We spent 10-13 July in Lyon with Simon's brother and sister in law and had a great time. It was everybody's first time in the city.
|Me, Rosy, Jon, Simon, on the foot bridge over the Saone. Photo courtesy of Rosy.|
Lyon is France's second (or third, depending on how you measure it) city, situated in the south-east of the country on the confluence of the Saone and the Rhone Rivers. It is divided into several distinct districts -- Vieux Lyon (the old town), the Presqu'ile (the peninsula between the two rivers), the Croix Rousse (where many silk weavers lived), and La Part-Dieu (the new town).
|Looking up the Saone. Photo courtesy of Rosy, taken from the Basilica roof.|
Traboules: These are alleyways which link the three streets in Vieux-Lyon. They are to maximise the use of space in an area that is constricted by cliffs on one side and the river on the other, allowing residences to be built over and around them and include small internal courtyards. They are quite hidden unless you know about them as they have entry doors which in most cases look like private entrances. I recommend hiring a guide to show you the best ones, as they are often architecturally rather brilliant (14C to 17C). Once you are inside you need to be very quiet as sound reverberates in them, and people live and work in the buildings they serve. There are also traboules in La Croix-rousse.
|16th century traboule designed by Philibert Delorme, who also designed the gallery over the river at Chenonceau for Catherine de Medici.|
Lyon has a reputation for being the great foodie capital of France. It has a remarkable number of Michelin starred restaurants, none of which we tried, although I did chat briefly with one of the chefs. It also has restaurants known as 'bouchons', which were traditionally run by formidible women. There are plenty of good restaurants doing French classic dishes and quite a few places that the locals consider to be tourist traps, especially in Vieux-Lyon. Most of the best bouchons are on the Presqu'ile, not in Vieux-Lyon. The chef Paul Bocuse is (even now he's dead...) a big presence and influence in the city. Probably the most famous dish is quenelles (fish dumplings).
|Rue de boeuf in Vieux-Lyon is full of restaurants.|
To be honest, based on what I had read, I expected Lyonnaise food to be stodgy. I was delighted to be proved wrong on that one, although it is generous and hearty. However, despite having a number of excellent meals, I didn't really get what it was about Lyonnaise cuisine that gives it a reputation as a cut above other regional French cuisine. We live in the Touraine, and the food is excellent here too, but somehow the Tourist Office hasn't managed to get the message out internationally in the way Lyon has.
The big difference that was very noticeable was that Lyonnaise restaurant staff are lively and happy to engage, in whatever language you can muster, with diners. Eating in a restaurant in Lyon is a joyous experience, quite loud and boisterous, with lots of smiling and healthy enjoyment of lots of food and drink.
|Aperitif on the Fourviere. Photo courtesy of Rosy.|
Where We Ate:
The Phamily, 7 rue du boeuf, Vieux-Lyon. Vietnamese. Dinner. https://www.thephamily.co/
Les Adrets, 30 rue du boeuf, Vieux-Lyon. French. Lunch. Recommended by our guide. http://les-adrets.com/
|Les Adrets restaurant.|
Café des Fédérations, 9 rue Major Martin, Presqu'ile. Bouchon. Dinner. Recommended by our guide as one of the authentic bouchons that was not a tourist trap. Nevertheless, by far the majority of diners were American. The restaurant occupies three premises (two adjoining and one across the street). First time diners, including us, struggle to work out how to get in, so don't hesitate to stand in the street and wave madly to attract the barman's attention. He will come and let you in. https://restaurant-cafedesfederations-lyon.fr/
La Salle a manger, 52 cour Charlemagne, Fourvievre (next to the Basilica). This is a restaurant run by a famous institution called the Apprentis d'Auteuil, which takes disadvantaged young people and trains them for various trades and professions. https://www.apprentis-auteuil.org/etablissements/fiche-etablissement/la-salle-a-manger-a-lyon-90944.html
Brasserie l'Espace Carnot, 4 place Carnot. https://espacecarnot.fr/
Note that many restaurants are closed on Mondays.
What We Ate:
Phamily - mixed starters of dumplings and spring rolls; pho, Saigon salad, chicken with satay sauce, coconut milk and chopped vegetables, sauteed beef, boiled rice.
Les Adrets - Duo of mackerel; confit de canard (slow cooked duck) with polenta; a sort of deconstructed strawberry shortcake.
Café des Fédérations - oeufs meurette (poached egg in red wine, mushroom and shallot sauce); salad Lyonnaise, lentil salad, saucisson aux pistache brioché (pork sausages studded with pistachios and wrapped in brioche); quenelles (pike fish dumplings) with langoustine bisque sauce, civet de joue de porc (slow cooked pork cheeks in red wine sauce), tablier de sapeur (crumbed pork escalope with macaroni cheese); demi Saint Marcelin truffé (half a Saint Marcelin cheese with a layer of truffles and garlic), cervelle des canuts (cottage cheese with garlic); Crème glacée aux raisins, coulis de fruits rouge au marc de Bourgogne (house made vanilla ice cream with red fruit sauce and sultanas soaked in a local spirit).
|Saucisson aux pistache brioché (pistachio studded pork sausage in brioche).|
La Salle a manger - cold carrot soup, lentils with a poached egg, rabbit terrine; pork sausages studded with pistachios; peach tart.
Espace Carnot - rougail (sausages in a spicy tomato sauce) with lentils and rice; pistachio sabayon with a shortbread biscuit.
All our restaurant experiences were good and we noticed that lentils and pistachios featured in nearly every meal.
Silk: We visited Brochier Soieries, 16 rue de boeuf, Vieux-Lyon for a history of the silk industry and the family run Brochier company in particular. They now concentrate on silk screen printing scarves for museum shops. I got to paint some silk and we were shown silk worms in various stages of growth. This was a real highlight. https://brochiersoieries.com/en/
|Inside Brochier Soieries shop in Vieux-Lyon.|
Churches: We visited the cathedral, in Vieux-Lyon, which has wonderfully detailed medieval carvings on the front, and a splendid 14th century clock (!!) inside, as well as stained glass from most centuries from the 12th to the 20th.
|The 15th century lovers on the front of the Cathedral.|
We also visited the Basilica, on the Fourviere hill, which, much to our surprise, turned out to be a tremendous highlight. The exterior and interior is a megafest of 19C high Catholic taste, but by chance we were invited onto a tour of the roof, which was great fun and very informative. Needless to say, there are the best views in Lyon from the roof of the basilica. The tour is only in French, but there were several non-French speakers doing it and they seemed to enjoy it.
Guide: We used New Generation Guide www.newgenerationguide.com who at under 300 euros for a private group of 4 for 3 hours of exploring Vieux-Lyon, including the silk workshop, cathedral and many traboules, was very good value. The guide was extremely knowledgeable and very well networked so we got to see things we would not otherwise have done.
|Our guide Alex, on the right, engaging in that time honoured guiding technique, herding cats.|
Also recommended to us was www.foodie-lyon.com but we did not actually use them.
Museums: We visited the Musée de Beaux Arts and were impressed by the Egyptian collections, some of the medieval artefacts, and the 17th century paintings. https://www.mba-lyon.fr/fr
What we did not have time for but would have liked to do: The Museum of the Resistance and Deportation https://en.lyon-france.com/discover-lyon/culture-and-museums/museums/resistance-and-deportation-history-centre-chrd, the Institut Lumiere https://www.institut-lumiere.org/ and the Botanical Gardens https://www.lyon.fr/lieu/jardins/jardin-botanique. The Textile Museum https://en.lyon-france.com/discover-lyon/culture-and-museums/museums/textile-museum-closed, which has long been on my list, is closed for renovations. Note that many museums are closed on Mondays and/or Tuesdays.
Where we stayed: A 2 bedroom apartment in rue Johannes Drevet on the Presqu'ile. It was spacious, clean, well equipped except for a few minor niggles and perfectly located for getting to all the places we wanted to see.
What I did not like about Lyon: The noise! There was a lot of street noise, day and night.
How we got there: We caught the Intercity train from Saint Pierre des Corps to Lyon Perrache, a trip of about five and a half hours, and returned the same way. In Lyon we mostly walked, but on one day bought a 24 hour multi-trip public transport pass and used the funicular railway to get up to Fourviere and back.