Did you know that Lyon was voted “Europe’s Leading City Break Destination” last year? It’s not hard to see why. Lyon is perfect for a little getaway – there’s lots going on, but not to the point that it’s overwhelming. You can make a weekend out of it, or stay awhile, if you’re not in a hurry. The city has evolved so much in the last few years, with loads of hip cafés and new restaurants setting up shop. It’s a city close to my heart, and if you ask me, it’s ze place to be in France. (I should know – I stayed for three years.)
Sometimes I read guides to Paris that claim there’s nothing much to see in the 19th and 20th (except for Père Lachaise) and it drives me absolutely batty. I adore this part of Paris. True, the outer arrondissements are large, so they’re not uniformly lovely and interesting, but that makes stumbling upon beautiful fairytale streets all the more delightful.
Paris is all about new discoveries for me. I lived there for a year before I moved to Lyon and I’ve been back countless times, but I still discover new pockets of the city every time I’m there. I visited all three of these neighborhoods for the first time on my last trip to Paris, and I think they’re some of the most enchanting streets in the whole city.
When I moved to Lyon from Paris, I complained that there wasn’t enough international food. Since then, two things have happened. 1) I realized I was wrong and 2) a ton of new cool restaurants have opened up! About half of the places on this list opened after I moved to Lyon (which was in 2013).
By the way, I’m using “international food” fairly loosely here – in most cases, I don’t mean “100% authentic food the way it is served in its country of origin” (because how the hell do I know what “real” Ethiopian food is like) I mean “not French.”
Because I love baguettes and quiche and all, but I don’t want to each French food all the time.
It’s January, the time of year when we wistfully think back to our summer vacations! After I got back from Italy, Hugo and I spent a few days in Lisbon at the beginning of July. We had been planning to go for a year, but the summer before he had started a new job and couldn’t take time off (so I went to Spain instead).
Everyone kept raving about Lisbon – it was so beautiful, so cheap, so charming, so friendly, their favorite European city. We had a great time and the weather was beautiful, but I wouldn’t go back in high season. It was quite crowded, and many of the locals didn’t seem thrilled with all the tourists.
The language barrier was frustrating too – I memorized the essential travel phrases before we left, but Portuguese is not a language that comes easily to me despite its Latin roots. It wasn’t hard to navigate the city in the least, but I feel uncomfortable and apologetic when I can’t speak the local language. I do my best not to be an ugly American, but I just don’t speak all the languages. There were several instances where we were treated rudely, I suspect because we didn’t speak much Portuguese, and even though that wasn’t the overall trend, those few bad experiences stuck with me.
I would still like to go back to Portugal and visit more cities; Porto and Comporta (thanks, New York Times) are both on my list.
Today I’ll share a few highlights, some resources (scroll down to the bottom for those), and things I would do differently next time. And gratuitous photos, of course.
Hi! I’ve been writing more and more about Lyon this year, and some of you have told me that you found these posts useful (which is awesome, because otherwise why am I doing this?) I’m so glad to hear it – thank you for the feedback.
It goes without saying that I really liked all these places, or I wouldn’t have put them on the list! But there are a few that I love – my favorite favorites – so I’ve marked them with a ❤.
There are loads of fantastic wine bars in Lyon – feel free to comment if you have a favorite I haven’t included. These are simply places I have been to (many times, in some cases) that I think are great.
❤ La Cave d’à Coté: Cozy, great planche of charcuterie & cheese (Closed Sunday)
Le Vin des Vivants: Pretty terrace, low prices (Closed Sunday and Monday)
❤ Autour d’un Verre: Classy but casual, tasty tapas. Some outdoor seating, but the ambiance is inside. (closed Sunday. Owner speaks very good English.)
Bones & Bottles: Oh-so-hip, a little pricey, great food – small plates. Limited outdoor seating. (closed Sunday and Monday. English spoken)
If I were a big-time blogger with a global influence, I don’t think I would tell you about La Campagne à Paris. If it became more popular, it would be spoiled.
But I’m rather lucky because only a select group of exclusively nice people (right?) read my blog.
So I think it’s safe.
I think I read about La Campagne à Paris on Paris Zigzag, a fantastic site for discovering little-known places in Paris (in French). It’s a tiny neighborhood in the 20th, just minutes from the Porte de Bagnolet metro stop (line 3, take exit 2).
It’s a tiny little haven of cobblestone streets and storybook houses with pretty gates and flowers in front. It was nearly deserted – I encountered a few residents, a couple wanderers like me, and a cat.
There is something really nice about sitting down for a snack or a cup of tea in a beautiful setting. I’m not one to prefer the fancy schmancy over something simple, but I can’t deny that I like drinking out of a pretty cup. Here are a few places in Lyon where you can enjoy the asthetic as much as your goûter.
Jeannine & Suzanne
Jeannine & Suzanne is a new café in the 2nd arrondissement. Everything is beautiful. The tables, the chairs, the walls, the floors, the ceiling, even the ashtrays outside (pretty metal tea boxes). Oh, and the food is beautiful too. Their little tarts are works of art, and they have a long list of tea and other beverages. The kitchen is visible through a glass wall. The vibe here is modern-beautiful-quirky. Aka, totally Instagrammable.
We heard the news after we got back from the fireworks. We probably would have gone to bed and slept in ignorance until the morning, but Hugo gets news alerts on his phone.
On Friday, there was an outpouring of shock and grief over the attack in Nice on social media. But at least in Lyon, there doesn’t seem to be a public space of tribute and mourning, like there was after the Paris attacks, where people leave flowers and messages. The public reaction is different this time. Maybe it’s because the possibility of more attacks has been hovering in the background, especially during the Eurocup. But that doesn’t diminish the magnitude of this tragedy.
I dug up my old photos of Nice. I haven’t been there since 2012. I thought it was only two years ago, but then I did the math. I meant to go back this summer, but time is short. (By “short” I mean “hurtling along at rogue rocket speed.”)
Anna & Matt of Hostelgeeks may be two of the nicest people ever. Not only have they created loads of free travel resources, they are generous with their personal travel recommendations and hostel discount codes, and they answer all of their messages and emails personally. For once you feel like you are interacting with real people, not just a disembodied brand (you know what I’m talking about!)
Scroll down the Hostelgeeks homepage and you’ll find 5-star hostel reviews, city guides, travel stories, and helpful blog posts. I used their Geeky Travel Guides in every place I traveled this summer, and in Bologna I stayed at the 5-star hostel We_Bologna. Recently they featured this hostel in Granada and it looked so cool that I wanted to go to Granada just to stay there (as if I need any more reasons to go to Granada).
Matt was kind enough to send me their e-book “The Greatest Hostels of Europe” (thank you!!) and just looking through it gave me major wanderlust – the hostels are so beautiful that all of a sudden, you’re dreaming of a weekend in a new city, just so you can stay in a hostel with a rooftop pool or sleeping pods instead of bunk beds. At first, I didn’t see how much the e-book could really add to their site, since there is already so much information there. But oh, how wrong I was.
I took the bus to Florence because it’s cheaper, and it’s only three hours from Rome which doesn’t feel long anymore. It was hot in Rome but the storm was just starting to break as I left the bus station in Florence. The men who peddle umbrellas and those colorful plastic bag ponchos seized the opportunity to pounce on anyone caught in the rain unprotected.