Welcome back! We are finally sharing the second half of our trip to France (better late than never, right?)
We left St. Tropez to arrive in Avignon. It’s the perfect example of a charming French town with centuries-old stone architecture and winding cobblestone streets. The inner city is still walled, and the main boulevards are lined with beautiful trees. It’s best known for the Palace of Popes, where the Papacy was removed from Rome for about 100 years in the latter 1300s. The Palace is a a very imposing sight in person, but the views from the Palace area, especially the hilltop park next door, were spectacular.
After checking out the city, we dined at La Vache a Carreaux, a lovely little restaurant known for its delicious yet affordable wine and cheese menu. This was another of our favorite meals and experiences on the trip – it felt like it could be run by French hipsters, if there is such a thing!
We stayed in Le Colbert, a B and B just a short walk from the downtown. Another beautiful room with a sweet view of terra cotta rooftops.
Before leaving, we had our favorite crepe of the trip – a ham and cheese that we couldn’t wait to eat again before leaving the next day. To say we were disappointed that the place was closed when we got there again was an understatement!
We started the home stretch of our trip by taking the train from Avignon to Lyon. I’ve always heard that Provence is best scene by car, and based on the view from the train, I believe it. The rolling hills, the farm villages, the vineyards…Just beautiful. We would share pictures, but Molly slept most of that train ride. (worth it!!)
Lyon is the culinary capital of France. We made it a destination on our trip for this very reason. It did not disappoint; the food was unreal! Our bed and breakfast was a wonderful little loft in a converted corset factory, called Evasion Loft, and Therese and Olivier were the most gracious hosts. As soon as we arrived, they greeted us with chocolates and tea, and gave us maps with circled locations to visit. The loft was in a great location with the underground just at the other end of the block, next to the best bakery in Lyon: Tixier Marechal. We visited often.
Lyon is the tech capital of France, and it was definitely the most modern city we visited on our trip. However, they have done an excellent job of blending the old and the new together. The first afternoon was windy and drizzling, but we braved the weather to stroll through the city park’s free zoo.
The next day we visited the older section of Lyon, after grabbing our snacks at the bakery first, of course (sausage brioche and a giant chocolate macaroon). We strolled down the hill through the loom.
After walking leisurely down the Croix-Rousse hill, through the many covered passages (or ‘traboules’), we arrived in Vieux Lyon. We decided to grab lunch at one of the most well-loved bouchons, Les Lyonais, for a traditional Lyonais meal. The pike souflette in lobster sauce and the creme brulee were delicous (and we don’t even like crame brûlée!). Les Lyonnais is known for hanging photographs of its regulars on the walls…not just famous ones, but anyone.
(forgive the shaky iPhone camera quality!)
After lunch we took the funicular up to the top of the hill to visit one of main Gallic Roman Theaters in Lyon. The remnants of the old Roman town still remain, including parts of the forum, odeon, and theater. It definitely has a commanding view over Lyon, and I really wish we could have seen one of the night concerts they host regularly.
Next we walked up and across the hill to the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere. This was definitely the largest and most impressive church we saw during our trip. The basilica is well known for its choir, but we just sat in the cathedral and admired the gilded walls and ceilings, the marvelous stained glass, and the historical French biblical murals with the extravagant gold inlay. The view from outside the basilica overlooking the city is not something to be missed.
We headed down the hill to have our afternoon snack and dessert in the Palace St. Jean on the steps of the cathedral of the same name. We then got the metro and the bus to the Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. (Basically an indoor mall of only speciality food markets…A lot of food markets.) Some towns have clothes, spices, or toys, but Lyon has a food mall named after its most famous chef. Some of the markets were closing, it was a couple of hours before our dinner reservation, and it was raining. So we took a nap on the stairs. No, really…just a short one.
That evening we had reservations L’Archange. A small white-tablecloth restaurant, with a single host/waiter and one chef, where the menu changes daily. And they didn’t miss a beat. It was easily the best meal and the best service we had in France. It was highly recommended by Therese at our B&B and in our Rick Steves book. We each had an amazing three course meal. Molly had the ginger salmon, and I had the rabbit ravioli for the first course. Excellent. For the main course, Molly had a pork meatball with prosciutto and fresh veggies, and Sam had the roast duck with apples and potatoes. We both had the best chocolate lava cake ever for dessert. (once again, too busy to take any pictures while eating!)
After dinner we took a few strolls around Lyon to take in the sights. Lyon is well known as the one of the most illuminated cities in the world. We saw all the main places: Bellacour, Hotel De Ville, and de Justice and de St. Jean in Veux Lyon. One of our favorite views was on the bridge over the Saone looking back towards the Palais de Justice.
The next day was our last full day in France. After another delightful breakfast with Therese and Olivier, we dashed over to our favorite bakery to get some lunch and desserts for our train ride back to Nice. We arrived in Nice in the late afternoon with just enough time for Sam to go swimming on Nice’s beach. We only saw one other person in the water down the entire coast because it was so cold. It took him a few hours to stop shivering! We had dinner that night at a nice Italian restaurant in Nice before catching a taxi to our hotel near the airport.
Please note that there is zero editing on the ocean in the pictures below. The water was that blue!
(Above left picture – our happy places: me eating a brownie, Sam swimming 🙂 )
…and that was our trip! We can’t believe that we got to go – and have already decided it won’t be our last travel to France. Hope you enjoyed our recap, and look for more trips to be shared soon!
– Sam and Molly