Lyon and Perouges
Perched high on a hill about 30 miles from Lyon is the charming hilltop city of Perouges. Since the beginning it has been a village of craftsmen, never under the control of a Lord. The simplicity and authenticity of the place are a huge part of the appeal. There are no relics, no imposing cathedral, no electric lines; just uniform timbered homes and quaint cobbled streets.
There is a wonderful old defensive tower, a fortified church, a sundial, a town square and numerous unique craft shops. You won’t find “made in China” French souvenirs here.
Perhaps the best souvenirs from Perouges will be the memory of a treat-a galette. Take thinly rolled yeast dough and cover with butter. Then sprinkle heavily with cinnamon and sugar. It’s better than a cinnamon roll and worth the side trip to Perouges. Butter literally dripped from my chin, delicious.
In Perouges (as in all medieval villages) the narrow streets have a dip in the middle to allow sewage to run down the street. Back in the day there was no indoor plumbing; you threw your waste into the street below and if you were polite yelled out a warning to those walking below before you threw it.
If you were nobility you walked on the “high” side of the street. If a noble person and a commoner met on the street the commoner had to walk in the sewage. A saying that began back then and continues today is that some people “think they walk on the high side of the street”. It’s a way to say someone thinks they are better than everyone else.
Perouges was voted one of the top 4 most beautiful villages in France by the French, and if you’re anywhere near Lyon I encourage you to take the time to enjoy its’ charm.
I don’t know how much you know about Lyon but that was the next stop on our southern France adventure. Lyon was also founded by the Romans and has interesting Roman ruins as well as several old city districts, each with a unique flavor. Lyon was historically known for silk-weaving but in modern times it’s known as the gastronomy capital of France, which means it’s the gastronomy capital of the world.
I love Lyon because it’s the heart of the French Resistance. Under the instructions of Charles de Galle the many groups of Nazi resistance fighters came together as a cohesive unit in Lyon and began coordinating their efforts against the Germans in WWII. The Musee de la Resistance presents a wide variety of interesting information about the movement and its history.
The most breathtaking building in Lyon is perched high on a hill overlooking not only the town but also the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers. The Basilica of Notre Dame is truly one of the most fascinating and beautiful I’ve ever seen.
Two complete churches exist within the awe-inspiring structure. There is a lower level church that is simple and serene, and then a second level that is an assault on every one of your senses. Combining Romanesque and Byzantine architecture, the upper level seems to be made of pure gold, stained glass, and light.
Locals call the Basilica the upside elephant because of the four spires that stick into the air like the four legs of an upside elephant. No matter what you call it, you’ll be glad you took the time to see it. If you can’t manage the stairs leading up to the entrance there is an elevator on the side for public use and free of charge.
We now leave the Rhone River and continue north on the Saone. More about our adventures on the Saone next week.
Joy Gawf-Crutchfield owns and operates The Joy of Travel.