by Thomas Abeltshauser
Lyon has a lot more to offer than Haute Cuisine World Heritag sites. There is certainly savoir vivre in France’s third largest city – in a multitude of ways.
The city between the rivers Rhône and Saône, which is not shy of famous sons, became famous mainly because of him: Star chef Paul Bocuse. For over four decades, the 82-year-old has been responsible for Lyon’s reputation as “ville de gueule”, the gourmet metropolis. The countless excellent restaurants, not least Bocuse’ four points of the compass Le Nord, Le Sud, L’Est and L’Ouest restaurants speak for themselves.
The calories talen-in by eating foie gras and other delicatessen are best to be burnt by exercising on the banks of the Rhône – on one of the countless rental bikes provided everywhere in town. The river promenade was enlarged in 2007 and extended by five kilometres featuring cycle paths and footpaths and are no fully accessible to everyone. There are a lot of restaurant and club boats moored here where there is always an evening program. They are also good for a coffee break or an aperitif in the afternoon. Or you can watch the guys in the skater park as they whiz through the halfpipe on their boards – even topless in summer. Right next to it, some retro-futuristic structures rise into the sky, which look like a scene from a 1970s science fiction comic. It is the floodlights of the open-air swimming pool.
The National Opera of Lyon is also worth a visit, not only because of the great view from the roof restaurant. The programme of opera is really diverse: Benjamin Britten’s “Death in Venice” after Thomas Mann’s novella at the end of May and the “La Traviata” production by director Klaus Michael Grüber, who died in 2008, in June are shown. There is ballet, modern dance and concerts. Outside the impressive entrance, a dozen boys usually practice their street dance – and for so long that the opera has brought them in at some point and is now promoting the best of them. They have become an integral part of the dance festival, which alternates with the art biennale.
The city also has a lot to offer in other respects, as the “Little Prince” inventor Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and the Lumière brothers were born in Lyon. The latter invented cinema in 1895 with their Cinématographe. There is a very interesting museum in their honour on the site of their former factory, where also contemporary film art is shown. The Nuits Sonores, an electric music festival that is taking place for the eighth time this year and has venues in half of the city, is a fixture in the calendar of every French techno fan. Disused factories, old houseboats, the Rhône open-air swimming pool: parties are everywhere, DJs provide the right sound or acts. Underworld, DJ Krush and Einstürzende Neubauten have all played concerts in recent years.
It is like a fair: the streets are full of young people, people are dancing and partying everywhere and the local gay scene is there as well. But even in winter, a trip to the city on two rivers is worth the effort. In December, Lyon celebrates the Fête des Lumières, the Festival of Lights, and the whole city is illuminated – from small candles that the Lyonnais place in their windows to impressive light installations illuniate the night sky. About four million people every year stroll through the alleys of the old town, fascinated . Unesco declared the two-thousand-year-old old town with its “traboules” a World Heritage Site ten years ago. The best way to experience these narrow, often dozens of metres long alleys, wedged between individual houses, is on foot.
You never have to walk far to find a café or bar. On the one hand, Lyon’s spread is limited naturally by hills and the two rivers, on the other hand, the city allegedly has the highest density of gastronomic establishments in the country. When you promenade hrough the old town, you see immediatly why. The third biggest city of France also offers quite a few gay bars Whether the bear bars Forum Bar and Station B, the trendy Booster Bar or the young disco United Café – there is something for all tastes here. The large disco La Chapelle is considered a multisex techno stronghold renown internationally.
Climbing the hill on the other bank of river Saône is definitely worth the effort. A wild, sexy crowd parties to house and techno beats under a Warholesque interpretation of the fresco from the Sistine Chapel in the old building. The Jardin d’Eden, the Garden of Eden of the estate, is made available in summer and you can have a barbecue or satisfy othere needs. When the sun rises on the horizon at dawn, you really think you are in paradise.
(Published in Spartacus Traveler 02/2009)
Official homepage of the the tourism board.
HOW TO GET THERE
Lufthansa offers direct flights to Lyon from Frankfurt and Munich. Eurowings from Dusseldorf. Air France offers direct flights form Frankfurt and Stuttgar. If you leave from other German airports you have to connect in Paris or Amsterdam. Tickets are available from 100 Euros
High-speed train TGV links Paris and Lyon in about 2 hours, www.sncf.com
Cour de Loges (2-8, rue du Boeuf) Classy eclectic high-class hotel in Renaissance buildings from 14, 16th and 17th century, www.courdeloges.com
Collège Hotel (5, place Saint Paul) Reasonably priced design hotel in the shape of an old boys boarding school with antique ‘mensa’ Très charmant, www.college-hotel.com
Le Patio des Terreaux (9, rue Sainte-Catherine) this gay-friendly mid-range hotel is only two minutes away from opera and town hall, www.lepatiodesterreaux.fr
Booster Bar (22, rue Serlin) Trendy gay bar, home to party folk, expecially busy on weekends, www.boosterbar.fr
Broc’ Bar (20, rue Lanterne) Nice gay bar offering a small and quaint terrace.
La Chapelle Café (8, quai des Célestins) Chic café belonging to the club empire. Not only worth a visit as stop to wait for the club shuttle, www.lachapelle-lyon.fr
Les Feuillants (5, petite rue des Feuillants) THE gay in-restaurant in town offering excellent French cuisine.
La Chapelle (60, Montée de Choulans) Large club in an old church. Regular parties with international DJs, but generally a large gay crowd, including a lounge and an outdoor area in summer, in Garden of Eden.