Weekend Getaway to Lyon, France, Part III: Les Halles Paul Bocuse Market, the Zoo, and a Sad Goodbye!

It was our last day in Lyon, and there was still so much I wanted to see. Unfortunately our flight was at 4pm, so we didn’t have all that much time. The plan was originally to have brunch, go to the Paul Bocuse market, and then the famous park. We only got 2 of them done (it’s hard to wake girls up in the morning), but it was a nice last day regardless.

We started at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, a large market selling everything from vegetables to seafood and sweets. The name Paul Bocuse holds a lot of weight in Lyon, the man has famous restaurants spread throughout the city. It was nice to see all of the different foods on display, and it probably would’ve been really nice to join many of the other French locals in having some white wine and oysters (I guess it’s a thing there?). However, I would recommend doing this on a rainy or relaxed day… it was nice to see, but there were so many other things to see in Lyon that I couldn’t relax!

There was one pastry I had never seen before: a pink pecan pie / tart. I still don’t understand how it became pink! But they were everywhere, and obviously very popular (see below). I tried a little mini tart and it was pretty tasty, but a little strange.

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Pink Pecan Pie? Say that 3 times fast.

After we saw our fill of decadence, we walked over to the Parc de la Tête d’Or (about a 20 minute walk from the market). It is a huge and very popular park on the east bank of Lyon. There were lots of people out jogging on that sunny day. The best part about the park? There was a free zoo! It made the little kid come out in all of us.15812_10153120657498162_8630147041139882711_n 19308_10153120656758162_5799640758340145148_n 10348466_10153120658878162_4053829277779108486_n 10405476_10153120657938162_1620970285394514965_n 10407314_10153120663193162_2623381908335052734_n 10616010_10153120659698162_4547364937209668876_n

Also, there was a great photo op there… and we all know how important photos are!

After wandering around for awhile, we had to rush back to the hostel to pick up our things and then head for the airport. It was a little stressful because we cut it very close, but alas! Luck was on our side. We made it back home to sweet, sunny Barcelona… but I am still dying to go on my next trip!

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Weekend Getaway to Lyon, France, Part II: Markets, Sweets, Chocolate Waterfalls, and Optical Illusions

We were in Lyon for 3 days, and Lyon is kind of divided into 3 parts, so we figured it’d be perfect to explore one area per day. Friday, when we arrived, we explored the west side to the left of the Saône river called the Vieux area (read more about it here). On Saturday, we decided to explore the middle section of Lyon, in between the Saône and Rhône river. Our hostel was located right in the center of the city, so it was perfect. Nearby was the Opéra de Lyon and the Hôtel de Ville, or city hall, of Lyon. Such beautiful buildings!

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Hôtel de Ville, with beautiful gold accents.

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Opéra de Lyon

Nearby the Hôtel de Ville, we met a group celebrating a bachelor party (even though it was only 10am). They saw us taking pictures and begged us to take a photo of them, and then got a picture of us with them as well.

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La Fontaine Bartholdi in Place des Terreaux

We headed north to visit La Croix-Rousse, the portion of Lyon that is situated up on a hill. We decided to walk it instead of using public transportation so we could explore, but it did take us at least an hour to finally get to the top. It had a different vibe to it than the center of the city; more graffiti (although some of it was pretty artsy, I must say) and my friends thought it seemed a bit more run down. But when we finally got to the main street of La Croix-Rousse, we really enjoyed it.

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This area is also famous for it’s Traboules, little secret passageways that the silk weavers and soldiers use to use way, way back (I also mentioned them here). We found one as we were walking because there was a big group of tourists at the front, so we decided to go check it out. We followed some vague signs (one had an arrow and a picture of a lion, another an arrow in the opposite direction with an eye) but we really couldn’t find anything of much interest… we just kept wandering around in circles through various apartment buildings. I really wish we had invested in a guide for this part of the trip, because there were no signs anywhere to explain anything. You really do need to know where you’re going to find these!

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When we finally reached the top of the hill, we found ourselves at Rue Hénon, one of the main streets. We were super lucky because there was a big farmer’s market going on there which was really nice to see. There were hundreds of vendors selling fruits, vegetables, cheeses, soaps, various meats, flowers, etc. We ended up buying some beautiful pastries that were to die for!

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Where are all of the people?! The city seemed nearly deserted at certain points.

We were getting quite hungry at this point, so we began searching for a cafe. We came across this lovely square with a merry go-round, we wish it was in use… so pretty!DSCN3199

We found a nice looking cafe on the corner with a decent meal option: an appetizer, entree and drink for about €16. And the food looked great, so we gave it a go. Inside, everyone was a local so it seemed like a good choice.

