A Travellerspoint blog

Lyon

The Gastronomical Capital of France

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We were in Lyon for about two days, unfortunately, various bad experiences towards the end of the trip has made us believe that we never want to go back. I haven't decided yet...

First Impression (The lasting impression, of course)
We arrived in Lyon through the train station Part Dieu, which from the outside does not look like a train station... we quickly chose a hotel because we arrived at night and the next morning we finally went exploring. I didn't really know anything about Lyon other than that it's "the gastronomical capital of France." I thought we'd just come and eat good food and surely find something to do with ourselves. The part of Lyon that we stayed in was very industrial. The city is also HUGE. Coming from Strasbourg and Colmar we were very surprised to come into such a big, metropolitan city. Walking down these streets, I felt the same as walking down Los Angeles... hotels, mcdonalds and schools were the major sights for a while. I have to say, it lacked charm.

Food

I really wanted to eat some traditional food, especially since I had the quiche in Colmar and the Sauerkraut in Strasbourg. As we were looking around for a restaurant... a waiter came out to greet us and practically forced us into his restaurant saying we would not leave unsatisfied. I was ready to try anything, so we sat down and for the first time in France actually had great service! In most restaurants and cafés, waiters like to leave you alone to do your own thing, which is fine, except for the fact that you normally want stuff and they just never come back! I had a wonderful Salade Lyonnaise and Cuisses de Grenouilles Persillés (Frog's Legs seasoned in Parsley). I had never seen frog's legs before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It looked and smelled like chicken, although the texture was more toward the fish side. I highly enjoyed it and I encourage all squeamish Americans to try them because they're not threatening at all. Desert was a cute Fondant au Chocolat.

Théâtre Gallo-Romains
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After a nice lunch we took a hike up to Vieux Lyon, which is much nicer/pleasanter than downtown. After a while, we stumbled on to these fantastic ruins. It was raining and we just had fun running up and down the steps and singing Rihanna's "Umbrella" (We even made a French version of the song, lol).

Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière
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The Basilique was the most beautiful cathedral I've ever seen. It was peaceful and wonderful to me even though I am not one bit religious. I felt at peace with myself while I disturbed the peace with my loud camera. They had beautiful stain glass windows, statues and paintings on the walls. I thoroughtly enjoyed my visit... up until the priest kicked out the "tourists" because mass was going to begin. We actually were planning on staying through the service because we'd never heard it in French, but we felt obligated to leave. =(
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By the time we got back to our hotel, it was already dark and we realized it was Halloween so we decided to go out to a club... the only problem was that we had no idea where they were! On our search for a club we bumped into various Lyonnais and I have to say that I was very disappointed with the way they reacted when we told them we were there on vacation. At least 3 times we were asked, "why Lyon?" It became obvious to us that its inhabitants have no pride! I feel sorry for the Lyonnais...

At the end of the night, we found ourselves at a club called DV1. We were having a good time, the DJ was spinning American Jams but there was something a little off... I think the tranny should have tipped me off, but it wasn't until they played YMCA that I knew for sure. We were in a gay club. LOL

The next morning we were a little tired of Lyon, it seemed unable to offer us what Paris, Strasbourg and Colmar had in the way of charm, culture and tradition. We exchanged our tickets to leave that day instead of staying another day, but that ended up being the worst decision we'd ever made. It's complicated, but in as few words as possible, this is what happened: Our train was full, the train station decided to put us on a later train that would take us through a different route (first north then south through Paris, instead of south/north), in Paris we found out there was an "exterior problem" so our train was delayed about 2 hours. Once we were finally on board we were informed that we would not be taking the fast, direct route, but actually the "classic" route with various stops and that it would take approximately 4 hours to return to Bordeaux. Along the way, an old man almost croaked so we had to stop and give him medical attention, our train needed maintenance and set us back another hour, and finally, the girl sitting in front of me had a panic attack. *sigh* It was quite an ordeal. The entire return home was about 11 hours... and we blame Lyon.

Posted by Suzy_Belle 05.11.2008 05:51 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Colmar

Could this place be any cuter? (Or colder?)

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After Strasbourg I headed south, first to Colmar before going to Lyon. Colmar is a small town... it is similar to Strasbourg, except that it's tiny and is honestly more of a day trip. I was only there for 5 hours, but couldn't stop saying to my friends how cute it was. We had a wonderful lunch, visited the Unterlinden museum and Petite Venise then headed back to the train station en route to Lyon.
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If you want the old-world and none of the new, ditch Strasbourg for Colmar because they have a very similar atmosphere and also food (both in the Alsace-Lorraine region bordering Germany). Other than that it was really cold, I don't have to much to say about the city since I was there for only a couple of hours. Expect everything to have a German name, try the Quiche and don't you dare leave without visiting Petite Venise.

