David and Ginna Zoellner love to travel. We live in Nice, France, half the year; the other half we live near Chicago, Illinois. We do 'home-exchanges' to explore other areas as well as taking normal trips. We'd like to share some of our experiences with you.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Almost a Week in Lyon, April 2010

Place Bellecour in Lyons looking up towards Notre Dame de Fourviere

Easter dinner at Ostellerie de Vieux Perrouges, sipping some spiced wine

David posing with Paul Bocuse at the Fresque des Lyonnais

The Roman bridge in the Luberon

It was pouring rain early in the morning but had cleared by the time we got on the road at 9 AM. We got up to Grignan, in the Drome department, at noon or so, passing through some lovely towns such as Suze les Rousses. We had lunch at a casual place in the center of town, Le Grenier a Sel - should have had a bit more patience and looked for the place I had listed, Poeme de Grignan which looked really nice. We found our hotel, La Demeure du Chateau, but no one was there! We called them and were told that Bernard, our host, was down in Gigondas shopping for wine and would be back by 5 PM. So off to tour the castle, called the Chateau de Grignan. It is unclear exactly how old the castle is but it was owned by the Grignan family until the 1500's and then taken over by Adhemars who expanded and improved it. Madame de Sevigne, an aristocrat of the court in Paris, traveled to Grignan in the late 1600's to visit her daughter who was married to the Adhemar of that time. She is famous for letters that she wrote to her daughter over a period of 30 years.

After stopping for a drink, we headed back to the hotel and were shown our large room by Bernard. The room included a balcony looking to the southward to snow-capped Mt. Ventoux, the highest mountain in the area. There was also a sitting area for reading, a very modern bathroom, and a very comfortable bed. We had a bottle of wine while watching the sunset and talking about many of the great hotels we've stayed in.

Bernard joined us for breakfast and we had a wonderful conversation in French and English about travel, skiing, hotels, and so on. The breakfast, included in the price of 89 E, was wonderful breads, croissants, jams, cheese, and coffee. Then off to Montelimar and the A7 for the rest of the trip to Lyon. It was 10 deg. by 10 AM. We called Jean-Claude when we arrived and he quickly came over and showed us around Aurelie's apartment - large but not really to our taste but great as an exchange. JC fixed us lunch - a Lyon specialty of quenelles, dumplings which we found quite boring. Then he left for Nice and we took the bus, just a block away, into the main square in town, Place Bellecour, to find the tourist office. We ended up taking the HOHO bus, since it was such a nice day and we weren't sure how long the weather would hold out. This gave us a great overview of the city. The main part is positioned on a peninsula called Presqu'ile (lit. "almost an island"). Across a bridge is the Old Town with Fourviere above. We exited the bus at Fourviere to view Notre Dame de Fourviere, a church built in 1870 to thank the Virgin for protecting Lyon from the Prussians. The architecture is a strange mix with Egyptian symbols; there are four main spires with another off to the side, making the building look like an upside-down elephant! But the mosaics inside are spectacular.

We bought a carnet of bus tickets and then found our way home, stopping to do a bit of food shopping. Couldn't find much in the local shops. The next day was forecast as a rainy day so we headed to the Beaux Artes Museum where we wandered around viewing the very nice collection of impressionists and more. The Museum itself is a beautiful building, on Place des Terreaux where there is also the Hotel de Ville. From the museum we headed to Le Jura, one of the really authentic "bouchons" serving traditional Lyonnais cuisine - mostly offal. I had a terrine de veau to start, a nice serving of two slices served with cornichon pickles and greens; for the main courses, David had a "gateau" of foie de volaille while I had the andouillettes (pigs intestines), both served with potatoes. For dessert we had gateau lyonnais and tarte praline. At the table next to us there was a lovely family, a couple with their 10 year old daughter. They were native Lyonnais, spoke only French, and had been coming to the restaurant for three generations. They assured us that we had chosen well. A sign in the restaurant stated: Une cuisine de qualite ne connait pas le mot presse. I liked that. The family mentioned the grignottes au marc (cherries in French grappa) and we ordered some; they were great.

