I apologize for not updating the blog in the last few days. I’ve got several good reasons for not being able to write:
1. While living it up like a Parisian, I was in the midst of selling and closing on my aunt’s house in NJ. This is a house I inherited two years ago and have been trying to sell, rather unsuccessfully, ever since. Of course, all the important stuff happens while I’m in a foreign country without a cell phone, printer, fax machine, telegraph, etc.
2. We went to Lyon. We ate too much Lyonnaise cuisine. We took too many naps. The hotel’s Internet connection logged us out in intervals of five minutes, sometimes 10 if we were lucky.
3. I blew a fuse in the hotel room by turning on a light. Not sure if it was our fault or not. We felt it best we not charge anything else for the rest of our stay. It is best not to mess with European electricity.
I’d like to start this post off by thanking our loyal readers as well as all of our new readers for becoming fans of our posts and for subscribing to our blog! We love getting notifications of new followers and we are happy to share our travel experiences and Paul’s photography with people around the world. Thanks to our family and friends for keeping up with us and our daily adventures. Your comments are much appreciated. We are always very excited to get your little notes!
The last few days have been hectic, but well worth the chaos. I have always told Paul that one day we will look back on the long and frustrating process of selling my aunt’s house and, with time, fate will present us with a clear reason for having to endure such an emotional and financial nightmare. There is one thing I’m absolutely sure of: my aunt didn’t mean for it to go like this. I will never blame her for this turmoil. You don’t leave somebody everything you ever owned with negative intentions. It just didn’t go as planned. Life rarely does.
Yesterday while sitting under the awning at our favorite cafe, enjoying a crock of French onion soup, and watching the Parisians rush by in the rain, my husband said it best: “I know you were scared and frustrated and, at times you didn’t want to deal with it anymore, but you handled it well, especially when you weren’t quite sure what to do.” Simply, it was all I needed to hear.
While there hasn’t been enough time for me to figure out the huge life lesson in all of this, I did get a few lessons on printing and faxing from a French Internet cafe. Closing on a house from across the ocean could prove to be a difficult task, however, thanks to the Milk Les Halles Internet cafe just down the street and around the corner, we were able to print and fax rather easily. While it does take a little longer for a fax to get from here to there, the staff at Milk were extremely good to us. We were extra grateful for their ability to speak English as office terms are not yet part of our limited French vocabulary.
Surprisingly we only had to make two fax trips and, after several phone calls (Google voice is a Godsend) and emails, we were able to remind ourselves, we indeed, were still in Paris. In an effort to escape from our business matters, we went ahead and did something rather touristy, but relaxing. We went on a boat tour on the Seine! We picked up the Bateaux Parisiens at the dock by Notre Dame, sat back, and took it all in. It was lovely and just the escape that we needed.
On Tuesday we packed a little suitcase and our backpacks and boarded a high speed train to the city of Lyon, a two hour ride south of Paris.
We found Lyon to be quite adorable and enjoyed strolling down the cobblestone streets past the shops and crowded cafes.
Of course, our major reason for checking out Lyon was in large part due to its reputation for having the best food in France. Traditional Lyonnaise food is served in plentiful portions in small restaurants called bouchons. Characteristically you can spot a bouchon by the classic red and white checkered table cloths, the intimate setting, and the abundance of people and conversation.
Our first bouchon experience was perfect, but before I give you all the details, I must fill you in on our arrival to Lyon. There are two train stations in Lyon: Part Dieu and Perrache. By train, you can travel between stations in about ten minutes. We bought tickets from Paris to Part Dieu and then realized, shortly after, that our hotel was located in closer proximity to the Perrache station. Not a big deal, we’d just take a taxi to the hotel. Upon arrival to Part Dieu we exited the train, entered the station, and followed the taxi signs. I’m not quite sure what we walked into, but it wasn’t a taxi stand. When we reached the outside of the train station there were firefighters and spectators huddled together heads tilted to the sky while high above them were people sitting on the roof of a very tall building with their legs dangling over and a huge white banner of French words stretched beneath their feet. I’m not sure what was being protested, but it was eerily quiet. I sure hope the cause was worth the risk of possibly plummeting from a rooftop…
We did eventually find a taxi on the other side of the station and spent a good 14 Euros for a ride to the other train station. Yes, had we stayed on the train we were on for ten more minutes, we would have arrived at the Perrache station and our hotel. They shared the same parking lot! In fact, you couldn’t get from our hotel to the city streets without walking through the station. We found this to be of rather odd design.
