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FRANCE : LYON

Lyon is the capital of the Rhône-Alpes région, and the préfecture (capital) of the Rhône département.

Situated in the heart of Europe, Lyon is only 90 minutes from all Europe's major urban centres. The city is served by St Exupery International Airport, motorway and high-speed train (TGV) links. Provence, the Mediterranean, the Alps and several major wine-producing regions are all within easy reach of Lyon.  

Two thousand years of being continually populated has left its mark on Lyon's cityscape. In most European towns, each historical period has replaced the existing architecture. In Lyon, however, different quarters have been developed at different times without distroying previous architectural features, such that each part of Lyon's historic centre has its story to tell.  

The city’s history begins on Fourvière Hill, where vestiges of the original Roman city are still evident. The Romans named Lyon Lugdunum, meaning the ‘city of light’. This tradition continues to the present day – every evening throughout the year, more than one hundred sites throughout the city are lit up to show the splendour of Lyon’s architecture. 

In the Middle Ages, a district was developed at the base of the Fourvière Hill around Saint Jean Cathedral, which formed the commercial heart of Lyon during the Renaissance when much trading took place with the City of Florence. This quarter, now known as the "Vieux Lyon", represents the second largest area of Renaissance architecture in Europe.  A second hill across the river Sâone, the Croix-Rousse, was occupied later and became of key importance in the nineteenth century, when it was inhabited by the silk workers or “canuts”. The buildings in the Croix-Rousse contain high ceilings which accomodated the tall looms used to weave silk and are interconnected by a maze of passageways termed "traboules", which enabled the silk workers to move quickly and easily around the district.  

Lyon has a great lifestyle: a flourishing cultural life, world-famous cuisine, a host of shopping possibilities, markets, museums, parks and gardens, spectacular nightly illuminations and the remarkable site represented by the "Presqu'île" quarter situated between the Rhône and Saône rivers. Together with its suburbs and satellite towns, Lyon forms the second largest metropolitan area in France after Paris, with 1,648,216 inhabitants at the 1999 census, and approximately the 20th to 25th largest metropolitan area of Western Europe.Lyon is also the international headquarters of Interpol. 

For gourmets, Lyon is a true paradise. The city boasts the largest number of Michelin-starred restaurants and famous chefs in the whole of France, with the exception of Paris,. One simply has to remember that Lyon is the home of Paul Bocuse and his famous restaurant to appreciate the quality of cuisine available. For a less sophisticated atmosphere, visitors can also sample the simple delights of a bouchon, a small picturesque restaurant specialising in local delicacies. 
 


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