If Paris is like New York City, then Lyon is France’s Chicago. Situated between Paris and Marseille, Lyon meets somewhere in the middle between city and country…France’s Midwest, if you will. It’s second largest city, Lyon maintains an urban vibe speckled with quaint streets that twist and turn throughout the city landscape. Life slows down a bit in Lyon, wine bars crowd intimate alleys, I found people are generally friendlier, and the landscape glitters at night. The real highlight, however, is the food. Lyon is known to be France’s gastronomy headquarters housing some of France’s most renowned chefs. Pork is number one from sausages to tripe, but one will also find an abundance of steak tartare, blood sausages, and snails that litter Lyon’s bouchons without being pretentious. You come to Lyon to eat. And eat we did.
Our first stop HAD to be Brasserie Georges. We initially read about this brasserie in Slyvie Bigar’s article Frances Route 7: The Road to Paradise from Savuer magazine’s June edition. After further investigation, we realized this place was not to be missed. Making its debut in 1836, it is the oldest brasserie in Lyon and possibly one of the largest in Europe. The menu is huge with dishes ranging from sausages and sauerkraut, to pates and mussels. Interestingly enough, they have their own brewery on sight and make a variety of delicious beers that make any dish easy to wash down. When we arrived, we instantly noticed bone marrow and table side steak tartare on the menu. These are two of our favorites and we had not seen these anywhere else on our journey thus far. We ordered them up with a side of frites as starters, assuming we would take our time and order more after. The suit clad server graciously brought us our beers and we were ready to go! As soon as the steak tartare arrived, my jaw weakened, my eyes grew big and I began to salivate. This was no joke. The server unveiled a silver tray which included one plate dolloped with mustard, chopped onion, relish, and parsley. Next to it was another plate with a perfectly round, dense gathering of ice-cold raw beef topped with a single orange egg yolk. He asked me “How hot?” as he began to elegantly fold and unfold the ingredients into the beef and yolk (on second thought, maybe that is what this blog should have been called?) dotting the dish with hot sauce as he went. Next, arrived the bone marrow and toasts. The size of these bones was insurmountable to anything I have ever seen in the states. Glistening with salted fat, each bone inviting us to dive in as we spread each buttery dollop on our toasts and frites. This was foodie heaven for Matt and I. A pure indulgent moment that kept our mouths silent as we smiled with our eyes and met only to exchange plates halfway through the meal. When it was all said and done, there wasn’t room for anything else. When I asked the server if two people typically manage to finish both dishes and then move onto to a second course, he exclaimed “Mais oui!”. I was stunned. These portions were obscene. We felt like gluttons, but gluttons in Lyon in the oldest brasserie in the city. Gluttons indeed!
The next day we ventured to Parc de la Tete d’Or, France’s largest urban park. It was the perfect respite to cure us from the food coma we had ensued the night before. Beyond its lush trees and grass, this park also includes a zoo with everything from giraffes to ostriches, a lake for paddle boating, fishing, and canoeing, bike rental for leisurely rides throughout the grounds, a charming rose garden, carousels, and snack bars. Grab a blanket, a bottle of wine, take a nap if you will. We could not help but be captivated by its whimsical energy.
Les Halles de Lyon is the mecca for everything foodie in France. Although many cities in France have this type of indoor market, none compare to that of Lyon’s. Located in the 2nd arrondissement, Les Halles de Lyon is where the city chef’s come to purchase and play. For anyone that loves food, it is a breathtaking sight. Our eyes moved wildly over the variety of products as we dipped into our pocketbooks for immediate gratifications and souvenirs alike. Check out the pictures below for an inside look to this very famous and undeniably decadent market experience.
Along the river are many docked bars housed on old boats that fill the evening with music and laughter. We read about La Passagere and how this bar was known for its more laid back vibe. We had the most wonderful time here, meeting new friends Frederique and Franck who showed us just how friendly and down to earth the French can be. Accompanied by picnickers and day dreamers on the lawn that stretches the length of the river, our night was joyfully interrupted by a traveling brass band who mirrored the evenings energy perfectly.
Below are just a few more pictures of some of the beauty and charm that Lyon has to offer. As Brasserie George’s motto is “Bonne bier et bonne chere” (Good beer and good cheer), Lyon was an entertaining and delightful way to leave city life as we headed for Provence.
On to Provence we went…