The view from the alfresco terrace on the third floor of the brand new Centre Commercial Confluence provokes you. It asks you to dismantle the jigsaw puzzle of expectation you've created in your head and to think again about what France's third city has to offer.
I take my time to try and unravel the vista - the tranquil Saone River on my left, the mighty Rhone to my right. Ahead of me sits a handful of showstopping blocks of
flats in white, blue, silver and beige which look like they've been created by dismantling one of Le Corbusier's legendary Unite d'Habitation blocks and reconstructing their constituent rational boxes and coloured flashes in gregarious new ways. Few people realise that there's a Corbusier 'Unite', not just in Marseille, but also at Firminy-Vert on Lyon's periphery.
Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas' space-age apartments are just a taste of
things to come. Lyon is home to a succession of new buildings which surprise and delight - and sometimes leave you wondering why they were even built. But make no mistake: right now this is one of the most exciting and dynamic cityscapes in Europe. I finish my tarte tatin at Le Paradis du Fruit, interior designed by Phillipe Starck and the liveliest place to eat lunch in the new shopping centre.
The adventure starts as soon as you land at St Exupery Airport though. Outside the terminal, the Gare TGV by Spanish superstar architect Santiago Calatrava sits like a lizard preparing to pounce, its back arched over the tracks. Few people seem to be using the station and its ghostly interior is even more enjoyable for its emptiness.
Lyon's hilly downtown core - blessed with silk-weaving houses, residential courts and picture postcard places replete with pentanque courts - is sternly overlooked by the famous Fourvière Cathedral. Most tourists head here, but you need to travel south to get to the real centre of the action - where the two rivers meet. Each drop of rain that falls on the French side of the Alps makes its long journey to the Camargue via this meeting point in Lyon.
The valley of the Saone tumbles down on the far side, but in the middle, a flat riverside path through Lyon's old docks allows you to cock an eye at some fascinating architecture. The Mimolette is a huge orange cube with a hole in the corner, as if a giant mouse has come along and taken a bite - indeed, the nickname comes from the fact that locals think it looks like a piece of the delicious orange Norman cheese.
The building is clad in a double steel skin which seals in heat and solar panels on the roof generate electricity making it very eco-friendly. This double skin also allows the outer orange layer to be perforated many times over. The trademark of the structure is the pattern of giant holes 'cut out' of it - all designed on computers to create the wild shapes.
The radical Mimolette is home to furniture design and interior decor firm RBC, where a double-height ground floor hosts a showroom of products, while the four upper floors house the company's offices, topped off by a smart roof terrace.
La Mimolette's architects, Jakob + MacFarlane (Frenchman Dominique Jakob and New Zealander Brendan MacFarlane) are based in Paris and have designed such modern marvels in the French capital as the surreal, futuristic George Restaurant at the Centre Pompidou, and the fabulous new Cité De La Mode et Du Design on the Seine. The partners have also been working on a masterplan for the regeneration of the entire town centre of the Flemish seaside resort of Knokke-Heist.
Currently Jakob + MacFarlane are working on a twin Mimolette nearby in Lyon - a lime green box with two giant holes and terraces that jut out on to the river itself. The building will be finished next year and will become the headquarters for the Euronews TV channel.
Next door is Docks 40, a wildly over-the-top restaurant and nightclub complete with digital screens, a stage high in the corner and Lyon's best terrace. This sleek grey slice of modernism houses local radio stations upstairs. A few doors down is the restaurant of Nicolas Le Bec - who, in a city in thrall to gastronomy, rates as one of the top chefs of the region.
The icing on the cake is La Sucrière - the old sugar refinery which has been turned into an art gallery. It also hosts live music - Manchester's 1980s legends New Order played here earlier this year at the Nuits Sonores Festival. And the people behind the festival are busy putting the finishing touches to a new bar and club on the roof of the Sucrière. The factory's twin towers are bold, functional and beautiful. One has 'droite' painted across it, while the other reads, yes, 'gauche'.
The Lyonnaise love of inserting art into modern architecture offers oddities during the most mundane of activities, like parking your car. The newest of the city's myriad underground car parks brims with visual treats. At Place Célestins, the car park looks like a dungeon, spiralling downwards. An inverted periscope at the surface lets you peer down into the automotive abyss, the pièce de résistance a spinning mirror at the base of the well-like shaft, which plays tricks on your senses. Take a deep breath before your drive back out.
And much more is to come - Lyon is one of the Republique's most progressive cities (cinema, gastronomy and the French Resistance all sowed their seeds here). The Confluence Museum is under construction at the very tip of the peninsula where the rivers meet, on an unlovely site cheek by jowl with the A7 motorway. But when this (much delayed) stunning building by Austrian architects Coop Himmelb(l)au - currently building the new European Central Bank in Frankfurt - opens, Lyon will have a new landmark. The museum will house anthropology exhibitions inside a deconstructivist shell which will remind visitors of Bilbao's avant-garde Guggenheim.
And where to stay while you're admiring all this newness? Of course, the brand new Mama Shelter hotel - an offshoot of Starck's Parisian 'budget boutique bolthole' concept, which will also throw its doors open next year to design fanatics. www.onlylyon.org