I've been through the station a million times and passed through on the way to the Beaujolais or to the Rhone or to Beaune but I never actually spent the night, let alone two in Lyon until early October. Long overdue.
The Hotel: Scored a brilliant rate in the old section, 5ème Arrondissement, at the Relais & Chateau Villa Florentine and several other people were packing the hill top spot (possibly that 80 euro special? A ridiculous coup for such splash.) Even better, the hotel is at the top of the stairs, so walking up the god knows how many, keeps you in shape for all of the eating.
Taking breakfast or a lunch near the pool, overlooking the spread of the city drove home the name and the design of the city as a little Florence.
The design of the rooms is a little, 90's and they are about to start a redo for 2011, so don't know if that low rate will ever again be available, (usual rates are up to 1000euro) but I was happy to have a refuge after spending every other night as a freeloader at friends.
I arrived on Friday, the weather was peachy, fall, Indian summer. I ran out, grabbed some chocolate and walked into a few wine stores which was incredibly sad. Barely a beaujolais in sight. After all, Lyon is a town that would rather align itself with the Northern Rhone, and that is telling enough. I felt like saying, for shame, for shame. Beaujolais has not gotten its proper due here.
After dusk, I ran down to meet Romain Reinhart a man who opened Le Saint Jus, a rather eccentric bar a vins/caviste spot at 76 Rue St. Georges, opposite the flamenco school.
The hours are eccentric. Evenings only. Small bites. Labels that are outside of the 'club.' Because of the law, if you stay there to drink, you must have some food, even if it is olives. But at glasses starting at 3 euro, this is no hardship. When there, I saw without a doubt a trend: vins naturel on the lable, and more of this-- we add nothing--as well.
Romain and I returned to my hotel to have a bite. Begging 'industry' they allowed us to bring some bottles wine. Taking a look at their wine list I was surprised to see some beaujolais presence, heavy on the Chateau Thivin side. When the sommelier tasted the wines Romain brought (a rare Lignier aligote, 2006, where they forgot to add the sulfurO explained he was into the hard core natural stuff and instead of offense the sommelier started the blind tasting game with us. Very fun!
Hard to think of eating in a hotel when Lyon and bouchons and local is at your feet but it exceeded expectations; clean, immediate. And then the sommelier was spot on.
The next morning, Eric Texier was expecting me, so I had a brief few hours to spend in the city and so there was nothing to do but walk to the train.
The night before I had been less than charmed by the old town, but in the morning, down the stairs, I took a quick right then a left then found myself near the Cathédrale St-Jean, not far from Romain's joint.
Maybe it was the crisp air, maybe the clarity, maybe it was the great bed, but there was joie de vivre that seemed infectious. Touristy sure, too touristy? No. I had two seconds to soak it in, ran to the other side of the River where the market was closing up. drooled over the last tomatoes and the new truffles. I could get neither.
Being alone at night, I missed one of the best tables in town En mets, fais ce qu'il te plaît,
( 43 rue Chevreuil, 69007 Lyon (04.78.72.46.58). A partir de 17 € au déjeuner. Fermé samedi et dimanche.)
which must be the longest name of a restaurant on the other side of the Atlantic. It was a hard choice, the wine list is said to be worhty, and the food extremely spot on the delicious and pure mark, but instead went to Vercoquin, on the seedy side of town. I had a pleasant enough salad. The real thrill was in my kind of vertical: Grammenon, Souhaut. Got the picture?