Lyon is France’s “second city” (though I guess Marseilles could also be called that). It’s like a smaller, cleaner Paris, with red roofs instead of blue. It was in Lyon that we had our first “long” trip since I’ve been here. We stayed for about a week while Tim was helping out at the WWW Conference.
I regret to say that I didn’t spend much time getting to know Lyon while we were there. Work took up much of my time, and our hotel was quite far from the city center. We were, however, right next to the city’s huge park, the Parc de la Tête d’Or.
As in Munich, the park was the best part of the city, but in a completely different way. While the Englischer Garten was just as expansive, it didn’t have the infinite ability to surprise that the Parc de la Tete d’Or had.
The pond is home to ducks and geese (who were clearly used to humans and human food — one came right up to us while we were munching on our sandwiches on a park bench), paddle boats, and an island that can be reached through an underground (and, I suppose, underwater) tunnel with a war memorial. There’s a zoo, but not like any zoo I’ve seen — the boy and I, while on one of our many strolls through the park, encountered an emu. And a herd of deer. Just hanging out in a field of grass. There was only a short fence between us and them. We kept walking and… oh, there’s an elephant. Oh, some flamingos. Huh.
No entrance fee, just a bunch of animals in little exhibits. The rarer and more delicate creatures, like the tiny capuchins) were in more enclosed spaces, but you could pretty much get close enough to get all up in their faces and interact with them.
There’s a rose garden and playgrounds for children and fields of grass all polka-dotted with tiny purple and white flowers. Once, we saw a carousel in the distance. As we got closer, we saw that it was outside the gates of the park. “Thank god,” said Tim, “it would have been too much if it was in the park.” But later, we found a smaller, even more charming carousel in one of the children’s areas. Too much.
Oh, and did I mention the food? We had dinner at a few places, but the best was La Machonnerie in Vieux Lyon, the largest Renaissance district of Lyon. Lyonnaise cuisine is notoriously porky, and La Machonnerie did not disappoint. The amuse-bouche was breaded and fried pieces of pork fat. My plat of La Mitonnée de Canut en cocotte was three different kinds of pork (sausage, braised pork cheek, and pork belly with crispy skin). Gracious.
It was also at La Machonnerie that I had my most charming experience with French waitstaff. We had gone through four courses already (amuse-bouche, entrée, plat, and cheeses) and were absolutely stuffed. The waitress came by to ask what we would like for dessert, and we replied, “No dessert, thank you.” She was absolutely stunned. “No dessert? Wouldn’t you at least like to share one? Just a little one?” Nope, there was just no way.
Now you must understand, she wasn’t pushing dessert on us to fatten our check; we’d gotten the prix-fixe menus, so we’d be paying the same price whether we wanted dessert or not. She was just genuinely aghast at the prospect of dinner without dessert. They ended up bringing us two madeleines with our check. How sweet.
Music to travel by: Perth [Bon Iver // Bon Iver]