Posted by Suzy_Belle 04.11.2008 12:06 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Strasbourg

Can I get a side of meat with that?

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Strasbourg, for those of you who do not know, is the border between France and Germany. Although I personally didn't hear any, they do speak another language called Alsatian (according to my tour book it has been outlawed but somehow continues to exist, but according to a friend who lives there, only the older generation knows the language so it's all but died out). Strasbourg, let me just say, is beautiful and calm. Leaving all the hustle and bustle of Paris and arriving in Strasbourg is just what I needed to relax. Like Bordeaux, it has a perfect mixture of tradition and modernity, BUT unlike Bordeaux, the traditional side of Strasbourg leans more toward the German side. I personally loved the old village setting of Petite France while also being awed by the modern train station. On my petit tour de France I saw tons of train stations, but the one in Strasbourg was particularly impressive... what i mean by that is that the outside of it looked really cool and futuristic. I really loved the atmosphere... it was a complete departure from the über-frenchness of Paris to something on its very own, which I can only describe as pride for its culture/history/traditions.
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Food

The food in Strasbourg is heavily influenced by German cuisine.. thus, I took the opportunity to try Sauerkraut for my very first time. I must say, I've never eaten so much meat in my entire life!! I liked it... but I think I could really only eat something like that once a year. They also have these places called Winstubs and Bierstubs which are bars/wine rooms that offer snacks of the traditional meat variety. Unfortunately, I'd pretty much had all the meat I could have for a while, so we didn't hit up a winstub, but that's okay because I'd love to go back to Strasbourg! Aside from the Sauerkraut, I also had a the classic Tarte Flambée for the first time... it reminded me of pizza on a toasted tortilla, but that's probably a bad explanation. It was good, try it.
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Petite France
The old-town part of Strasbourg, that is very traditional and well preserved is Petite France. Once we walked into it, my friends and I couldn't stop squealing, it was just so cute.
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What is there to do in Strasbourg anyway?
Like I said, the town is calm, but quite beautiful. If looking at old houses and rivers isn't your thing, then perhaps you will really enjoy a tour of the Kronenberg Factory. I know I did!
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The tour starts off as most tours, with a history of beer and the company. We then move onto a little hall-way filled with old beer propaganda and paintings of the old-town. The tour comes to a fabulous conclusion with a tasting. Our tour guide was super sweet and let us taste all of the beers available. I have to say, I drank beer that I would have never otherwise tried and I was very pleased. The tour only cost 4€ and we had an amazing time. Don't you dare leave Strasbourg without a tour of the Kronenberg Factory!
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As a random side note, while we were touring the Kronenberg I became quite a novelty as a swarm of French tourists found out I was Mexican and they all flocked to me saying, "C'est une Mexicainne!" and asking me all sorts of questions... I guess they don't get many of me out there! Although, there was a very, very decent Mexican restaurant (the first one I've eaten at since my departure) called La Taqueria. So if you go out to east in France and need some of that great comfort food, don't hesitate!

Musée Alsacien

The museum was adorable... they had tons of displays and once again, the sense of pride and yearning to preserve the culture was ever-present. It's a wonderful thing to see and experience.
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Posted by Suzy_Belle 04.11.2008 11:00 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Paris, La Ville Lumière

This is the city you always want to go back to.

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For the October break, my roommate and I decided to take a little tour de France. We started in Paris, followed up with Strasbourg and Colmar, finally finishing with Lyon. Let's take it from the top.

We arrived in Paris (Montparnasse) on Saturday, October 25th. The first thing I noticed was all the Asian food restaurants everywhere. My wife, Hillary, and I took advantage of this and had some great Vietnamese. It was the perfect start to our wonderful vacation. After dropping off our things at a friend's house, we took off to go exploring.

The Parisian Atmosphere
Once we started exploring, the squealing had no end. First we saw Le Louvre and we freaked out, then we could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance and then all the cute souvenirs were to die for. Walking along the streets of Paris you just get the sense that you're in all those movies that were filmed there. It's romantic and esthetically pleasing.

