France: to Aix-en-Provence

Day 8  June 9, 2012

Toward the Sun 

At our royal breakfast this morning, our hostess commented on the beautiful sunny (but cool) day she predicted for Lyon today. She then said, “But you are going toward the sun today.” Before we headed toward the sun, we decided to visit the famers market by the river again as we had yesterday. Well, it seems that on Saturday the market is twice the size of the Friday market. It was huge yesterday and today it just went on and on. Choosing our goat cheese du jour was a challenge. We also got some smoked ham, an apricot tart, and some Napoleon cherries (Rainier cherries to us). Have we mentioned that life is mighty good?

Cherries, anyone?
Cherries, anyone?

Here are some general observations and generalizations that have come to us so far.

  • The handicapped in France don’t have it easy. Finding an elevator, ramp, or other adaptation is difficult. So travel in France when you’re healthy and fit – don’t wait!
  • Coral seems to be the color for summer this year. We’ve seen it in most dress shop windows and shoe or purse shops. I hope all of you are stylish. Neither of us is.
  • When people from France visit the USA and ride our trains they must think that they have stepped back in time. Our trains must seem just a slight step up from covered wagons. The TGV whisked us from Lyon to Aix-en-Provence in about an hour. Speeds must have been topping out at 200+ miles per hour. Whisper quiet and extremely smooth. And plush.
  • The French eat what is seasonal. This isn’t the time of year for brie so don’t even ask. You can live in a big city such as Lyon and never need to go to the supermarket – there is a farmers market every day except Monday (Mondays must be for leftovers).
  • The sound of church bells announcing the time makes a place seem more livable.
  • It’s worth it to travel one place for bread, another for meat, and another for pastry if all of the products are top quality. We Americans often sacrifice quality for convenience.
  • When people have to live in closer quarters – in flats in towns and cities – they interact more. Once you know your neighbor (and interact with them daily), it may tie communities together more closely than what we’re used to.
  • If you’re a vegetarian, a visit to Lyon might be a bit difficult.
  • French food is just better.

We met the Webers in Aix-en-Provence as planned and made our way to our new home. Here is the link that has pictures of the house.

http://www.francebound.net/property.php?id=51

It is tremendous and as outstanding as we have thought it to be for the past year since we reserved it. The kids have already been for a little swim. We ate out on the patio just as I have imagined us doing. Dreams do come true.

We could get used to this.
We could get used to this.

France: Lyon

Day 7  June 8. 2012

Only Lyon

We decided last March when it was our real anniversary, and a certain knee was immobilized, that we would celebrate our anniversary in Lyon. We couldn’t have had a lovelier anniversary than today. Our breakfast would have made royalty blush. We were led into a beautiful dining room with a fireplace and a 14-foot ceiling. The table was set with the following: four types of bread, three types of pastries, six types of cheese, fresh-from-the farm-market yogurt, three types of jams, currant syrup, freshly squeezed juice, and a warm molded rice pudding. The vase of lovely roses completed the picture. It was a wow.

Breakfast is served.
Breakfast is served.

We headed to the farmers market along the river. Cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, bread, and flowers made for a colorful picture, but we knew we had another market on our schedule so we refrained from making any purchases. We used up a few calories to walk over to the oldest part of town and tour around a bit before catching a bus to the top of hill to see the view, the basilica, and the Roman amphitheater.

A mighty fine Basilica overlooking the city
A mighty fine Basilica overlooking the city

Heaven can mean many things to many people, but we came mighty close to our idea of heaven at Les Halles de Paul Bocuse. Paul Bocuse is France’s most famous chef and is widely credited with the gourmet movement of the past 50 years in France. The hall is an indoor market containing the highest quality artisan foods one could ever imagine. We wandered up and down the aisles and kept taking pictures of the displays. Each vendor was determined to outdo the next. The desserts were like jewels and the fish were displayed in patterns on the ice. The dozen or so cheese shops made our heads spin. We wanted to just set up camp there. Finally we selected a goat cheese that was slightly aged and had a hole in the center. It looked rather like a deflated donut. We also got some shrimp in a curry sauce and a chocolate-filled cookie. We headed over to the old part of town and had a little picnic sitting by a fountain. Life is very good.

