The Mole Diaries: Lyon

The Mole Diaries: Lyon

This article was written by Jordaine Hulse, published on 5th November 2011 and has been read 8163 times.

Jordaine Hulse is studying French and German with Spanish at Bangor University in Wales, and is currently on her year abroad in Lyon, France. She says she chose Lyon for two reasons: "I thought that going to a big city like Lyon would really give me the full experience of independence on my year abroad, and also Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France – and I love my food... so I felt that we would be a perfect match!

The city

Lyon is a fantastic city with so much to offer for everyone. No matter what type of person you are, you will find a home here! There are plenty of activities for the sporty among you (not me!) – don’t forget that ski resorts are practically a stone’s throw away. There are plenty of gyms, swimming pools and even two ice skating rinks for those of you who are a little more adventurous! If you are a football fan then you will know that Lyon has a fantastic football team which is one of the best teams in the whole of France. Lyon is a great place to go sightseeing, and if you are on a budget then you aren’t restricted as you can see most of the sights at little or no cost!

If museums and culture are your thing then Lyon has plenty of museums to offer – most of which are free or reduced prices for students, here are just a few!

Musée Gadagne: Find out all about the history of Lyon in this museum situated in Vieux Lyon. Free entry for under 26 year olds. Musée Gallo-Romain: A Roman artifact and history museum. Reduced fee for students or free for all on Thursdays! Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon: for those interested in ‘contemporary art’. Free entry for students in the Rhône-Alps region.

Places to go in Lyon

Vieux Lyon: The old part of the city. This is the main place for exquisite cuisine as there are many fantastic eateries all along the main street. (Check out Boulangerie L’Epiaison near the metro station: it has some of the best French sandwiches and desserts you will ever try!) Bellecour: The main hub of all activity in the centre of the city. Situated between the River Rhône and the River Saône, it is a vibrant place with many shops, restaurants, clubs and bars. Théâtres Romains de Fourvière: These are free to visit. You can walk around Roman remains and the two amphitheatres which are well preserved and still used for performances today! Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière: Situated at the top of Fourvière hill. You can see the statue of the Golden Mary from most places in Lyon. The basilica has stunning panoramic views of the city and is a must-see! Parc de la Tête d'Or: Not only is this a lovely serene park in which you can have picnics, relax or even cycle round – there is also Botanical Gardens and a zoo in the middle of it! Entrance is free. Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon: Beautiful Roman Cathedral leading to the lovely streets of Vieux Lyon Place des Terreaux: Large town square main features: Hôtel de Ville, a fountain and is near the famous Opera House.  Other places in the surrounding area: Geneva, Annecy, Grenoble, Marseille, Avignon, La Demeure du Chaos. 

Public transport in Lyon

As soon as I arrived in Lyon I had my first experience with the fantastic travel system! Lyon really does show you how brilliant public transport can be when done properly...

Metro – it is basically the French version of the underground. Except cleaner and less cramped! This network of trains runs under the city from 6am until midnight and is a brilliant way of travelling quickly. If this is just a flying visit then a ticket for an hour on the metro only costs 1€60 but if you are staying for your year abroad like me then it is well worth getting yourself down to the TCL office in Vieux Lyon for a student subscription, which is approximately 25€ per month! Well worth it for unlimited travel around Lyon. The wonderful thing about this pass is that you can use it for not only the metro but for the buses and trams too!  Trams & Buses – these are also cheap and easy to use! They are extremely reliable – which if you live in the UK is something that you may not be used to! They do go out of the inner city centre to outskirts or surrounding towns – in the case that you are going further afield these are perfect for taking you where the metro doesn’t go. Velo’v – these are bikes that are available all round the city at different stations. Velo'v are only a great way of keeping fit and saving the environment but they are also available 24 hours a day and are completely free for the first 30 minutes!

Jordaine’s Lyon survival tips

Passport photos are essential. Make sure you bring plenty! You never know when you are going to need them. In the initial period of getting set up here in Lyon you will be asked for your passport photo for things such as Metro pass, student card etc it is always handy to have a few with you in case you need them. This can also save you a lot of money – which means more money for year abroad spends!  Make photocopies of all your important documents. They are a must. If you are like me and very wary of taking your passport out anywhere in case it gets lost/stolen then having photocopies of your important documents are vital. I took several photocopies of my passport with me and many places such as the bank and accommodation were able to take a photocopy of my photocopy for their records, while my passport was safe and sound! The last thing you want to have on your year abroad is the worry of a stolen passport!  Bring plenty of toiletries. The essentials are the things here that I have found the most expensive to buy. Bringing your favourite shampoo or hair gel could also avoid disappointment and despair if your local Carrefour doesn’t stock it!  Don't forget sensible shoes! I learnt this the hard way...I was so excited about packing everything that I completely forgot about shoes. I had to buy some while I was out here and since then have been through several pairs of shoes at great expense. Take it from me, your comfiest and most waterproof pair of reliable shoes will become your best friend on your year abroad.  Get rid of those unnecessary bank fees! Any bank transaction abroad can cost you, after a while it all starts to add up. In order to save these costs you can get yourself a pre-paid travel card. I used the Thomas Cook Cash Passport initially, which was brilliant at first – like the majority of pre-paid cards I was able to top it up online, pay by card and withdraw money without any fee. However there was a limit to how much money I was able to put on it in a certain amount of days. Which meant paying for anything such as rent or a deposit was not possible as the amount I had to pay was higher than the limit. There are other alternatives that you can use such as the Caxton FX Pre-paid Travel Money Card or the My Travel Cash Card. Although always check if the country you are going to will accept these cards before you go!! Most places in Lyon accept these cards.  Set up an online bank account! This may go without saying nowadays but over here it is the best (and only) way of keeping track of your money, as the ATM machines will not show you how much money you have in your account.  Pack condiments. This may sound like a strange one...but when you have just moved into your new room and you fancy a meal, there is nothing more annoying than not having salt to go on your chips or sugar to go in your tea! You know all those sachets that your mum kept hold of just in case? Well these are going to come in very handy just about now!  My best piece of advice: The best piece of advice that I was given as I was about to embark on my year abroad in Lyon was to ‘avoid looking like a tourist’ and ‘act like you know what you are doing’. Thanks Dad! This is an invaluable bit of advice wherever you are and can keep you safe. You are much less likely to be a target if you appear confident and look like you know exactly what you are doing!  Make the most of the free newspapers. You can find these in the mornings at most metro stations or around the city. If you are on your year abroad then this is a free and easy way to practise the language and keep up to date on important news and information which is going on around the city of Lyon. 

My experience in Lyon

My year abroad experience in Lyon is fantastic! I think everyone should have the opportunity to take part in foreign travel. In Lyon you meet so many people not only French but from all over the world, who are going through the same things as you, and you can really learn about other cultures. Don’t get me wrong it can be a scary experience at first, and of course everyone has those down days where home just seems so far away but getting yourself out into Lyon, experiencing the culture and meeting new people will always make you feel better! Also the guys at Erasmus Lyon will help too: they are constantly organising events for Erasmus students around Lyon (such as picnics, nights out and other social events!) you can meet so many people if you get involved! Most importantly get out and about and enjoy the city of Lyon!

Our Mole Diaries are insider city guides written by students about their experiences, filled with top tips and recommendations. Please view our 200+ Mole Diaries arranged by language, and if you'd like to contribute, do find out more about becoming a Mole!

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