Stage 14: Saint-Pourçain sur Sioule to Lyon


Come dancing

The Tour de France has been at the heart of the cultural season in St Pourçain sur Sioule since the inhabitants attended a conference on the race by Jean-Paul Olivier in April while one of the leading plays shown at the local theater was an adaptation of the famous Albert Londres text on the Tour de France known as Les Forçats de la route. The text was related by two actors riding vintage bicycles. But another date is fast becoming a fixture of the local calendar since its first edition last year: the In-Off Allier Dance Festival. The 2012 festival was a huge success in spite of a violent storm that interrupted the outdoor exhibitions. The festival includes all types of dance, from ballet to hip-hop and traditional forms. Last year’s edition focused on African dances and the audience was delighted by dancing contests of djam and touvoukane. An African meal was also served to visitors. In 2013, the festival took place on July 6 with animations in the marketplace and retirement homes, along with workshops in the Town Hall square. The festival itself took place in the theater and on an outdoor stage.


The start of Tour de l’Avenir stage in 2010 was given in this wine city. A new generation of Colombian riders emerged at the time, led by Nario Quintana, who won the overall classification. The stage proper finished at Col du Beal and was won by Belgium’s Yannick Eijssen, who now rides for BMC.


Clock or belfry tower

Built in 1480 over one of the old towers of the monastery, it was first used as a watchtower. It was later equipped with a clock and a bell. Inside the tower, a staircase can be admired from the House of the Bailiff, housing the museum of wine and local history.

Sainte-Croix church:

The old Sainte-Croix priory church is a large building which required several construction phases. Its porch dates from the early Romanesque period and is topped by the bell tower. The Gothic nave is covered with a timber roofing. The stalls of the 15th-century monks, the 15th-century Ecce Homo polychrome statue and the 18th-century altar are the most beautiful items inside the church as well as a 19th-century Cavaille-Coll organ. Charles De Gaulle bridge: The bridge dates from the late 17th century. It was renovated several times after floods and the damages of WWII.

Museum of wine and local history:

The museum, located in the 16th-century House of the Bailiff, houses a dozen rooms throughout which is told the story of St Pourcain wines and the town history.


Festival of lights

Every December since 1989, Lyon has been celebrating the Festival of Lights, an event illuminating the town with new colours and attracting some four million visitors from France and abroad. For the 14th edition last year, a hundred artistic projects animated 65 of the most famous sites in Lyon for the four days of the festival. The idea was to rediscover Lyon’s historical and architectural heritage form another viewpoint. The most spectacular show in 2012 took place Place des Terreaux, on which the Town Hall was deconstructed then reshaped by a ray of light. On Place Bellecour, illuminations around the statue of King Louis XIV were powered by visitors pedalling on bicycles displayed around the square. In the Old Lyon, a World Heritage site, an “earthquake of lights” unveiled the hidden treasures of the cathedral. The festival also highlighted the new district of La Confluence and the new Region Hall recently built on the site. Originally, the Festival of Lights was a religious celebration honouring the installation of a statue of the Virgin Mary at the top of the chapel on the Fourvière hill. Since 1643, the Virgin Mary is considered as the protector of the city against the plague. As a tribute to their protector, Lyon people have since then lit thousands of lanterns and lamps from their windows or balconies in December.


The first finish of the Tour de France stage took place in Lyon in 1903. Francois Faber later signed an impressive treble in the Capital of the Gauls by winning stages in 1908, 1909 and 1910. In 1909, in the middle of a hailstorm, the Luxembourg rider was even forced to finish on foot in the deluge, his bike on his shoulders. The Tour did not return to Lyon before 1947. In 2003, 100 years after Maurice Garin, Alessandro Petacchi won a bunch sprint in town. In the meantime, Lyon had hosted the Grand Depart of the 1991 edition. Thierry Marie won the prologue and took the yellow jersey for the third time after his prologue wins in 1986 in Boulogne-Billancourt and at the Futuroscope in 1990. The next day Greg LeMond took the jersey away from Marie by taking part in the final sprint.Several time-trials took place in Lyon in the 50s and 60s and saw victories by Louison Bobet, Jacques Anquetil or Rik Van Looy. The stage win by Jean Forestier in 1954 had a special flavour as it was the Frenchman’s first on the Tour and in his hometown. More recently, Sylvain Calzati and Samuel Dumoulin, both Tour de France stage winners, were also born in Lyon.


