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Lyon to Valence – the roaring Rhone was really a pussy cat

 

Lyon4

Lyon from the west bank.

It is quite a while since we arrived Lyon with Melanie and Ayja. We had two days in the city before they left for Paris and flying home on July 4. To date Lyon is my favourite city in France, it is diverse, historic and architecturally fascinating. We were moored in La Confluence, which is, as the name suggests, at the confluence of the Saone and Rhone rivers.

Lyon3

Lyon was the ancient Roman capital of Gaul, the Roman colony of France that extended from the Mediterranean to the English Channel. There are Roman two amphitheatres on the Western side of the Saone, these are still used for concerts. They were setting up for a concert as we visited, but we arrived too late in day to get into the incredible Roman museum. Martin and I visited the museum about 8 years ago. It is full of artifacts; pottery, mosaics, coins, statues etc, much of which was familiar to me. As a kid I often visited, museums and Roman archeological digs in York (the Roman capital of Britain) so I had a good idea of how Roman culture looked. I was struck by the sameness of the artifacts, which points to the success of the expansion of Roman culture across Europe.

store in old lyon

 

Cathedral of St John

Cathedral of St John

First we visited old Lyon by taking the river bus from La Confluence. It is a very tourist area, with many fourteenth and fifteenth century buildings now housing stores and restaurants. This was the site of the silk weaving industry, which made Lyon a Renaissance hub.

There are two funicular trains rising from the river up the side of the cliffs that form the Saone gorge. The west bank of the Saone rises quickly above the river and provides a commanding view of the city if 800,000 plus people. We could see lots of landmarks to help orient us to the different areas of the city. We were also beside the incredible St John’s Cathedral, a relatively new construction (1890s, which has four gilded corner towers and a central dome. The inside of the Cathedral was decorated with magnificent mosaics covering all the inside walls.

 

la Confluence building2

Lyon furniture store

La Confluence has been revived with amazing new building; residential, commercial and educational. We spent a morning walking to the actual confluence of the rivers, where the Museum de Confluence is located. The amazing constructions invited a morning of photography.

Museum d Confluence

Museum of La Confluence

Melanie and Ajya took off across town one afternoon to visit the Modern Art Museum. Melanie, who is quite artistic herself, said that whenever she visits a new city, especially one as diverse and well serviced as Lyon, she heads to the Modern Art museums. So in London, for example, she would go to the Tate Modern as a preference. She and Ayja took the tram and bus system to the city park and zoo, and then they walked through to the museum of modern Art where they struck gold – the Yoko Ono retrospective exhibition.

la Confluence building4

la Confluence apartment  building

Melanie and Ayja returned in the late afternoon, and we went out for a fancy dinner a restaurant next to the marina. We were celebrating Melanie’s birthday on July 3 and their imminent departure, so Ayja ordered the wine J and we ordered some very nice food – mainly from the sea.

Happy Birthday Melanie

Ayja and Melanie left on Canada Day (July 1) – I hung a large Canada Flag towel on the from window, which was very visible around the marina, to declare our nationality and our national day. Canada may be a smallish nation when it comes to population, but pride does not depend on numbers, it depends on reputation and ours had been recently been rehabilitated by our new Prime Minister – M. Justin Trudeau. So flying the flag seemed very appropriate.

La Confluence buildings

After Melanie and Ayja went to the train station (Lyon – Part Dieu), Martin and I decided to follow their example and visit the Yoko Ono exhibition.

Yoko at 83

It was quite an honour to spend time in the company of this 83 year old artist. She is very prolific and extremely provocative. Her idea is that art is interactive and must make you question, be present and be positive.

St John of Liverpool

Of course her marriage to John Lennon and their history together featured in the exhibit, but as a classically trained musician (who knew) and artist she developed her own art both as a means to protest and educate.

The famous ‘Yes” installation and Half-life.

We left Lyon the next day – vowing to return to this lovely city, historic and innovative, industrial and beautiful, green and modern. We were now cruising downstream on the Rhone. Martin admitted he was somewhat nervous of this river after all he had read. It turn out to be quieter in terms of traffic than anything we had seen in Germany or Holland, and calmer as the winter run-off and June flooding were over, and we could navigate the Rhone with relative ease with a gentle 3 – 5km current.

Major lock

It is a wide river had been canalized in places and smoothed out by several large deep locks (some up to 12 meters). We were also warned about the Mistral – the wind (sometimes violent) that blows from the north and can effect the maneuverability of boats, but the wind did not come when we were cruising.

Leaving Lyon we went through the first 12 meter lock at Pierre-Benite in the highly industrialized area of the conurbation. The river turned into a canal “Allee du Rhone” to avoid the shallows and sandbanks. We rejoined the river 10kms downstream, drove passed the ancient city of St Romain-en-Gal and Vienne to our first stop at les Roches de Condrieu. The marina was a part of a recreational lake area on the Rhone and across from the wine region of Condrieu. This area is the home of Viogner dore vineyards which produce a fruity flora white wine. We, however, did not have time to tarry as we wanted to be in Valence a least a couple of days before our planned (ferry booked) departure date for the UK.

Condrieu

The Rhone valley is flanked by the Massif Central and the Alps so we began to get distant views of both as we moved downstream. There were numerous water-sport areas, camp grounds and recreational parks just off the main river and the canalized sections of the mainstream. This is where many French people go on holiday. Our next main stop was Touron-sur-Rhone and Tain-l’Hermitage, legendary wine stops on the river. We moored next to a wooden boat that was aground and tied onto a tiny dock on the Tournon side of the river. If we had gone any further into the marina we too would have been aground. Within an hour of our arrival a Quebecer sailboat we had met in Lyon, arrived at the port and almost did the same thing. The sailboat then moored up with us. There is a code amongst boaters that if you moor with someone then you cross to the land over the bow (front) of the boat. As all three captains were very seasoned, we all followed the rules. The Quebec captain was very experienced, as he had sailed a boat from Canada to France across the Atlantic three times!

l'Hermitage

L’Hermitage has one of the oldest vineyards in France, dating back two thousand years to Roman times. The hermitage was built after the Crusades when Knight Henri Gaspart de Sterimberg built a vineyard and left the appellation for hermits to tend after his death. An appellation is defined as the legally defined and protected geographic indication of where grapes are grown and wine is made e.g. Champagne. The vineyards are visible from the towns on both sides of the river. This is a favourite stop for the Rhone hotel boats where the passengers can wander the town of Tournon, cross the ancient suspension bridge and do a little wine tasting and purchasing in L’Hermitage.

This was our last stop before our destination of Valence. We travel down the Rhone through four major locks; 12 – 15 metres each to arrive at the Port du Plasiance at

Eperviere where we were looking forward to meeting friends and leave the boat for a month. This port is very well equipped with fuel, a boat lift, a super restaurant, bicycles and all manner of amenities. Martin had plans for the boat to be lifted out of the water to power-wash, scrape and paint the bottom. We were also waiting for our new bimini as that required a car trip back to the Canal d’Nivenais in Burgundy to pick it up. Once we arrived and settled in, we went out for a lovely dinner at the marina restaurant with our friends Mike and Jacqui and prepared for our long trip to the UK.

dinner with friends

 

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