Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 40: Lovely Ladies' Lyon Tour

When traveling there are days when you can see a city on a shoestring and there are others which are going to cost you an arm or €91. I'll give you three guesses what type of day I had, and the first two don't count.

My experiences in France have been rivaled only by my time in Italy. As I visit more countries this hierarchy is bound to become more confusing. Knowing that I was leaving for Geneva in two days, I was already sad to leave Lyon. It's my first French love and I will never forget this city. My time in Lyon drawing to a close, I asked the girls that I was staying with if they'd show me around.

After impressing the girls with an amazing American breakfast, we headed out to the farmer's market. Then up the Croix Rousse to peep the lives of the young and hip. For dinner we gorged ourselves at a bouchon in Vioux Lyon. We capped the night off with a viewing of the Banksy movie about street art. Amazing!

Cat plates – cute or creepy?

It was only American because I made it. How could poached eggs over sliced tomato and baguette with pesto not please? I treated everyone to three of these little monsters. At the Hundred Acre Wood I learned how difficult cooking for lots of people can be. While I wasn't cooking for seven people, four is plenty. My friend Joshua Stokes taught me this recipe and has helped me improve my poached eggs considerably. Unfortunately, he didn't include a technique for poaching a dozen at a time. Because I could only make six at once, Charlotte and I had to eat second. She nearly ate her plate in the meantime. I wish I got photos of the final product but the speed of my shutter finger was outmatched by appetites. I'm glad we ate before going to the farmer's market because I would have tried more than the samples.

From right to left: Elsa, Bibi, Charlotte

Lyon has two farmers' markets. One is along the Sôhne and the other is by the Croix-Rousse. Elsa, Charlotte, and their friend Bibi were buying groceries for the next few days. I soon found out why they waited for the market.

The first few booths of the market.
Eating tangerines and staying warm.

Living in NYC for four years I've seen some amazing farmer's markets, but even the mightiest of Union Square Greenmarkets didn't compare. This market was huge. It probably had 50 venders. The types of food being sold and the presentation of the food were different from NYC. The booths were set up along the coast of the Sôhne. The booth at the beginning of the market looked rather normal. Two men were selling fruits as chickens were roasting in a rotisserie across from them. As we got deeper it quickly became apparent that we weren't in the United States anymore.

Free cheese samples? Oh guda.

The weirdest items that I saw in Lyon's farmer's market were a round of mega French cheese, some stew ready rabbits, and a dude selling truffles. Perhaps they're not that weird but they were new to me!

Welcome to France.
We're cooking wabbits.
Dude selling truffles. I wish I saw how much they were.

I enjoyed Lyon's farmer's market because it was everything a farmer's market should be. High quality food at cheap prices. Expense is a big reason I didn't frequent NYC's farmer's markets. There was a great little market every weekend just a few blocks away from Pratt by Fort Greene Park. I loved going there to see and smell but I hardly ever bought anything because all of the food was so expensive. I could go on complaining about how the US's food infrastructure is upside down and a burger from McDonalds is cheaper than a head of broccoli, but I'm in Europe and don't have to worry about these things.

Got olives?
I love this photo.
Oranges in France are exceptional. 
Moody French avocados don't compare to Texas'.
Bibi and leek.
What's better than dried sausage? Dried bison sausage.
So lovely!

Off to the Croix-Rousse!

Elsa and Charlotte live on the same hill as Fourviere (praying hill), one of Lyon's two hills. The other hill is across the Sôhne, called the Croix-Rousse (working hill). Home to much of Lyon's young community, the Croix-Rousse is a hip and fun place to walk around.

To get to the Croix-Rousse we walked through the center of town. The streets were full of eager window shoppers and desperate people buying last minute gifts. We encountered a group of protesters who were great photo material. This is the third or fourth protest that I've seen while in Europe.

Passionate people are cool!
..and sometimes scary!

The only down-side to the Croix-Rousse is the up-side – you've got to walk up a beast hill! Thankfully it's not that bad if you're a fit, sexy, young backpacker.

"Un, deux, trois!"

This was my second experience with the hill. A few days ago I saw a French theater performance at the Théâter de la Croix-Rousse. The best part was after the play, comparing what I thought happened to the reality of the play. "What do you mean they weren't prostitutes?"

Lots of graffiti. Up and coming vibe.
Beautiful views.
Bibi's old street.
Foreshadowing for the Banksy movie later that night.
Bibi next to the door to her old flat.
I'm going to add a design inspiration section soon.
At the bar with Bibi's glasses. They said I look like Woody Allen.

When we had our fill at the Croix-Rousse, we headed home for a well deserved nap. Walking around and drinking is really hard work! Feeling refreshed from our nap we headed out to grab some chow. The plan was to meet up with two of Elsa and Charlotte's friends – Lisa and Val, who knew a good bouchon to eat at. I just learned about bouchons the night before over coffee with another CouchSurfer. A bouchon is a type of restaurant that's only found in Lyon. They serve traditional Lyonnaise dishes in an environment that's an interesting mix between fancy and approachable.

In my last post about my backpacking budget I said "avoiding restaurants saves money" but sometimes exceptions must be made! Ever since I learned about the bouchons I was super psyched to experience one. When I pitched the idea to the girls I was kind of surprised how they were all excited to go. I thought it might be a touristy or common deal for them but apparently not. We were all psyched – and hungry.

The charming interior of the bouchon.

Their menu was based around three courses and was surprisingly affordable. Sweet! The restaurant was rather small with only 20-30 places to sit. The majority of the seats were taken by a large group of Australians. We arrived while they were ordering. The waitress was French but spoke a confident broken English, clearly poking fun at the Australians. Everyone was having a good time because everything about the bouchon contributed to an incredibly hospitable atmosphere. Even the odd poster on the wall next to our table that illustrated the innards of a chicken was rather friendly. If you go to Lyon, make a bunch of friends and go to a bouchon. I highly recommend it!

Lisa and Val split a fondue. Note weird poster on wall.
I had a veal stew. So good – I even ate the mushrooms.
Lots of food = happy people

Half way through our main course we realized that we were late! We were on a schedule! We had a date! We planned to see the Banksy movie, which started at 9:30. It was 9, leaving us only had thirty minutes to get there. Thanks to some fast eating and bill paying, we turbo waddled down the street towards the movie theater. I think I almost had a hernia.

As we got to the metro I realized that I was completely broke from that meal. Charlotte suggested that I double up with her so I didn't have to pay. Despite her "not seeing any controllo" there was soon a large man behind me asking if I had a ticket. Borp. Charlotte sweet talked to no avail as I was lead into a back room. "Do you want to pay now?" the man asked. Having just spent all of my money on dinner I was helpless. Elsa came through the door like an angel from heaven – checkbook in hand. Afterwards we learned that she saved me from going to jail. That's cool. It's good to have friends. I may not be eating for the next week but the Banksy movie was excellent.

Thank you sir, may I have another?

After the movie, we walked home after a long day. We passed through the Christmas market, which was closed for the night. We also also got to climb more stairs. 

Oh the benefits of living on a hill.
My last view of Fouviere.
Packing up the next morning.

This was one of my top days that I've spent in Europe so far and I've had some pretty killer experiences. I fell asleep full of love for Lyon and my hosts. What an AMAZING day!

Au revior!

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