Mini-Trip to Lyon (September 2012)

Sunday 9th September 2012

I hate getting up and leaving home in the dark when we’re on our way to France, but an alarm call at 4.15am for a 5.15am departure was the order of the day today.  We were catching the 8.30am ferry from Dover to Calais and this time we were trying a new ferry company, MyFerryLink which is Eurotunnel’s recent purchase of the old Sea France line.  It was a pleasant experience, with few passengers and cars and a very quick boarding and disembarkment, smooth seas and a beautiful September morning.  We were looking forward to autumn on the Saone.

Pont de Vaux

Driving through France in temperatures around 30+ degrees for most of the day, we arrived at the boat shortly after 5.00pm.  The car parks at the port were full, and many boats were out but there was a different, much more lively atmosphere compared with our two visits earlier this year.  It was good to be back, and the boat appeared to be in good order.  The usual suspects, (spiders) had taken control of the external structure, but inside it wasn’t too bad.

Monday 10th –Wednesday 12th September

 The usual pre-trip preparations, supermarket, town market (Wednesday) whilst the weather was warm and sunny at first, (26 degrees) turning cooler and rainy on Wednesday.

Thursday 13 September

 Left the port before 9.30am, in rainy conditions.  The weather was forecast to be warmer and sunnier from tomorrow.  We were heading towards Lyon, and I’d rung the afternoon before to reserve a 16 metre berth at Grand Lyon.  There are only three or four berths there for our length, but about 25 berths in all.

The Saone wasn’t busy, as we set off south towards Lyon and we passed some attractive moorings at Asniers sur Saone, and Vesines.

Mooring on the left bank, Macon.

Moored in centre of Macon briefly around lunchtime, for a quick bowl of soup.  At this mooring in the centre there appear to be no length restrictions, although from recollection the mooring further north on the opposite bank, outside a restaurant with outdoor terrace, has a 15 metre restriction, despite which there was a much longer boat than that there. Perhaps the limit is more rigorously applied during peak holiday periods.

We made Belleville by mid afternoon to find plenty of space, with several small boats on the inside of the pontoon and one cruiser on the outside that appears to be an empty long term moorer.

Belleville, very much in demand on the return journey

We’ve moored here three times now, and never shared the mooring with any other  boats in transit.  (On the return journey however, we passed this mooring to find five large boats there, double breasted right along the pontoon.)

Friday 14 September

 Left Belleville at 9.30am.

Only one commercial passed in the night, but three or four plus a hotel boat came by during the daylight hours.    There is a small café/bar next to the mooring and two other restaurants up on the main road.  If there is no space at Belleville there is a fee paying one at Montmerle sur Saone about 15 minutes further south.  Between these two there was a small pontoon which didn’t look particularly stable, but would probably be all right for a smaller boat.


Towards lunchtime we moored at Trevoux, a lovely little mooring beside a camp site in a picturesque town. This mooring quite often hosts the big passenger boats (there is a separate mooring further down close to the bridge for the big hotel boats) so you need to look for the reserved signs which are pasted to the duc d’alberts, showing arrival and departure times of these boats.  The trip boat from Pont de Vaux calls here.

We took a walk round the town, and explored the

Rue de la Porte, the former haunt of gold and silversmiths.

Rue de la Port which used to give way onto the former port area, and was the home of goldsmiths and silversmiths in former times.

There are many petanque areas, childrens’ playgrounds, and a space for visiting large cruise boats.  Just south of the bridge is a nautique centre which has some kind of a disco on Friday nights (and maybe others.)  When I say some kind, I mean the noisy kind, the reverberating beat that could be felt all the way upriver and well into the early hours of the morning.

Moorings at Trevoux

Good value mooring at 5 euros a night, elec/water included, and the capitaine will take orders for bread to be delivered to the campsite office next day.  The office opens 9-11 and 2.30 to 7.00.  Again, only one commercial passed in the night.

Saturday 15 September

A rare moment of serendipity this morning.

Before we came up the Rhone last year, I’d asked Neville to make me a short boat-hook, just about an arm’s length.  Having a troublesome back that can easily be put out when twisting and stretching, I thought I’d find this useful when we’re in a lock with inset or sliding bollards, in that it would extend my reach from the gunwhales quite comfortably whilst slipping the midship ropes round the bollard.  (The standard sized boathook is too unwieldy for working right by the side of the wheelhouse.)  He chopped down a broom handle, put a boat hook on the end and it’s been an absolute godsend for me on both river locks and floating bollards on the canals, being light and easy to use.

