Known as the gastronomic capital of France and located about 300 miles south of Paris, Lyon is the third-largest city in France, sitting in the heart of wine country, where the Rhône and Saône rivers join, with Beaujolais and Burgundy to the north, and Rhône Valley to the south.
Rhône Valley is my destination for the next week where I will attend the Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône, a biannual event held in early March in fifteen regions throughout Rhône Valley. The expo, now in its sixth year, boasts 700 exhibitors, wine growers and merchants pouring thousands of wines over the course of six days. Because our first two days would be spent in Northern Rhone with visits to Ampuis and Tain l’Hermitage, Lyon seemed like a good choice to stay for the first leg of the trip.
Generally, there are three things you must do if you visit Lyon: visit Old Lyon (Vieux Lyon), take a trip up to the top of Fourviere Hill to see the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière and, of course, sample the cuisine Lyon is known for: hearty dishes of sausage, boudin and tripe.
Old Lyon (Vieux Lyon)
The Old Lyon quarter (Vieux Lyon) was once a slum area. Now, it is home to countless antique dealers, art boutiques, wine merchants and trendy restaurants. The maze of narrow stone cobble stone pedestrian streets separating tall medieval and Renaissance buildings. The area is lively during the evening, though most restaurants don’t start serving dinner until 7-8PM.
Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière
At the top of the steep wooded hill (called Colline de Fourvière) overlooking Vieux Lyon is the impressive Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, a 19th-century cathedral with four octagonal towers and a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary standing atop the belfry.
Hôtel de Ville
Also of interest is Hôtel de Ville with its elaborate fountain designed by Frédéric Bartholdi, the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty. Four horses charge through the fountain’s waterfalls representing the rivers rushing into the ocean.
Lyon Restaurants & Food
And then there is the food… In Vieux Lyon, we ate in La Traboulerie, a small restaurant serving traditional Lyon food. I had a delicious cervelle de canut consisting a plate of creamy white cheese dip, potatoes, greens and a slice of jambon along with the house red wine.
We also tried Comptoir Chabert et Fils Restaurant, a very crowded, touristy restaurant off of Place Bellecour with Guignol (puppets) prominently displayed in the windows and vibrant paintings of puppets hanging on the outside stone fall wall facade. Puppets became famous in Lyon in 1808 with Laurent Mourguet, a dentist by trade who would put on puppet shows to attract patients. He was the first person to use gloved puppets, until then, puppets had only been manipulated by strings. Dinner was a sampling of Lyonaise specialty boudin (blood sausage with apples – pic 1), frog legs (pic 2) and for dessert, creme brulee. I can’t resist creme brulee!