Heart of a Lyon – Day Two

It’s been a while. I meant to continue the stories of Lyon, but Sunday I was tired from Lucerne / the Gansabhauet, Tuesday was busy and I was just a little sad on Monday about the passing of Stan Lee. There’s a lot that’s been already said about Stan the Man, so I’ll just say that I am pretty sure no other writer/creator has had or probably will have as big of an influence on who I am as he did. I even quoted him (or Ben Parker, I guess) in my law school applications.

Also, there are devastating fires destroying several parts of California. It’s awful. For those back home, please stay safe. And if you can, there are a number of organizations accepting donations for fire relief.

And with that, let’s go back to Lyon.

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It’s actually quite amazing how much I was able to get done in the hours that I had in Lyon on Sunday. I think the timing for everything worked out really well, but I had a pretty busy and exhausting day before I boarded the 5pm train home to Basel.

After hotel breakfast and checkout, I hopped on the bus to Croix-Rouge, where my walking tour of the city was scheduled to start. The tour typically meets at the statue of Joseph-Marie Jacquard (whose technology for weaving was later an inspiration for the computer). There was a fair going on at the time, so we met nearby.

On the tour, we got a history of the city as we walked down the hill, took as good of views as we could get in the fog, and made our way to town hall.

We started the tour going through the market of Croix-Rouge, which was enormous and smelled so good. There were even some stands selling interesting animal parts, including brains.

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We tried to get some good views from the top of the hill, but didn’t get much due to the fog. We did pass some interesting street art, though.

We walked through some of the city’s traboules on our way down the hill. I mentioned the traboules in my previous post. The city of Lyon is littered with these historic passageways and stairwells that would help the silk workers move their goods around the city. Many of them aren’t easy to find. I know this because while I felt like we were weaving in and out of them during the tour, I struggled to find one when I was on my own.

We did two that were pretty cool during the tour. One was not as well-maintained, but was a historic gathering place for a big workers’ rights movement (if I remember, correctly). The other acts as a sort of incubator to help local artisans get their business started.

As we made our way down the hill, we also saw some Roman ruins (and got some history of the Roman occupation of the city), passed a church scarred by the French Revolution, the opera house, and town hall.

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We ended the tour along the Saone River, where the weekly book market was underway. As soon as the tour was over and despite the fact that I had a very tight itinerary in mind if I wanted to grab a good lunch and see more of the city, I got sucked into that book market almost immediately. I may or may not have bought stuff.

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I tried and failed again to get into some of the hyped bouchons from the list I had put together, before walking through a different market on the other side of the river and failing to find more traboules.

I found myself back in Vieux Lyon, where I did manage to find one traboule while trying to find the funiculars from the day before.

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My plan had actually been to grab kabobs to save time, but I ended up sitting down at a bouchon. I was concerned at first that it would take too long like the one I ate at the night before, but I then heard the most beautiful words anyone in a hurry could ever hear. The waiter apologized to me and said that there was a reservation for my table and wanted to know if I’d be able to eat and leave within the hour. Amazing. Also, I tried Lyonnaise salad which was pretty incredible. Now energized with food and a sitting break I forgot I needed after walking all morning, I was ready to take on the second part of the day.

I caught the funicular up to Fourviere. The Notre Dame basilica sits on the top of the hill and oversees a lot of the city. It’s also joined by a tower that resembles the Eiffel Tower. I started with the inside of the basilica, which was very beautiful. I had actually considered skipping the basilica all together and the inside kind of validated the whole trip up there.

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The views of the city from outside were just as spectacular as the inside of the basilica.

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I made my way back down the hill and took the bus to the Parc de la Tete d’Or, which is the big park of the city. It was the other big part of the city I was hoping to see before I left. It was also conveniently located near my hotel, which I had to go back to to pick up my backpack.

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The park is enormous, as in, there is a botanical garden with historic green houses, a small lake, and an entire zoo in the middle of it big. I got into the park and had a set itinerary, which would involve me hitting the botanic gardens and parts of the zoo before heading back towards the hotel. I immediately got disoriented and went the wrong way. After some course correction, I found the zoo and saw a zebra in Lyon. Also, no, did not see lions.

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I also visited the botanic gardens, which I didn’t last too long in because it was stuffy and kind of crowded, and I realized that I needed to get back to the hotel to the hotel. It was pretty, though.

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And after walking through the park and getting my stuff at the hotel, I made it to the train station with a little time to spare (not that it mattered, because the train was delayed).

The weekend, overall, was a lot of fun. There were some moments over the weekend where things could have probably gone south, but it was ultimately a fun and somewhat chaotic weekend in all the best ways.

And there is only one way that I can end this post.

Excelsior!

