Hands up if you love a city break or a holiday! But isn’t it hard to know whether a destination will be good with children though?
I think Lyon is a great all-year-round destination. It has everything to make it a great break – culture, food, sunshine but also lots of parks and opportunities for summer and winter sports. It is easy to get to from most UK cities.
So here are some TOP TIPS and ideas from a local resident. Mathilde is a midwife, macaron maker & my sister-in-law! She knows Lyon!
Hey Mathilde! Thank you for sharing your knowledge of Lyon!
Let’s start with some practical information for families…
What are the most accessible airports for visiting Lyon?
The best way is Lyon Saint Exupery airport. After landing it’s about thirty minutes to the city centre.
Another option would be by train. The Eurostar stops at Lyon Part Dieu railway station, right in the city center.
It’s two hours from Paris by train, and two and a half hours from Edinburgh by plane!
What is the easiest way to get from the airport to Lyon centre?
From the airport, there is the Rhônexpress (www.rhonexpress.fr) a tram that gets you into the city center within thirty minutes. There’s a tram every fifteen minutes. However, at 26€ for a return ticket, it’s quite expensive (discounts for advance booking).
So people in Lyon developed a less expensive way. Check out the “Blablacar” app where you can share a car. If you want to use this then just make sure to have your own booster seat.
Which neighbourhoods would be good to stay in?
I think the best area to stay as a tourist would be Vieux Lyon because you are in the old city, which is classified as UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s down the Fourviere Hill where you have the best view of Lyon!
If you love shopping, you could stay on The Presqu‘île (French for “peninsula”) which is in the heart of Lyon. Near Bellecour or Cordeliers.
For going out (so maybe not with kids!), stay in the new Confluence neighborhood. Here you will find many clubs and this is where the festivals tend to take place.
If you want to see the Lyon family way of life, Croix-Rousse Hill is another good area for you!
What about getting about in Lyon?
Buses, trams, a four-line metro and two funiculars linking Vieux Lyon to Fourvière and St-Just are operated by TCL (Lyon public transport journey planner in English). There are information offices where you can obtain transport maps at major metro stations throughout Lyon.
Tickets valid on all forms of public transport cost around €2 (ask for a carnet of 10 to save a few euros) and are available from bus and tram drivers as well as machines at metro entrances.
Looking at gastronomy now! Yum!
What dishes is Lyon known for?
Lyon is the capital of gastronomy! It’s well known for les bouchons lyonnais – traditional, small restaurants or bistros. You can eat “quenelles”, “joues de porc”(pig’ cheeks), la rosette (best saucisson ever!) or, a local favourite, tripe! You should try “la cervelle des canuts” (literal translation: “brains of a silk worker” but it is actually a delicious local cream cheese served sprinkled with parsley) and finish with a “tarte à la praline”!
But it’s well known for every kind of food from all over the world.
If you are feeling flush, you will find a huge number of Michelin star restaurants in la rue du Boeuf in Vieux Lyon, or check out one of the bistros in the Boccuse chain.
Where else can you sample these foodie delights?
You must try the numerous markets, every morning at locations across the city.
There is also les Halles de Lyon, Cours Lafayette or the Part Dieu neighborhood where you can buy meat, oysters and all other kinds of French food. Not to mention the best bakeries in the world! If I do say so myself! Treat the kids to a delicious French pastry.
Where should you head to eat with a young family?
There are loads of outdoor terraces where you can enjoy some sunshine and play Bocce (similar to French boules) or Molky in spring and summer. Le Bistrot des Maquignons has a nice terrace in the summer.
You also just HAVE to try a “bouchon” like Notre Maison in Vieux Lyon (reservation necessary) or the bistrot Brasserie de l’Est by Boccuse in the Brotteaux neighborhood (this is situated in an old train station, there is an electric train just above your head!)
The Malting-Pot in the Sans-Soucis neighbourhood has a big terrace where children can play and run about while you enjoy a nice selection of beer!
What top cultural activity should families head to see?
Wandering in Vieux Lyon is just beautiful and the new Confluence museum is really adapted for kids. You’ll find dinosaurs’ skeletons and lots of exhibitions!
What outdoor activities are there in and around Lyon?
