I spent 5 nights in Lyon, December 2022.

I’ve been in France many times, but I overlooked Lyon.

It is easy to get to Lyon from Paris by TGV train, or fly from different cities in Europe. I arrived Frankfurt from  JFK on Singapore Air, business class on A380 was excellent – comfort, food and service.

From Frankfurt, I flew on Lufthansa (same terminal as Singapore air), and in 2 hours I arrived Lyon.

Lyon has an excellent location in the middle of the country and considered a gastronomical capital of France.

I took taxi to my hotel Royal Lyon MGallery, it has excellent location in the center of the city and its central transportation hub, Place Bellecour.  It has statues of Louis XIV, and a big Ferris wheel (can be seen from almost everywhere, good orientation landmark). Lyon is located between 2 rivers, Saone and Rhone, so there are beautiful bridges, embankments, which create certain dreamy atmosphere of the city.

My room’s balcony overlooked St. Antonin Poncet square and had beautiful view of the tower.

Hotel’s restaurant L’Institut was a good introduction to Lyonnaise gourmet experience. It is a training school, founded by Paul Bocuse, the student of Eugenie Brazier (more about her later). He was one of the most prominent chefs which brought traditional Lyonnaise cuisine to the next level, introducing Nouvelle Cuisine. He died in 2018 in the age of ninety-one.

Paul Bocuse founded L’Institute in 1990 where he practiced culinary teaching. Since 2013, the students under direction of Chef Cyril Bosviel, offer locally sourced, contemporary cuisine at this restaurant, which is a part of hotel.
I enjoyed dinner and students, they were trying very hard to please customers.
I chose tasting menu. Observing restaurant’s patrons, unlike in other hotel restaurants, this crowd was local. It is recommended to make reservation in advance.

My sampling menu was:

Scallops grilled in Japanese BBQ,  chestnut velouté, hazelnut condiment and confited kumquat,
Corvina fish with roasted parsnip, and black chanterelles, pecans, and pomegranate
Crunchy Chocolate Bar with cranberry confit and cocoa sorbet
It also came with amuse du bouche.

It was excellent food and presentation. Portions were small, and it was light pleasant dinner, just what I needed after 24 hour of flying.

Next morning, I decided to venture out and get something light for breakfast since I opted out of hotel’s breakfast rate. I love local bakeries.

I asked directions for St. Antoine market. The older man at reception, Jean Philippe was leaving his shift and he offered to walk me since he went in the same direction. He confirmed that the students also were working at hotel. So, combination of restaurant and hotel is a training hospitality school similar to Cornell Hospitality school in USA. That explained some glitches in the service for five* hotel, but I understood now. The students need to practice somewhere!

After visit to the market and a bakery, I had my breakfast, and I went for inspection of two hotels: Intercontinental and MiHotel.

Intercontinental is 5* beautiful modern hotel, is located in one of the city’s historical landmark historic 18C building, Hotel Dieu. The architects took advantage of historic building. Le Dome Bar is the social center of hotel and extremely popular with locals. It was voted best hotel bar in the world, recognized for its design, mixology and service. The dome is thirty-two meters high and designed by the same  architect who designed Pantheon in Paris.

I looked at lovely rooms and suites. The Hotel was undergoing Christmas decorations, with festive atmosphere in the air.

Along with my hotel Royal Lyon, Intercontinental would be my choice to stay.

Another property I inspected was MiHotel, was a different a new concept, apartments in the center. It suits independent digital savvy traveler who appreciates more space. I do recommend their property with kitchens to take advantage of Lyon’s markets and amazing food stores. Hotel is collection of apartments, no physical reception or common place.  Without contact and 100% digital, guests enter their suite using access codes and they benefit from a telephone assistance available 24/7 by whatsapp. There is a collection of 48 Suites situated at 15 different addresses in the heart of the city. They have daily cleaning service. Breakfast is delivered by partner Bagette a Bicyclette in front of guest’s door.

After morning inspections, I went for lunch to Michelin star restaurant Eugenie Brazier.

Eugenie Brazier (1895-1977) taught Paul Bocuse, so my exploration of Lyonnaise cuisine logically started with her restaurant. She was the first female chef in Lyon and started with Lyonnaise traditional food. Eugenie Brazier was an exceptional chef who inspired an entire branch of French cuisine. Nowadays the street where restaurant is, called Rue Eugenie Brazier. In her restaurant, Michelin starred chef Mathieu Viannay gives his variation on the Brazier “legend”.

