One of my cousin’s workmates is from Marseille. When they told him they were going to spend a couple of days in Marseille, he was baffled why tourists would want to visit.
As we exited the train station, we were welcomed by panoramic views of the city. Unfortunately that was possibly the most impressive thing I saw in Marseille. The city is uber urban, has a big old harbour where tourists and locals alike flock to admire the sky changing colours at sunset but for some reason it just didn’t impress us.
We did a free walking tour in the hope to find the reason to fall in love with the city, but were left longing. The ornate architecture that I usually admire in European cities was scarce and most of the areas, including the main tourist spots, didn’t really feel safe.
After two nights in Marseille, we took an early train to Lyon and from the moment we arrived, we fell in love. The infrastructure made up of trains, trams, metro and buses makes the city easy to navigate. The buildings are impressively decorated with intricate details and the variety of food is enough to keep one going for months. The area around Rue Marciere is perfect to get tucked into the culinary spread of the city.
The network of traboules (secret passages) around Vieux Lyon (old town) were initially hard to find but once we found one, we started noticing all the others. One such secret passage is located at 54 Rue Saint Jean. It is such a cool concept and so much fun to navigate the old town through the labyrinth of these secret passages, a number of which are now unfortunately inaccessible because they have been turned into hallways of apartment blocks.
Another quirk that makes Lyon so special is its elaborate wall art. The best one of the lot is Mur des Canucs, that has been on the same walk since early 1980s and the painting has been updated twice so far to keep up with the changes within the area, including aging people that were depicted in the original painting. Such a cool idea to brighten up an eyesore of a blank wall!
Since we are traveling, it’ll be unusual if it were all smooth sailing and this last European stop of our trip was no exception. The first night we stayed in Lyon, we were startled by a loud knock on our door. When I opened the door, there was a very angry old lady who walked into our apartment and started yelling at us in French. I was trying to be empathetic, until she grabbed one of my nieces’ by the arm, at which point she was yelled at and asked to leave immediately by yours truly. A quick chat to our Airbnb host confirmed that she’s a crazy old French lady who has a habit of disturbing all their guests at least once. Here I thought we were special!