Le Retour En France!

Hello everyone. It has once again been a minute since I’ve posted because life gets in the way of me constantly updating my blog! I realized I’ve been using this blog more as a travel log for myself which suits me just fine. I still have been reading at my usual rapid pace but as the school year gears up, it gets harder and harder to keep that pace. I do have a few books from break that I finished that I’m hoping to review soon! However, let me fill you in on my latest adventure, a 45 hour whirlwind tour of the French city of Lyon, renowned for its gastronomy and its beauty!

View of Fourvière from the River Saône

I’ll start off by sharing my travel wishes which since I’ve got here has been to take a few weekend trips by train from Paris. That has NOT happened as often as I thought it would before I came here due to a terrible confluence of events making my class schedule not ideal for such travel. I really enjoyed my longer trip for my fall break (which I believe my last post is from right before), I might do a retrospective and share the photos and adventures from that trip if I ever run out of material but that was about the only large travel I got in during the fall semester. This semester is turning out to be a wee bit more friendly to travel and I’m ready to take full advantage! That being said, I had a last minute class cancelation and thought it would be the perfect time for a getaway! I got lucky with the train ticket pricing and was on my way!

Exterior of La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière

I got into Lyon around 11 in the morning, early enough to get a whole day of sight seeing in. On the advice of L, I headed to the hostel that I had picked (SLO Living Hostel) and dropped my stuff off. This was my first time staying at a hostel and L really helped with loads of good advice before I left for Lyon. I was able to store my bigger backpack in their storage room and set off! Armed with my Rick Steves recommendations, I was ready to tackle the city! The first order of business was lunch and this was not so successful. The tricky thing about going to a French city over a Sunday-Monday timeframe is that a lot of things close on either Sunday or Monday so you really have to plan your work and work your plan! On the recommendation of Rick Steves, I headed towards Lugdunum, the Gallo-Roman museum that also houses some really cool architectural ruins of a Roman amphitheater (closed on Mondays). This museum happens to be in the hills overlooking Lyon and is accessible by walking or by the funicular. Being hungry and in the mood for adventure, I chose the funicular and enjoyed the smooth ride up. Unfortunately the stop closest to the museum is closed so I went to the other station and  I chose a restaurant for lunch nearby but for reasons unknown (probably because it was prime lunch hour on a Sunday) they turned me away, saying they couldn’t serve me. I was pretty upset as my stomach had been growling since I stepped off the train but didn’t let it stop me. I have two very wise friends who remind me regularly to always bring a snack and was prepared with two tangerines! While this doesn’t sound like much, it got me through until I was able to scrounge a sandwich from a boulangerie later in the afternoon. The museum was amazing, and I learned a thing or two! They showcase some incredible mosaics in the museum that were worth the trek up the hill by themselves! I wandered for a bit then headed to the other major attraction on the hill, La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. Try saying that four times fast! Entry is free and there are guided tours of the roof but only during the summers, so I was unable to avail myself of this! Walking around the cathedral was an incredible experience. The stained glass is gorgeous, and the walls are decorated in the most ornate mosaics. It was a very awe-inspiring and I was really glad I stopped by. Finally, I headed down the hill to try and grab a bit to eat before I fell over. 

Interior shot of the ceiling of La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière

After a brief stop at a boulangerie for a sandwich, I checked the time and saw that I had more time than I thought and with some luck, could make my third stop of the day. I was hoping to stop at the Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation Musée de Lyon which is also closed on Mondays. This museum does have audioguides in English but I chose to try out my French skills and do without. This worked out well as large parts of exhibits featured video testimonies from those who experienced the war. I had no idea that Lyon was the center of the Resistance during the war as well as a major hub where both resistance fighters and Jews were targeted for deportation. I enjoyed walking through the museum and was happy to learn something new about history! I did a bit of internet sleuthing about Klaus Barbie, a name featured heavily as he is known as the Butcher of Lyon and was the head of the Gestapo in Lyon during the occupation. I found out that the United States helped him to evade French custody until he fled to Bolivia, which was just a little reminder that the United States actions both during and after the war didn’t always follow the high-minded ideals of our representative democracy. After the history lesson, a brief stop for goûter! I followed Rick Steve’s lead and headed back to Vieux Lyon to try the patisserie of A La Marquise, a well-known patisserie and tea salon. Pictures of the food below! I enjoyed a lovely light herbal tea alongside a porte froc, made of chocolate mousse with a base of praline. Praline is a local delicacy in Lyon, with bright pink flavored praline showing up everywhere! From what I’ve experienced so far in France, praline seems to be congealed globs of sugar that sound not so great but really taste good! They often make dessert loaves with praline studded throughout and they’re delicious! I didn’t have any on this trip but it’s nice to know that it is out there! After a restful repast, I went back to my hotel for a bit of a rest because traveling can take the mickey out of you. (Pun entirely intended) I was also absorbed in the book I had brought alone which I’m hoping you will all get to read about sometime soon! 

