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.)
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.
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)
Hi! Guess where I am? (I suppose if I really wanted you to guess I shouldn’t have put it in the title.)
I left Lyon (in tears) and flew back to my hometown last week. Most of August was spent emptying our home in Lyon and trying to cram all of my belongings into two suitcases. (Bless the Lufthansa agent who let my overweight bag slide through!)
Everyone knows moving is the worst, but sometimes you forget how really Not Fun it is until you’re weeding through everything you own and getting stood up by Leboncoiners who are supposed to come buy your crappy chairs (RUDE!) August was hot and stressful and I was pretty cranky for most of the month. I pretty much stopped checking my email, which is terrible because some really nice people emailed me during that time. (I’m sorry, nice people!!!) It seems like a pretty wimpy thing to complain about, but I get so overwhelmed by an overflowing inbox.
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.
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:
March is the worst month. It’s the tail end of winter and everyone is dying for spring to arrive, and for me, it’s the middle of the semester when all my students take their midterms at the same time, which means I have to write all the tests and then correct about 400 exams in the span of a few weeks, on top of my normal workload. It’s a little like running on a treadmill in high heels.
I’m so relieved that it’s April – spring has definitely arrived, the semester is almost over, and I’m starting to ponder where to travel this summer. (I’m thinking Italy and Portugal, but I’m also tempted by Croatia, Spain, Budapest, Berlin… so many adventures, so little time. Where are your favorite places in Europe?) Even though traveling in France doesn’t always feel as exciting as going to a new country, I’d still love to spend some time down south, and maybe over on the west coast of the country where I’ve barely been at all, and there will definitely be a trip to Paris where I have big plans to Eat Stuff.
Speaking of Big Plans, I’m heading west in the fall – really far west. We’re moving to California!
Do you ever feel like you could write your own FAQ list at the end of the holiday season? Or after any gathering with your extended family or your mom’s friends? Everyone always asks the same #$%^& questions over and over again. After awhile, you want to make like Tom Wilson (Biff Tanner in Back to the Future) and print out at FAQ card.
No, but I don’t mind, though. I’m not a total bitch. It’s normal for people you see once a year to ask what you plan to do after you finish your degree instead of your favorite Girl Scout cookie (it’s samosas, with thin mints as a close runner up, in case you were wondering). And actually, it’s good because it forces me to reflect on some of the heavier questions (“What are your plans for the future?”) and by January I’ve had so much practice that I have quippy answers at the ready. (Thankfully, I don’t have to field annoying questions like “Why aren’t you married yet?” or “What are you going to do with that major?”)
I spent the holidays in California where I grew up (I’m still jet-lagged!) and visited with as many cousins, family friends, and friendly neighbors as possible, and it was awesome! I was happy to see everyone, no one in my family is less than a delight. (…and they might be reading this.) If you asked me one of the following questions, I don’t begrudge you one bit. These are totally questions I would ask too. In fact, I thought that since almost half of the visitors to my blog come from the U.S. I’d write a little post on the questions I was asked the most during my trip home. (Also, it’s just kind of fun for me, which is the only reason I blog about anything in the first place.)
What do you miss most about the US when you’re over there?
Tacos. All my favorite stuff from Trader Joe’s. The Pacific ocean. DSW, 70% off sales, free shipping and generous return policies. Whole Foods sandwiches. No one making fun of my accent or nationality. Being able to go any branch of my bank I want, even on Mondays.
Are you fluent in French?
Yes siree. But I’m always learning new things!
Is your boyfriend French?
He sure is. His name is Hugo. He’s pretty awesome. (But not because he’s French. Just because he’s himself.)
Do you and Hugo speak French or English?
Usually French. He speaks great English but it’s not thanks to me! On the other hand, he has helped me enormously with my French. He is super patient with my endless questions.
What are you doing after your contract is up? Will you come back to California?
Good question! Maybe! Are you hiring?
Where do you live in France again?
I live in Lyon, the second or third largest city (with Marseille) depending on who you ask. I lived in Paris when I first came to France , but I moved to Lyon a few years ago.
So… where is Lyon, exactly?
It’s in the Rhône-Alpes region a few hours south-east of Paris (2 hours by TGV, 4-5 by car). It’s a couple hours from Geneva, and a 2-3 hour train ride from the Mediterranean.
How has France changed since the November 13th attacks in Paris?
In Lyon, we see the military patrolling the streets of the city, and there is additional security in large buildings and the metro. There has already been at least one bomb scare, which resulted in a lot of public transport being shut down. (It was not an attempted attack as far as I know.) There were tributes to the victims in the main city squares where people left flowers and candles and notes. People from other countries left words in many languages stating their support for France. The Fête des Lumières, a major festival in Lyon, was cancelled, and replaced with candles and lights around the city on December 8th in homage to the victims.
Life goes on, but it was alarming to have an attack so violent so close to home, and there are daily reminders of the tragedy.
What do you like most about living in France?
Everything at the boulangerie! Lots of vacation! Going to the market! The train! Affordable healthcare! Actually, I really like meeting people from all over the world. I love going to a party and hearing a mix of three or four different languages floating around the room. I guess you can do that in the U.S. too, but I suppose I meet more foreigners here because I am one.
Oh, and I forgot the most important one – wine!
What were your FAQs this holiday season?
One of my 2015 resolutions was to travel more. I went to nine countries and sixteen new cities, which is not much if you’re a travel fanatic but is still pretty good if you’re me.
For me, it’s always a battle between traveling, saving money, and just taking the time to enjoy life at home. Sometimes I feel like I should go somewhere, but I wonder if I’d actually be happier strolling the cobblestone streets of Lyon with Hugo and gelato (my other main squeeze), than I would be pinching pennies in Rome, even though the latter makes a more interesting story. So I try to be honest with myself and not travel just for the sake of it, just to say I did, or because I think I ought to. I know I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t travel at all, but I also know that I can’t go everywhere I want to and still save and have stress-free time at home, so the hardest part is deciding where to go, because there are so many interesting places to visit just a short plane ride away. OMG MY LIFE IS SO DIFFICULT!!!!!!!
Every year, Lyon hosts La Fête des Lumières, an elaborate festival of lights with colorful and dramatic installations all over the city. I’ve shared some photos from my first Fête des Lumières in 2013, but it’s impossible to do justice to the gorgeous moving lights and cinema set to music.
December 8th is the official day of celebration, so the festival always includes the 8th and extends over four days including a weekend. The population of Lyon supposedly triples during the festival, and I believe it. Streets are blocked off, security guards herd pedestrians like cattle, restaurants are booked solid, and you have to queue just to get down into the metro. Accommodation prices are astronomical, even to rent a student loft on Airbnb.
But this year the Fête des Lumières was cancelled two short weeks before it was set to open. Continue reading “Lyon: La Fête des Lumières”