Discover home exchange stories from our members.
This one is brought to us by John and Jan, while on home exchange in Lyon. Let’s see what they have been doing on their latest Gap Year destination with GuestToGuest.
Our first HomeExchange experience – as guests – was in Lyon, France’s second largest city and its centre of gastronomy. There is a surfeit of Michelin chefs and restaurants and Lyon has a fascinating Old Town to explore.
We caught the train from St. Exupery Airport to Lyon and then a taxi to ‘Sylvain’s House’, not knowing what to expect. We arrived in the rain in a very unprepossessing street, fronting the Saone River. There was no-one around, so we rang Sylvain’s phone and very soon a most apologetic young man arrived on his motorbike with his girlfriend, Isabelle.
Our first impression of Sylvain’s apartment was – WOW! Our host had renovated the apartment himself and his imaginative flair entranced us. The old saying came to mind, “Never judge a book by its cover”; well, in Europe, it’s never judge a building/house by the wall you see from the street! Once you enter through the often very large wooden doors, you discover a delightful courtyard, often with a fountain, a green space with trees and flowers.
We loved ‘Sylvain’s House’ and soon discovered that the Old Town was just on the other side of the Saone River. We had a great location to begin our exploration of Lyon, which is often described as the most Italian city in France for its architecture and colour.
Sylvain’s apartment provided everything we needed to be self-sufficient and we found shops open, even though it was Labor Day in France – so we had pizza – Michelin, of course! We fell in love with Vieux Lyon, the Old Town around Place St. Jean and the Cathedral.
The weather was not so kind, so we toured Lyon in an electric Tuk Tuk with an amazing guide. We visited the great Basilica of Fouviere, the crown of Lyon and found, to our delight, extensive Roman ruins of the colony of Lugdunum, including an amphitheatre that held 10,000 people in its day.
One of Lyon’s unique facets is the existence of the Traboules, the interconnecting, covered passageways that make you feel you are in someone’s house. They originated as a means to keep the silk dry on the way to the river port and more recently, they were used by the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation in World War Two.
We were sad to leave our lovely apartment and Lyon but another of the city’s advantages is its proximity to the French Alps – Lake Annecy, Chamonix and Mont Blanc. We hired a car and the G.P.S. was programmed to avoid toll roads, so ‘Flossy’, our G.P.S. voice, took us to Lake Annecy via, what we described as Alpine goat tracks. Beautiful, certainly; frequently terrifying, definitely!
HomeExchange has provided us with a wonderful start to our ‘Gap Year’ because when you are a guest and not a client at a hotel or B&B, it is far easier to stop being tourists and become travellers and experience the full richness of the travel experience.