A French Love Affair
This evening’s travel blog focuses on La Belle France, a country I’ve had a love affair with since I was sent there regularly between the ages of 9 and 16 on exchange visits with my French pen pals Agathe and Ingrid. Since then I’ve spent many holidays in Paris, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Nice, to name just a few. I’ve also spent a year living in the South West of the country, in Pau overlooking the Pyrenees, while studying during my third year of University, and 6 months making cocktails on the Champs Elysees, when I was 18.
I love France. I love the language. I love the food. Particularly the cheese. I love the wine and champagne. I love the style and architecture. I love the art and fiction. And I love the countryside and the cities.
In April, I spent five days in Lyon with my great school friend and running pal, Tori. We chose Lyon as the neighbouring city to the village of Beaujolais, host of the Beaujolais Villages Trail, one of my running challenges for this year.
So, today’s #5aday is dedicated to France, and Lyon (and the surrounding area):
- First Impressions – I didn’t know what to expect of Lyon. Or I thought I did, and I got it completely wrong! It is a beautiful city. It reminded me of Paris, with its beautiful architecture, a river (in fact two running parallel to each other – the Rhône and Saône) and wonderful eating, drinking and shopping.
- Culture – On our first day, we walked a lot – not ideal preparation for our run in the hills the following day! Lyon is a very lovely city to walk around. We spent a lot of time walking through the markets and around the cobbled streets of Vieux-Lyon, taking in the medieval architecture. We then took the funicular up to the top of Fourvière hill to visit the basilica of Notre-Dame, with its golden statue of Mary. The view from up here was quite spectacular looking out over Vieux-Lyon, the Rhône and, beyond on the far bank, the Citadines Presqu’île, between the Rhône and the Saône.
- Eating and drinking – Lyon is considered to be the gastronomical capital of France, which is evidenced by the many Michelin starred restaurants it has. We experienced lots of great food in lovely bistros hidden away off the beaten track. Notably on our last evening, we celebrated Tori’s birthday at Cafe Comptoir Abel, a perfectly traditional Lyonnais bistro tucked away from the banks of the Saône. It’s considered to be one of the favourites with the locals and was bursting at the seams on the Monday evening we visited.
- Shopping – Of course, we did have a look in the shops. It would have been rude not to! I bought a few bits from Kookai and a bright orange Minelli bag. We enjoyed browsing St Antoine Market, a farmer’s market on the banks of the Saône River, with local organic fruit and vegetables, flowers, cheeses, and other local specialities.
- Running the Beaujolais Trail – As I’ve mentioned many times before, Tori and I have started a tradition of meeting every year in France for a trail run – the second of which was the Beaujolais Villages Trail this April. It was a magical event, taking us through the spectacular, rolling Beaujolais hills and villages. The locals were very supportive cheering us on from their gardens and farms along the route. It was tough though, with many challenging ascents, and the sun beating down on us throughout. The feeding stations kept us going with traditional local music, cheeses, breads and wine for the brave! If you’re looking for a trail run in 2014, then this should definitely be on your shortlist. The bonus is you get a bottle of Beaujolais at the end!
I also wrote about my trip to Lyon in a post called The Ingredients for Happiness. All in all, it was a very special trip, with a special friend and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as it coincided with a rather unsettling point in my career. It proved to be the perfect therapy, however. So, I thoroughly recommend adding Lyon to your list of French cities to visit and why not sign up to the Beaujolais Villages Trail at the same time?
By Sarah Mayo