I dare you to click on this link without drooling.

http://www.halles-de-lyon-paulbocuse.com/

Heaven. We're in heaven.
Heaven. We’re in heaven.

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After lunch, we wandered through the old part of the city – Vieux Lyon. We searched for traboules – ancient passageways through, between, and under buildings that were used for several purposes. Since they often lead to little courtyards within buildings, one purpose is to allow light into enclosed spaces that otherwise would be dark. In some parts of the city, traboules were used by silk workers to transport silk cloth across the city without getting it wet, going from one traboule to the next. During the Second World War, resistance fighters used their intimate knowledge of traboules to escape from German soldiers.

Yup. Lovely in every way.
Yup. Lovely in every way.

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More food news – we found a glace (ice cream) shop with about 75 flavors (tomato and basil ice cream, anyone?) and had about the best ice cream break one could imagine. Almond gelato and macaron gelato. Outstanding!

After a short rest back at our “home”, we went to a traditional Lyonnaise bouchon for our anniversary dinner. One must be careful what one orders at a bouchon, as they specialize in what can politely be called offal. Cindy played it safe with salad lyonnaisse and onion soup. Jim has eggs poached in melted St. Marcellin cheese and a pike quenelle in crayfish sauce. Cindy kindly donated the lardons from her salad to Jim, and he mixed them into the cheese with poached eggs, forming what may be the greatest breakfast dish of all time. “I shall dream of this for many years,” says Jim.

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Dinner in a bouchon
Dinner in a bouchon

 

 

France: to Lyon

Day 6  June 7, 2012

Au Revoir, Colmar! Bonjour, Lyon!

We were lucky to be in Colmar for at least one morning farm market. After our breakfast, we hurried over to the old section of Colmar to see what they were selling at the market. The first things we saw for sale were mattresses. Go figure. Anyway, we bought cherries, goat cheese (no surprise there), fresh bread, garlic and bean spread, and olive sausage. The sausage was sort a leap of faith since it wasn’t even closely related to sausage you would find at a grocery back home (an explanation is required here – it is dried sausage that has been aged; rather strong tasting and a bit “gamey,” but delicious nevertheless). We also stopped at “local” pastry shop a few doors down from our Colmar home to say goodbye and get a pastry for the train trip.

The TGV was lovely. The seats were very plush and comfortable. The train made so little noise that we had to look outside now and then to be certain we were moving. As we darted through the countryside, it was striking to find every parcel of land was “touched” by humans. If there is “wild” France someplace, we haven’t seen it. The countryside was lovely and the crops seem to be doing well.

Lyon is a BIG city. We pulled into the station and had to navigate the crowd from the TGV station to the local trains. We did really well and managed to follow our host’s directions for the two train stops and transfer. We did especially well with her directions that said when we got out of the subway to look for the big statue and “walk in the direction the horse’s tail is pointing.” Our home for the next two nights is in a third floor apartment on a wide pedestrian shopping street. It is just lovely. We feel like locals already.

http://www.lachambredhugo.fr/

Follow that tail!
Follow that tail!
The view from our apartment
The view from our apartment

After getting settled we headed out for what turned out to be not what we expected. We thought we’d take a boat tour to get oriented to the city. The fact that it was rather sunny and warm made being on the water seem very appealing. We sat in the second row and were thinking that we were going to be pretty much alone on our lower level of the boat. Moments before we were to pull away, we were joined by a wedding party of about 25 men, women, and small children. The bride, in her wedding gown, was African American French and the groom, in his tux, was African French. About two-thirds of the way through the tour, the bride got up and was given the mic and led us all in “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” One of the bridemaids then led us all in a rousing rendition of “Down by the Riverside.” It was a hoot.

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The first real rain of the trip so far caught us by surprise and drenched us on our way back to the hotel. We dried off, changed clothes, and headed out to dinner. We found a lovely street with nothing other than open-air cafes. We chose the one we were standing in front of when another downpour came. It was fine and we were grateful to have avoided ordering some type of organ meat by accident. The menus in this part of France are riddled with parts of animals we don’t normally choose to eat. I’ll not go into more detail on that.

We have a full day in Lyon tomorrow. It is the gastronomic capital of France, so we should have a great time – barring downpours!