We’re currently living at the bottom of a steep cliff in Lyon, France. Behind us is a sheer wall of rock about 170 feet, or 52 meters high. It comes crashing almost directly down from the area above with a gentle horizontal slope at the bottom directly into the Saône River.
In search of just the right cafe/bar for a morning coffee and croissant, I (Em) decided to thoroughly explore the various haunts in the center of town by the river. I found a couple of good ones—enjoyable, but my sense was there had to be more, there had to be a coffee bar that rivaled Riccardo’s in Fiesole. So I began my search. There was a staircase behind the apartment that climbed the cliff toward another house, but I thought it was private so had steered clear. However, my curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to explore.
With a heightened sense of adventure, I committed to no more than 10 steps up, and at least a high leaning peek around the corner. This is a technique I’ve perfected since my height gives me a decided “peeking edge.” Well, what do you suppose I found this morning? You guessed it—another stairway! This one turned, climbing further up the face of the cliff, beautifully hidden behind rock walls and old trees. My 10-step commitment was abandoned as I found another, and another. Before I knew it, I was standing at the top of a different world. There before me was another section of town that I didn’t even know existed. Sleepy. Quiet. Except for the Café/Bar/Restaurant I spied on the corner. It had my name written all over it (not really).
Stepping inside, I found a quaint little space that felt just right. A few people, not too many, and a friendly woman behind the counter, who I later learned was Anne-Sophie. The coffee and croissant were perfect, the people pleasant, and the atmosphere perfectly simple. I was anxious to show Cheryl my new discovery. Then I asked the fateful question: “What are your hours?” Sadly, they were closing in 2 days for the summer holidays—one entire month. “Holy coffee beans! How could that possibly be?” I muttered to myself.
Croix Rousse, is the name of the area, which means “russet cross.” It turns out that there are two parts to that historic district—one down by the river (which I had previously seen), and then the plateau section, which was my discovery of the day. The name comes from the 16th century stone cross placed there by the early Christians, carved from the local reddish-brown stone. The fascinating part, however, is that Croix Rousse has a twin peak on the other side of the river Saône, which is known as la colline qui prie (the hill that prays). That’s where the incredible Basilica of Notre-Dame di Fauvière looms over the city. La Croix Rousse, on the other side of the river was the center of silk manufacturing in Europe centuries ago. It’s still known as la colline qui travaille (the hill that works). Well, it was sure working for me that day—I was fascinated, but that’s not the end of the story!
Upon leaving the Café Belevue, Anne-Sophie suggested I swing by the market in town. I was shocked to think that a market within walking distance was currently underway in that sleepy burg, but trusted her recommendation. I started walking along the slowly curving road up into the town center. There, before me was the largest outdoor market I had ever seen before, stretching as far as I could see. The place was absolutely packed with people, and charged with high energy. They were selling everything from toothpaste to French “Barca-loungers” on one side of the street, while offering beautiful displays of fresh vegetables on the other. Incredible!
After wandering through the many wares and veggies, I settled at a shady sidewalk café for a delightful salad, fries and a beer (strange combination, I admit). When my fries were gone, I slowly made my way from the action packed center, back to the sleepy edges of town. I waved to Anne-Sophie with a thumbs up while rounding the corner. Entering the cliffside stairway, I began my slow rhythmic descent—capturing the meditative moment to count the steps.
At number 261, I had arrived at the front door of our apartment—totally exhausted. Just in time for an after lunch coffee. No way!
Note: There are a number of other stories we wrote during our time in Lyon. Simply do a search for “Lyon France” and you will find them all.