This month, we travelled to a beautiful winederlust location that left us smitten, inspired and wanting more – bienvenue à Lyon. Plopped right in-between Burgundy and the Rhone Valley and pretty much right in the heart of wine country is France’s third largest city and our favourite find of 2015. Following an invite from our best Frenchie, Charline, we made it our mission to stop over in the city of bouchons (we’ll explain shortly), blossoms and welcoming benches.
From the start, we’ll be clear with you, our fellow human beings – this post may not exactly be about wine per se. But by now, we’re sure you’ve figured out that as much as we are wine fans, we believe that there is so much more to the fermented grape juice beverage that meets the eye (or indeed, the tastebuds). And that’s what this blog is all about. As we wrote in our wine travel post here, we’re into exploring the story and adventure that surrounds vino.
So, for starters, the best way to see Lyon is by foot. And funicular. Combine the two, and you’ll find yourself on top of the Fourvière hill – the perfect spot for a beautiful panoramic view of the terracotta-tiled city. We started our 48-hour stint in the city by visiting the most ornate place of worship we’ve ever seen in France – the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Even if you don’t belong to the Catholic faith, paying a visit to this spot is definitely worth a moment of reflection.
Perhaps our favourite aspect about Lyon is the fact that it is the perfect city to be a flâneur. After all, you’re in France, so embrace the culture like Baudelaire and Benjamin, and stroll, lounge or even saunter around to your heart’s content, taking in the old town and crossing countless bridges over the Saône or Rhône – depending on where you are. The story goes that Lyon has three rivers – the Saône, the Rhône and the Beaujolais (har har). While the mythical river of flowing red wine is of course just a joke, the city of Lyon is split by two large rivers that run right through the heart of the city. According to our lovely tour guide, Charline, the once Queen of France, Marie de’ Medici, lived in Lyon for some time. However, she missed her hometown of Florence so much that she redesigned the buildings along the Saône river where she lived to be more Florence-influenced. After all, she was a queen, so she could. When you’re visiting, you’ll easily notice the distinction between the colourful buildings along the Saône and the more modern and white buildings along the Rhône.
Considering the fact that Lyon is located in the heart of wine country, it’s no surprise that it’s celebrated as the gastronomical capital of France. One of our favourite parts of the trip was eating at a local ‘bouchon’ – a restaurant that serves traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, and when compared to other forms of French cooking, the dishes are quite fatty and heavily oriented around meat. We weren’t complaining. To bar you from salivating over this portion of the blog post, let us just state that we had our first fish souffles in lobster sauce (basically heaven on earth) at one of the top bouchons in Lyon, Le Musée, and post dinner, Gosia could barely fit into her high-waisted jeans. We’ve started a running club ever since. But without a doubt, we’d do it all over again. Damn, the Lyonnaise know how to cook.
After eating ourselves into a stupor, we noticed the amount of welcoming benches in spots all over town. Lyon realises that they feed good, and they know that there are a bunch of practically comatose individuals walking around town looking for a place to crash. Et voilà – la bench. Sit, relax, and people watch. What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?
Finally, in a conscientious effort to walk off our four desserts split four ways (praline, roasted apple in a salted butter caramel sauce, real chocolate mousse and the most perfect crème brûlée), we started a trek up towards another hill, Croix-Rousse. At the top, we encountered Cherry Blossom trees. Over our first true Spring in Europe, Kristen has absolutely fallen in love with these blossoms, and has religiously followed their blooming via Instagram hashtags like #SpringInParis. Anyone wanting to gift the girl sometime should just buy her a cherry blossom tree. You can’t really blame her though – they are so lovely.
To us, Lyon feels a bit like Florence crossed with Stockholm – which actually isn’t surprising, as we found out that during the Renaissance, much of the industrial activity in Lyon was influenced by the Italian silk trade. While Lyon is a big city, its atmosphere is incredibly laid back – so if you find the hustle and bustle of Paris overwhelming, it’s the perfect place to experience French city culture in an authentic and relaxing way. We love Lyon, and we think you will too. Go, go, go!