There are two things I regret about my trip to Lyon.
Regret #1: I didn’t plan ahead which restaurants to eat at. Sometimes this is good since it forces you to explore the area, leading to some unexpected finds. Case in point was the breakfast hole-in-the wall near our London hotel. Our starvation and hung over heads may have affected our taste buds quite a bit but it’s still remembered as one of the most satisfying meals. Sadly, the same (non) strategy didn’t work in Lyon. The bouchons serve the cuisine for which Lyon is famous for, namely fatty meats and offal. Now, I’m seriously a chicken when it comes to animal parts. I’m Chinese and have yet to taste chicken’s feet or liver for peet’s sake! Hubby is even less adventurous than I and pretty much cuts out any fat or skin off his meats. So when it came time for dinner our first night in Lyon, we walked from restaurant to restaurant, trying to decipher the posted menus and find one that didn’t seem too scary. Hubby suggested that we eat at this rowdy English pub but I said “No! I didn’t come to Lyon to get drunk with a bunch of English blokes!” Finally we ended up at this nice looking bouchon (the name escapes me) and I ordered Lyonnaise salad, something that was translated as “slices of warm pork” and an apple tart for dessert.
The “slices of warm pork” were basically just fatty chunks of boiled pork, without any sauce over it or seemingly any spices. I took a couple of bites, tried to take some more so I wouldn’t seem like a stupid American ingrate and then just had to stop.
I gave in the next night and just went to a pasta restaurant on Rue Mercière. Located in the peninsula between two major squares, the Place des Jacobins and the Place d’Albon, Rue Mercière is lined with restaurants, bars and cafes. Over dinner, I watched as a buxom blond, wearing far more makeup and way less clothes than the typical French woman, and a young guy walked back and forth obviously looking for a place to eat. Finally, they plopped down next to us and the blond proceeds to tell her companion about her study abroad adventures. Did he know that they call apartments in London flats?!?! Did he know that they call soccer football? After a while the guy asks us if we speak English and to please help them decipher the menu. Errrrr let’s see, it’s obviously an Italian restaurant and the menu has dishes named spaghetti bolognese and eggplant pizza. He tells us that his buxom companion thought that it’s a French restaurant. I suppose she’s embarrassed since hardly a peep comes out of her mouth. When the waitress comes, he tells her that his dining companion wants to have the most French dish on the menu. LOL.
Defying the stereotype that the French are rude and snobbish, a row of French guys watching a soccer game in a bar immediately scooted over to make room for us. After the game, the bar turned into a club and yes, they played the same crappy music as clubs here.
Regret #2: Hidden in the maze of Old Lyon and Croix Rousse’s streets are secret alleyways and staircases called traboules. Silk was a huge industry in Lyon back in the day and silk workers used the traboules to safely transport their goods around town. Today, a small percentage of traboules are open to the public to explore. We wandered around Croix Rousse, the neighborhood that was home to a lot of the silk workers, searching for some of these traboules clearly marked with plaques. Alas, my lack of planning got the better of us.
Tete d’or Park is Lyon’s largest park, home to various gardens and a zoo. We stopped at a cafe inside for snacks and drinks.
Here are some scenes from our walk from the park to the Place Bellecour. On the way we passed by Les halles de Lyon, an indoor market selling all kinds of artisanal goods. Meats, seafood and chocolates galore.
My last night in Lyon, I went to bed satisfied that while I didn’t have such a successful bouchon experience, I was able to get to know a real French city devoid of large hordes of tourists. Plus, my belly was full of excellent croissants and wine. And oh, here was the view from my hotel room at night.