Sunday, March 13, 2016

In Like a Lyon

Trip date: September 2014

Are you familiar with the word turophile?  A connoisseur of cheese; a cheese fancier. That is a badge I wear proudly and there is no place like France to really practice the art of being a cheese fancier! And no better place in France than Lyon to dive into many new (to me) cheeses!

Before hanging out on the Left and Right banks of Paris, I started my trip in Lyon. Because of a pilot strike on Air France my flight, which was suppose to take me from Seattle to Paris to Lyon, terminated in Paris. I hopped on a train at CDG and took it to an agreed upon station in the south of Paris where Forest picked me up and we drove to Lyon. Well she drove! I was super sleep deprived and jet lagged so after we stopped in the charming town of Auxxere in Burgundy for a bite to eat and a glass of rosé, I slept the rest of the way to Lyon.

We arrived late in the afternoon and found our Airbnb situated at the top of the hill in the 1st arrondissement (Croix Rousse). We had a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment with a patio overlooking Lyon. It was perfect!

The first night we walked down the hill to l'Antiquaire for a couple of drinks before dinner. It's a very good bar with a great cocktail list. I'd recommend it when in town for sure.

My first dinner in Lyon was at Leon de Lyon, a restaurant I was very excited about. Upon being seated I noticed their nice napkins embroidered with the restaurant name. Who knew this was a thing in Lyon; we'd see it in practically every restaurant we ate in over the next few days.

Our meal was good but not great, I'd go if you have time but I think there are other places doing traditional Lyonnaise cuisine better. We headed home for nightcaps on our terrace.

The next day we had lunch at Daniel & Denise outside on their patio. Now this was what I expected from a traditional brassiere. Everything we had was absolutely delicious. And our service was fantastic. And there were embroidered napkins again! And cheese for dessert!

We strolled around the Bocuse des Halles after lunch; it is an absolutely beautiful market which has both stalls selling delicious assortments of meats, cheeses, sweets, etc. as well as a good number of dining selections. This is a great place to pick up high end picnic items or just come for lunch. And cheese!

We passed a cute wine shop on our way to the car so dutifully stopped in for a glass before heading back to the apartment.

Besides incredible cuisine, Lyon is also known for their traboules, or passageways, which connect the city via a maze of semi-secret alleys and stairwells. We used one of the more public ones that night to get down the hill. Within minutes we had descended a series of stairwells instead of having to make our way down the turny, twisty, cobblestone streets.
We took possibly the world's shortest metro (just two stops) and made our way to Juliette Café for cocktails. The space here is absolutely adorable and our light snacks were good but sadly the drinks were just ok. Go if you're in the hood.

Moving on, our next stop was Black Forest Society. New at the time, this cocktail den mixes its German theme with hip modern art. Although we felt our drinks were a bit on the sweet side I would recommend a stop in for the cool interior and very unique cocktail presentations.
Last on our bar crawl was Redwood. If you like rum this is definitely your place! We had so much fun here, our bartender was super enthusiastic and our drinks were excellent. He even made us a DTO mini slushie!
It was beautiful crossing the river that night, the bridges and the city all lit up. We walked to the base of the hill and took an Uber Pop up to our apartment.

Our last day in Lyon was jam packed. We started the day by looking for some of the non-public traboules. We had stopped at the tourist office on our first day and asked for a map of the old passages, the women who helped us was nice enough to point out a few ways to spot the ones still in use by the locals. We headed to one we could see on the map but once we got to the row of apartments we could not figure out which door it was, or what buzzer to possibly use to unlock it. While sussing this out we did come across the Fresco Vegetale which is a cool living wall and mural (Lyon is also know for their murals).

Back to the business of finding the taboule, a woman saw us looking at our map and asked if she could help. When we told her what we were looking for she just shook her head at us and told us the private passages had all been closed. Liar. Another person also looked at us suspiciously when we inquired but didn't help. Finally we approached two men and upon asking again, one said he didn't know what that was. Not local. The other asked why we were looking. Bingo. He then explained that the locals really don't like others using their passages as they are usually part of the building's courtyard. He was born and raised in Lyon. And then he took us into the door we had been standing in front of for about 20 minutes- hidden in plain sight, a not so obvious button under the listing of the residents unlocked the door!
His friend had never even heard of these passages even though he lived in Lyon now, it really is a local thing. In minutes we exited all the way down by the river and right by our next stop, La Fresque des Lyonnais. The entire facade of this building is painted depicting 30 of the city's best know celebrities posed in faux window balconies.


We continued on across the river to the more public and documented traboules and spent a few hours going through them. Most of these are more like courtyards leading to different apartments, not as interesting as our peek into a real one but great none-the-less!
Time for lunch! We made our way to Le Sud, one of four of the Bocuse cafes. It was a gorgeous day to sit outside on the terrace and enjoy a 3-course lunch, a cold bottle of Burgundy blanc, and cheese for dessert after all our walking! And they had the napkins! I wish I could comment more positively on the service. Let's just say it was off.

We walked back into the old town and took the funicular up to the cathedral where we could check out the gold gilding, stained glass, and views of the city below.

We sat for a quick rosé break before we headed back up to our apartment to get ready for our last evening in Lyon, we'd covered a lot of ground!!!

Pre dinner cocktails were had at the very well known Monkey Club bar. It's another cool place mixing antique decor with creative and well-made cocktails. Forest's friends met us and then we made our way to the Restaurant l'Institute Bocuse. This is a fine dining experience in the Bocuse culinary school. We had an absolutely lovely meal with exceptional service housed in a great space, with de-rigour embroidered napkins, modernized Bocuse classic dishes, delicious Burgundy in the glass, and cheese for dessert! A great last meal.
Forest and I stopped into Le Bar du Passage for a nightcap, it is a very cool looking place that has been around for a long time. Unfortunately the drinks and the service were quite bad. Pass if you have other places on your list.

We packed a lot into 3 days, I'd happily go back and explore more of this gorgeous city. I found it to be much more than just a gastronomic destination. I loved the cool modern parts of the city mixed in with the older, historic areas. And of course the hidden passages, gorgeous views,  and series of bridges added to all that eye candy.

As much as I was loving Lyon, we'd be on our way to the Burgundy region the next day! Forest and I were ready!


All photos of Lyon are here and my map is here.


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