We arrived in Lyon on Friday afternoon, a little bummed about saying good-bye to Bruges, but looking forward to seeing what France had in store for us. From the moment we popped out of the train station, I was immediately taken aback by just how big the city is – people crowded the sidewalks, tall buildings dominated the skyline, streets were jammed with cars and buses and motorcycles. We definitely weren’t in small-town Belgium anymore… But I quickly got over my shock and after checking into our hotel, we set out to see what Lyon had to offer. We were hungry and looking to grab something quick; luckily, no one does a good, simple sandwich like the French do. We popped in Kayser bakery (this well-reputed chain has been taking France by storm), ordered a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches and a couple of tarts, and then found a spot in a nearby plaza to sit, eat, and people watch. I’ve missed the taste of a good tarte citron – nothing else like it…
Energized by our carb-heavy ‘snack’, we headed west and decided to tackle the hundreds of steps that lead up to Fourviere. After what felt like a never-ending climb, we finally reached the top and took in the view of the city in the evening sunlight. Lyon’s cityscape is so different from Paris’ – the red tile rooftops were an unexpected surprise.
The chapel of Notre Dame de Fourviere was amazing – I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything so incredibly ornate.
We began our descent as the sun set, winding our way through the narrow staircases and streets.
After doing a little more wandering, we headed in the direction of Brasserie Georges for dinner. We seen a recommendation to check out this ‘grand cafe’-style restaurant for good Lyonnaise cuisine. Sadly, I think our over-indulgent bakery visit earlier in the day had taken away much of our appetites… Still, we enjoyed our meal and a nice little chat with an older French couple at the table next to us. I boned up on my French and translated the gentleman’s tips for Shane on proper aperitifs and digestifs. By the time dinner ended, we were exhausted, so we scouted out a metro line that would take us back our hotel and fell into bed, stuffed and sleepy.
Our first stop on Saturday morning was the large indoor food market across the street from where we were staying. Row after row of cheese, meat (everything from cured sausages to entire rabbits, fur and all!), baked goods, jars of foie gras, delicate little chocolates and sweets…it was a sight to behold.
It was early and we weren’t quite ready to venture into stinky cheeses and pates, so we just grabbed a croissant and a yogurt and headed toward the river to find a place to eat. Oh, and I also snagged three perfect macaroons, since when in France, I have dessert after breakfast, lunch and dinner…
Shane had read the night before about a cluster of ancient Roman ruins up near Fourviere hill and wanted to check them out, so we headed back up (this time by tram) to see what we could find. We came across a large stone amphitheater and a number of crumbling old walls just behind the church we’d visited the night before. Some of this stonework was literally thousands of years old. Blows my mind.
Curiosity satisfied, we took another winding street down the hill and pointed ourselves south, walking along the Saone River.
I was interested in checking out the Lyon Confluence, an area near the converging Saone and Rhone rivers that is home to a lot of new architectural developments. It was quite an experience to able to walk from Roman ruins to rows of ultra-modern metal-and-glass condos.
This building in particular caught my eye (whose eye wouldn’t it catch?!). Funky, bright, patterned, and bold – I like it.
While I was having my little architectural geek-out, Shane was camped out on a bench in a nearby park – that warm Lyon sun, paired with the first Wifi signal we’d been able to find in France, and he wasn’t in any rush to go anywhere else.
However, we did have one last sight we wanted to see, and so we caught a tram to the north end of town to stroll through Parc de la Tete d’Or – Lyon’s largest park. And it was huuuuge, containing everything from English-style gardens, to ‘African plains’ containing giraffes and brightly colored birds, to wide-open expanses of bright green lawn. We camped out on the grass for awhile and watched the people go by.
Our day ended with dinner at Chez Jul, a little river-side restaurant with a tasty looking menu and an open table (after being turned away from three different restaurants for not having reservations, we were thrilled to find a place that could seat us). After hearing all the talk about Lyon being the culinary capitol of France, I felt a lot of pressure to partake in an earth-shattering meal. I ordered the duck, Shane ordered the fish, and I kept my fingers crossed. And the food was indeed good. But it wasn’t the meal to end all meals. I was disappointed for a moment, and then I remembered, I’m in France. And having a fabulous time with my very favorite person. Disappointment averted; it was still a great night. Oh, and for the record, the cheese plate we ordered for dessert was actually pretty killer.
We enjoyed a slow walk back to our room, taking in the view of the city at night. We’d be catching a train the next morning, so we said our au revoir’s to Lyon, reflecting on what a full day it had been.
Next stop: Paris. Yes.