Lyon has been my home for more than 14 years now. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere and it’s truly the place I call home.
I first visited the city about four years before I moved here in the early winter of 2002. Even then I adored the city, the way that it was big enough to allow me to discover new things almost every day but never so large it felt overwhelming. I would wander the streets and the parks, explore alleyways and lanes in the old city, slip on the cobblestones when they were wet, and stride up the slopes of the Fourviere and Croix Rousse to look out onto the cityscape spread below.
Lyon is a city of two hills and two rivers.
The hills are traditionally referred to as ‘the hill for praying’ and the ‘hill for working’. The former refers to Fourviere with its basilica and abbey and the latter to Croix Rousse, traditionally home to the silk workers and even today one of the best open-air markets in town. Whether running or just wandering around, the hills are littered with hidden passages, colorful buildings, and plaques that seem to be placed randomly that speak to the history of the city.
‘On this spot in 1945 resistance fighters were executed by the Nazis’
‘This building was the childhood home of a famed poet’
‘This passage was used to smuggle goods from the top of the hill to the city below’
The city is also on the banks of two rivers, with the meeting of the two – the confluence point – today a bustling commercial and urban development center.
The Rhone is the larger and more prominent. It splits the city’s 6th, 3rd, and 7th arrondissements from the 1st, 2nd, and 4th and welcomes thousands to its wide, landscaped banks. Running along the Rhone can be crowded if you choose to stick to the berges and dodge the bars, dog walkers, rollerbladers, cyclists, and strolling family groups. Head out of the city center, though, and you’re quickly nearly alone, perhaps a mountain biker or another runner from time to time but you’re largely in a peaceful place 10 minutes after leaving the concrete path.
The Saone is a little smaller, winds a lot more than its larger cousin, and cuts the 1st, 2nd, and 4th arrondissements from the 5th and the 9th. It’s marginally closer to my apartment than the Rhone – by a couple of hundred meters, nothing more – and this makes it the river I am more likely to run aside. Following the river upstream takes you quickly out of the city within a half hour you are running past villages on the Mont D’Or and deciding whether to make the return journey back to Lyon via the bridge at the l’Ile Barbe or to push on and up to Caluire and Cuire and follow the trail back home.
It’s a beautiful city for running whether by one of the rivers or one of the hills. Great Runs has identified a handful of great routes, including one for the Rhone and one for the Saone, but frankly if you pull on your shoes and head out the door and just head towards the next interesting point you see, you’ll enjoy a run in the city and its surrounds.
Two rivers, two hills, one city – my home.