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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Discovering France: Lyon

Brioche aux pralines

I must have been very hungry while taking pictures in Lyon, because every other image is of a brioche, a cake, a tart, pralines or some aubergines thrown in for an attempt at a healthy balance. There must be something to the claim that my guidebook makes about Lyon being a gastronomic paradise. Half a day was not enough to test the claim against hard evidence, but what I managed to glimpse in the city's pattiseries was indicative in its mouth-wateriness.


This is a traditional Lyonnaise restaurant called bouchon, much like a bistro, serving simple but hearty food with an emphasis on meat. Bouchon literally means cork and there are various theories about the origin of the name.

My favorite is the one in which owners collect the corks, as the guests drain wine bottles, as a way of keeping tab. I prefer this one to the (more likely) other version which says the owners used to put a bit of straw next to the signs of their establishments, so that the travelers would know their horses could be fed (bouchonné) there. Like I said, I prefer the story with the corks even though circumstantial evidence (aka the straw, as seen on the picture) strongly suggests that theory number 2 is right and theory number 1 is wrong. Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story, as we used to say back at university, studying journalism.

Between Rhone and Saone

Despite having read about Lyon's old town with its traboule or intricate networks of hidden passages and small streets, I somehow expected a modern city with an ugly urban sprawl and not much to see (I must be prejudiced against French big cities). In reality Lyon is a beautiful place that has grown around two rivers, Rhone and Saone. That reminded me a bit of Belgrade, with the Sava and the Danube, although that confluence that you can see from the Kalemegdan fortress is unbeatable.

Red cakes

Another thing I noticed browsing through my Lyon pictures: there is a lot of bright red in them. Red is one of my favorite colors so I am naturally more attuned to it. It's also that the color palette of the outside world has been in the shades of gray and brown in the last months, so any splash of color feels like desert rain.