a celebratory drink.

Wine with the train in the label is sure to be top quality, yes?

Dogs get to ride in first class too.

Our train stopped in Montreux, at the far end of Lake Geneva (or Lac Leman as the locals apparently call it) and so we then bought train tickets to Geneva. While we were in Montreux I sat at an Irish pub to mind the bags while Luke went to take a photo of the Freddie Mercury statue (he was from Montreux) and also to see a memorial where Deep Purple recorded Smoke On The Water. He didn’t find the memorial but found a statue dedicated to the man that the Deep Purple Album was dedicated to. Or something. I’m really not into rock and roll.

I admired the Belle Époque architecture that was evident, even if it had been somewhat ruined by unsympathetic development…

And bemoaned the fact that we had very clearly left German Switzerland. Everything and everyone suddenly sounded very French. Le sigh.

Onwards to Geneva.

We arrived at the main train station and, despite the heat, decided to walk to our apartment. The area turned out to be ok, despite having a slightly ghetto feel at first. The main problem was that Geneva was getting up to 34 degrees during the day and our apartment had no fan or aircon. When we messaged the owner he couldn’t help as he was in Zurich. It cooled down a tiny bit at night but as the windows only opened on one side there was no way to get the breeze in. There were also no curtains, just metal venetians that wound down on the outside.

Thirty five degrees in here at the end of every day. Great.

We’d never seen these before and didn’t realise until the second night that they could be wound down further to form a metal wall like a garage door, rather than just a grill with gaps. It’s kind of hard to explain but basically it was like an oven and I ended up sleeping with my wet scarf draped over me.

I like when my food looks better than Luke’s food.

On the plus side we had lots of motivation to stay out all day and for most of the evening. On our first night we explored the neighbourhood, found some good Lebanese food and planned our visit to CERN the following day.

Last Day In Lauterbrunnen.

We had left ourselves a free day in Lauterbrunnen to see things in the area that caught our eye. First up was a Swiss culture festival that was being held up a nearby mountain.

We caught the usual assortment of trains and cable cars and arrived at Männlichen on a bright and sunny morning.

It turns out that there’s nothing but a hotel, playground and viewing point at the top, plus a herd of cows with bells to make it all one hundred percent Swiss. You could hear everyone stepping out of the cable car station making ‘oooh’ noises because the scene was just so pretty.

Wildflowers everywhere, snow-capped mountains all around and Grindelwald visible down the valley in the distance. We took some photos and had a wander then made our way to the hotel, where all kind of Swiss things were happening on the deck.

Alpenhorn!

Whip cracking demonstration. I don’t know if it’s actually easy or he was just really good at it.

We watched for a while and took some photos but it was all pretty similar to the music we’d seen in the last two days so we headed to our next activity, a cog-wheel train to Schynnige Platt. Even though this train had been on the map as an activity, it had looked pretty short and so we expected it to go to a low plateau where the Alpine Botanical Garden was reputed to be.

It turned out to be probably the most scenic ride we took in our whole time there! The sides of the little train were open, which meant it was much better for taking photos and videos (no reflection) and it took about forty minutes to get to the top.

There was not a whole lot there but we had a quick look at the Alpine Garden and then sat and had some lunch at the hotel. It was a perfect day with amazing visibility and pleasantly cool at that altitude.

If you go up Schynige Platt go to the top level of the hotel restaurant.

We had thought about trying to make it to Trümmelbach Falls afterwards but ran out of time so Luke visited them the next morning before we left while I packed my bag.

View from the Schynige Platt railway

We were very sad to leave the Bernese Oberland. By far our favorite place that we’d visited so far and it had raised a very high (unfairly high, some would say) bar for Geneva to reach. I don’t often go to countries and think that I would happily move there but Switzerland makes the list. One day we’ll come back and see it in a different season and visit more of its cities. One day!

Postcard perfect Switzerland

View through the cable car station window.

Here Comes The Planet 72 – Krka National Park (2018)

Feeling like a miniature Plitivice Lakes, Krka National Park has one additional benefit, which is that it allows swimming! The water was too cold for me, but certainly not for the scores of tourists and locals who come here to cool off in the summer months. We were happy enough just wandering the paths, looking at the lakes and falls. 🙂

Click here to read Amanda’s entry about this part of our trip!

Here Comes The Planet 71 – Plitvice Lakes National Park (2018)

If you like waterfalls, you’ve come to the right place! Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is one of the top places to visit for any waterfall lover, and I’m sure you’ll see why. Lush surroundings abound, with plentiful falls of every size plunging in to lakes of turquoise water. The trails around the park are very well kept – and well trodden! All in all, one of our favourite spots in Croatia. 🙂

Click here to read Amanda’s entry about this part of our trip!