The next two days in Lyon were spent much like the first one – walking and eating, though not necessarily in that order. The charm of Lyon lies in the pretty colored buildings that sit along the two Rivers. While it was pretty as most things are that sit next to something sparkly, I couldn’t help but feel that Lyon plays a bit of the ugly stepchild to the many more picturesque French towns.
There are areas of revitalization like a location at the end of the Presqu’ile peninsula, which seems like a pretty smart move to take advantage of the prime real estate on the water. They are building modern condos all along the water with giant windows and sweeping views. They have already constructed an enormous mall called the Confluence that includes shopping, restaurants indoors and out, bars and movie theaters. There seemed to be a different energy in this part of town, though it definitely still feels to be a work in progress. It will be interesting to see how the revitalization goes and how far it expands.
We grabbed a water taxi from the Confluence and for a mere 1.50 euros, took a lovely boat ride north to the foot of the Croix-Rousse hills, and began our daily climb.
La Croix-Rousse was named after the red cross placed in the town before the French Revolution. It was here that the silk industry took off, making Lyon the largest location for silk production in Europe.
It’s said that some residents never come down from their pretty perch atop the hill, and after admiring many a wonderful view, I can understand.
They also have some nice shops to entertain you on your walk up or down the steep Grand Côte.
Lyon, like many European cities, makes good use of their open space with pretty open squares and parks every few blocks.
The Place des Terreaux is an exceptional one with cafes scattered on the large plaza, between the stunning Hotel de Ville, Musée des Beaux-Arts and some angry horses.
The Opera House sits just behind the Place and exudes an alluring red glow at night as it entices you to peer into the middle balcony with its exquisite sculptures and chandeliers.
All this walking, and it’s time to eat again. Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse actually finds a way to combine eating and walking since it’s so large and offers so many food options.
The indoor market is filled with vendors selling cheese, salami, antipasti, sweets, breads, pastries, drinks and everything you could want for the best picnic ever.
You can also find Lyon’s famous quenelles, which are dumplings of
varying flavors, often served combined with pike and in a cream sauce. I'm not quite sure I see the allure, but maybe I just haven't tasted the right combination yet.
At the market, we couldn’t resist diving into a plate of the current season’s oysters and shrimp. It was a good taste before our dinner.
Dinner was at Le Gourmet de Seze, an unassuming restaurant in the 6th arrondissement of Lyon.
There were only 9 tables in the pretty muted, neutral dining room. Service was warm and friendly, and once the tables filled, the noise was at a nice level to feel like you didn’t have to whisper, but could also let out a big laugh if necessary as one table did quite often while enjoying their meal – somewhat of a rare sound in a French dining room.
Le Gourmet de Seze offers a reasonable 50 euros tasting menu with the option of adding 4 paired wines for 22 euros – quite the deal for a place of this caliber. The restaurant received its first Michelin star over ten years ago.
A smoky lentil soup was a warm welcome with bits of chewy croutons and a chicken medallion happily floating in the salty broth. The starter scallops had a perfect succulent sear and sat in a divine girolle velouté. Paired with a lovely, steely, Bergerac, it was my favorite course.
The bass showed up with celery three ways and a zesty mustard sauce. The Viognier was another nice choice with the fish.
The local cheese arrived next, and included a nice range from a mild chevre straight through to one that ranked up with stinky gym socks, which of course was one of my favorite.
An assortment of dessert plates were placed in diamond formation in front of us and included a caramel crisp millefeuille, a creamy lemon verbena cake and what we thought was just going to be a throw away fruit plate, but instead it was warmed and laced with spices and homemade sorbet.
We happily pushed our plates away when another arrived that ended up being the piece de resistance – a chocolate fondante was split open to reveal the molten chocolate, warmly sitting inside the flaky chocolate brownie like crust. Pure decadence and finale to an outstanding meal and value.
Lyon kept our bellies content and all the walking between their hilltop towns, and along the water kept us in the clothes that we brought. While Lyon may not make France’s top ten most scenic city lists, it does make for a nice, easy weekend filled with great tastes for all appetites.