Whilst waiting for the Couzons lock to fill so we could descend, I was reflecting on how much easier this implement has made my life, and how annoyed I would be to lose it, say by dropping it in the water.  As I waited, I decided to take the longer aluminium boat-hook which we keep at the front of the boat, back to the wheelhouse so it would be handy to retrieve the short one if such a thing were ever to happen.  So I did.

And lo and behold, whilst attaching the rope to the inset bollard … I dropped the short boathook into the lock!  Disaster averted, as we managed to fish it out of the water before it sank.  And I resolved to tie a cord through the eye on the end of the handle so I can slip my hand through it when using it.

Small island (China Island, I think) approaching the outskirts of Lyon.

Again the Saone was very quiet, and we saw no river traffic whatsoever whilst cruising through Lyon.  Approaching the Grand Lyon marina I rang ahead to remind the capitaine of our booking and asked him to open the bridge, (which in fact has been dismantled to facilitate the construction of the new capitainerie).  There followed a very confusing conversation in French, most of which I simply couldn’t understand, which is unusual because I can usually get the general drift.

Car scrapping – city style.

The upshot of it all, before the young man who was acting as capitaine for the weekend hung up on me, was that we hadn’t got a reservation!  We moored up outside the marina on the river and I went to see him.  He denied that any call had been received, and told us there was no space.  Then when he learned the date and time of my call, he realised it must have been he who’d taken the call so he changed his tack to say that he’d told me there was no space.  I argued for a while, and when I turned to leave I said I would take this matter to the port authorities, whereupon, and with very ill grace he told us he could find a space for us for one night only.

During the course of the afternoon several boats turned up and were turned away, yet at the end of the day there were still several free berths.  How weird was that!

Next morning, after a very noisy Saturday night in the port, we decided to change tack and go and see the same capitaine, and ask just when there would be a 16m berth free for us.  We were half toying with the idea of going out onto the mooring further up, opposite VNF to wait for one.

He made a big play of considering the chart on the wall, and his diary for several minutes before eventually telling us we could stay in the same berth for another three nights, (just as we had originally reserved over the phone.)   During the course of the day, the 16m berth on our starboard side became free when the incumbent left, and the 16m berth on our port side remained vacant.

The little shapes on the mesh sidewalls of the bridge are padlocks – adorned with written declarations of love. It beats ‘Wayne loves Tracey’ graffiti’d everywhere.

The Confluence Centre opposite the moorings is a magnificent building.  It had been unfinished when we were last here twelve months ago, and we’d assumed it was either an exhibition centre and/or an office block.  In fact it’s a three story mall.  The top floor houses a gym, a multiplex  cinema, and lots of different restaurants, sufficient for most tastes.  Most of the restaurants have outside terraces overlooking the port, as well as spacious interiors.

The ground and middle floors have a wide variety of shops, many of them high end of the market.

There is also a fairly large Carrefour and a Monoprix.

The building has a multi-arched roof which is beautifully lit at night, with a kind of Mexican wave of yellows, blue, greens and reds pulsating along the length of the roof.  (Well Saturday night has the full range of colours, other nights it’s a bit less spectacular.)  The centre is obviously a big crowd-puller with a very frequently timed and reasonably priced (€1.75) water-bus ferrying customers backwards and forwards from the port and into the centre of Lyon.  Well worth a visit.

Crossing the Rhone…

On Monday morning we went into Lyon using the tram service at the end of the port.  All day ticket (go anywhere by bus, tram, metro or trolleybus) costs €4.80.  Last time we changed at Parrache to get onto the metro, which is then only a couple of stops to Bellecourt.  From there we’d crossed the Saone to get the funicular up to Fouvrier.

to the other side of the Saone.

This time we stayed on the tram and went to Guillotiere, which is about level with Bellecourt but over the other side of the Rhone, so that we had a slightly longer but interesting walk across both rivers up to the Funicular railway.

Again a €4.80 day-long ticket is available for this trip up the hillside, and this time we got off the funicular at Minimes to take a look at the old Roman amphitheatre.

Amphitheatre at Minimes

It was a bit disappointing, with obvious modern interventions here and there, not to mention a 70’s style concrete monstrosity of a museum which the sign claimed was ‘cleverly camouflaged into the hillside.’   Hmm.   Two large viewing windows stared out of the hillside onto the ruins, a bit like monstrous train windows.

Modern day technology not to cleverly concealed.

Maybe the whole site would look more impressive on a fine clear day, but although the sun was out most of the day there was a thin cloud covering.

Undaunted, we climbed up the towering steps of the amphitheatre to reach the road that runs from there across to Our Lady of Fourviere, and paid for that with stiff knees and thighs the following day.  The view from the basilica terraces was not as clear as last time we visited, and the chestnut trees had not given up many conkers this season, so we were unable to collect our traditional stock of spider deterrents.

