Our visit to Lyon began with a walking tour through the city. The included excursion was a bus tour with occasional stops; however, we spent five hours in a bus the previous day, so JJ, Karen, Candy, and I elected the optional “trek” tour. We did not regret our choice.
Lyon is located at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers. The Saone ends here, and the Rhone continues. Lyon was originally built in 43 BC by Julius Caesar and was called Lugdunum. It later became the starting point of a Roman road and, for a time, was the capital of Gaul. During the time of Louis XI (1461-1483), annual fairs were held here that drew merchants from great distances.
The Croix-Rousse district of Lyon was the heart of the 19th-Century silk trade. Silk merchants used covered and enclosed passageways between buildings for safe passage to the markets.
During WWII, approximately 4000 citizens of Lyon were killed, and another 7500 deported to concentration camps by Klaus Barbie, the “butcher of Lyon.” Barbie was sentenced to death for war crimes in 1952 and 1954 but wasn’t extradited from Bolivia to face life in prison until 1987. Lyon is reputed to be the heart of the French resistance movement that sprang up when the Germans invaded Vichy after the Allied landings during Operation Torch in North Africa. I asked one of our guides if the Resistance movement conducted active military engagements or focused on intelligence gathering that later aided the Allies, but the answer was unclear.
The highlight of the walking tour, and something not in the included bus tour, was a stop at a silk shop. The guide said that one of the French kings wanted to create silk production in France and permitted Lyon to start the business. Italy had been previously the European producer of silk in the West. These are the only silk looms in Lyon that are open to the public. The look used punch cards to control the weaving. The looms still work. The owner, a descendent of the inventor of the Jacquard loom, said it takes a skilled worker all day to wave 4cm of silk. The process of drawing an image on graph paper, creating the punch cards, and using the cards to weave intricate images was fascinating.
This concluded the walking tour. We returned to the boat for lunch and then departed on our bus journey to Peroughes, a medieval walled village about an hour outside Lyon.
We took a bus ride to the medieval town of Peruges in the afternoon, about an hour outside Lyon. The guide walked us around the village and gave us a little time to explore on our own.
There is an old church in the center of town. Our guide said that some famous opera singer really likes the acoustics in the church and has recorded two albums there. Our guide then proceeded to sing a medieval tune that was masterful.
Day Twelve (Tuesday) – Beaujolais Wine Country
We boarded buses to head to a nearby vineyard to learn about the product of Beaujolais wine, the prevalent wine in this part of France.
The next morning we again boarded buses to head to a vineyard. Along the way, we stopped in the town of Beaujeu for a rest and an “opportunity” to shop in a gift store. In town was a very nice little church that was surprisingly ornate inside.
That night, Phillippe and Caroline provided the on-board entertainment covering Edith Piaf’s songs. About a year ago, I discovered Edith Piaf on Pandora on the French Cooking Music channel. Caroline sounded just like her.
Day 13 (Wednesday) – Vienne, France
We arrived in Vienne, France, after dark. I took these pictures from the top of the ship.
In 47 BC, Julius Caesar transformed Vienne from a Celtic city to a Roman colony. Vienne sits at the confluence of the Rhone and Gere Rivers and was an important trading outpost for Rome. Many of its Roman monuments remain, including the Temple of Augustus, two amphitheaters, and some portions of the Roman circus.
JJ, Karen, Candy, and I walked up to the top of Mont Pipet above Vienne. It was a bit of a climb, but not too bad. From there, we had excellent views of Vienne and the Roman amphitheater.