We were lucky enough to stay at the Villa Florentine, a building dating back to the marriage of Henri IV of France and Marie de Medici in the year 1600, which took place in the Cathedral Saint Jean Baptiste that is lit up so beautifully in the street below. The marriage joined the great cities of Lyon and Florence in the opulence and romance of the Renaissance period and the building has a destinctly Italianate vibe. A chapel dating to the 1700’s was added on the building and its elaborate and beautifully restored frescos frame the reception and bar areas of this hotel. It’s pretty beautiful to be honest.
After our hell-drive, despite being mainly great, through stunning countryside, past volcanos (yes in France, where does your swanky mineral water come from?) the last 30 minutes were pretty horrible. Long queues due to a badly smashed up overturned car, and a car nearly hit us on our final approach to the city, it was great to be in this tranquil place under its vaulted ceilings. Would you like a welcome cocktail and some macarons you say? Yes, yes I would!
The room itself was stunning but the views across all of old Lyon with the cathedral below were very special indeed.
We visited the cathedral (all the way down hundreds of vertical steps, Whitby Abbey is a mere training amble…) and it’s lovely. Street performers on the steps outside, view up to the golden spires of the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere. Plenty of pavement cafes to sit at and enjoy a well earned beer (all those stairs!)
The Basilique is worth a visit, it’s very blingy compared to the more spartan cathedral below. There’s a reason for this. The cathedral is the genuine article, the real deal. The Basilica is a bit of an overly gilt pretender, paid for with wealthy Victorian funds, as plaques around the walls bear testimony to the very many patrons. The interior, when taken as a work of art alone, is quite something, if anyone has visited Amalfi Cathedral then you won’t be far away with that for comparison. But modern displays of religious wealth are not to my taste, and overall this left me feeling a little cold. There are recently commissioned statues and paintings that are less than 10 years old. It’s just ever so slightly crass to me. But that’s me.
The views from the top over the city are stunning though, and there’s an amphitheater just around the corner that we didn’t get chance to see. Need another trip clearly.
Special mention needs to go to the Museum of miniatures and film props. It’s just wonderful. Just go. You need to. The ancient setting combined with the Idol from Raiders, the mask from V for Vendetta, the full sets from the movie Perfume (which I love -wierd as it is) and a full animatronic Alien Queen. Seriously – just go!
To do Lyon justice I think you need 4-5 days, but if you’re happy mooching and eating amazing food then you could easily make this a fortnights holiday without remorse. Go, enjoy. Then diet.