I went to Lyon with a list of famous bouchons to choose from. Of course I couldn’t eat at them all and, as it turns out, we didn’t eat at any of the ones on my list. After settling into our hotel, we took off in exploration of food and came across a small and busy bouchon with tables of green and white checkered tablecloths. Although we looked at the menu and could not decipher much, my eye caught the food on the table of a couple sitting outside. I wasn’t sure what they were eating, but I decided I wanted what they were having. Since there was an empty table right next to them, it was an easy decision. My first bouchon meal was to come from Chabert and Fils. The food was flavorful and filling and we both enjoyed it immensely, maybe even a little too much. We shared a generously filled pot of beef in a Provencale sauce served with a platter of fluffy couscous. It came highly recommended from the couple next to us! The food turned out to be just half of the experience as we enjoyed every minute of conversing with our neighbors, a husband and wife from Connecticut. They were celebrating the wife’s retirement from teaching by taking a Viking River Cruise through France. While we wanted to hear all about their river cruise, they wanted to know all about our month in Paris. I think we may have inspired them to rent an apartment and spend a little more time here.
You can only eat one bouchon meal a day. It is all you need. It could keep you full for several days. We said goodbye to our new friends, returned to our hotel and, without much hesitation, collapsed into a deep and lengthy nap.
Later in the day we ventured out again, well rested, but still unable to even bear the thought of food. This time we found the area of Old Lyon, an adorable section of narrow cobblestone streets and busy bouchons situated at the bottom of a very big hill.
We returned to Old Lyon the next morning, bought tickets for the funicular, and rode to the top of the hill to see the church. It was enormous and beautiful, but the best part was behind it where you could look out over the city of Lyon. A grand view of a lovely city.
After our ride back down the hill, we visited the Musee Miniature et Cinema, a fascinating museum devoted to the cinema and tiny scenes. You just have to go to the website to see what I mean: http://www.mimlyon.com/ Wind your way from the cellar to the top floors of this house turned museum filled with items from real movie sets, including miniature models used in special effects. It was truly one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been to.
For our big dinner in Lyon we ate at Brasserie Francotte, a small restaurant situated just adjacent to the Celestins Theater of Lyon. We just happened to run into this restaurant while walking through Lyon earlier in the day and since the menu looked good and the outside terrace looked comfortable, we decided to give it a try. Although it wasn’t a bouchon, the food was well presented and flavorful. I was envious over Paul’s choice. The steak he ordered was probably the tastiest I’ve ever had in my life! It was perfectly encased within a dome of salty bread. The bread was so salty that it was almost impossible to eat, but we think its purpose was to flavor the meat during the cooking process. Don’t quote us on that, we aren’t 100% sure, but we think it is a good theory. My salmon was also very good, but did not measure up to the steak by any means. For once, Paul got the glory of choosing something that tasted better than my selection and, for the first time, I experienced food envy instead of him.
So what’s the verdict on Lyon? We think we spent just the right amount of time there. We loved how quiet it would get at night and, at times, found it difficult to believe we were still in a city. The food was intense and although we probably didn’t get to experience even half of the delicacies of Lyonnaise cuisine, what we did taste was exceptional.
Our hotel was nothing spectacular, but it was clean and served its purpose. We weren’t too crazy about our dark and tiny room, but we loved the downstairs lobby and bar area. Unfortunately, over the two days, we did spend an absurd 72 Euros total on the continental breakfast, which, as it turned out, was NOT included in the price of our stay. Quite a hefty bill for a cup of coffee, a baguette, and a few slices of ham and cheese don’t you think? We won’t complain too much though since we did have this view from the window of our room…
The train ride from Paris to Lyon and back is quite remarkable and a great way to see the French countryside. The weather was sunny and warm in Lyon, but, of course, rainy and dismal in Paris upon our return. We finally broke down and bought an umbrella. I’m a little bummed at how boring our umbrella is compared to everyone else’s and I’m on a mission to find that black and white ruffled polka dot one for myself.
I’ve still got lots to tell so this will be one of two posts for today. Tomorrow is La Fete Nationale, otherwise known as Bastille Day in English speaking countries. Aside from tomorrow’s schedule of fireworks at the Eiffel Tower and the parade down the Champs Elysee, the Bal des Pompiers (Fireman’s Ball) starts tonight, with fire houses opening their doors to the public for a lot of rowdy partying. Sounds familiar doesn’t it Belmar?
For about a week now we’ve been fretting over this sign posted on the door of our building. My interpretation went a little something like this: we are coming into your apartment on July 13th, so unlock your doors, lock up your dogs, and show us your washing machine. Just in case my translation wasn’t correct, we emailed a photo of the sign to the owner of our apartment. He replied with a phone call and a thank you for reminding him.
Simply, we survived our first meter reading…