Saturday, December 11, 2010

What we saw, Part 1

Oops, it's been a week since I posted.  Pretty soon this vacation will be stale and blogging about it will be lame.  But I think I have maybe one more week.  I will point out that it was one fantastically busy week, but I am also not a reliable blogger.  If you are reading this now, thanks for sticking with me!

Okay, I've written about where we laid our heads and how we got around.  But WHAT did we do?  Our trip started in Lyon, where DH was winding up a trade show.  (Incidentally, this was his first time at this particular trade show and we ARE GOING BACK NEXT YEAR.  Barcelona!)  We had just one night in Lyon, France's second-largest city.  I would say that if you can, put Lyon on your itinerary.   It is not touristy at all, but it is lovely and has a "real" feeling that you don't get in every city.  There are also plenty of sights to visit, from Roman ruins to modern art museums.  (It was the nearest big city to me when I worked in France, and I visited often.  I truly love this city.)

Lyon is slave to her geography, built right at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers.  The heart of the city is on the skinny peninsula (the "Presqu'ile" which is literally "almost-island"), where you can find Place Bellecouer, a huge open plaza, and many pedestrian streets, perfect for shopping and eating!  But this isn't the oldest part of the city:  just off the Rhone there is a high bluff that overlooks the rest of the town.  This is where the ruins of a Roman settlement have been found, and now it is "Vieux Lyon," a rabbit's warren of cobblestones and covered streets.

After we dropped our suitcases and changed clothes (phew!), we headed out to this part of town.  It was dark already, but our kids got their first look at a real cathedral when we got off the Metro stop: Fourviere.   Here is a Wikipedia picture--it is so pretty but I didn't get a good photo.

This is a gorgeous-but-not-very-old church, lit up and standing vigil over the city below.  They were impressed.  We also bought our first "marrons" (roasted chestnuts) in this area:  Thumbs up from D, but only lukewarm responses from my other three.  We meandered a little in this area, just soaking up the atmosphere and getting accustomed to hearing only French.  So many cute shops and restaurants!

Then we headed down the hill, crossing the river Rhone and into the heart of the city:

More wandering, looking at windows and just enjoying being free of train stations and airports.  I wish now I'd taken more pictures that night!  I will point out that wandering is easy in Lyon, with wide pedestrian streets and beautiful squares.  We settled on a brasserie to eat dinner, our first proper meal in France.  Lyon is the gastronomic heart of France, so almost anywhere you eat is going to be tasty.  We ducked into the Brasserie Victor Hugo, where J enjoyed his first plate of escargots:

Verdict: Delicieux!  He enjoyed escargots a couple of times later on this trip.  I had an amazing salad called "Chevre Chaud,"  literally "Hot Goat" but really "Hot Goat Cheese."  It was just a mixed greens salad dressed with (fresh) viniagrette, but it also had baguette slices with goat cheese, toasted so that it was a creamy/melty/crunchy yumminess that was perfect with the greens.  This is French food:  simple ingredients that are just fresh and clean, combined in a way that makes everything taste better.  And of course we had Nouveau Beaujolais* with dinner.

Everyone else had delicious, if less remarkable, dinners as well, with no french fries or chicken nuggets in sight.  Then it was back to the hotel to collapse and get ready to begin our journey to Provence.  The hotel (in my previous post) had wonderful beds...we didn't even move until after 9:30 the next morning!

Provence is next, but we are decorating/grocery-shopping/lacrosse-watching/birthday-partying today so it will wait til next time.  A bientot!

*Nouveau Beaujolais is the young red wine that comes out every fall, on the third Thursday of November.  It is a big party in France, with signs all over that say "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive!"  Yes, some of it is just marketing.  But it is fun and I like Beaujolais, so...

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