Basilica of our Lady of Fourviere

Once inside the basilica itself, we found that the internal contours were shrouded in scaffolding, gantries and work platforms, so there must be a considerable renovation taking place at the moment.

There’s a nice looking restaurant with an attractive terrace overlooking the rooftops of Lyon if you fancy stopping for a bite to eat, but we decided to take our chances amongst the multitude of restaurants and cafes down in the narrow streets of Vieux Lyon. The service back into the city is quite frequent.

Cathedrale de St Jean, Vieux Lyon

As we crossed the square down in Vieux Lyon, we noticed that the face of the Cathédrale de St Jean had been renovated and cleaned, so we stopped off to take a look inside.  Until the construction of Fourviere, this had been the principal church of Lyon.

We found that internal refurbishment was taking place, but we still managed to walk around and look at the magnificent stained glass windows, and of the incredible 14th century astronomical clock.  This 9 metre clock, one of the oldest in Europe, indicates the date, position of the sun, earth and moon as well as the stars over Lyon.

The astronomical clock

We were too late to view the spectacle but if you can get there at the appropriate times, Wikipedia says:

After the angel on the left turns the hourglass, an angel on the right keeps the time for the three angels who play the hymn of Saint Jean-Baptiste on tinny bells.

The Virgin Mary is shown kneeling in a chapel, and turns to the Angel Gabriel as he opens the chapel door, while the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descends. A Swiss Guard rapidly goes around the dome of the clock tower, saluting with his hand. All of the automatons freeze at the sounding of the hour. In a western niche, there is a statue that rotates at midnight. On Sunday, it becomes Jesus resurrected; Monday: his death; Tuesday: St. Jean-Baptiste; Wednesday: St. Etienne; Thursday: a child holding a chalice and a host; Friday: a child with the symbols of the crucifixion; and on Saturday: the Virgin Mary.

The astronomical clock rings every day at noon, 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm. The beginning is slow, but patient people will be rewarded when God gives three blessings from his place on the clock in the clouds.

After leaving the canal we found a small pavement café for a light lunch, omelette and ‘croque monsieur’.

Arriving back at the mooring that Monday afternoon, we found that we were one of only two 16+ metre boats left in the port, together with only six other boats in a twenty berth facility.  So much for the weekend capitaine having tried initially to turn us away, and then stipulating we could only stay one night!   The port remained more than half empty for the remainder of our stay, though the weekend capitaine was replaced by another with a more accommodating manner.  We caught a glimpse of Cyril, the former capitaine chatting in the port, but he doesn’t seem to work on the port full time now. Pity, he was a delight to deal with.

On Tuesday we took several walks around the surrounding area and paid several visits to the Confluence Centre.  One facility there which was quite fascinating was the Azium Centre, which appears to be a recreational facility with dining and meeting facilities surrounding a three storey high ‘climbing area’.  This has three walls complete with multi-coloured hand and foot holds set into the surface, together with safety ropes.  You can observe the activities from the main concourse of the centre, and we saw several people making their way up the walls, with or without instruction/guidance, and it seemed like a great idea.  You could imagine this being popular for corporate events.

The range of shops is quite incredible, several top fashion and perfumerie outlets together with some unusual interior décor shops.  You could happily spend a while browsing along the three floors of this centre, and one big advantage is 24 hour ‘wifi gratuit’ which extends to the external areas, in particular the port itself which had a very unreliable connection last time we were here.

Home from home on the left bank

A walk up and down the banks of the Saone outside the port revealed that the southern bank has not fared well since we were last here.  One or two restaurants appear to have gone out of business faced with the challenge from the multi-choice restaurants on the top floor of the Confluence.  The northern bank has a burgeoning population of live-aboards, some of whom have quite extensive garden facilities on their boats!

Reputedly ‘safe’ mooring opposite the VNF offices in the centre of Lyon

We walked as far up as the free mooring facility opposite the VNF offices.  This is a pretty mooring, though we were not entirely sure how safe it would be.  There seemed to be a proliferation of beer cans and fast food containers around.  One moorer at the port said he’d moor there if there was another boat there, but not perhaps if his was the only boat.  We only saw one small yacht there on the day of our departure.

Wednesday 19th September

We left the port on Wednesday morning, in cooler, but sunny weather and made our way back up the Saone to Trevoux.  This mooring quite often receives large passenger boats and requires 40 metres to be left free, but their arrival is well posted on the pontoons well in advance.  We’d seen that the Pont de Vaux trip boat was here Tuesday night, leaving Wednesday morning, so we timed our arrival for lunchtime.