Their lunch menu from three courses is a bargain.

I had nonalcoholic drink – strawberry lichi. Amuse Bouche was pate and raw corvina with avocado and grapefruit. For starter I had spider crab in sauce with caviar. Crusty breadwas  used to wipe delicious sauce. I chose venison in berry sauce  for main course with drunken pear and puffed potatoes.

Then sorbet, followed by desert – popover, cream anglaise, delicious. Final sweets looked nice, but I do not like peanut butter.

After lunch I’ve met my guide at Basilica Fourviere, and we explored Vieux Lyon.

Remarkably interesting and unique to Lyon are Traboules – secret covered passages. They are located throughout the city, and you need to watch for special seal on the building. Once you are in Traboules, it was like a path through courtyards, staircases, and passages.

I recommend getting a guide for this since I came back next day and could not find them even though my guide gave me directions.

On top of the Fourviere Hill, close to the Basilica, we visited Roman amphitheater, UNESCO Heritage Site.

Afterwards we took funicular (it looked like a tram) from the hill coming down to the river. At the river, we took a boat called Vaporetto to modern Confluence district.

Like I mentioned before, Lyon is located between Saone and Rhone River. In the place where the rivers converge, there was industrial district, with market, prison, and port. In the late 20th century, there was urbanization project to revitalize the area. The city council invited best architects. As result, extraordinary buildings were created, devoted to sustainability, ecology and super architecture of modern Lyon. We walked along, admired buildings. I used my Lyon card for public transportation provided for me by Lyon’s tourist office to get to my hotel after this busy day.

Near hotel, I had a dinner at Bouchon (characteristic Lyonnais food), and had snails in the garlic butter for appetizer and frogs also in the garlic butter for main course. I got instructions from the owner how to extract snails from the shell.

Next day, I have met my driver for my day trip to Beaujolais region.

We picked up Vincent  from Beaujolais tourism board who brought a lots of information about region, so I got educated in the car and we got out and strolled beautiful villages, built from the golden stone characteristic to the region and giving them a special golden glow at certain light.  The Beaujolais is certified by UNESCO as Geopark. It is famous for its wines, but the beauty of the region just takes your breath away.

First, we went to Bagnols village, a home to Relais and Chateaux – Chateau de Bagnols 5*, I saw it from outside since it was closed for winter. It was built in 13th century and was owned by Lords of Oingt, Lords of Albon, Lords of Balzac and various others through centuries. It’s the only one accommodation there, but in the area, there are also smaller less expensive country hotels.

We continued to Ternand. Classified as “Small town of character” .

We continued to Oingt, member of “The most beautiful villages in France”.  It was decorated for Christmas by artists who have galleries there. Nativity scenes were  creatively interpreted by artists. We talked to artists, wandered the streets, watched how they decorated church and had a lunch there.

We continued to Chateau de la Chaize, located on 998 acres estate. Built in 16c for father La Chaize who served King Luis XIV. The gardens were designed by Andre Le Notre, who also designed gardens of Versailles. Domaine is currently under renovation, and it’s not decided what purpose it will serve. Style classical, symmetrical. Surrounded by woods, meadows vineyards it has its own ecological system.

Chateau has impressive winery with big wine cellar I tasted Broulilly and Fleurie wine.

Our last stop was Chateaux Pizay and its winery. I had some interesting experiments with understanding wine

and wine tasting.  Chateaux has beautiful gardens also designed by Andre le Notre, who designed Versailles Garden.  Chateaux Pizay is one thousand years old!

It’s been a long day but very rewarding. Back to hotel, I just had “light dinner” of Lyonnaise salad and steak tartare.

Next day was to relax.

I had lunch at Michelin 1 * restaurant PraiRial.

Michelin Starred Chef Gaetan Gentil creates menus. You choose number of courses, 4, 6, or 8. Paired with wines or not. You do not know what chef serves today. They ask for allergies and what guests cannot eat. The rest is a surprise. Everything is locally sourced and served what is in season.

Sustainability is an important thing in Lyon. They cook only wild caught fish. Presentation is also using earthy elements in placement of food. Only in the end they gave me menu on what I ate.

The six courses menu included 2 amuse bouche. First amuse bouche pomme lyonnaise, a very thin potato crisp with delicious potato filling inside, presented on wood.

