Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lyon, France - gastronomic and roman

Lyon - March 9th and 10th

After a 3 hour train ride, I arrived in Lyon. I had been looking forward to this day, since today was the day I'd finally meet Mei – my Australian travel buddy for the next few weeks or so. We had arranged a couch surfing host in Lyon about a month before (pre-travel jitters = arranging things early:: during travels = arrange things late). I arrived in Lyon around 5pm, and met my host, Olivier, at the train station since luckily he worked right by there. I love it when I get to meet the host at the train station. It saves me the trouble of having to navigate the public transportation and streets of a city I don't know very well with all my luggage all by myself. I'm happy to say I'm pretty good at navigating foreign cities at this point, so it's not too big of a deal when I have to, but it's so nice when I don't have to. Mei wasn't to arrive until 11pm, so it would just be my and Olivier for the next five hours.

Olivier is a very nice, accommodating person who works for the transportation system of Lyon, something in finance management. Apparently his company is the middle man for some transportation systems around the world (from Melborne to Washington). He was explaining to us what exactly his company does... I think they own the equipment, and/or help organize the system's workings, but the districts/cities actually run it. Anyway, Olivier was a very gracious host. His apartment had a lot of space too. Mei and I had our own room to share (I love when that happens). He's originally from Reunion Island, which is close to Madagascar. He showed me some pictures of his island online. I'm an island snob, naturally since I come from such a beautiful place, but Reunion Island is really beautiful too, even by my standards. It has a very huge mix of different cultures and cuisines, it's own creole language; I'd really like to go there now. While we waited for Mei, Olivier made me some apertives of toasted goat cheese toasts topped with lychee honey from his island. Really tasty stuff. We went to the grocery store to get the cheese and a few other things. French grocery stores have SO much cheese!! We also met his friend from England for a traditional Lyonesse three course menu du jour meal. I ate really well in Lyon. They have a lot of food specialties there. Most restaurants offer a menu du jour which lets you choose a first course, second course, and dessert from a list of options for a set price (between 12 and 35 euros). I tried Lyon pates, Lyonnese salad (which is lettuce, tomato, a poached egg, and bacon), and a cod souffle with lobster sauce. Not to mention, this is France where there is a pastry shop or bakery shop on almost literally every corner. (oof!)

We picked Mei up at the train station at 11 as planned, she came in from Paris. Then the four of us went to a bar that brews it's own beers for about an hour or so, which was a little awkward, but not too bad. I was pretty ready to go to bed by the time we left. By then it was about 1pm, and we were tired. Mei and I went to bed. Olivier dropped us off at his place, let us into his apartment, and then drove his friend home, despite having to get up early for work (I told you he was ridiculously nice).

Now, when you couch surf and stay with strangers, you learn some good rules of behavior along the way – one of these is to find out the night before if your host expects you to leave the apartment at the same time he/she does in the morning. Mei and I forgot to do this however. So, the next day, at about 8:40, Olivier knocked on our door and told Mei and I that we were leaving in 15 minutes. Woops. So we jumped out of bed, quickly grabbed what we needed for the day, and were off. At least we came downstairs to some coffee that Olivier had made. That helped. We left, Olivier showed us some stuff we should go visit on a map of the city, and then went to work.

Mei and I had a great day wandering around Lyon. Lyon has an old city, and a really old city. Lyon was originally part of the Roman empire, so it dates back pretty damn old – 1st centure AD I think? There are lots of cool cobblestone streets, and stores. It's a fun place to wander. It also has the Fourviere, which was the first thing that Olivier circled on the map, and the first place Mei and I headed to. It's on the top of a hill. As we headed up to it on the bus, I aksed Mei, “So, what is the Forviere?” she replied “No idea.” Hilarious. It ended up being yet another ornate church of Europe, stained glass windows, carvings, mosaics, etc. It was pretty. And free (even better). On the walk down from the Forviere to the really old city, there was an old Roman Amphitheatre to visit, which naturally I thought was pretty cool. We did some yoga on the stage for a little while, took some pictures. The weather was great! In addition to more food, I visited a world puppetry exhibit that just happened to be Lyon (and was also free cus I'm under 26), we lazed next to the river for a while (there are two rivers in Lyon). And we went on a bike ride. Like many of the towns in France, Lyon has city bike rental stations where you pay a Euro for a day, and then a euro an hour (or if you only use the bike for a half hour it is free, so you can trick the system that way). We were trying to get from one river, to the other on the bikes through Lyon old town, cross the other river, and then bike to the train station where we were meeting Olivier. In reality, we didn't get very far on the bikes though. We chose a lot of wrong directions, ended up going up a very steep hill, taking our bikes up stairs in a park, getting super close to the other river, but choosing the wrong direction again, and ending up back where we started. Luckily Mei and I are pretty positive people, so we managed to choose to see the whole thing as adventurously hilarious rather than annoying. WE found out later from Olivier that the hill we went up (which was VERY steep) was the only hill in Lyon... what luck, eh?)

The rest of our time in Lyon was pretty mellow. We were all tired, and went to bed early, went to the train station early, hung out at a Quick (a french McDonalds basically that has free wifi), and took the train out to Nimes.

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