There is so much to do! We have the highest climbing wall in France, which is suitable for for kids too. There is also a bike rental system in Lyon making it easy to rent bikes to get about.
The Parc de la Tête d’Or is the green jewel of the city with a zoological garden, boats to rent on the lake, a greenhouse and lawns where you can have a lovely picnics. Then there are the Rhône docks which are all pedestrianised (plus bicycles). At night the barges open their bars and that’s where you will find most of Lyon hanging out! You can head there for a drink, a meal or just to meet friends and family!
For winter sports, Lyon is only one and a half hours from the closest ski resorts.
Or is you are looking for some beach action For the beach, it’s one and a half hours by train from Marseille!
There are a lot of swimming pools, the most well known is the Piscine du Rhône, which is situated on the Rhône itself! You feel like your swimming in the river!
Are there any good festivals for families?
Well in May, you have Les Nuits Sonores which is a famous electro festival.
Then all summer from the first of June until the 31st of July is les Nuits de Fourvière, a culture festival with famous groups and singers from all over the world… Every show takes place in the Gallo-Roman theatre, with a breath taking view of Lyon!
If you are just strolling about, every weekend you will be sure to find a food or wine festival plus flea markets and book markets.
And what makes Lyon a great winter city break is the Fête des Lumières which takes place over four days. During this time a variety of different artists light up buildings, streets, squares and parks all over the city. It is truly beautiful! See last year’s here.
Any other nice cities to visit driving distance from Lyon?
About 45 minutes away by car is the medieval city of Perrouges which is really well conserved and great for a day trip!
Another amazing place to visit is Annecy with it’s old city and beautiful lake!
Why do you love Lyon?!
Because it’s a beautiful city, with lots of green spaces! You can easily cross the city by bike, or on foot. Plus, people spend a lot of time outside enjoying the terraces and you have everything you need to be happy! It’s a city for families and students! If you are fond of sports, the Alps and the Med are not far away, so you have plenty of choice! It’s not unusual to see people in their ski suits on winter’s weekend and in the summer everyone is in t-shirts! The best of both worlds.
So if you visit Lyon after reading this then let us know! Visiting France is a great way to absorb the culture and practice your French.
So you are pregnant or are already a parent and are hoping to bring your child up bilingually or with a solid knowledge of another language! Amazing! I have three bilingual children and spend lots of time with families just like yours. It is a joyful journey!
The good news is that you can do it. It is possible regardless of your situation. However, what you need to know is that the fact of having one parent who speaks one language well and another parent who speaks a different language well, is not sufficient. A child will not magically become bilingual without some effort from their carers. As you suspected, it is a skill to be nurtured. Don’t worry though! I have been there and can share my experience to give you some shortcuts.
The photo is of my first born and I eight years ago. He was three weeks old and I was a new parent with a lot on my plate but pretty damn happy and determined he would become bilingual so he could grab every opportunity presented to him in his future.
Here are the steps I wish I had known back then to successfully bring your child up bilingually:
Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)
It all starts with the right attitude. Do not skip this step! It may even be the most important one.
There are two main reasons for this.
Firstly, the correct frame of mind will hold you in good stead for the journey as bilingualism is a long process. It is not like other life skills like… swimming, let’s say, where you may stop once they are safe in the water and can swim a length. Learning two languages is intertwined with life itself. It brings lots of joy but it helps to be confident in your goals and your plan. We will discuss this further in step two.
There will be bumps or occasional setbacks. Times when you can’t see progress, moments when you wonder if it is ‘working’ or when you let doubt cloud your mind when a well intentioned friend or relative questions your plan. During these times and you need to be sure in your own mind why you are choosing this route.
Secondly, children are highly sensitive to the feelings of those around them. They can sniff out anxiety or stress a mile off! You do not want to pass this on to your child. PMA all the way! Complaining to them that they have replied in the ‘wrong’ language. Or, spot testing them in front of a group of other family members will create a negative association with the language which they may carry into adulthood. Remember that in the first few years of your child’s life, the goal is to ensure they see languages as a happy part of life. A positive, normal part of their surroundings and NOT a test, challenge or worry which could lead to a ‘language rebellion’ or refusal to engage in that language. (NB: you can work round this if it happens to you but, if avoided, then it is better!)
