Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lovely Lyon

Louis XIV guards Lyon
I'm used to traveling by myself on all these little jaunts around Europe, but it's also nice to go on a trip with a friend. Especially when it's to a place where the friend has lived, because you get an insider's knowledge and views.

I just got back from Lyon, France, with my friend Nicky, who is an expat spouse like me. Nicky is originally from Romania but has lived in France for a number of years, and she is married to a very nice Frenchman, Guillaume. We flew from Helsinki, and Guillaume was nice enough to drive us the three hours from Rauma to the Helsinki airport!

My dessert at Le Sud
I've seen quite a bit of France, but this was my first visit to Lyon. It's located in the southeastern part of the country, about an hour from the Alps. It's surrounded by wine country, mainly the Rhone and Beaujolais regions. Lyon has a rich 2,000-year-old history, and it's UNESCO World Heritage Site designation is well-deserved. From the Roman amphitheatre to the magnificent architecture to the amazing restaurants to the great shopping, Lyon is a great place to spend a few days.

Best of all, Nicky and Guillaume still have their flat (apartment) in one of the suburbs, so I had a free place to stay! Nicky warned me that they have a cemetery in their backyard, but that didn't faze me one bit. (I had a cemetery in my backyard behind my dorm my freshman year at UNC, and this one in Lyon was much prettier.) After all, you don't have to worry about noise from the neighbors!

It was a fun tram and metro ride into town. I always like observing people while taking the public transportation, so I don't mind it one bit. The weather was rainy the first day, but clear the next few days, and it was much warmer than Finland, which was a definite plus! We saw all the famous sites, went to a terrific museum of miniatures and movie props, the Musee des Beaux-Arts, cathedrals, and strolls through Old Town. Nicky likes to read as much as me, so we spent some quality time in local book stores, as well as the French department store chains Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, and lots of little boutiques. I think Nicky was amused at my obsession with purses, but she admitted that she has her own obsession with perfume.

We ate some fabulous meals and drank good French wine, of course. I loved our dinner at Le Sud, owned by the famous chef Paul Bocuse. Nicky cooked us a tasty dinner at her flat the next evening. And we certainly ate our fill of French croissants and baguettes. We justified it with all the walking we were doing, of course.

Nicky and me in wine country
The best thing we did was take a guided tour of the Beaujolais wine region  (the Rhone tour was booked, or that would have been my first choice, since I love Rhone blends). I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty the Beaujolais wines were, because the young Beaujolais wines get a bad rap. The quality ones, however, are pretty good -- not full-bodied, but definitely drinkable, especially on summer evenings. The countryside was gorgeous, and we took way too many photos! Our guide was very amiable, and we enjoyed our fellow travelers, who were from Australia and England. The highlight was a wonderful meal, in which I finally got Beef Bourguignon, which I have been craving for a long time.

One thing Tom and I like to do on our travels is go to the local grocery stores. Nicky took me to the largest Carrefour in France, and it was crazy. It was so crowded that we had to wait over a half hour just to check out! But I did get some things to bring back to Finland that are  way cheaper in France. Still more expensive than in the U.S., but cheaper than Finland. Things like contact lens solution, toothpaste, some food items, and wine, of course. They even had chocolate chips!

So maybe, I have to say that Lyon is my new favorite city. At least until the next trip!

Here's the link to the pictures: