My trip to Lyon over the Easter holiday was amazing. I must say it is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve had the pleasure to visit. It felt like I was visiting a much cleaner and less crowded version of Paris. On Friday morning, I left Cherbourg for Saint-Lazare in Paris and switched trains at the Gare de Lyon where I hopped aboard a bullet train called the TGV, which got me to Lyon in just two hours. That’s pretty fast. After visiting the Roman ruins above the city, I proceeded to visit one of the most popular places of pilgrimage built atop the hill of Fourvière, the basilica devoted to the Virgin Mary. The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière was built between 1872 and 1884. In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian war, the citizens of Lyons prayed to the Virgin Mary for her protection and they made a promise to build an important sanctuary in her honor if the war did not touch the city. Their prayer was answered and, to thank her, the decision was taken to build Our Lady of Fourvière. The architect was Pierre Bossan who built a monument drawing upon Romanesque and Byzantine designs. It has four main towers and a bell tower topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. It is actually two churches, one on top of the other. The lower sanctuary devoted to St-Joseph is simple in design while the upper sanctuary is ornate and features stunning mosaic wall panels and intricate, eclectic details carved in stone and marble in nearly every corner. Sadly, the interior was completely covered in scaffolding during my visit allowing less than a quarter of the church to be seen. Oh well. I was still hugely impressed and hope to visit again one day when the restorations are complete. In front of the basilica is a statue of Pope John Paul II created by sculptor Elisabeth Cibot. It was unveiled in October 2011 to commemorate the pope’s visit to Lyon 25 years earlier. The esplanade beside the basilica offers spectacular views of the entire city below and on clear days, the Alps in the distance.