The commercial ‘graveyard’ near Villefranche

Cruising up to Trevoux we passed a port area near the gravel works at Villefranche, which seemed to house several big boats scheduled for demolition.  One of these was a large commercial craft that had suffered fire damage, including the car on the rear deck.

Just after the bridge heading upstream there seems to be a useful mooring at Jassons Rottier,PK 41, and as I mentioned, Montmerle looks like a good mooring.

We overnighted at Trevoux and spent some time trying to fix the waste pump which had been making a different noise before eventually giving up the ghost on our journey down the Saone.

Neville had a spare diaphragm which he replaced, even though the old one didn’t look too bad, and when that didn’t work he decided it must be a valve problem, for which we don’t carry the spares.

Dusk at Trevoux

We were going to need pump-out facilities quite shortly, so we decided to make our way back to Pont de Vaux the following day.  It would be a longish haul for one day, starting at 8.00am and arriving around 4.30pm, so an early night was in order.

I’d had some recurring health issues during this trip, so we decided that instead of continuing our journey up the Saone to explore La Seille for another week as planned, we would curtail the journey prematurely at this point.

We needed to book the ferry, book a surgery appointment for the following week and also to suspend the SFR internet service for four months.  We have this contract where you can suspend the service and instead of paying the normal 30+ euros per month you pay only a 4 euro maintenance fee, and have the original term of the contract extended by the period of the suspension.  For this we’d need to find an SFR shop and it appeared that the closest was in Macon.

We decided to investigate whether this could be effected on line, and having found a page on the SFR website managed to accidentally suspend it with immediate effect.  It turned out this website facility was for use in case of theft of the modem.  Hmmm.  Not what we intended at all.

We turned to the back up Orange facility we purchased earlier in the summer,  which frankly has been a bit of a hit and miss affair.  Prior to leaving France in July we’d paid for a recharge and asked them not to activate it so we could hold it in reserve for when we needed it.  We understood that when we needed it, we would dial the number on the information sheet (recharging on-line has never worked, though it was sold to us as being a facility).  Then we would key in the number of the line, and then the 14 digit code on our recharge receipt.  We did all this, were advised both on telephone and on line that the recharge had been successful.  But within one minute a notice flashed up on the computer that the recharge credit had now been used up!

So as yet, we’re not in a position to recommend the Orange Pay As You Go facility, as we’ve not yet managed to make it work in the way we were told was possible.  If anyone has had better success, I’d be pleased to hear from them.

Friday 21 September


State of the art drain cleaning in Macon.

We found the SFR shop in Macon, conveniently placed close to the Orange shop, and to the central maritime car park, and managed to get the SFR service reinstated and the subsequent suspension arranged.  Now we know where the Orange shop is located, we’ll resume our efforts to get this to work next time we’re back at the boat.

We’ve never really explored Macon very thoroughly, and we resolved to do so on our next trip, maybe January.  It seemed like a fairly busy shopping area, with a beautiful cathedral set in a central square a short distance from the port where all the hotel and passenger boats abound.  There were two huge hotel boats breasted up there that morning.

The commercial port area, Macon

We spent some time in the afternoon winterising the boat.

Saturday 22 September

 Off before 7.00am to catch the 14.20 ferry from Calais.  It was a shame that we had to cut short this trip, there’s something really good about cruising in September when the bulk of the holidaymakers have gone and the weather usually goes through a pleasant, tranquil period.  This time the weather had been variable, some hot days to begin with, but very quickly changing to cooler and occasionally wetter weather.

We’d enjoyed our stay in Lyon despite the weekend capitaine’s attitude, and can fully recommend the port, the city and the Confluence centre.  We still don’t feel that we’ve done this city to death yet!

Sunrise on the pontoon at Pont de Vaux

It’s always sad to end a year’s cruising, and although we’d covered many kilometres during the year, we didn’t do perhaps as much as we’d hoped to.  Still, we’re already looking forward to spring cruising, plus probably a quick trip during Jan/Feb to check on how things are going.

Weather dependent, of course.

See you next year!

About Sandra

I used to cruise the French waterways with my husband four or five months a year, and wrote fiction and poetry. Now I live on the beautiful Dorset coast, enjoying the luxury of being able to have a cat, cultivating an extensive garden and getting involved in the community. I still write fiction, but only when the spirit moves me - which isn't as often as before. I love animals, F1 motor racing, French bread and my husband, though not necessarily in that order.
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2 Responses to Mini-Trip to Lyon (September 2012)

  1. Erin Leary says:

    Gorgeous! I wish I was there!


  2. Pingback: Crossing L’Etang du Thau and navigating the Rhone to Lyon, Autumn 2011 Pt 3 | castelsarrasin

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