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Heart of a Lyon – Day One

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Hello. I’m taking a break from the messe food for a post on Lyon. Lyon is the culinary capital of France and its food scene includes markets, foods with organ meats, Michelin starred restaurants, and traditional bouchons. It’s for this reason, that I was incredibly excited about the weekend trip. Of course, there were so many options and not enough time.

I spent quite some time trying to figure out how to split up the post about Lyon. I started trying to do it as one post and it didn’t work out as well as I thought it would. I considered doing a food versus sightseeing breakdown like I did for Amsterdam, but it didn’t quite work. So, we’re just going to take it one day at a time.

After an early morning train ride, I rolled into Lyon at 11 and was immediately overwhelmed by the fact that the city was significantly larger than I expected. Never mind that everything I read about the city told me that it was the third largest city in France. I was expecting a tiny and cute French town. It didn’t help that I had a 12 pm reservation for a restaurant called Bijouterie (which means jewelry in French). I started going towards the first thing I saw on Google Maps with that name until I realized that I was just going to a random jewelry store. This happened moments before I boarded a the metro going in the absolute opposite direction, making it very convenient that I bought the 48 hour public transportation pass and hadn’t just wasted a ticket.

All of those hi-jinks, as well as a brief interlude where I thought I might have a moment to drop off my bags at the hotel and get to the restaurant before noon, managed to take up a half hour. This meant that my immediate reaction was to panic and just take a taxi over to the restaurant. Of course, this got me there with an awkward 15 minutes before the restaurant opened. It worked okay because it gave me a chance to explore the neighborhood and get my first sight of the Saone River. I even caught one of Lyon’s more famous frescoes.

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Bijouterie doesn’t do French food per se, but a lot of people seemed to rave about this restaurant and I was able to get a lunch reservation, so I decided to go for it. For lunch, they do a prix fixe menu of pan-Asian dim sum. You choose three “jewels” for the set lunch price and can add dessert for not much more.

The dishes come out in a very quick procession and are started with a soup (that I drank like I would miso soup and not with my spoon like everyone else because I’m absolutely not civilized). I chose the siu mai, the fish, and the chicken wings and got the spicy variation of the rice. They were all delicious, but I think I’d have to say that the chicken wings were my favorite. The dessert was a fascinating combination of chestnut flavors with some ice cream. So good. Despite all the small plates, I was quite full after the meal.

Lunch was followed by a trip to the the town square, where I saw town hall and a pretty cool Bartholdi statue that where the horses look like they have smoke coming out of their noses (I learned during my tour the next day that the statue was actually intended for a different city).

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This was followed up with the Nike store and some post-lunch downtime at the hotel. I considered walking around the big park, especially since it was across the street from the hotel, but as mentioned previously, was trying to spare the pre-race mileage so as not to injure myself. A lot of good that did.

I had just enough time pre-race for a trip out to the Halles des Lyon – Paul Bocuse (named for the famous chef who would shop at the market). Have I mentioned that I have a weakness for markets? There was food everywhere and it looked delicious. I didn’t try much so as to not get sick during the aforementioned race, but did grab some food to bring back to Basel with me and had my first taste of Lyon’s signature pink pralines. I bought a couple of bags of pralines to bring home with me, but also tried one of the tarts, which was incredible.

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I wrote enough about the failed race, so we’ll pick up from where that ended. After taking the funicular back down to Vieux Lyon, I finally did get to get my taste of the old part of Lyon. It was pretty deep into the evening, so the next challenge would be trying to find dinner.

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I tried and failed to use the “there’s only one of me” excuse to sneak into some of the more famous Bouchons of Vieux Lyon, so then played a very interesting game of trying to find one to eat at. I tried to use a very scientific process of balancing the window stickers with how touristy the menu looked. I probably could have used Yelp or TripAdvisor like a normal millennial, but that’s no fun.

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I did eventually find one that I was drawn to because of the very eclectic interior. It’s very possible that they didn’t actually have for me because they seated me at this tiny table that looked like an old fashioned desk and was piled with stuff. The meal took a while, but it was all delicious. I never knew you could have foie gras in salad, but now I do. We also topped off the dinner with a pastry with more of Lyon’s pralines.

After dinner, I walked around Vieux Lyon a little more. However, between the early train, attempted race, and the heavy food, I was starting to get tired. I made a sad attempt at trying to at least see some of Lyon’s traboules from along the river before understanding that they are actually just passageways. Oh well.

I walked along the Saone until I hit the court of appeals, where I crossed a bridge over the Saone. I made it to the Place des Jacobins before trying to find the bus back to the hotel.

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Honestly, there was a lot about the day that was a hot mess, but it ended up being a fun hot mess at the end of the day.

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