Then on home, stopping at a horrible Carrefour in the Part-Dieu shopping center; a madhouse!

Sunday was Easter and we'd made a reservation at Ostellerie de Vieux Perouges, a restaurant in a medieval town about 26 K from Lyon. It was forecast as a rainy day but turned out beautiful and not cold at all. We found our way easily to Perouges and parked in the lot outside the town. We took a quick look at the church of Mary Madeleine, built in 1440. Then on to the restaurant for a wonderful lunch. We were seated right in front of the huge fireplace, with a nice fire glowing. Comfortable chairs and beautifully dressed table with waitresses in traditional dress. We started with an aperitif of spiced wine, served from an ancient looking bottle. David started with a salad with foie de volailles with grilled apples while I had the cured salmon. Then we both had the lamb shanks with a 1/2 bottle of Tavel rose. Neither of us touched the potatoes and we even put a lot of the lamb, enough for a meal, in a zip-lock bag; just too much food! There were two desserts and we expected to choose, but instead were each served both! The first was a Gallette de Perouges, a thin sugared pastry, topped with cream served in a huge crock and more sugar. The second dessert was grilled bananas with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Coffee for David with chocolates! We were stuffed. We drove home and tried to find the Parc de la Tete d'Or but it was difficult driving, so headed home instead.

Monday we had expected to take the walking tour of the Old Town but it was fully booked. So we bought a book showing the location of the Traboules, hidden passageways and staircases which were built in the 18th century to facilitate the transport of the silk in rainy weather. We explored many of them and other appealing buildings and sights in the Old Town. At the north end of the Old Town we viewed the charming Eglise St. Paul which was consecrated in 549 AD! Then we crossed over the Saone to see the Fresque des Lyonnais, paintings of famous persons such as Paul Bocuse, Lumiere, Tony Garnier, pictured in the trompe l'oeil windows and balconies of a building along the river. We stopped for a couple of aperos in the sun and then headed home for the leftover lamb slices on bread we bought along the way. A great meal.

In the afternoon we took the Tram C1 to Parc de la Tete d'Or which is a zoo, a rose garden, a lake, botanical gardens, and more. It was a beautiful afternoon and we explored and then sat on a bench and worked on a crossword puzzle. In the zoo we saw elephants, deer, water buffalo, a giraffe. There were also puppet shows, a couple of Merry-Go-Rounds, and more. A lovely place.

Tuesday we headed up to Fourviere. We took the same bus from near our place to Old Town and then took the funicula up to the top of the hill and walked to the ruins. There's a large amphitheater which still has concerts; it originally held about 11,000 people and now holds about 4,500. Next to it is the smaller and more intimate Odeon where the Romans held musical concerts. We spent an hour or so there and then walked back down to Old Town and found an Italian restaurant to have our last lunch. After lunch we went back to the Lyon Cathedral to watch the animation of the 16th century clock, with the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would be blessed with a child.

Wednesday we were on the road by 8 AM, heading to the Luberon area of the Cotes de Rhone area, just east of Avignon. We had a bit of trouble finding the right roads, but eventually did. The weather had finally caught up with us and it was a gray and threatening day. But we passed through charming LaCoste and went to Bonnieux where we had hoped to eat at Le Fournil. Sadly they were fully booked so we just went to the Brasserie in town which had amazing views over the surrounding valley.

Then we went on to find the St. Julien Bridge, a beautiful three-arched Roman bridge, built 2000 years ago. There was no mortar used in the construction and the bridge was in daily use until 2005! Then on to our hotel, La Ferme de la Huppe (89 E for the least exp room), named for a local crested bird (hoopoe, in english). It's in an old farmhouse and is very charming with heavy beams (a foot in diameter) and lots of nooks and crannies. But it's not a place for people who must have TV as we could find no channels in English. We sat in the bar in the evening and shared a bottle of wine and talked with the owner who is Italian from the Piedmont; her husband does more of the physical work but she and her daughter manage the restaurant. We had a very comfortable night and a good breakfast (although rather expensive at 14 E per person!) and left for home. We were home by 12:30, in time for lunch. Such a pleasant week!