In all my travel-writing I realized I never wrote anything about the city I live in when I am in France. And yet, that city is mentioned right below my pen name on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, About.me and —oh— even on Goodreads!
“San Francisco, Montréal, Golden B.C… Lyon.”
I was not born in Lyon. I first moved there 13 years ago (mental note: avoid glancing at the mirror today) but Lyon and I really met 8 years ago when I started living downtown and roaming its streets, shops, cafés, parks and back-alleys.
Whenever I go for a long journey or live abroad for a while, I do not miss France too much, but I do miss Lyon. It is my very own French San Francisco, my European Montréal, my urban Golden B.C.
Lyon is one of those places that have that special privilege in my mind: a place that, any other day, I inadvertently refer to as “home”.
I am not planning to write a guide or a list of must-do’s. But this morning I thought: if a reader shows up (say, to have an autograph signed) (did you just snort?) and if (s)he just has that one day to visit downtown Lyon, where will I take that reader? If it were me, what would I do?
If I had the option of waking up where I want, I’d wake up in Croix-Rousse. That district is perched above the city’s rooftops and is pulsing like a heartbeat every morning. I’d go to l’Atelier du Boulanger on the Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse, buy their pain au cacao (not to be confused with the buttery pain au chocolat). I’d have it sliced there and I’d eat it with orange marmelade and a hot cup of good coffee. If it is a warm and sunny day, I’d take everything out to the Esplanade de la Croix-Rousse and have my breakfast with a view on the whole cityscape — all the way to the edge of the Alps if I’m lucky. On second thought, I think I’d hold my hunger a little bit longer and stop en-route at Le Livre en Pente (in rue des Pierres Plantées) and rummage through its collection of second-hand travel books. I’ve found pretty amazing stuff there.
Morning stroll and Afternoon musing
From l’Esplanade, I’d go down the “pentes”, this bunch of criss-crossing streets going all the way downhill. I especially like the part that lies west, stuck between the Montée de la Grande Côte and the Saône River. I’d wander there for a while, peer through the workshops’ windows, walk along the river, admire the view from the Passerelle St Vincent. Then I’d go south and have a cheap lunch at L’Epicerie, rue de la Monnaie: I’d have their pear-and-fourme-d’Ambert tartine with a salad on the side (olive oil and lemon please). I’d probably have their “Temps des Cerises” dessert with it. Don’t ask me what it is. You may faint.
After lunch, I may just catch a bus to the Parc de la Tête d’Or and wander in its northern part, where it’s more quiet. Or, if I rather feel like chilling by myself with a book, I’ll cross the Saône River to the Vieux-Lyon district, go to the Gadagne Museum, take the elevator to the top floor and emerge on the rooftop, where one can just sit and relax in the museum’s garden.
When dinner time comes, I’d go to the other side of the Rhône River, into the Guillotière district. I’d grab a pizza at Max’call (in grande rue de la Guillotière), a couple of pastries and a cup of mint tea in one of the numerous middle-eastern restaurants of the district (as a matter of fact I’d go to Le Palais des Gâteries on rue de Marseille), and I’d take it all away to the riverside. I’d eat my dinner on the steps facing the Hôtel-Dieu. I’d watch the sun set behind Fourvière and wait for the buildings and bridges to light up all along the river. Even after 8 years, I still find it wonderful.
So: Food, books, coffee and tea
That’s me. That’s my wife’s main source of pride and despair. Even when we go for a 2-month journey and hike the forests and mountains of some distant country, we manage to load our everyday rucksacks with marmelade, tea and fancy homemade picnics. She once said: “Honey, we imagine ourselves as elves purposefully striding through the wilderness, when we are in fact hobbits planning tea times through the wilderness.”
Cities are probably worse for me than the wilderness, with their infinite possibilities of gourmet pleasures. But then I’m French.
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