Lyon — First Day, June 9
Lyon is located 2 hours southeast of Paris via the original TGV line connecting these cities. It leaves appropriately enough, from Paris Gare de Lyon — a beautiful example of Belle Époque architecture in the 12th arrondissement on the north bank of the Seine. The station was only a short cab ride from my hotel in Paris. But, given terrorism concerns surrounding recent events and the European Cup soccer tournament, I left the hotel early concerned that I might need more time to work through security.
The extra time turned out to be unnecessary as passage to the platform did not require any security checks. There was, however, an obvious increase in the presence of heavily armed police and military personnel.
I arrived at Gare de-Lyon Part Dieu at 3 o’clock — two hours after leaving Paris and on-time. The Hotel Mercure Beaux Arts, where I had booked a room, is located on a peninsula in the center of the city between the Rhône and Saône Rivers. A great location in the 2nd arrondissement and only a short cab ride from the train station.
(Incidentally, Lyon and Dijon are located in southeast France close to the Alps and the Swiss border. Even though it was early June, temperatures were still comfortable. )
After a quick walking tour of the hotel neighborhood, I asked the front desk for assistance to book two restaurant reservations. The first, for my arrival night, at Au Petit Bouchon Chez George— a simple bistro style restaurant typical of Lyon. For the second night, I booked a table for dinner at the venerable Paul Bocuse — his namesake restaurant, a brightly painted temple of gastronomy located north of the city. This restaurant has held 3 Michelin Stars since 1965 — longer than any other.
I became a big fan of April Bloomfield’s cooking after enjoying a couple of her meals at the renovated Tosca in San Francisco. Recently, I ran across her recipe in Food and Wine Magazine for Poulet au Vinaigre — a dish inspired by Lyon. In researching this dish I learned of the Bouchon — small bistro like restaurants unique to Lyon. Bouchon serve simple, rustic dishes and feature offal of various types including the famous Andouille sausage consisting of a pig’s digestive tract stuffed in it’s colon.
I showed up for my 8:00 reservation at Chez George where I was warmly greeted and seated at one of two tables pushed together to accommodate six. It was early and the restaurant was not yet full when I placed an order for Salad Lyonnaise, Poulet au Vinaigre and a small pot of nearby Beaujolais drawn from a wooden cask. The wine was served along with a complimentary slice of warmed Lyonnaise sausage as the restaurant patrons began to arrive. I was quite content.
My salad dispatched, I was finishing the excellent Poulet au Vinaigre when the first of my communal dining companions arrived. A gregarious Frenchman to whom I offered a glass from my little pot of wine. Fast friends, we went on to enjoy many large pots of wine along with three other new found friends who eventually joined the table. We were a jovial group.
Of course, the famous Andouille served in a mustard wine sauce was ordered and shared round the table. The meal was finished with individual rounds of Saint Marcellin — the imminently likable local cheese that unfortunately is not available in the U.S. After splitting the check, our merry little group headed out for a few nightcaps. It was a fitting first night in Lyon.
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