The Hidden Passageways of Lyon

Girl visits third largest city in France. Decides she wants some nature. And some information. And some company. So signs up for the 1015 tour of the Parc de la Tête d’Or that meets at her hostel. 

Only one other person shows up for the tour: Michelle is an American from Colorado traveling Europe solo for a few weeks. Ahhhh. A like-minded soul. 

American women enjoy the sights in the largest urban park in France, opened the same year as New York’s Central Park. (Apparently there was a worldwide movement that decided cityfolk needed exposure to nature.) 

Entrance gate


Learn the park is home to 30,000 rose bushes. 350 species of them, in fact, totaling about 5 million roses. Popular spot, therefore, for wedding photos. Reminds girl of the Italian Gardens at the Vanderbilt mansion in her hometown– which also has a rose garden that is popular with the newly wed.

 Park is home to a free zoo. And a small, circular cage that once used to house one very lonely bear when the zoo first opened. Thankfully, zoos have come a long way since then.  


 When tour is finished, girl has that moment many single travelers do upon meeting a fellow single traveler. “Would other single traveler like to spend some time seeing some other sites with me?” Girl knows most single travelers enjoy meeting and spending time with others on what can sometimes be a lonely trip. So as expected, the question is answered with a yes. 

 After lunch at the same place she dined alone yesterday, girl and her new friend head out to hunt for the “traboules.” Traboules are hidden passages that connect one or more buildings. Historically used in the old city to get to the river, and in the silk district to keep the silk from gettinng stolen or damaged outside in the elements while it was being transported to the river, they were subsequently used by the Resistance during World War II to store weapons, to hide Jewish people, to keep many things from the eyes of the Nazis as the passages were not mapped at that time. 

The two American women have a map and addresses. The first three doors they arrive at are locked. Then, they see someone else enter by pushing small button beside door. Now the world of the traboules opens up to them! 

Heading into a traboule

I knew “Porte” meant “door” but just thought this was how you called the people who lived in the apartments above!


Women enjoy one of the main benefits of traveling with someone else: getting their picture taken to share with friends and family.

Inside a traboule

In a courtyard looking up

People that live in these buildings head up the stairs to head home.

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Camino training–in Lyon

I think the best practice for the Camino is traveling around Europe the week prior. More specifically: Go to Lyon and head towards the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière at the top of the hill. See some stairs and think, “They don’t look that bad.” Get to the top of the stairs, and find even more stairs. Think, “Well, at least this is good practice.” Get to the top and see even more stairs. Feel your body responding to hundreds of stairs in 95° weather. Start cursing yourself. Figure it’s too late to turn around now. How much longer can it be? A lot longer. Climb more stairs. Wish you had counted the number of stairs so you could brag about it on your blog. Stop to catch your breath. Take a video to try to show how crazy this is. Video does not do it justice.


 Finally get to the top and see a map of said stairs. Think to yourself, “Why wasn’t this map at the bottom of the stairs?!” 


Check the Internet when posting your pictures that evening. Find that it was 798 steps. Be proud of yourself. Brag to your friends on blog.

A few minutes later: Girl walks up to the door of the Basilica Norte Dame de Fourvière. Sees the sign that says “tour decouverte” (discovery tour) to the left. Sees that the sign also says “tour insolite” to the right. Looks up the word insolite. Finds that it means “unusual.” Heads to the right.

 Finds that the tour starts in 30 minutes. Reads that the tour provides 360° views of the city. Realizes that’s more stairs. Wants to go anyway. Sign says one should sign up online. She doesn’t have internet access. Walks inside of the basilica. Stops and stares at the blue and gold mosaics covering the ceiling. Catches her breath. Confirms that if she waits by the sign outside, she may be able to go on the tour. Heads back to the sign. 

Twenty-something English-speaking girl approaches. Visiting from the US — thanks to a $3000 grant her college offers for students for summer travel.

Learns the tour guide only speaks French. Is able to follow not even half of what she says. But it’s all worth it for the views. And the opportunity to have dinner with the American girl who, two weeks ago, stepped on a plane for the first time. To head to Europe for the first time. Alone. 


 Acknowledges that the girl’s troubles the first week were all normal. The loneliness. The getting lost. The wondering if it’s a good idea. Wondering if one should head home. Tells her she still has these feelings after 20 years worth of traveling–alone and with others. Hopes she’s convinced the girl it is worth doing. Again. Because at the girl’s college, she can apply for that $3000 grant again next summer.

Sarah and I: Note the Basilica waaaaay up on the hill behind us.

View from dinner with Sarah. Place St-Jean.

Things Remembered or Learned in Madrid

Things I’ve learned or recently recalled:

1) Do not wear convertible hiking pants through airport security. Zippers. Snaps. Don’t do it.

2) Fly home via Dublin if at all possible. They do US customs at the Dublin airport, so you just walk off the plane as usual when you arrive back in the US.

3) The people playing music in the street here aren’t your typical singer/guitar player. Tonight it was three violinists and three cellists!


4) To keep people cool on a 95 degree day in a city where most people walk, cover the streets with parachute type things.


5) When Michael’s not with me, I can spend as long as I want taking pictures. And seeing museum exhibits. (In this case, the museum of the Almudena Cathedral and pics from the dome of said cathedral.)


6) And something I remembered from my Camino with Lois: the pics you most look back on are the ones with people in them. Specifically yourself and/or friends you meet along the way. (And that you should show them no matter how bad you think you look in them. In this case, it will help you remember that it was 95° the day you first saw Madrid.)

7) Not all big cathedrals were completed before my birth. This one was finished in 1993 and so has some colorful modern touches in addition to the traditional.


8) How much I love traveling. And how the best way to see all I’d like to see is to live here. Some day. Sooner rather than later.