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Erasmus escapades: a guide to Lyon living

Year abroad student Lily Donnelly shares her experiences of living in Lyon and considers why any Bristol student wouldn't want to be immersed in the wonderful culture.

By Lily Donnelly, 3rd Year French and Italian Student

Year abroad student Lily Donnelly shares her experiences of living in Lyon and considers why any Bristol student wouldn't want to be immersed in the wonderful culture.

For second and third year students, Instagram feeds and Facebook posts are now swarming with updates from friends on their year abroad. And as one of these students, I present to you a guide to the city that I now call home - Lyon, France – and hope to encourage you to do the same one day. As the third biggest city in the country (and home to the second largest metro system), the vivacity of Lyon is not to be underestimated. Organised like Paris by an arrondissement system, a unique identity can be found in each quartier (neighbourhood) leaving Erasmus students like myself options aplenty to choose from. For example…

Epigram / Lily Donnelly

If it’s still summer time, head down on the metro to Le Parc de la Tête d’Or where one can stumble upon a zoo, a lake and a botanical garden or just enjoy a slumberous sunbathe at La Piscine du Rhône, a public pool that overlooks the fleuve (ginormous river) nearly in the very centre of town. If you’re in need of a glass of wine, the Presqu’île – an area that travels from the hill of Croix Rousse to the meeting point of the river Rhone the Soane at Le Confluence - is an El Dorado, with happy hours at the likes of Kaffee Berlin or Les Temps des Copains providing good reason to spend that Erasmus grant. If beer is your poison, Hopper and Hop Store have three-page-long lists of them to choose from, with some of the best pizza and fries in Saxe-Gambetta and Croix Rousse respectively. And don’t fear the gaping hole that Thekla or Motion may leave in your hearts; Le Penniche runs along the banks of the Rhone leaving at least a dozen boat bars at your disposal, whereas Le Sucre hosts events on the rooftop of a disused sugar factory for when you’re wanting to stay up past the watershed on the weekend. It’s hard to be thirsty in this town with all of this at your doorstep.

Amidst the bar hopping, there are many sights to see. The old town, Vieux Lyon, tells tales through its traboules of the city’s rich history in the silk industry, and leads up a (very) steep hill to Le Notre-Dame de Fourvière where you are rewarded with a view across the entire city and a descent into a beautiful rose garden where I once saw a man playing away on a cello (how continental!?). The fine art museum, found in Hotel de Ville, boasts enough beauty to cure your hangover and is a mere stroll away from renaissance streets and hipster cafés alike. Or, if you’re a fan of cinema, you’ll know that the Lumière brothers (founding fathers of filmmaking) came from Lyon and l’Institut Lumière showcases their work. For times when the city needs escaping, use your Carte Jeune (18-25 railcard) to get tickets to the likes of Lake Annecy, Geneva, Paris, Marseille or even Barcelona with a 30% discount. I mean, is it hard to choose between the Cote d’Azur or Western Super Mare? This is impetus enough to choose a year abroad.

Epigram / Lily Donnelly

Speaking of doorsteps, it’s important to find the right area to live in. I chose an apartment in the second arrondissement next to Place Bellecour, one of Lyon’s most iconic squares, deciding that taking a twenty-minute journey to university (Jean-Moulin III at Sans-Souci, ironically translated into ‘without worry’ for its stressed students) was a much wiser option than paying for taxis home from all ends of town. From chez moi I can get anywhere by either foot or with a quick hop on the metro, making it safe for me as a young girl in a foreign city to get home at night. Whilst this may sound expensive, the CAF is essentially a benefits system that enables students to claim money back on their rent a month after move-in day, with the TCL metro system offering unlimited transport in all of its forms (that being metro, tram and train) for around thirty euros a month. Cheap booze, cheap transport to establishments for the booze and, well, affordable food – is there much more a student needs?

There is plenty more to be discovered here in Lyon, and plenty of discoveries that I haven’t been able to mention, but perhaps this is enough to tempt you to apply for that year abroad and to have some great stories to bore you friends with when you get back to Bristol. This city is not too big, yet not too small, and will fling you into a frivolous, fantastically French lifestyle that can be the envy of those sat back in the ASS library.

And did you know, by the way, I’m doing a year abroad?

Want to follow Lily's adventures abroad? Check out her blog Connaissancee and Conoscenza.

Featured Image: Epigram / Lily Donnelly

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