Main destinations – Lyon – Lake Como – Trieste – Rovinj (Croatia)
After a week in Paris, including a day trip by local rail to Amiens & then a small group tour to Villers-Bretonneux (see post on school/history); we continued our rail journey through France…
5 NIGHTS IN LYON (last 2 photos on this post + more info added on food scene
Lyon is a beautiful city with an historic and well preserved old town – easy to walk around even though it was mostly wet while we were there. Consequently, we didn’t do as much outdoor activity as usual but it was a good excuse to try many cafes, a few restaurants as well as a small group wine/lunch tour (Kanpai Tourisme) into the Beaujolais region – highly recommended. Fromage was another favourite place to go – a casual wine/cheese bar around the corner from our hotel (Sofitel Bellecour) so we had a light meal (like an antipasto platter) after a couple of big days out. We usually try to find small hotels or B&Bs closer to old town areas but most were booked out on this occasion. The Sofitel was good (like most hotel chains) but 15 min walk from Old Town so with the rain, the location wasn’t ideal. Reminded us to book smaller places sooner – preferably those with free cancellation – just in case something unforeseen arises. More info below Lyon photos if interested.
LAKE COMO – ITALY (photos below)
We then travelled onto Lake Como via rail for a 3 night stay. It’s another beautiful region so the views along the way were lovely too. We enjoyed our stay at an older style hotel – the highlight being the balcony & views (see photo) + the price for this expensive area was reasonable at the time (’13). A highlight of our 4 night stay was a ferry trip to the historic town of Bellagio where we had a morning walk around followed by lunch. Some of our friends enjoyed staying there but we’re glad we continued onto Trieste for 4 nights…another beautiful small city minus the high prices and tourist crowds.
TRIESTE – ITALY
We loved our 4 nights/3 days in Trieste and we were lucky enough to be there for their “Remembering Boston Marathon” (see photo) and other festivities including the opening of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (originated from Australia and was touring the world – see photo). Whenever we mentioned to locals that we’re Australian they presumed we were part of the performance or crew. So we were accidental tourists in the right place at the right time as the music in the old town piazza was fabulous too + not too crowded. That was the best part about Trieste – in 2013, it hadn’t been overrun by cruise ship passengers even though it is on the water.
Another highlight was a morning trip out to the Miramare castle (see photo) and museum:
“Miramare Castle (Italian: Castello di Miramare0 is a 19th-century castle near Trieste, Italy. It was built from 1856 to 1860 for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, later Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota of Mexico, based on a design by Carl Junker. The castle’s grounds include an extensive cliff and seashore park of 22 hectares (54 acres).” (Wikipedia)
We just loved the small hotel we stayed in too (see photo). A Roman column had been preserved near the reception space – as can be seen from the photo there is a lovely warm glow about the place. I think it was No 1 on Trip Advisor in 2013. I’ll note the name once we have access to our old journals at home.
PHOTOS BELOW…LAKE COMO, ITALY
BELOW…VIEW FROM OUR HOTEL – LAKE COMO
BELOW…DAY TRIP TO BELLAGIO (NEAR COMO) ITALY via FERRY – v comfortable! You can take a Water Taxi (see photo below) if you’re feeling extravagant! We preferred to spend up on lunch in Bellagio…some lovely places there.
5 NIGHTS IN LYON…including a day trip into the countryside/vineyard district of Beaujolais
Photo above – a typical Bouchen which is a convivial, often small bistro. They originated in the 1800s, when cooks for wealthy families or bourgeois, began going into business for themselves. “The meres (mothers), as these enterprising women were known, attained widespread popular fame for their straightforward, well-prepared and reasonably priced dishes built on fresh ingredients from Lyon’s fertile hinterlands. Early on, the meres fed humble silk weavers but by the 1930’s they had gained the attention of international celebrities including renowned French food writer Curnonsky, who dubbed Lyon the world capital of gastronomy.” (From Lonely Planet Food Trails 2016)
We visited a few traditional Bouchens (like the one in the photo above) as well as a newer concept, modern wine/cheese bars. Not only are the Bouchens unpretentious but they serve many traditional favourites of French cuisine – dishes that were served in working class communities over many generations. For example, a huge variety of sausages as well as pork dishes including pig trotter’s. If you didn’t learn much French at High School, and you want to explore beyond the touristy Bouchens (many have English menus), it might be a good idea to learn the French words for your favourite recipes. We’ve listed some of our favourite French dishes below – we love how it’s now so easy to get the French translation and pronunciation on the Net! The rest of our French is quite limited (mostly greetings etc) although I have been known to make myself understood when we encountered a car parking sign and a pleasant French woman (to my delight!) understood my question; unfortunately her initial response was too fast for my understanding but it’s amazing how it’s possible to communicate with very basics + sign language & a grateful smile! She probably saved us €100s as we were about to park in the wrong place. So, if you’re driving perhaps learn more French than we did + practise driving in very narrow laneways etc.
