This morning we gave in to the thermometer and had breakfast inside even though it was sunny outside- naaah, just call us wimps.
We set off from Saint Rémy, up the motorway a couple of hours towards Lyon (our eventual destination, despite Miss Google’s best efforts, but more of that later…) and had decided to stop off at Vienne, just south of Lyon. My lovely motorway machine beeps us through the péage gates on the motorway, and it’s worth it just to see the French motorists snigger “Ha, the English. They simply do not understand how it works…”, then as we sail through on the beep at the télépéage lane their jaws drop and they are SO WRONG. HA.
Where was I? Oh yes, Vienne. There is a Roman theatre there which we wanted to see, but when we eventually found it (in a deserted Vienne, probably because it is Easter Monday today) it was closed. Julia looked upwards and saw a church way up on the hillside overlooking it, so we made our way up there and had the BEST view, both of the theatre and of the whole of Vienne and surroundings, with at least two bends of the mighty Rhône visible.
The road up there was a bit narrow (the car breathed in and we got through), but we persisted and right at the top in front of the little church there was a small parking area, with only one other vehicle there. It was so fantastic that since it was also lunchtime, we had our picnic up there. OK, it was rather windy, because the Mistral continues to blow, but the view was stupendous.
After our picnic, we headed back down and went off looking for the temple of Augustus which we knew was somewhere in the old streets. Apparently it is one of only two complete Roman temples in France (the other being in Nîmes), and although it is looking a bit scruffy (rather like the rest of Vienne, actually) it survived because at some point it was converted into a church. We had a look inside the church, once a cathedral, which had also seen better days. Vienne was evidently an important town a long time ago.
We then set off back to the motorway again, via a handy Leclerc 24/24 petrol station (cheapest so far – 113 per litre), and Miss Google helped us enormously by not being able to find our hotel in Lyon (we thought we could use some extra help working our way through the streets), not being able even to find Lyon, and insisting that we were in fact in Kitagawa, Japan. That brought on some interesting language from Julia in the back seat, but fortunately Miss Google returned in time to, well, actually, not guide us terribly well as it turned out. She wasn’t helped by the fact that although our hotel is on a pedestrian street cars are supposed to have access, but then the council has put a row of trees in giant plant pots and strung them across the non-pedestrian-pedestrianised-road. Suffice it to say that I thought I could squeeze the car between them, but my two passengers screamed so loudly I had to turn round and go another way. We got there in the end, and the hotel has a car park, albeit not a large one (good thing we arrived at 3.30 – others were turned away later).
Our hotel, the Hotel Alexandra, in Lyon is great, we did really well to get it for €70 per room per night seeing as the card on the back of the door says a room costs €129-€249 per night. It is très chic, the curtains are red velveteen and the walls are nearly 50 shades of grey (I’ve locked the door and stuck a chair under the handle). It is so chic that breakfast would cost €18, so we’ve opted for breakfast in Subway or MacDonalds tomorrow…..
Now, the LONG LONG walk, and its effects on my feet and Julia’s back …. Having established ourselves in the hotel, we walked out and explored Lyon, both the Presqu’ile where our hotel is and the other side of the Saone – as I’m sure everyone knows, Lyon is actually at the confluence of the Saone and the Rhone, with a bit of land called the Presqu’ile in the middle.
My Fit Flops are very comfortable, and Julia was wearing her trekking shoes, but they were tested by the walk across the Presqu’ile, Place Bellecour (a square half the size of Wales), over the bridge, up the funicular to Fourvière on top of the hill overlooking Lyon, walking around admiring the view, into the church up there, back down twelve million steps, round most of streets in the old quarter (some of them twice), into the older church down the bottom of the hill (why wasn’t one enough??) back across the bridge, back across Place Bellecour (now three quarters the size of Wales), down to Place Carnot beyond our hotel, OK we did stop there for a glass of rosé, then on up a hundred steps to Lyon Perrache station because it seemed the only way to cross the motorway and the train tracks in order to reach our chosen dinner destination, down the other side, round three sides of a square, all of which were being dug up so we had to walk along the road, and FINALLY we reached Brasserie Georges. It was ONLY the fact that Brasserie Georges is the most wonderful place in the world that made the pain in my feet and the pain in Julia’s back worthwhile.
Julia had seen it in a newspaper article, and it was quite the most amazing place – it is like an eating factory, but obviously from another age. It actually opened in 1836, but feels as if it was built and decorated in the 1920s. It is the size of a railway terminus, with a very high painted ceiling and rows upon rows of red benches and white-tableclothed tables, and waiters in black waistcoats and long white aprons. Brasserie actually means “brewery” and Brasserie Georges indeed has its own beer, which we sampled (it would have been rude not to), and I think Tim is right that it was originally a beer cellar which ended up offering food, presumably to soak up the alcohol. We soaked up the alcohol with a truffled egg in aspic (me) or pork hock terrine, followed by French sausage with pistachio and crushed potatoes, followed by a chocolate thing or another chocolate thing. Oh gosh, how completely delicious, the surroundings contributing majorly to the enjoyment. MUST go again.
We staggered back to our hotel by a much quicker route under the motorway, even though we all thought that the doubtless perfectly innocent Lyon citizen dressed all in black leather and lurking by the entrance to the underpass was in fact an axe murderer so we accelerated to an undignified canter through a maze of underpasses until we reached our lovely lovely hotel. Phew, my feet now need a LONG rest.
Finally, I have been meaning to do this since the beginning of the blog, when I realised that I didn’t always have enough photos to populate it, but last night I was so tired that I again forgot to….. I want to point out that many of the photos (and certainly all the most artistic ones) that I have been using were taken by Julia. I’m quite good at snaps, but she is far better at ‘seeing a photo’ and taking it. This last photo is a really good example – as we were walking through the old town yesterday (and despite the feet and back, it was a wonderful walk) she spotted this picture of the side of one building shining through the gap of a couple of older buildings. I shall be continuing to use her photos wherever possible!