A walking tour of Vienne
We docked at Vienne the following day equipped with our audio guides and enjoyed a great walking tour accompanied by a local guide. One of Ancient Rome’s most powerful outposts, Vienne has the best-preserved Roman amphitheatre in France that once held 14,000 spectators. We walked to the Gothic cathedral of St Maurice, which was followed by a mooch around the garden of Cybele which is dotted with Roman remains.
There was also an optional Segway tour of the town which looked fun. I especially enjoyed the impressive Temple of Augustus and Livia with its mighty columns. If you walk down the street behind this majestic edifice, you’ll find delicious chocolate on sale at the Panel chocolatiers. Our taste buds tickled by the rich cacao, we returned to the boat for lunch and the onward sail towards Lyon.
Hotel de l’Abbaye in Lyon
All too soon our cruise was at an end, and we disembarked in Lyon, but I highly recommend staying an extra day or three to explore this fascinating city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I stayed at the Hotel de l’Abbaye located on Rue de l’Abbaye d’Ainay, ideally located minutes from the River Saône and the Passarelle footbridge leading to the Old Town.
This refined four-star boutique hotel opened this summer and offers 21 air-conditioned bedrooms on three floors. Interior design duo Pierre-Emmanuel Martin and Stephane Garotin from Maison Hand, have successfully retained the period charm of the building, thanks to a constant interplay between past and present.
Designed in the style of a family home, the rooms here are compact and beautifully styled with light-filled mullion windows, and period and modern furniture adding to the chic effect. The hotel’s 21 bedrooms are located on the upper floors, each of which has its own ambiance. The first floor is infused with a 1970s flavour, the second floor with Maison Hand’s signature contemporary style, whilst the third floor has a more shabby chic appeal.
Choose a corner room for dual vistas of the St Martin d’Ainay church opposite. The public areas include a smart lounge, breakfast room (the buffet selection was superb), as well as a small café/bar area. The in-house restaurant l’Artichaut has 45 covers and serves fresh cooking in season sourced mainly from local markets.
I explored the cobblestone streets around the St Jean Cathedral, the Basilica of Notre-Dame and the Palace of Justice, and enjoyed coffee and cake just off Place Bellecour. The funky funicular takes you to the top of Fourvière Hill for the best views across Lyon, while the city’s famous traboules passageways remain part of this area’s medieval past, as they wind through the many courtyards.
Bouchon Les Lyonnais
Later that evening my friend and I enjoyed dinner at one of Lyon’s most well-known bouchon: Les Lyonnais. The bouchons restaurants are part of Lyon’s heritage, started in the 19th century by working mothers, such as Mère Fillioux and Mère Brazier, who prepared home-cooked simple meals in their cosy restaurants.
The menu at Bouchon Les Lyonnais was superb, as was the rustic atmosphere. I savoured my delicious pike soufflé in lobster sauce, whilst my friend tucked into her duck leg confit. Praline tart, rum baba, ice cream and the home-made chocolate cake were all tempting, but we settled on a digestif and coffee.