Tag Archives: Lyon

Dashing thru the snow on the TGV (fast train Lyon to Paris) after visit to Paul Bocuse food hall

Fortunately we had only a little snow and rain this morning because thanks to the one-day rail strike, we had to walk with our suitcases to the Gare Part-dieu in Lyon. No taxis available. And hey, our train is operating so we are feeling fortunate. Our helpful Lyon hotel staffer also checked and the #1 metro in Paris appears to be working so we can get at least part way from the Paris train station to our hotel. Too much fun. (Update: The #1 Metro WAS working when we arrived in Paris on strike day but it didn’t make all its usual stops and whizzed right through our stop to get to our hotel so we had another 25 minute walk with our suitcases. Fortunately the weather cooperated.)

Paul Bocuse food hall

Another stroke of luck, the food hall named after a famous Lyonnaise chef (les Halles de Paul Bocuse) was on the way to the train station (sort of) so we stopped to shop for lunch and to gawk at the gorgeous food displays lining each aisle that we wheeled our suitcases along. Some items we recognized from our meal at Le Musee. We ended up getting a baguette and a soft super creamy mild local cheese, Saint-Marcellin that we just ate on the train. Superb!

Train lunch

We’ve had a few mishaps with the trains. On our way from Paris to the small country town, Amberieu-en-Bugey (where I visited France’s diary archives, for my book) we managed to make our connecting train fine but then got off the train one stop too early. We stood outside the closed train station in mixed precipitation trying to figure out what to do and ended up going into a nearby restaurant where a diner tried to help us out (when my phone wouldn’t work due to crap internet service) until the restaurant proprietor shooed us out of the restaurant. I got the impression she thought we were disrupting her meal service.

We figured out that there were no taxis but there was a bus which, once we learned where/how to buy the ticket (in a machine new the closed rail station), got us to our destination. No taxis there either but the people I was interviewing kindly arranged for transport. (Our return driver was a local innkeeper from the countryside whose car trunk was lined with dirt and perhaps straw.)

Today, we managed to find our platform for the TGV and the place we were supposed to stand for our car (#17) but when the train pulled in, only #18 was marked. So we rushed to the next open car, which turned out to be #8. There wasn’t time to go back to 18 so we stayed put. There are plenty of open seats and the conductor was cool with it. (He explained that this train is actually two trains combined, one with cars 1-8 the other with cars 9-18 or some such but there’s no getting from one train to the second.) Whatever. We are chugging through rolling green fields, some dusted with snow, past the occasional grazing cattle, wind turbines, and village of white stucco homes with mansard roofs that remind me of my childhood home in Michigan.

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Christine! Vieux Lyon, Court Bouillon, Funicular/Basilica, botanical paintings, Mojgan Iranian restaurant – Lyon

Our friend Christine, who we met four years ago in Norway, took the train up from Provence, where she lives with her French husband (Christine is from China) to meet us for the day in Lyon, which was a treat. On a cold day that began with rain and snow and then cleared, with shocking blue sky and a bracing wind, we wandered through lovely Vieux Lyon, the old city with narrow cobble stoned lanes, pretty old stucco buildings, occasional alluring shops, bakeries and cafes. Lyon reportedly has the most Renaissance-era buildings of any city in France.

I bought some bright pink pralines (a Lyon speciality) at Pralus Pastry Shop (27 rue Saint Jean), recommended by the woman we say next to at dinner at Le Musee. The special bread dotted with pink pralines looked too sweet to eat. At a shop specializing in botanical drawings, we bought elegant linen tea towels (as gifts) and a print.

With Christine in Vieux Lyon

Lunch was at Court Bouillon, recommended by our hotel owner Laurent and it was excellent, (although Christine seemed less impressed…she’s truly French now.😂). Later we took the funicular up to see the dramatic white Basilica that towers over the city high on a hill, not unlike Paris’s Sacre Coeur. It was stunning up close, set against the blue sky, and crazy ornate inside. The view from on high looking down at the city and confluence of the two rivers was very dramatic. It was also very cold thanks to the wind. We got a coffee and hot chocolate at an elegant cafe next door.

Dinner was Iranian food, for a change, but similarly elegant to the French meals we’ve had. The chef at Mojgan is female and came out to chat. Very lovely. She has three school age kids and didn’t start cooking until after they were born. She studied with Paul Bocuse, has won a big chef award and is the rare female chef in France, let alone Iranian-born female chef cooking French-inspired Iranian food. (pomegranate juice with sparkling wine; eggplant with some exotic spices, duck with Fois gras sauce etc.)

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Le Musee (bouchon), soul brothers (bar), Hotel Des celestins – Lyon

We had one of our best and most fun meals at Le Musee, a famous traditional bouchon — sort of the lyonnaise version of a Bistro. When we walked past the small humble looking dining room with its old plaster and wood walls, red and white checkered table cloths, and scuffed wooden chairs at 7:15, it was empty. Uh oh.

We’d reserved weeks ago, and were promised it would be packed even on a Tuesday night. So it was when we arrived again at 8 pm, with diners sitting elbow to elbow at long tables. We sat with a nice young couple from Normandy (the woman grew up in Lyon) and had a lively conversation about food, France, the US. (We later learned that no self-respecting French person books dinner before 8 pm…good to know. I made several reservations for 7:30.)

Inside Lyon Bouchon

I don’t know exactly what we ate but it was delicious and the warm, welcoming atmosphere added to the specialness of the meal. All the servers looked happy, a good sign. The gregarious owner went around to every table with a handwritten menu, formed a huddle with diners and explained the entrees and plats de jour, in our case, in halting English (with help from our neighbors). He ended up picking several things for us (in halting French, I mentioned no blood sausage etc). We started with long mushrooms in a creamy sauce topped with greens in a mustardy dressing and a slice of cakey bread with a chunk of sausage in it (akin to pigs in a blanket).

For our mains, we each got a plate with creamy scalloped potatoes and a tasty sliced carrot concoction, then a dish to share of tender pork cheek in a savory brown sauce and an oval shaped dumpling coating white fish, served in a cream sauce. Dessert was a scoop of chocolate mousse beside a bright red/pink slab of what looked like a fruit pie/tart, but was not made with fruit. Instead it was with a lyonnaise specialty – – pink pralines, which are nubby, bright pink, very sweet, sugar-coated almonds. No-name wine was served by the bottle and half bottle, followed by a killer local liquor aperitif (that I couldn’t drink) served on the house. The food sounds weird and heavy but somehow it wasn’t.

Traboule tour

Toward the end of the meal, before anyone had paid, the owner stood in the middle of the dining room and invited diners to join him in the alleyway behind the restaurant for a brief tour of one of Lyon’s famous covered passageways (traboules) so we all got up and moved out into an adjoining courtyard surrounded by high towering walls. My French is lacking so we couldn’t pick up most of what he said (apparently there was mention of prostitutes) but it was fun to see this raconteur entertaining the crowd, with people laughing and smoking. Then we all dutifully returned to the warm restaurant and lined up to pay our bills. (Ours was a remarkably reasonable 89 euros .)

Hotel des Celestians is well-located (in a fancy shopping area of presqu’ile, a peninsula between two rivers, an easy and scenic walk to the old city/vieux Lyon) and a small, affordable place to stay, with very helpful staff who booked restaurants for us and an outgoing owner who went to Cornell’s famous hotel school (at the same time I was there, in the liberal arts college). Fun talking to him about Ithaca and greatly appreciated his restaurant recommendations.

We stopped for a drink at a chic but welcoming bar, Soul Brothers, near Le Musee that had nice looking charcuterie boards.

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