One of my favourite things about my life in Lyon was my neighbourhood. I lived on a quiet little street, just off the Boulevard de la Croix Rousse. This street separates the 4th arrondissement (the plateau) from the 1st (the pentes or hill). Although my apartment was actually right at the top of the hill, it was just at the end of the 1st. This quarter, Croix Rousse, is nicknamed la colline qui travaille (opposite the hill that prays, which we explored the previous day) because of the numerous silk workshops that were relocated from Vieux Lyon in the 18th Century.

These workshops are the reason for the unique architecture in the area, including the beautiful tall ceilings in most buildings. The ceilings had to be tall to accommodate the very large Jacquard looms, making for beautiful, light-filled apartments now. Things weren’t so great for these silk workers (canuts) back then though – their working conditions were horrible. The subsequent revolts are a big part of Lyon’s history.

Day 2 Itinerary

In many ways, this neighbourhood reminds me of the Plateau in Montreal. The area & its people have a reputation as being different from the rest of the city & in many ways it feels more like a village than part of a large city. So, on our second day in Lyon, we set out for Croix-Rousse first thing. This was one of the things I was most looking forward to in Lyon: giving N a glimpse of my life here in 2008. 

Silly Memories from 2008 in Croix Rousse

Exploring Croix Rousse

We were staying near Place Sathonay, which I had often frequented while living in Lyon, so I took us up my regular route. Most people would take the Montée de la Grande Côte, as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but my tour would take us back that way on our way home. This way I could show N the stairs at Montée de Vauzelles too. My parents wound up taking them when they were looking for my apartment on their last visit so he’d heard of them before. I even made him take a picture of me at the bottom before we started our climb. (I’m sure he thought I was a little odd getting excited about a set of stairs, but memories, friends.)

The top of the stairs connects with the end of Rue de Vauzelles, & my former building is pretty much right in front of you at 13. Not much had changed from when I lived there, besides a little extra graffiti. Even the view of the Basilique de Fourvière was just as I’d remembered it.

Croix Rousse Market

Giddy to show N the rest of my neighbourhood & hit the market, we only stayed long enough to take a picture in front of my building. The Croix Rousse market is by far my favourite. Located less than a block from my apartment, I spent many a morning browsing everything from fruits & vegetables to fresh cheeses & charcuterie. There was even a fish monger on the corner of my street. I was happy to discover that not much had changed. The fish monger is still there & most of the market’s stalls seemed to be in the exact same places. The market runs from Tuesday to Sunday, giving you ample opportunity to check it out if you’re ever in Lyon (& I highly recommend that you do.)

The fish monger on the corner

We’d hoped to grab a croissant or something quick before making the climb to the boulevard, but it being Sunday, everything was closed. We probably should have grabbed something the night before, but six years makes you forget how quiet things can be on a Sunday. It always takes me a few days to get back into the rhythm. Being one of the most popular days for brunch at home, it’s easy to forget that’s not the case in Europe. We found a little café serving breakfast & had a very French start: tartine, fresh pressed orange juice, & coffee. It won’t keep you full for long, but I knew we’d be picking up an assortment of delicious things at the market so I wasn’t worried.

Picnic Lunch

Satiated, we strolled back through the market, picking up cheese, meat, & a baguette from different vendors. My favourite is always the cheese. Cheese is plentiful & relatively cheap (compared to the prices we’re used to) in France. We had no trouble finding three to try. 

L’Arome de Lyon was one of my picks. I’ve never seen it anywhere else so, when I spotted it, I knew I wanted N to try it. From what I’ve read, it is a goat cheese soaked in brandy & then covered in grape skins, stems, & seeds. If you’re up for something different, I highly recommend giving it a try. (I’ve mostly learned all of this from google, but Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook has a good review also.)

N was enamoured (bordering on obsessed) with all the saucisson sec. He wanted to buy it all. We were a bit limited by our lack of utensils so we chose a chorizo. If he’d had his way, I’m sure we would have bought four or five others. We’re both suckers for good quality charcuterie.

This abundance of incredible saucisson sec spurred the first of many discussions about how we could possibly move to France. His plan is to learn to make saucisson sec & start our own business. Once we figure it all out, we’ll import cheeses too. It sounds quite delicious. I’m totally game!

There’s a little park at the end of the boulevard so we headed that way with our finds: 3 cheeses, spicy cured sausage, prosciutto, & baguette. It doesn’t look like a lot, but we barely made a dent in our lunch before we were full. I love this kind of lunch in Europe though. It’s so easy to save for later & perfect when you’re on a budget. (Not that we were on much of a budget. We just love this type of fresh cheese & charcuterie & it doesn’t get fresher than this!) When we finally called it, we just wrapped it all back up & stashed it in my purse.

Canuts – Silk Weavvers

For some reason I can never remember exactly where Le Mur des Canuts (the silk weaving neighbourhood mural) is, so we wandered around in the general area for a while before stumbling upon it. It’s always a little further east than I expect.

Lyon is quite well-known for its murals all over the city. This one honours the silk workers in the area. Every so often, the murals around the city are updated & you can see the older versions of this one on the wall beside it. The version I was most familiar with before this trip, was done in 1997, but when we arrived I realized that it looked a bit different. They’d added some greenery to the building on the right & the people looked different. I thought it was just my memory, until we read the plaques & realized this version was from 2013. I think the coolest part of the updates is that they age the people in the murals, so that was why they looked different to me. The people in the version from 2013 are 15 years older than the original & those in the 1997 version are 10 years older. 

in 2008
This year

The streets on this hill wind back & forth, like switchbacks on a mountain, which explains the need for the famous traboules in this neighbourhood. Traboules are famous all over Lyon & we’d be seeing more of them on our tour of Vieux Lyon later, but the ones in Croix-Rousse were built at a different point in history so they are unique. I showed N one of my favourites as well as Passage Thiaffait, the lookout above the montee de la grande cote, & a much quieter montee than the previous night. (Here‘s a little more information about these traboules. I’ve done this tour before as well.

We showed up for our tour in Vieux Lyon a bit early, so we had time to grab a drink at a funny little café in front of the Cathedral. The owner kept coming out to tease us, which is pretty amusing to translate to your english-speaking husband.

I’ll talk a bit more about the traboules in my next post. In an attempt to split up our day in Lyon & keep my post shorter, I managed to still ramble on for far too long. One day I’ll figure out how to concisely write about travel. Maybe. (Doubtful).