13 Things to do in Lyon in the summer

I love Lyon all year round, but there’s something about summer. (For one thing, it’s the only time of year I actually want to leave my apartment after 9 pm.) Summer means rosé-drenched picnics, sunny afternoons with a cone of melon sorbet, and finally being able to wear that sundress that sits untouched in my closet nine months a year.

I admit that last summer, there was a period when it was so hot that I spent three days prone on the couch in front of the fan watching Orange is the New Black and drinking grapefruit Pulco like it was my job.

But when you’re not hiding from the scorching heat, Lyon is pretty great in the summer. Here are a few things I love to do during the estival months in Lyon.

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Guide to International Food in Lyon (by arrondissement)

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.

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A Little Bit of Lisbon

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.

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My Favorite Wine Bars in Lyon (by arrondissement)

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.

Here is the most important one yet. (Unless you don’t drink wine, in which case this will be almost totally useless to you. Maybe you like tea or coffee? No? Croissants?)

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.


1st arrondissement

❤ 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)

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La Campagne à Paris

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.

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The Prettiest Places for Tea in Lyon

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

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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.

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Florence: Visiting the Uffizzi

I’ll tell you right off the bat – I don’t really care for Renaissance art. I’m mostly interested in art from the last two centuries or so. The Renaissance is just not my style. I know, I know, I’m a barbarian. But the art just seemed so repetitive and boring – Madonna and child, Madonna and child, Madonna and an even fatter child, portrait of rich person, portrait of rich person, portrait of ugly rich person, fat cherubs, biblical scenes, blah blah blah.

I wasn’t even going to visit the Uffizzi, but people looked at me the way you look at someone who tells you they don’t like crême brûlée. (Like a crazy person.) So I changed my mind.

I met two badass girls in Rome named Leah and Stella. Leah said that she felt the same way about Renaissance art, but that the Uffizzi was still something to see. She gave me a couple really helpful tips which made my four hours at the museum (yes, four hours!) go smoothly.

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Florence: First Impressions & Travel Resources

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.

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Eating my way through neighborhoods of Rome: Monti, Trastevere, Testaccio, and more

I don’t know what to tell you about Rome. I didn’t do the things you’re supposed to do. Shannon and I agreed we would definitely skip the Vatican because we’ve both been before, and while we might pop by and wave hi to some of the famous monuments from the outside, there was no way we were waiting in line to go in.

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Best Boulangeries in Lyon

It is no secret that I like French bread (and croissants and pains aux raisins and éclairs and… well, you get the idea). When people ask what brought me to France, I tell them it was the boulangeries. Whenever I am mad at France because the Sécu refused my carte vitale application for reasons they made up, I go get myself the best pain aux raisins I can find. (Something I didn’t know before I moved to Paris: All the flaky pastries like croissants and pain aux raisins are called viennoiseries in French.)

As I slowly get ready to leave Lyon, I find myself wanting to write about it more and more. (So if you have any questions about Lyon, let me know.) I can’t believe I’ve been here three years! I’ve lived up in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood and down on Presqu’île, so those are the areas I know the best, but I try to make it a point to eat croissants all over the city.

Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

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