My goal was to look at the route from Dijon to Lyon via Cluny and see the great ruins of the Monastery of Cluny. That was achieved ahead of time but I had it in the back of my mind to try and push on past Lyon in the direction of Chambery.
Now Chambery was simply too far in the time allotted as I would have to back track to Lyon to catch my return flight to Dublin.
I always like to trust in local knowledge and if I were to get out of Lyon on my bike I would need a route that was safe. The solution was staring me in the face – a local suggested a bike path along the Rhone! I was a bit sceptical as this would mean heading north when I really wanted to go east but knowing the river looped south later that it might be worth exploring for future trips.
The Saone and mighty Rhone meet in Lyon, the city is defined by these two great rivers and the advice was to get onto the east bank of the Rhone, follow it to the Pont (Bridge) Winston Churchill and cross back to the west bank where I was assured there was a bike path.
Now there is a renowned bike path from Geneva to the Med, along the Rhone, but unfortunately it was on the eastern side and I was on the wrong bank!
On the wrong side of the Rhone
Nonetheless I was following a rough path and was pleased with my progress. But for future reference, the path to follow is on the eastern bank.
For cyclists this can be a good way to get from Lyon to relatively close to Chambery. Worth investigating further.
There is a good website where you can download gps tracks – the ViaRhona.
It wasn’t a wasted day, it actually turned into a significant one with a visit to the beautifully restored village of Perouges, adjacent to Meximeux. Bit of a climb into the village but well worth it.
Maize hung from the rafters; used to keep flies outside
Street in Perouges
15th Century, Sainte Marie-Magdalene
Reluctantly I could go no further than Peruges/Meximeux and headed back by train (French trains are so bike friendly).
Heading back to Lyon though was a great way to finish this little bike journey. I didn’t appreciate in September how much I actually got done or how enjoyable it was.
Museum of Minatures, Lyon
There’s something about making a journey under your own steam, whether by bike or walking that makes it more meaningful. It’s a great way to really see the country in which you are travelling and lets you empty your head and just be in the moment. Add in the sights, sounds and history and it’s a pretty good way to go!
Lovely to see independent retailers thriving in Lyon
After four good days of cycling it was nice to have time off.
Lyon is one of the few cities I would like to revisit. I was well impressed – the old city invites you to explore every nook and cranny. There’s a story behind every sight. New and old.
I suppose the entrance to the city along the Saone river bank made for a pleasant introduction to the third largest city in France. The meandering Saone had me pushing harder on the pedals to see what was beyond the next bend. And suddenly I was in the centre.
Small shops alive and well and full of colour.
It’s a city dripping with history, with colour, and full of friendly people. It would take at least three days to really get to grips with it.
Some of the highlights for me were finding the hidden Traboules. These famous covered passageways which lead from one street to the next via corridors through residences, superbly hide renovated architectural treasures: inner courtyards, covered Italian archways and spiral staircases. They were originally built I believe to allow the silk workers (canuts) get from their workshops to the merchants without their beautiful silk work being damaged by rain. Some of the earliest worker revolts were by the canut workers of Lyon. And they were used to great effect during the Second World War to stop the Germans gaining complete control of the area.
Traboules of Lyon
Secret passages known only to the locals (or those with guide books!)
And of course Lyon is considered the food capital of France – an accolade not easily won! At night the city streets are alive as restaurants spill out on the pavements and are thronged with locals and visitors alike. Terrific food and a great place to simply people watch!
Pot of mussels (probably Irish!)
Food Capital of France
Well worth the extreme effort of climbing all the steps is a visit to the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere. It’s a helluva climb but it is stunning and the views down the hill across the city are breathtaking. And it’s a beautiful sight from below.
Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere
Everyone to their own. These guys enter aimed me for a good hour – they are super fit!
The name was a give away. Belleville. Not very imaginative. Still it got me back on track to return to Lyon and seeing as it was the 7th September, the only hope I had of seeing the All Ireland Hurling Final between Kilkenny and Tipperary was if I could find an easy way into Lyon, the third largest city in France, where I might be able to find an Irish bar showing the match.
Getting in and out of cities by bike or walking is always tricky, either the roads are packed with traffic or you find yourself picking a way through ugly industrial zones.
Once I crossed the Saone my plan was to turn south in Montmerle sur-Saone on the D933 and try get as far down that road as possible. Not much further on was Messimy sur-Saone which was having a Sunday morning market and As I dodged my way between the stalls I took a side street that led down to the banks of the Saone.
It was an easy way to escape the crowds and I quickly bypassed the Town to try and rejoin the road. Looking at the riverbank it seemed that there was a walking path heading out of town and I decided to give it a try. 60kms later I was in the heart of Lyon!
The path was magnificent; it wasn’t really developed – in places there was a gravel path, other places a grass path and it passed through towns and villages, big and small, without any signage or indication that it would continue much further.
This is an ideal walking route for pilgrims heading for Lyon; no traffic, peace and solitude, towns and villages nicely spaced and flat too!!
The Saone is a mighty river here and unlike a towpath along a canal, the riverbank was windy and interesting all the way. With the sun overhead I couldn’t have asked for an easier or better way to enter Lyon.
When I reached the town of Saint Bernard I reckoned I should ask directions for the best way into Lyon and was promptly advised to cross the Saone and follow the main road south….I was assured it wasn’t possible to continue to follow the river.
I did and I was glad I trusted my own intuition.
And I did find an Irish Bar. The only people there were French and they were watching rugby. Funny thing was there was a black and white photo on the wall of Kilkenny and the use of sign language persuaded the bar man to flick the channels. We found the match as the sliotar was about to be thrown in!
Lyon was so much better than I expected. Worth a lengthy stay in it’s own right. I was ahead of schedule and I tried to bring my return flight forward but at €350 to change I decided to hang around!
Cluny disappointed. I stayed in the Hostel and found little in Town regarding pilgrim routes nor any sign a fellow pilgrim.
Still I now had a day ahead on the Camino route, a badly marked one at that. But it didn’t disappoint. If I longed for hills since I arrived, I had plenty of them now – nothing extraordinary but twisty windy ascending roads that put the body under pressure in the early morning sun light.
This was more like it. Very rural, very like the West or South of Ireland, minus the rain!
The simple Chapelle de Vaux.
It was heavy going for the next few hours, but the roads were quiet and the views were rewarding after each bend was rounded and hill crested.
The only Camino sign I saw for the rest of the day was on the side of the church in Ouroux. It was uphill all the way from there as I now headed back towards Lyon. The highest point was the Col du Fut, Avenas at 743m. I was never so happy to finish a climb! It was particularly difficult but I was just shattered – really need to be in better shape doing this.
The views east across the plains were a welcome sight – it was going to be all downhill for the next 20kms!
Monument to the War Dead Col Du Fut, Avenas.
It was back into the grape growing region to Belleville. It had nothing to offer and was probably the most lifeless place I’ve ever stayed on a bike. Pass on through or stop in Ville Morgan a few kms beforehand if you ever come this road.
Over the top at Col du Fut, Avenas. One side of the mountain range is very like Ireland, lots of green fields, hedgerows, mixed farming while down the eastern side the vines reach up along the sides of the hills soaking up the sun to produce the great wines of the Burgogne.