The Metro
In Los Angeles, we have the shittiest subway system to ever exist. The metro in Paris is quick, efficient and practically eliminates the need for a car. I had never been on the metro and was really glad that getting around was so simple. I have to say that living in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara where you aren't really mobile unless you have a car makes you a little retarded on how to get around, but after a little practice in Bordeaux and Paris, I'm confident I could figure out any metro system. I felt really silly waiting for the metro because I thought to myself, "it's just like in the movies" haha.

Parisians
So you've heard that Parisians are mean? Rude? Hate Americans? WELL, I have to say that is, to my experience, FALSE. We were in Paris for 15 minutes, looking at a map confusingly when a nice man came up to us, asked us if we needed help and pointed us in the right direction. This continued throughout our time in Paris and I'd have to say they are nice people. After being there, I can understand though how they could potentially come off as mean. The amount of tourists all over the city is intense. Most places you go to they speak English because they feel like they have to, but we still spoke French back and they were very pleased. The only thing I will say though, is that service in Restaurants in Paris sucks, but I think this is mostly due to the large population of tourists per waiter, lol.
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Random Encounters

Our first night in Paris, Hillary and I were hanging out listening to music by this fountain when this nice Italian student started talking to us, we told him our story and he told us he'd take us to go see the Moulin Rouge. We freaked out for a minute, of course and then jumped on that fabulous metro. Before we knew it, there it was in all it's flashing glory. Our last night in Paris we also had similar luck with some guys we met on the metro. They invited us to their house for a party and were super sweet to us.
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Special Moments
One of the moments that really sticks out in my mind from our visit to Paris was during our second day as we were walking along the Seine. We were just looking at art and postcards when suddenly, I heard something that I'd only heard in the movies. I walked towards the sound and there he was! A guy dressed in traditional Scottish garments, kilt and all, playing the bagpipes. I was giddy as a school girl! Maybe I haven't been to Scotland yet, but I feel like I got to peak into their culture just a little bit. ONLY IN PARIS!! lol
Anyway, when I left on my little vacation I promised myself that I would try new food. I started slowly and moved up to a dramatic climax in Lyon, but in Paris I had the pleasure of trying for the first time Veal and Mussels. I greatly enjoyed both. ^_^

Champs-Elysées, Le Louvre and L'Arc de Triomphe

Our second night, my friends and I were on a mission to walk along the Champs-Elysées and see the Arc. Unfortunately, it was raining... but we decided to pull on anyway. We got really distracted because it doesn't matter which way you walk in Paris, you're going to find something amazing. We ended up going to the Louvre, which is absolutely breathtaking at night, especially if it's one of those landmarks for you. Everyone has different ideas of France, but for me, The Louvre has always been one of them. It was not disappointing in the least.
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La Tour Eiffel
When I finally saw the Eiffel Tower, I felt as if a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. Finally, I've been to Paris and seen it. Now I can really say I've been to France. It's nice in the daytime, but I have to say, EVERYTHING IN PARIS IS BETTER AT NIGHT. Everything is just so beautiful lit up!
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Le Jardin du Luxembourg

The garden is beautiful. It is very well-kept and a great place for a pique-nique. I was a little irritated that we were listening to music on tiny speakers and a guard told us we had to turn it off, but I'll let it slide. After visiting the garden, we had a wonderful meal at a nearby restaurant called Stella du Luxembourg. It was fabulous italian food! The owner took care of us himself and fell completely in love with my friend Erin. Unfortunately, he was 45 years old and kinda creepy. haha.
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Le Cimetière de Montmartre

As far as cemeteries go, this one was creepy and beautiful at the same time. The tombstones were immense! I had a big sense of real respect for the dead here.
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Montmartre, Sacre-Coeur and The Red Light District

The best view of the city is at the Sacre-Coeur. It's flooded with tourists, but I loved it... needless to say, GO AT NIGHT. Once we went down the steps of the Sacre-Coeur, we found ourselves in the Red Light District, which is attached to Montmartre. I'd never seen so many sex shops in my life. They weren't normal sex shops or stripclubs, it was a little more obscene than that. I even saw a prostitute hanging outside a stripclub, she got mad at me because I was taking pictures, haha. They have these massage parlors that say Massage "Complet" with the quotation marks. I thought it was hilarious!
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  • SIGH*

Paris was wonderful. My advice to anyone going is to see everything twice, once during the day and again at night because it's a completely different experience. And please, try the baked mussels, they're good: Léon de Bruxelles along the Champs-Elysées.

Posted by Suzy_Belle 02.11.2008 06:22 Archived in France Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

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