Goûter from A La Marquise

Taking a bit of a break in between adventuring and dinner meant that I had some time to recover from the fierce Lyonaise winds that were blowing through as well as some time to research my dinner options! After perusing the reviews for a few recommended spots from Rick Steves, I realized that reservations were the move for a nice Sunday dinner and since I do not yet have the confidence in my French skill to make a dinner reservation over the phone, I had not made any! Some places (such as my lunch spot the following day) do take online reservations which is very helpful! I decided to change around my dinner and lunch choice so I went to the more casual, Bistrot a Tartines for dinner and made a reservation for lunch the next day at La Bistrot de Lyon. I laughed a little as a I walked up to Bistrot a Tartines because the two restaurants are right next to one another. I had a chill dinner at Bistrot a Tartines, opting for a simple croque monsieur and a honey mustard salad with a small glass of local wine. I was glad to have gone more lowkey and afterwards, called it an early night. 

Breakfast from Boulangerie Saint Paul

Unfortunately for me, all my roommates at the hostel also decided to call it a night. I chose an all female dorm room which made me very safe but does not guarantee a good night of sleep! The girl underneath me snored so loud and at such a pitch that I was able to hear it through wax earplugs. If I hadn’t gotten so little sleep, I would be impressed! Due to her and another of my roommates getting up at 7am for their days activities, I was able to snooze a little longer and checked out about an hour before the 11am checkout time. At hostels, you’re also able to leave your bag in staff monitored storage after you check out which I did! Unfortunatley for me, it was pouring rain! This slightly changed my plans for the day which had been to head to the largest park in Lyon but I settled for exploring Vieux Lyon and its churches and covered passageways until my lunch reservation! I started by grabbing a pain au chocolat and a black coffee from the Boulanger de Saint Paul which was so good I came back to grab a sandwich for my dinner. I then walked around Vieux Lyon, darting into any open covered passageway that I could find to marvel at the inside look into many buildings.

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste

I also went to the main church of Vieux Lyon, Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, which was gorgeous but a bit drafty! After there, I high tailed it to my lunch reservation at La Bistrot de Lyon where I enjoyed a nice traditional lunch with an appetizer of a hard-poached egg with a mushroom stew and quenelles for my main course. Quenelles are the traditional fish based dish of Lyon and I could not tell you more than this. I enjoyed them for lunch but don’t think I’ll be looking for them for my every lunch. I REALLY enjoyed the gravy that came with the quenelles and could eat that everyday!

Une Quenelle

After such a heavy lunch, I paddled on over to the Musée de Beaux Arts de Lyon and was pleasantly surprised by the vastness of the collection. I spent over two hours looking at everything from ancient artifacts to Art Nouveau furniture. I was glad that the Rick Steves guidebook warned about certain floors being closed during the traditional French lunch hour (12/12:30-2pm) because this turned out to be true! I entered just as everything was re-opening for the afternoon and happily wandered through the galleries for hours. I almost wished I had picked up the English audio guide which was only an extra euro but I usually don’t like them so I abstained. I worked on my French skills from reading all the plaques! After that, I walked around the river for a bit and enjoyed the last strands of daylight. After picking up a sandwich, I headed to the train station. It was rush hour and I was not as careful with my belongings as I should have been. I was pickpocketed but the thief was unlucky and grabbed my chap stick which he sheepishly offered back to me. While I was not worried about my stuff, I should have been more careful! I did have my phone in the other pocket and should have put it somewhere more secure before waiting with a huge crowd of people at the train stop. I can get complacent and it was a good reminder to be aware of my surroundings! I did have a bit of a chuckle over the return of the chap stick but I appreciated having it back! At least the thief can agree with me that dry lips are the real menace to our society! 

And that was my whirlwind trip around Lyon! I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures and are along for the rest of my journey! Be safe and keep traveling!

2 thoughts on “Le Retour En France!

  1. Wonderful description of your trip to Lyon! I enjoy the food descriptions as the cuisine is much different to the US and you are teaching the uninitiated about it as you travel. Photos of the church were beautiful.

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