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Delicious smoked-salmon salad. Underneath the salmon was a large mound of creamy dill sauce.

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My friend’s Lyonnaise salad, topped with a poached egg.

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Our fantastic main entree: chicken, the plate of the day. It was very tasty! I know, chicken seems like a boring choice… but we couldn’t really read what anything else said =X We saw another person order raw ground beef… so it seemed like a safe option to order the chicken.

DSCN3202After our delicious lunch, we went out in search of a chocolate shop that people had raved about online. On the way, we passed by this amazing little sweets store and had a local French woman tell us that we absolutely had to go inside, that it was famous and was on TV. We heeded her advice and bought some macaroons – they were delicious! I couldn’t leave France without eating a macaroon… or 3. I tried caramel (per the ladies recommendation), raspberry, and violet. The place was called Bouillet, and it turns out that it is connected with the place we were trying to find, Chokola.

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It turns out that the main reason you should go to Chokola! is to see the chocolate waterfall. It was so cool to watch! It made us hungry. However, here there is less sweets in general and more random things made from chocolate. I also think it was a little bit pricier, but definitely worth the visit for that waterfall!

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About a 10 minute walk from there was the Mur des Canuts of Lyon, Europe’s largest fresco and optical illusion. When you look at it, it looks as though there are steps going up through the building with other buildings and people behind… but it is, in fact, just a painting. So trippy to look at! DSCN3223 DSCN3225     DSCN3230 DSCN3231 DSCN3232In that area, that was pretty much all we had came to see so we started wandering back towards the center of the city. I know I’ve said this before, but it really was amazing just how few people were out and about on a weekend. We stumbled upon this church which appeared to be under construction. It looked a bit creepy from outside, but we decided to check it out anyways. When we got into the small antechamber, we couldn’t figure out how to get inside the actual chapel… when we opened one door, there was another similar door right behind it. It was super trippy. We ended up power-walking quickly away from the church thinking it was haunted when we heard an old lady calling us from the doorway, asking us in French if we wanted to go inside… Super creepy, but it turned out to be absolutely gorgeous on the inside. DSCN3235 DSCN3237

After that, we just wandered around aimlessly a bit more, got some drinks, and then met up with the people at the hostel later to go to a club.

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Weekend Getaway to Lyon, France, Part I: Vieux, La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, and Roman Ruins

Time seems to be flying by, and I don’t like it! I’m only two weeks away from moving in with my third host family, which means there are only 3 months left in the program 😦 How did that happen?! What am I going to do next?!

My immediate reaction has been to plan as many trips as possible during my time left here. This last weekend, some friends from the program and I hopped on a plane to go see the beautiful city of Lyon, France. Haven’t heard about it? Don’t worry, we hadn’t either. But tickets were cheap and, when we asked other people in the program if they knew anything about it, a few people said it was great. So off we went!

We had set off to the airport around 5am but, but after all of the hassle of getting to the airport, the flight, and the plane ride, we ended up ready to explore the city around noon… and we were ravenous. We heard from our hostel that most of the places in the center of the city are way overpriced, and that we should head across the river to the west side that had the La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. We heeded their advice and headed on over, passing some beautiful views along the way.

La Saône River, west side of Lyon

Paroisse Catholique Saint Nizier

I have a weakness for cities with rivers. I don’t know what it is about the water, but I absolutely adore it. I think rivers and beaches make cities 100x prettier. So the fact that Lyon was a city situated along two rivers really impressed me. The way the buildings reflect off the river, boat cruises, the lights at night… it is just fantastic. Oh, and hills… I have another thing for hills. Not walking up them, of course (that’s never fun), but seeing the views from the top. I love that you can look down a street and see the entire city laid out before you.

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière on the top of the hill, and the mini-eiffel tower (Metallic tower of Fourvière) to the right.

Once we crossed the river, we began a desperate search for something to eat. None of us really spoke French, which was a problem… I tried learning the basic phrases but my accent just sucked. We ended up deciding on a little cafe (Crock ‘N’ Roll) that had a lot of locals inside, so it seemed to be a good choice. The menu had various options of a sandwich, salad, drink and dessert for about €13. I got a delicious ham sandwich with a dessert of “white cheese.” We were a little skeptical about the dessert but decided to try it since, hey, when in France… eat cheese. It was tasty! It came in a glass, pretty much purely liquid like yogurt. Then you poured honey and sugar into it because calories don’t count while you’re on vacation 😉

‘The Streets’ Sandwich. Pretty tasty! French Comte cheese, Ham, Mushrooms… yum! Everyone’s sandwich was pretty tasty.

