This Lyon trip happened pretty much out of the blue. It was a fine Friday morning, I was being lazy on my bed and whining to Matthias about how I didn’t get to travel for a really long time. He turned to me and said “There’s a train to Lyon in 1 hour, the price’s cheap, wanna go?”. So allez hop, we changed our clothes and left for the trip.
Lyon is a city in the Rhône-Alpes region, towards the middle east of France, and it’s only about 1 hour and a half by train from Grenoble, so we’ve decided to make it a day trip. Lyon is one of the most beautiful tourism cities of France, and is a city with a long historical culture. I’ve been to Lyon in 2004, visiting my brother who was studying there, however I didn’t know much French at that time, and my brother was busy with school works so we didn’t get to visit a lot of places. This time we took advantage of the 1 hour train ride to consult some online tourism sites and chose some must-see spots, for the rest, we agreed to let…fate lead the way
Bài viết tiếng Việt: Một ngày ở Lyon
Our first stop was Le Vieux Lyon – The old Lyon, the part that is recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage. In the old days this is a very busy urban centre, and is where merchants and royal officers lived. Stepping into this area, I immediately felt like I travelled back in time, with the stone paths, the houses with brick wall and traces of architecture that is a combination of Medieval and Renaissance, and the absence of noisy cars or motorbikes.
The whole district is filled with old-style restaurants, small souvenir shops, artisanal ice-cream parlours, and sounds of glasses and dishes clinking and people talking. The district is so peaceful that Matthias and I just kept wandering around not wanting to go back to the big streets.
(Show-off time: if you do a search on Google Maps for “la petite bulle” this is one of the location photos used by Google ^^)
We decided to try ice-cream from an artisanal parlour named La Fabrique givrée. I chose yogurt flavour, and Matthias chose grilled bread flavour. It cost less than 3€ for a big scoop of ice-cream, and the flavour is so prominent! It really felt like eating a cold pot of yogurt when I tasted my ice-cream and the grilled bread flavour was so fragrance with vanilla, brown sugar, and there was even small bits of sweet grilled bread.
We walked a few steps and saw a French fries shop called Bintje & Zoet “Belgium French fries”, so curiosity got the best of me. It was near lunch time so I only ordered a small portion, but I was really surprised when the seller handed it to me because the ‘small’ there is even bigger than a big portion in McDonalds Matthias and I took quite a while to finish it all.
This shop was opened by a pair of Belgium cousins, and it’s very famous in Lyon. Belgium French fries is famous for being fried in beef tallow instead of normal cooking oil. I have to say that the French fries we ate was really delicious, the fries were made as customers order them so they are crunchy and hot, the beef tallow doesn’t leave an oily smell like normal cooking oil, and the fries don’t absorb too much oil so even after finishing the portion, we were still craving for more.
The French fries did fill us up a bit so we agreed to walk around a bit more to digest before eating lunch. Le Vieux Lyon is quite near to Théâtre antique de Lugdunum (The old theatre of Lugdunum) and Basilique de Fourvière (Basilica of Fouvière), so we decided to go there next.
We chose to take the funicular to these two locations. The two funiculars to the Fouvière hill are the two oldest funiculars in the world that is still in use until these days. A funny story, we wanted to visit the Basilica first but took the wrong funicular, and so we went till the last station, climb a bunch of stairs just to realise that this station is only another part of the city on the hill, and the basilica is in the opposite direction
We took the funicular to go down again, and changed the plan to visiting the Old theatre first because it’s located on this funicular line. Théâtre antique de Lugdunum is an ancient theatre, one of the principal Roman monuments in Lyon. The theatre is built on the Fouvière hill, which was the center of the ancient Roman city, with a capacity of 10000 people. The theatre now serves as a famous touristic site, and is also used as a venue for cultural events.
The Basilique de Fourvière can be seen from the ancient theatre, so we decided to take a stroll there. The Basilica is built on the Fouvière hill in the 19th century, funded by Lyon citizens as a way to express their gratitude to Virgin Mary for her salvation of the city from the 1643 bubonic plague. On top of the basilica is a golden statue of Virgin Mary sculpted by Joseph-Hugues Fabisch. Behind the basilica is a small yard where you can see the whole beautiful Lyon from the top.
At this time our stomach started to protest and according to Matthias’s mom “You have to eat at Bouchon Lyonnais when you visit Lyon”, we took the funicular back to the Vieux Lyon to have lunch. Bouchon is a word for a particular type of restaurant in Lyon, specialised in traditional Lyon cuisine, with various price ranges from cheap to expensive. We chose a bouchon named L’Amphitryon, since it was a bit late and some restaurants are not taking in customers anymore, and this restaurant is one of the few that have non-stop service within out budget.
The restaurant has old-style decorations, with brick walls, black and white paintings and photos, chandelier, hand-written menus on the walls. The kitchen is also close to the dining area, and customers can partly see what the chefs are doing, which created a very homey atmosphere.
Matthias chose a starter-main dish combo, I only ordered the main dish. Matthias’s starter is a traditional onion soup with shredded cheese and croutons. I of course got to taste a spoonful :p and I have to admit that even though I’m not a big fan of onion, the soup was really tasty. The onion was prepared properly so the strong smell of it totally went away, and the soup gets the natural sweetness and flavours from the onion.
For the main dish I chose a baked pork leg, Matthias chose slow-cooked beef chuck. The baked pork leg was really delicious! The meat was so tender it almost melted in my mouth, and the seasoning is just right to bring out the natural flavour of the meat. Matthias gave me one verdict for his beef chuck being so tender, and then he totally focused on eating
Both dishes were served with steamed potatoes and gribiche sauce (a light mayonnaise sauce, mixed with pickles and some herbs). Personally I found that this is a very balanced combination, since the meat dish is quite ‘heavy’, so serving it with the steamed potato and sour sauce makes it much lighter.
After lunch we took the metro to the Tête d’Or park, which was my and my mom’s favourite park when we visit my brother in 2004. The name of the park can be literally translated to “Golden head”, because according to legends there is a golden Jesus head buried somewhere in the 105 hectare of the park. Even though no one has found that golden head, the names is still used until today.
The park is divided into several parts, with hills of green grass, hundreds of tree species and even a small zoo. The nice thing about the zoo here is that instead of keeping the animals in cages behind steel bars, they design the spaces into hills with grass and trees according to the species, the end of the hill is sloped lower than the street with a stone walls around to prevent the animals from jumping out. The animals here are not too scared of humans, and even came really close to the walls to ask for food from visitors.
A 20 minute walk towards the centre of the park led us to a very big lake, and of course you can rent a small boat for a stroll on the lake. Looking around the lake and you can see families of duck just having fun near humans.
A further walk and we arrived at the Rose garden, my mom’s favourite spot. The rose garden hee is 5 hectare wide, with rose in all sizes and colour. However it seems like the weather is a bit too hot this year, since some of the roses wilt, and they’re not as vibrant as my memory from 2004. Still, the garden still has its elegant and charming beauty, and the rose are still showing off their colour in the hot blazing sun.
It was near our return trip at that time, so we decided to take a walk in the city centre, also known as the Peninsula, since it’s surrounded by the Rhône and Saoe rivers. This peninsula still keeps the architecture from the Medieval to the 19th century, and is famous with beautiful squares. We didn’t have much time though, so we mostly walk around the City Hall and the Terreaux square.
After another tasty ice-cream, we took the metro to the train station back to Grenoble, putting an end to an express but full of beautiful memories trip.