Second amuse bouche was tacos seigle, crisp, with mushrooms and some pate filling. First starter of my menu was a layered appetizer, Oeuf de Poule, egg shell filled with mushroom soup! On top, cream of mushroom. Then there were chanterelles, their woodsy flavor complemented the soup. On the bottom was egg yolk, something like yolk from soft boiled or raw egg. Eaten carefully with small spoon so you do not break a shell. Such bold presentation! That was the most memorable dish from my explorations.

Second appetizer is blettes, chard in English, prepared under some green powder sauce. Underneath I found very tender smoked red trout.

Fish main course was arctic char. I only had it few times but I love this fish. It was on the bed of thinly sliced cabbage, and on top, lemon bergamot sauce with a dab of mayonnaise. Fish was very tender, barely cooked.

Main meat course was venison with juniper, cassis, beets on top and sorrel (tasted sour). Meat was cooked rare and blood mixed with cassis.  Just like foie gras, very tender.

Pre-desert was pear sorbet, mushroom rolls up (yes! they were sweet), some pastry crumbs, and hazelnut sauce. Followed by quince and nuts sorbet. That flavor I did not get. Something did not click for me. After came desert creme anglaise, followed by dark chocolate.

Talking about creative, bold, and spectacular food, and presentation!

After lunch I went to the Fine Arts Museum (I used Lyon card).  It is small manageable museum, I enjoyed impressionists there and nice garden with Rodin sculptures.

I used my metro card to get back to hotel.

Next day, I had a tour of Le Halles Paul Bocuse market, a haven of gastronomy. I had a food guide Anneliese with who likes to cook and steered me through her favorite stalls. Paul Bocuse was a legendary chef, and he gave his name to this establishment. But the real founders of Lyon gastronomy were ladies called meres (mothers), one of them Eugenie Brazier. It is honest down to earth excellent cooking. That is how bouchons developed. Lyon has excellent conditions for food and wine, because of location between Burgundy and South, between two wine regions Beaujolais in North and Rhone Valley in the south. There are vineyards, animals in the mountains, fish in the rivers and plenty of local produce. Therefore, it is logical that Lyon has exceptional everyday food and locals and tourists alike enjoy delicious dishes as a way of life.

We walked the stalls and Anneliese explained variety of meat, poultry, cheese, seafood, and deserts. I kept buying and sampling food to take to my hotel room. I wish I had an apartment with kitchen!

I decided to have oysters for lunch, which was busy.

People were standing and eating but they found one spot for me and brought a chair once they heard I am an American promoting their food. Beside great taste, it was enjoyable to see how these people love their job. At home, we eat oysters, but they shack them in the kitchen and you only see waiters (not a happy ones!). Here the workers are genuine.

I had to take Uber to hotel to carry all my gourmet food shopping. I had dinner reservation in a nice restaurant, but after I shopped at Paul Bocuse, I cancelled it. I bought a wine a nearby Monoprix and enjoyed a meal in my room.

Next day was my last, departure day. I was leaving Lyon, but not before visiting Outlets Village close to airport. Special thanks to Outlets Sales Manager Sophie Vaisilette for this experience. She picked me up at hotel. In the village, I explored a VIP lounge in the village and for more VIP clients, crystal suites. Private dinners at VIP lounge can be arranged with advanced notice. It is privately owned, nice and manageable, not a chain of other French and Italian outlets.  I bought a jacket from French designer Gerald Darel which I wear for years and after that replace with next one. I usually need only one business jacket of Gerald Darel!
We had lunch at restaurant Angelina, same owner as Angelina in Paris. I had their famous desert with Marron creme and merengue.

That concluded my trip to Lyon.

I will be back… Next time I will try to come a week later to experience Festival of Lights which starts around December 8 each year. Also, I plan to visit Annecy town east of Lyon and spend few nights there. I enjoyed Lyon so much. It is a compact, charming, walkable, easily managed city with friendly people. Whenever I needed direction on the streets or in metro, people who walked in that direction, took me there. It has everything tourist needs with medieval quarter, modern architecture, Roman ruins, secret passages, and especially food due to its unique location. And culinary history and foundation of bouchons – incredibly unique feature. For textile enthusiasts, its used to be a capital of silk and has interesting silk shopping and silk museum.

Special thanks for businesses and people who planned and made my trip exceptional:

Corinne Renard at Auvergne Rhone Alpes tourist board, Vincent Guerin at Destination Beaujolais, Eleonore Delenne from Lyon tourist board, and Sophie Vaissellet from Outlet Village. Chateau de Pizay, Chateau de La Chaize, Restaurant Chez Marguierite in Oingt,


Copyrights  2022, Sophia’s Travel, EMCO Travel LLC