Oui, Oui: The top reasons to travel to Lyon
TRAVEL author Ann Rickard is in France where she spent many happy days in Lyon, a historical city in the Rhone-Alpes region with a lively culture and a long history. She gives her thoughts on the top 10 reasons to love this French town.
1. On the meeting point of the Rhone and Saone Rivers, Lyon enjoys an enviable spot and is the third largest city in France, a worthy rival to Paris. Easy to traverse by foot, but with hop-on-hop off bus tours, river cruises, even electric bike tours, there are multiple choices to explore the city without tiring yourself.
2. Elegant buildings with wrought iron balconies, soaring clock towers, wide city squares, church spires, museums, galleries and spacious boulevards all mean Lyon exudes an air of grace and style. It was the silk capital of France in the 17th and 18th Centuries and one of the main hubs in the world for silk production.
3. Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse: If you do nothing else, visit Lyon's famous indoor food market where more than 60 stalls present myriad gourmet delights. Symbolic of the gastronomic prowess of Lyon, this hub of culinary excess presents everything from pastries that look like art works, to hundreds of cheese varieties made by legendary cheesemakers. Wander, drool. Then lunch on oysters, prawns and snails (go on) with Champagne at one of the many inviting bars inside the market.
4. Quenelle de brochet: A traditional Lyonnaise dish, usually of fish or meat combined with cream and bound with egg, then moulded into a football shape, poached and served with a creamy sauce. One bite into the velvety texture and you are hooked.
5. Basilica Notre Dame Fourviere: It crowns a hill in the old town and lords it over the city with panoramic views from its terrace. This 19th century cathedral displays glorious French religious architecture and is lined with magnificent mosaics. Arrive on the hour when the bells are ringing, admire its extravagant exterior and then spend a quite half hour inside contemplating the mosaics...or anything else you like.
6. Rue de la Republique: Stroll this wide and chic pedestrianised street flanked by stylish shops and then sit awhile in the Place de la Republique in the Bellecour quarter with its large rectangular water feature where jets gush water up into the air. Very refreshing after a few hours of heavy hopping.
7. Bouchons. Rustic and comfy places to eat generously for little money. The bouchon tradition came from small inns visited by silk workers passing through Lyon in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, the bouchons still serve traditional dishes, many featuring offal (be brave, they're always served in a delicious sauce.) If you choose the formula menu (three courses for around 15 euros), you'll have to waddle out.
8. Old town. After taking the funicular up to the basilica (don't even dream of walking, it's very steep) and enjoying the views, stroll slowly down to the old town. It is UNESCO-listed and an intriguing place with its narrow streets lined with medieval and Renaissance houses. When you tire, there is always a bouchon and a glass of rose wine within immediate sight.
9. Accommodation choices are many and range from budget to over-the-top. We stayed at the Grand Mercure for around $120 a night. Lyon has nine districts surrounded by the two rivers with the most lively the Vieux Lyon (old Lyon) a good option to base yourself if you like to walk everywhere.
10. Lyon's status as the cuisine capital of France is obvious from every corner café, market, bouchon and restaurant. Lyonnaise specialties include quenelles (see above) and andouillette, a sausage filled with coarsely cut tripe and pork colon (oh, dear!) For the timid the Lyonnaise salad is a mix of bacon, croutons, poached egg and greens with a tangy vinaigrette. Then there is the bright pink praline tart available in patisseries everywhere. You will never go hungry in this town.