Lyon, France | Historic Traboules, Bouchons, and Silk

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Travel dates: July 26- August 8, 2022

The S.S. Catherine leaves the twin towns of Tain L’Hermitage-Tournon behind and sails 77km north reaching Lyon tonight. Captain Pascal skillfully navigates four more locks en route; Gergans, Sablons Vaugris & Pierre-Benite, docking at Quai Claude Bernard in Lyon, near the Pont de l'Universite bridge. Lyon is the third largest city in France, after Paris and Marseille, and the capital of both the Rhône department and the Auvergne-Rhône Alpes region.  We are nearing the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers.

University Bridge Lyon, France
Pont de l'Universite bridge             Image by Christie
We start our morning with a guided walking tour weaving through Vieux Lyon through a warren of cobblestone streets, exploring the secret passageways called Traboules.  During the 19th century these passages were once used to link courtyards, stairs, and homes to the Rhône River. They allow silk weavers to transport their precious silks in inclement weather. In the 20th century, some passageways were used as escape routes and hiding places during the German occupation. Today you can visit some 40 Traboules that are open to tourists but also used by residents as public corridors and community courtyards.  You can locate the Traboules route by the decorative signage, a bronze plaque with a lion’s head, and arrow pointing the way.   

Our tour of Lyon would not be complete without a stop at Brochier Soieries, an 1890 silk shop specializing in handcrafted silk fabrics, scarves, ties and other high quality made-in France products. The family is dedicated to keeping the 16th century Lyon traditional industry alive for multiple generations.
Brochier Soieries 1890 Silk Merchant Lyon, France
Brochier Soieries 1890

By lunchtime the river cruisers visit the elegant Lyon Halles Hotel Dieu for a tasting of local saucissons, bread, and wine. We continue our tour with a short bus ride to the top of Fourvière Hill where the Basilica of Notre Dame Fourvière crowns the hilltop and is dedicated to the virgin Mary and is a UNESCO landmark. The panoramic view looms over Lyon’s cityscape rising from the Saône River. Some say you can see as far as Mont Blanc.  

The afternoon is free, and many river cruisers reserved the Uniworld bikes to explore this pedestrian-friendly city. In a city of 4,000 restaurants and 15 Michelin stars, there is one place where every Lyonnais comes, the covered market, Les Halles de Lyon, bearing the name of world-renowned Chef Paul Bocuse. It is an incredible market with over 50 vendors, restaurants, and bars. It can be found in the La Part-Dieu neighborhood near Lyon’s main train station.

Although our meals are inclusive onboard the S.S. Catherine, one must not miss the Bouchons Lyonnais, small bistros, to lunch or admire on your visit. These pretty Lyonnais restaurants serve generous homestyle food, with artfully painted walls, checked tablecloths, and chalkboard menus. To find an authentic Bouchon simply look for the yellow plate with the face of Gnafron, a famous and witty Lyon hand puppet, representing the silk worker industry of France. No visit to Lyon would be complete without eating in a Bouchon which I will do as I stay in Lyon for additional days.

Late tonight we will sail 65km north to Mâcon, France the southernmost city in the department of Saône-et-Loire and the region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. Mâcon lies on the western banks of the Saône River.

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More To Know Before You Go via Uniworld (everything you need to know, tips, ports, transfers etc.)

Lyon Tourism Office


10 of the best restaurants in Lyon – chosen by the experts |Lyon holidays | The Guardian

Walking Tours in Lyon

Boating Techniques | Weather, Wind and Water Currents |French Waterways (french-waterways.com)

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Getting Around the Alpilles

 J. Christina is the author and owner of Scribbles and Smiles. Through our blog, we share stories of the wonderful discoveries we have made on our European travels. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Where Mr. Christie is right on board with their travel jaunts around the world sharing in their blogging endeavor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina.  Christie is traveling solo on this adventure, 2022.

After many years of intrepid travel, we thoughtfully unwrapped our treasure-trove of European travelogues, artfully sharing with a worldwide audience. Intentionally sharing the joie de vivre through our words and images, so others can travel vicariously. 

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