Lyon, France

bouchon2

Lyon, France

Bouchon.” What a funny word. In French, it could mean either “cork” or “traffic jam,” “stopper” or “plug”…or  even, strangely enough, “typical Lyonnaise restaurant.” Lyon tops the list for highest concentration of restaurants as there are over 1,000 places to eat in Lyon. This, of course makes sense–Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France! But how did this come about? One important factor dates back to the sixteenth century. Catherine de Medici imported cooks from Florence, and combining their skills with local products and recipes, they created a revolutionary idea: regional specialties that were consumed by nobles and royalty. This tradition carried up through the centuries, shaping Lyonnaise cuisine into what it is today. In addition to the Medicis, the “Mères lyonnaises” gave birth to Lyon’s gastronomic success. These women, 19th century middle-class cooks, rose up and decided to put their extraordinary culinary skills to use. The rise of tourism connected with the automobile (the newly-formed Michelin Guide helped a bit), brought more and more hungry mouths to their tables. Today, France is well-known for its fine cuisine, but it is Lyon that wins the first-place ribbon. A “bouchon” refers to a traditional Lyonnaise restaurant, where you can find such items as andouillette (type of sausage), duck breast, the salad “chèvre chaud” (a salad with baked goat cheese wrapped in puff pastry), foie gras, “saucisson chaud” (literally ‘hot sausage’; it’s delicious!) or Lyon’s specialty, the quenelle, (a mixture of creamed fish and chicken, with an egg binding and covered in cream. It’s mouth-watering!). Of course, you can visit a high-end Paul Bocuse restaurants where the food will be of the highest quality–but nothing beats the snug feeling of the quaint restaurant terrace with checkered tablecloths and cobblestones underfoot. Not only is the atmosphere fantastic, but the food is so delicious you’ll never want to leave–and it never seems to stop coming!

 

 

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Rhône riverside in Lyon, France

lyon lyonnight

View of the Rhône River in Lyon, France

It’s only fitting to choose a photo of Lyon today, as the next six weeks will be spent taking a short break from France to work in rural Spain. Lyon is a beautiful city – but it is one that rarely gets put on the map. It’s also been called one of France’s “most liveable cities”–which is mostly because of the Lyonnais themselves. With roots that go all the way back to the Romans (then called “Lugdunum”), Lyon has been an important city since its founding in 43 BC largely because of its location at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers. Today, it’s regarded as France’s “gastronomic capital” – and since many consider France to rank #1 when it comes to cuisine…perhaps this means that Lyon is the #1 place to eat in the world? While that may not be true for everyone, it is true that the city has a lot to offer: local bouchons (restaurants with Lyonnais cuisine) coupled with the extravagant restaurants created by the famous chef Paul Bocuse (on the other end of the spectrum), a beautiful old town (the Vieux Lyon), the hill of Fourvière with the Roman ruins (once a great amphitheater) plus the beautiful Basilica, as well as not one but two rivers lined with quays–perfect for strolling, picnicking, biking, enjoying a beer, reading in the sun, people-watching, photographing, or simply taking in the views of Lyon by day and night. Take a step back and enjoy the views–because Lyon is one of the most underrated yet most beautiful cities in Europe!

View of Saône River, Vieux Lyon, France

Lyon view from Bonaparte Bridge

View of Saône River, Vieux Lyon, France

It’s been a long time (holidays have a way of making one lazy) but I’m back! Here we have the view from the Bonaparte Bridge crossing the Saône River in Lyon. From the bridge, you can see most of the old town and major landmarks of this amazing city. From the Saint-Jean quarter–an important political and religious centre in the Middle Ages–to the Saint-George district, home to the famous silk merchants of the 1500’s (and responsible for over 100 traboules or covered passageways/courtyards in between buildings used for transporting the silk)–to the Saint-Paul quarter, inhabited by the wealthy Italian banker-merchants, the Vieux Lyon neighbourhood is a beautiful mix of eras, nationalities, cultures, and architecture. Oh, and did I mention the food? Vieux Lyon is the city’s food district; eat at a bouchon or local Lyonnaise restaurant for a taste of the Gastronomic Capital of France!

Come hungry!