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Lyon Delivers Marvelous Mix

By Tori Ward, Cruise and Resort Specialist, ROX Travel

Recently we decided to make a repeat trip to Burgundy with our BFF traveling buddy, Rhonda, and included a four-day side trip to Lyon, France.

It seemed to fit all the items on our punch list. A city of historical significance with diversity, some mystery or sense of humor, and great food. Something European, but not pretentious. Lyon did not disappoint.

Our hotel was far enough away from old town Lyon to allow quiet evenings, but close enough to transportation and essential resources just a few blocks from the river.

The treasure of our neighborhood, though, was a wonderful Turkish restaurant whose alluring aromas tempted us. The incomprehensible menu didn’t discourage us. In spite of the fact that the waiter couldn’t understand a thing we said and we couldn’t understand him, we were able to order tender and crispy grilled chicken whose flavors we will never duplicate at home. It was served with small puddles of brightly colored, spicy relishes, olives and golden potatoes. We had plans that would include a traditional meal the following day, but this dinner offered some of the diversity we were craving.

A visit to Lyon included a trip to the Notre-Dame de Fourvière basilica on the top of Fourviére. While not the oldest church in Lyon, it is very ornate and her presence dominates the city. We spent a respectful few minutes inside and couldn’t avoid the temptation to take photographs of the glittering interior.

Directly down the hill from the basilica we were amazed at the remains of the Roman Amphitheater. Parts date back to 15 BC; it was built to seat 10,000 people. Lyon was a strategically important city for the Roman Empire as two important rivers, the Rhône and the Saône, crossed there making the city useful for passage to the Mediterranean.

Because of its important trade location, silk weaving was introduced to Lyon in 1466. The impact of the silk workers not only had a positive economic impact, the “traboules” hidden covered passageways the skilled craftspeople used to transport textiles between shops and ships to avoid the elements, also played an important role for the safe passage of messages and people for the French Resistance during WWII.

As we strolled through Old Town, I grabbed Rhonda when a small exterior door opened revealing one of the hidden passageways. I felt like I’d discovered Narnia.

While admiring my giant cherry earrings, bought in a boutique where Carmen Miranda could have plucked the fruit from her hat for jewelry, we snapped a few pictures in front of one of the multistoried frescos for which Lyon is famous — the Fresque des Lyonnais Célébres where images of 30 famous Lyon natives have been immortalized on the exterior walls.

Rhonda had done her homework and selected an accredited bouchon, one of only a few restaurants that have earned that designation in Lyon. To achieve the seal the restaurant must achieve several standards. The menu must contain traditional Lyonnaise fare using fresh ingredients hosted in a friendly atmosphere. At Les Fines Gueules we ate a wonderful lunch of salad Lyonnaise lavishly seasoned with salty lardons, escargots ladled with parsley butter and delicate pike quenelles finished with bubbly crab bisque. Service was warm and kind and helped “seal” the perfect ending to an excellent afternoon in Lyon.

Tori’s Tips:

As needed, make sure to buy OTC medicines and toiletries by early evening. Few shops are opened late and we could find no pharmacy opened on Sunday.

Early morning is the best time to visit the basilica and ruins in the Fourviére area. In Old Town, the streets are narrow and very crowded in the afternoon, and they close early.

Because there are fewer than 30 bouchons in Lyon if you want to dine in one, reservations are strongly advised.

Lyon is the gastronomic capital of the world, so if you don’t have a reservation for a bouchon, don’t worry; there are more than 4,000 restaurants in the city.

Public transportation is plentiful and inexpensive with the same tickets used on trams, metros, busses and the funicular that operates up and down the Fourviére.

Photo by Tori Ward.