The bathroom at the restaurant. A strange thing to take a picture of, I know, but I thought the collage was pretty cool!

After that, we wandered around the Vieux part of Lyon, a renaissance district and famous for it’s bouchons (nice restaurants) and traboules (old secret pathways used during the silk-weaving period and also the war). It was a really nice area to explore because it was just so French-looking. I’m sad we didn’t make it to a bouchon this trip (they were a tad pricy), but the whole area was beautiful.

  Another thing about France that I suppose is to be expected… There are more pastry and chocolate shops than you can count. And everything just looked so amazing! Even after eating a full meal we’d always stop at one of these shops and stare into the window, salivating. They were very creative with the way they presented everything. Some of the chocolates didn’t look real, and others (like in this picture) were made to look like corks and wine bottles. Yum!

I happened to notice a couple tourists enter this small alleyway, so we followed them since I was aware of the Traboules. I kind of wish we had hired a guide to show us around because, during the whole weekend, we only found a couple of them and didn’t really know the history about them. You really have to know what to look for, I hear some of the traboules are only accessed by knowing which closed doors you can go through. I was afraid of knocking on someone’s front door! Especially with my limited French.

After that, we stumbled upon the beautiful Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Unfortunately it was under construction on the inside, so we didn’t get to see much, but I was struck by the exterior. I loved the detail in the circular window at the top, which was a bit difficult to capture by camera.

Because you can never see enough churches in Europe, we decided to trek up the hill to see La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. It is definitely worth the climb, but try to ask locals for the correct way to go! We ended up taking a very long and roundabout route and got lost a few times. Luckily, because we went the wrong way, we also stumbled upon the The Ruins of Lugdunum, Fourviere Hill. They are ancient roman baths, and it’s interesting to wander around and maybe have a rest by sitting in one of the grand ampitheatres.

Just a short walk away from the Roman ruins, you find the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. I am not impressed by too many cathedrals since I have seen so many in my life that they start blurring together, but I really enjoyed this one (another that stands out in my mind is the mind-blowing Sagrada Familia). There is a lot of detail on the outside, including the golden man on the tower, but the inside is what really impressed me. There was so much gold and color, it was incredible.

  There’s also some amazing views from right outside the cathedral. I’m a sucker for cityscapes. We met some really nice guys there who were living in France, they were nice enough to show us around a bit.

On our way down the hill, we decided to take a different route. There are billions of stairs every which direction, such as the one shown below. We neared the bottom when a guy asked us nicely to wait a moment because they were shooting a film at the bottom steps. It was super cool to see all of the film equipment and the filming in progress. Now I want to see it!

After that, we just wandered the city aimlessly to take it all in. It is such a gorgeous city to walk around, but it was surprising because there weren’t many people around at all. Such a big city, so few people! But everyone came out at night in the clubs.

The coolest entrance I have seen to a bookstore!

We met some fun people at our hostel and went with them to the Boston Café right behind the statue shown above. I personally wouldn’t recommend anyone to go… it was alright, but (as with many French people, I have noticed) the staff were incredibly rude to non-French speaking people. Order in French or they’ll chastise you that you are, in fact, in France and need to speak French. Or (like me) attempt to order in French and have them still glare at you because your accent isn’t perfect.

Anyways, another thing to mention about Lyon is that drinks are pretty damn pricey.  It was hard to find a beer for under €5.50, which was surprising because that’s on par with Dublin‘s crazy pricing (which makes more sense, since Dublin is known for their beer). We ordered beers at Boston Cafe, and a couple of the girls added syrup to theirs. I guess it is common in France to flavor your beer with syrups like peach, raspberry, strawberry, etc. I had a taste of one of my friend’s and it didn’t taste awful, but I definitely prefer my beer straight up.

The bar played some strange music… we were there for about two hours and the music didn’t get any better. There were some old hits that we could get down to, but the majority was really strange. Again, I wouldn’t recommend going there.

We ended up leaving and pretty much as soon as we left, we were approached by a group of 4 guys begging us to go back into the club with them and they’d buy our drinks for us. I was really thrown back by this; I guess it is really difficult for men to get into a club without women because they want a higher ratio of ladies. We politely declined but they kept insisting. We got even further and yet another group of guys approached us asking for the same thing. After saying no for the 5th time, a girl from their group came up to us and said “You guys want drugs?” Wow, that escalated quickly. We quickly said no and rushed off. A definitely strange end to the night!