Lyon and the Auvergne

July 5-11, 2007

Because we had read a lot about Lyon and how interesting it was, we decided to take a one-week trip and find out for ourselves. On the way, we passed through parts of the Auvergne that we had not seen before. And because we had our 40th anniversary during that week, we also arranged for a special celebration.

Click on images to enlarge


We took a navette (shuttle bus) up this 1465-meter (4614 ft.) mountain, a former volcano near Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne. It doesn't look that high from here, as the plateau where the bus starts is already about 2/3 of the way to the summit. Private cars are discouraged because of the narrow road and limited parking, unless you're patronizing the restaurant at the top. Adventurous hikers (and there were many in evidence) can walk to the top.
Besides the restaurant and the inevitable souvenir shop, the summit also includes a broadcast antenna, a weather station and the remains of a Roman temple of Mercury. Paved pathways take you around the summit to see the spectacular views in all directions. On clearer days than when we were there, you supposedly can see Mont Blanc and all the way to Italy (from the center of France!).
Puy-de-Dome is actually the tallest of several extinct volcanoes in the area, called the Chaine des Puys. (Puy is an old Occitan word for hill or mountain.) In this view to the north, the white dots are a flock of sheep.
  Driving around the back roads nearby, we came across this sign. (Did they leave out a letter?)

Next morning, the descent from the plateau into Clermont-Ferrand gave us a great view of the city in the morning light. We didn't stop but went on to Lyon, expecting we would visit on the way back (but didn't).




The second largest city in France, Lyon is at the confluence of the Saône and Rhone rivers. It was called Lugdunum by the Romans, and their amphitheater is still in use for plays, stage shows and concerts. There's also an extensive museum of Gallo-Roman artifacts.
Old Lyon, in the part of the city west of the Saône, is filled with narrow medieval streets, interesting old buildings and chic shops cafés and restaurants. Rue St. Jean is the main street of the area.
  Overhanging balconies


Rue St. Jean   

A distinct feature of Old Lyon are the traboules, passageways that often are behind unmarked, non-descript doors and lead to inner courtyards, with staircase towers for access to the buildings other levels. Often they lead as well to other streets. During WWII, the Lyon Resistance is said to have made good use of these in evading the Gestapo. La Tour Rose Traboule courtyard tower Courtyard with restaurant and well

The Sun House is famous throughout France as it often appears as a backdrop in the popular Guignol puppet shows. Guignol's creator was a native of the area and lived nearby. Old Lyon's Puppet Museum unfortunately was closed during our visit.

   Maison du Soleil
14th century clock

The cathedral in Old Lyon contains an interesting astronomical clock from the 14th century. The 19th- century Fourviere basilica on the hill above is elaborately decorated in the style of that time.

Fourviere Basilica





While there was more to see in Lyon, we had to move on to Roanne, whose principal claim to fame is as home to one of France's best restaurants. We had reservations for  a special meal there, described on a separate page.

Back through the Auvergne


Maison du Pirou Rue du Pirou Thiers is a city noted for cutlery, especially knives. It also has an interesting medieval quarter, with narrow streets and half-timbered buildings from the 1400s-1600s.

The carved support beams are said to depict the seven deadly sins (one is out of the picture).

Maison du Sept Péchés Capitaux

Allier Valley from Usson In the nearby high farm country (over 1000m/3281ft elevation), we were very near where they filmed one of our favorite movies, Etre et Avoir, a delightful documentary about children and their teacher in a one-room rural school.

We then descended into the Allier valley, shown here from Usson, an interesting town built on top of an old volcanic plug.

The Auvergne has many old Romanesque churches. This one, in Issoire, has a striking exterior with very old carvings . Inside, the well-restored painted stone walls show how these churches must have looked like in the Middle Ages. Abbatiale St-Austremoine Abbatiale interior, Issoire

While the Auvergne isn't especially known for its wine, this street in Issoire suggests that they must drink a fair amount of it.

Rue Pissevin

Cantal and Beaulieu

Rainbows From the Allier Valley, we climbed back into the mountains of the Cantal. The rain was back also, and we had a double rainbow outside our hotel window that evening.

Next to the hotel was a chapel hollowed out in a rock.

Chapel, Fontanges
Salers, Cantal Salers is a picturesque mountain village with some interesting artisans, along with many tourist shops. The town is known for its particular style of  Cantal cheese.

From there, we drove through the mountains, often in the clouds as it was raining off and on.

Our final stop was in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, no longer in the Auvergne but just into the Correze near us. Yet another interesting old abbey church in a medieval town. This one has a notable carved entry and some impressive treasury items.
Beaulieu entry door Madonna, Beaulieu Houses and church, Beaulieu


to St-Martin-de-Vers page