Place Bellecour:

It is Lyon’s most famous square with its statue of King Louis XIV. Dedicated to the Sun King, the square was built between 1713 and 1738 and modified under Napoleon. It is one f the largest squares in Europe (310x200 metres)

Old Lyon:

The Old Lyon was the first preserved sector in France in 1964 and was listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999. In the early 1960s, the quarter was in a sorry state. Several buildings were seriously damaged and there were projects to destroy and maim the medieval area. The action of a preservation society, Renaissance du Vieux Lyon, and the then Culture minister Andre Malraux made the old town the first preserved sector in France in 1964. Since then, two thirds of the buildings were rehabilitated while the population of 7,000 remained socially mixed. Many restaurants and shops make Old Lyon a lively area both daily and nightly. La Croix-Rousse: Croix-Rousse, "the working hill”, is the working class equivalent of Fourviere, “the praying hill”, on which the town’s main church was built. The quarter, home of the silk workers known as Canuts, was built in the early 19th century on religious lands. Its slopes are part of the area listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The steep slopes of Croix-Rousse resulted in picturesque little streets going up and down the hill and sometimes finishing in stairs. The houses of the Canuts have notably high ceilings as space was required for their trade.Saint-Jean cathedral:
In the heart of Old Lyon, the St Jean cathedral, also known as St Jean Primatial cathedral, mixes Romanesque and Gothic styles. Its construction took place over three centuries between 1175 and 1481. One of the most interesting items in the church is an astronomic clock designed in the late 16th century. It gives time, date, the positions of the moon, the sun, the earth and the main stars above Lyon. The given date is expected to remain accurate until 2019 and given the beliefs of the time, the sun is turning around the earth. The cathedral also holds remarkable stained glass windows from the early 12th century. The façade, with its beautiful rose window, is composed of three gates whose statues were destroyed during the Wars of religion. Several historical events took place in the cathedral: pope Jean XXII was crowned in it in 1316; in 1600, King Henry IV married Marie de Medici while Richelieu became cardinal in it in 1622.

Fourviere basilica:

Overlooking a large part of Lyon, the Fourviere Basilica, topped by a monumental gilded statue of the Virgin Mary, is one of the most representative buildings of Lyon. The church was built in 1896 by Pierre Bossan to celebrate the Virgin Mary, whose cult had been extremely active for centuries. The legend goes that the first bishop of Lyon, St Pothin, had brought with him an icon of the Virgin Mary in town in 150. A first chapel was built on the hill in 1168. In 1643, a plague epidemic threatened Lyon but finally did not affect the city. As a mark of gratitude, the local leaders vowed to walk up the Fourviere hill every year on September 8. In 1870, the archbishop decided to build a new basilica should Prussian troops spare Lyon. The construction started in 1872. While the outside aspect of the church is rather sober, the inside decoration is luxurious and tells the tales of the local saints. The statue was set at the top of the building in 1852 but the scheduled celebrations and fireworks could not take place because of a storm. As a result, the Lyon people decided to place lights at their windows and balconies, starting what would later become the Festival of Lights. Fourviere Roman remains: Spread over three hectares, the Roman remains of the Fourviere hill are now an archaeological reserve. During three centuries, the area was the heart of the town’s social life. The theatre, built in the first century BC, was later completed by an Odeon (2nd century) dedicated to poetry and lyric arts. The two monuments could entertain up to 13,000 people. The site was abandoned in the 3rd century. The remains were discovered and restored in the 20th century. Today the theatre is enjoying a new life by hosting every year the Nuits de Fourviere Festival.

Tete d’or Park

With its 117 hectares, it is the largest park locaterd in the heart of a big French city. It houses a zoo, dating from 1865, a botanic garden (1887), a 17 ha lake and several other attractions.