Cybele, an unusual way to visit Lyon
Forget about the traditional and sometimes boring guided tours. Cybele proposes a series of unconventional tours with street plays and tastings… Some visits are available to English speakers for groups.
Let’s face it. There is nobody better than Guignol and Gnafron to tell stories about Lyon and its people. The two famous puppets characters, created in the early 19th century, are out on the streets of the Saint- Georges neighborhood in the historic district of Vieux-Lyon, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998. Saint-Jean Cathedral is just a few blocks away.
Two guides holding the puppets explain how locals lived here in the 1800s along with the political and social issues back then (censorship, social and economic inequalities) with a quirky tone. There are also allusions to today’s politics.
Facts, Games and Tastings
At the same time, guides try to engage with the audience.“We ask visitors to invent a poem or create a short conversation to encourage interaction. The role-playing is a starting point to give historic details and tell stories about people’s habits”, says Clemence Pornon, co-founder of Cybele tours. In the same spirit, the company has launched new tours incorporating answering humorous question about Lyon as they discover the city’s landmarks. Others can learn about the rich history of local food. People can taste a slice of Rosette – a French pork sausage – with pieces of Saint Marcellin cheese, pralines, chocolate-marzipan pillows (coussin). The tour ends with a blind tasting test. Blindfolded participants must recognize the flavours of macaroons.
A not very conventional tour guide Clemence Pornon studied Art History at university before embracing a career as a professional tour guide. “I was looking for something more interesting and challenging,” she says. Pornon was convinced that social interaction should be a priority in any guided tour. In 2011, she talked to her friend, Olivier Montillet, an actor, about her ideas. “Our common goal was to rebrand guided tours. We both think that emotions, laughs and simplicity should be part of the experience. Too many guides pour out a stream of knowledge”, she adds.
Visiting Vieux Lyon and Croix-Rousse
They started their business in late 2012. Four years later, Cybele offers a dozen tours across Lyon with 6 000 visitors in 2016. Some visits are available to English speakers for groups of at least 10 people. Beyond the Vieux Lyon visitors can explore others parts of the city. Fourviere, the” Hill that prays” with the Roman theatre and the neogothic Basilica. The “Hill that works” called “La Croix Rousse” where the rebellion of silk workers took place in the 19th century.
Some of these unconventional tours are made specifically for kids including a musical and storytelling tour in Vieux Lyon for 3-6-year-old children. Others visits are in the works. A tour right in the mix of the Presqu’ile area between Place Bellecour and Cordeliers will be launched in the spring. Clemence Pornon and his business associate are also thinking about creating a guided tour featuring stories about the French Resistance during World War Two.
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