Make a Family Language Plan (FLP)
Looking back I had a pretty good attitude. I did my research and was firm in my beliefs as to the benefits of learning a second language from birth. I understood that it would be a marathon and not a sprint.
What I didn’t really have was a plan.
A Family Language Plan is the way in which you will ensure that you are nurturing both the minority and majority languages in your family. It helps to keep you on track. Your minority language is the one that your child will naturally have less exposure to and tends to need the most TLC.
Your FLP could take the form of an in-depth discussion with your partner or it could be a genuine document where you note your ideas and resources you plan on using and add to it when you see cool ideas. Pinterest can be good for this. What is important is that you are both on the same page and are clear on how you anticipate ensuring that your child is exposed to meaningful input in both languages. It can be something you refer to when you run out of ideas or the minority language needs a boost.
Areas to consider in your FLP:
What is your goal for your child? Key words/ conversational/ bilingual/ bi-literate/ bi-cultured?
Which languages do both parents know? Do you know the words a child will tend to use in that language?
Which languages will parents speak when they have 1:1 time with their child? For bilingual families, One Parent One Language or not(this article may help)?
Is it time for one or both parents to scrub up on their partners’ language?
What will the family language be i.e. meal times? If your level is not very advanced in your chosen language, perhaps choose one evening when you identify the items on the table in that language instead of full conversations – French Fridays?!
What other family and friends can help and have you spoken to them about your plans? Can you have a regular Skype/ Face Time session?
Should there be a day or time when the minority language is encouraged? i.e. Sunday games night?
How will you ensure stories in both languages are read with your child? Where can you get books? READING IS SO IMPORTANT!
Do you know lots of songs and nursery rhymes in the minority language? How can you find some –Cd or download? AGAIN, SINGING IS GREAT!
Are there local playgroups or language groups aimed at young children you can attend?
What about babysitters and bilingual childcare?
What radio stations and TV programmes could help to maximise exposure? Which cartoons are popular in the country of the minority language? Some ideas here.
What “boosts” do you have up your sleeve for days or weeks when you need to increase the minority language? i.e. For younger children, a quick game using your hands? Head, shoulders, knees and toes? A favourite book, toy or song?
Have you considered when you will tackle writing in the minority language, if that is one of your goals?
When it comes to culture, will you try eating food from both countries? Celebrating festivals from both countries?
When can you travel to a country where your minority language is spoken?
This list is intended to start a conversation and not to scare you! As you will see later on, your plan can, and should be, flexed as your child develops. It also gives you a strong foundation to answer questions from friends and family giving you confidence in your approach.
A Family Language Plan as unique as your family is. I will share mine over the coming months and you may find inspiration.
Put the plan into place
Now you have the best attitude and an awesome plan you are ready to rock!
Stand-by your plan. If you expose your child to a new language regularly, you and your child will see results but enjoy the journey! Remember to make sure that you add your own personality and, crucially, keep it as fun as possible.
Watch your growing child and get to know what is working and what is not. As they develop, note their learning style – do they prefer active games, particular games or toys? Is there a class they enjoy a lot where you can get further advice?
Keep it up but do not beat yourself up when the plan changes from time to time and if you are finding that there are certain parts that are just not feasible then you may want to make some changes. Which leads us to the final step.
Review your plan periodically
The best plans are flexible and are reviewed from time to time to keep them fresh.
This is something I now do frequently with my partner. We think about each of our three children and discuss what each of them may need to advance their spoken or written French, which is our minority language.
For example, we were previously doing joint evening stories with our two older boys but we realised it is time for our younger boy to begin reading in French now that he is reading well in English and understands the concept of phonics. So he now has a story with Daddy separately and they choose a book with more basic French words to build his confidence.
Another example – we realised at the end of the school-term that the spoken French in the house had reduced. We made a conscious decision that on our two week holiday we would only speak French between us as adults… lo and behold the children followed.
Regardless of your level – monolingual parents or bilingual parents – the principles of having a plan, putting it into place and reviewing it still apply.
So what now to start bringing my child up bilingually? Take time to go through step one and two, grab a cuppa and look for local resources. Put your plan into action with support from friends and family. Then review it from time to time. Keep it fresh and fun.
If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch. I love a chat and would welcome your experiences.