Back to food…
On returning home we started to collect French cookbooks – one of our favourites is French Bistro by Bertrand Auboyneau Francois Simon…in it is a range of recipes for pork including pig’s trotters but after Tony had a bout of food poisoning from eating a traditional chicken’s feet dish in China, we will be definitely be avoiding that part of the body on all animals!
Back to the recipes in French Bistro (or any traditional French cookbook) – some of our favourites are Pate with Pickled Chanterelles (mushrooms); Homestyle white asparagus; Eggs in various ways with truffles + an Omelet with Porcini (another type of wild mushroom); Duck Breast with Morello Cherries; Monkfish with green asparagus; Green Bean Salad with Parmesan; A salad of tomato, anchovy, black olive and arugula (rocket) – Nicoise-style. Our French dessert favourites will be posted on our FRENCH FOOD PAGE but my all time favourite is Rum Babas (Savarin-Style) which I’ve made in Australia since the 70s. We have a famous Australian chef (often on TV) called Margaret Fulton (now in her late 80s) who introduced Australia to French cuisine.
Photo above: Rum Babas – Savarin Style – we like it as it’s not too sweet…well not the version we make as I cut back on the sugar syrup…not the rum! I sometimes make 2 and freeze one before it goes through the soaking process (it’s like a slightly sweet/heavy bread)…I’m sure there’s a Chefy word for that process but sure you know what I mean😉.
It’s now Sunday 23/4/17 and I’m finally getting around to adding the French recipes/food photos I mentioned above…I’ll also copy them into a new French food post like I said I would.
Top End Dining in Lyon
We hope to return to Lyon and not only try many more Bouchons but also perhaps 1 (or if the budget allows…2) well renowned restaurants. We’ve been to a couple of restaurants in France with Michelin starred Chefs and one of those was wonderfully memorable (I’ll go back through our diaries & list the name soon)…it wasn’t far from Carcassone (a small city we would like to return to). Anyway, we’ve found that some of these famous restaurants provide beautiful food (at more affordable prices) on their lunchtime menus. On those occasions we would just buy some French cheese & a baguette etc for the evening meal with a quiet night in after lingering over a very long and delicious lunch!
Back to food/wine scene in Lyon:
Of course, if you’re even only into French food in a small way, you’ll know that the Paul Bocuse is “the granddaddy of Lyon’s gastronomic scene…he presides over a sparkling restaurant line-up that embraces all genres: French, fusion and international.” From Food Trails Lonely Planet 2016 – this book also gives a list of bouchons and restaurants…some we might try in future years.
As mentioned we did a 1 day tour into the Beaujolais wine country. It was in a small mini van with a driver & guide + 6 other people from various places in the world. On our next visit we will try and stay for at least 2 nights in this area and go to the renowned restaurant Auberge De Clochemerle. The concept here is the chef’s menu surprise. There are many beautiful wine producing villages in striking distance for the day from Lyon so if you don’t have the time to stay over & linger longer, it’s quite possible to do a loop there & back to Lyon in one day. So much tasting to be had so we recommend a driver or tour group!
Below – RIVER VIEW FROM HOTEL WINDOW IN LYON
More on Lyon –
2 major rivers meet in Lyon – Le Saone and Rhone. The confluence of these two great rivers is the hub of an urban area with over 2 million inhabitants. Lyon is also the main city on the road/rail routes between Paris and the south of France.
Lyon is one of France’s oldest cities and some say, “the gourmet capital of France”. We certainly had some beautiful meals there – see photo above. If we return, we will book a favourite restaurant in advance as they are so popular…if you would like to experience top end/Michelin Star dining it’s worth reserving a table many months in advance. For those, like us, considering the budget, sometimes lunch is a more affordable option. We’ve tried that in other parts of France eg. Near Carcassonne, France (another blog post in the future:)
Other things to do in Lyon:
“Explore Lyon’s ancient roots in the hilltop district of Fourviere at the Musee de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine…and it’s adjacent Roman amphitheatre.”
“Learn about Lyon’s silk weaving heritage and watch restored Jacquard looms at work at Maison des Canuts in the Croix-Rousse neighbourhood.”
“Catch a boat down the Saone River to the Confluence, where you’ll find audacious architectural projects.”
TRIESTE, 🇮🇹 ITALY – 🇭🇷 ROVINJ CROATIA…highly recommended as Rovinj & Pula are wonderful places. It’s 1.5 hours via car, ferry or bus. In 2013 a driver was a relatively inexpensive and very comfortable option. We asked our hotel in Rovinj to recommend someone. More to come on a separate post.