A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sept. 7.

Lyon - Lyon seemed beautiful through the glass of the speeding tram. Unfortunately, the tram was carrying us out of Lyon and into Bron, the town on the outskirts of France's financial capital. We had decided to play it safe by booking a cheap hotel in advance, knowing that its location might not be ideal. In the reality of the situation, ¨might not be ideal¨ translated to ¨fuck-far away.¨ On the bright side, I had managed to grab a simple baguette of jambon, fromage et beurre, or ham, cheese and butter, from a cafe outside the train station. On the dimmer side, Hotel Stars, which was located by the scenic expanse of highway and strip malls, had a cruise ship theme. Let me repeat that: a cruise ship theme. It had life preservers on the walls and portholes for windows. The rooms were also claustrophobically appropriate. I found myself hoping it might sink.

We made the most of the remote location though, checking out the shops and gazing at the food in the French supermarkets. I tried to pick up le vocabulaire wherever I went. The day was looking slightly improved until even that brief streak came swiftly to an end. To pass the time, Vince and I spent stretches of our trip playing cards and making bets. Most of them were fairly innocuous (see Mar. 13)-- buy the other person a postcard, bed choice in the next hostel, shave a strip of hair on your legs-- but sometimes, it became painfully serious. One of the Bron bets was that the loser had to eat a meal at McDonald's... cruelly, I lost. Even worse, Vince got to select the meal.

Unique to French McDonald's were the limited-time offer of the Mythics, which consisted of the McFarmer, the McSummer and the bizarrely-named McTimber. They alternated based on a schedule so of course, we happened to be there for the McTimber. A man of my word, I ignored the unappetizing description and ordered the burger covered in cheddar fondue, Monterey Jack fondue and a sauce made from cheddar fondue. I even got to show off my burgeoning French skills, specifying ¨sans oignons,¨ and adding ¨frites moyennes¨and a ¨Fanta orange.¨With trepidation, I peeled back the cardboard lid and took in the sight. The burger looked like some defeated shell of its photographed self, all squashed and squishy. With growing trepidation, I took a bite. The kindest thing I could call it was interessant, but tres mauvais would be more like it.

I'd heard before that French McDonald's were better than the original because of stricter governmental regulations. Whether the beef was any better was hard to discern because the gloppy fondues were so overpowering. I have to hope the meat is an improvement though, because otherwise, the shocking popularity of the chain in a country of such culinary magnitude would be even more depressing. But hey, at least the frites were still as great as ever.

The next morning, it was onto Lyon proper. We only had until four o'clock to see as much as possible and we were determined to maximize the time. Our first destination was Les Halles, or the market-halls, France's version of Spain's large markets with all sorts of vendors. The differences here were that absolutely everything looked ravishing, plucked from a gourmand's elaborate dreams, and that all of it was priced accordingly. If I had been on my old salary, I would've run rampant, but this time, we limited ourselves to a hundred grams of a high-quality jambon du maison. Finding nothing else we were prepared to splurge on, we hit the nearby Champion supermarket to stock up. There, I got a pamplemousse, or grapefruit, mainly because I love saying pamplemousse, my first post-Tomatina tomatoes and the first bad bread of the trip. Stale and altogether awful, this baguette was an insult to Frenchmen everywhere.

From here, it was onto sightseeing. We ventured into Vieux Lyon, or the old part of town, which involved crossing two scenic bridges. Charming cafes and cobbled streets awaited us, with a comfortable appeal reminiscent of Bordeaux. It was interesting to see such traditional Gallic architecture against the backdrop of Lyon's modern sections, where the norm was very corporate buildings with mirrored glass. It was almost like the city had a split personality, divided between the competing impulses of history and commerce. I would've loved to see more, but it was onto Paris, that beautiful nucleus where all impulses come to converge.


Anonymous Serge said...

There are lots of sights which I have yet to see before my very eyes like the beautiful places and views in these pictures you posted. I would also love to enjoy a cruise trip as soon as I have saved enough cash.

1:12 AM  

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