Monday, August 17, 2009

Trip to France Day 5: Carcassonne-Lyon II

The Soane in LyonDay 5, Part 2.
(That's the view from our hotel window in Lyon.)

Lyon wasn't much kinder to us than Avignon had been.

As we approached the city we started seeing highway signs that said “bouchon.”
We said, “I wonder what that means?”
But figured it couldn’t be good.
Turns out it means “traffic jam.”
Although the first translation we found was “tavern.” Since that didn’t make sense at all Hubby used another translator, which said “stoppage.” That did make sense.

We went from cruising along saying, “Look! It’s the Rhone.” To sitting in crawling, bumper-to-bumper traffic. It was horrible, especially since we didn’t know what was causing it, or how long it was going to last.

So we bailed.

It might not have been our brightest moment, considering we didn’t have street level maps, but we were desperate.

Lost In Lyon
The situation only got worse. We drove in circles trying to figure out where we and how to get where we wanted to be. Of course, none of the road names we were seeing where on the lame little map in the Fodor’s.

Actually, just to twist the knife, I’m pretty sure the roads we were on were indicated, just not named. I’m pleased to report we did not have a fight, although it was a prime fight situation since we were stressed out and basically lost. Although I did find myself speaking in a very quite, precise, breathy voice in an attempt to counter Hubby’s snappiness.

Finally I told Hubby to head to the river, as it was the only landmark that was on the map, and go north along it until we saw something we recognized. Almost as soon as we did that we started seeing signs for the Vieux Lyon, which is the part of town our hotel was in. There was great rejoicing in the car as we followed the signs, although traffic was still pretty sucky. We crossed the Saone and stuck to the river bank again as our hotel was on the river.

Then, wonder of wonders, we saw a tourist office sign pointing the direction to our hotel! Things were looking brighter. We crept along the road, scouring the front of the buildings for a hotel sign.

Hidden Hotel

We did not see one.

We saw a building that had a French flag out front and a mysterious PH engraved on the front door.
I said it Hubby, “I think that’s it.”
He disagreed, since there wasn’t a sign.
I pointed out we were staying in the Phenix Hotel at 7 Quai Bondy and the numbers on either side of the mysterious flag building were 8 & 6. I said this in a very quite, calm voice.

Still, instead of taking the next left, he took the left after that. He had to because the street name had changed. Mind you, this was all one road running along the river, but heck it did bend, so I guess a new name was required.

So That's Why We're Ugly
I hopped out and ran back to the PH building. It was indeed out hotel.

I had the misfortune of walking in at same time as a pair of older women. There were two desk clerks. They obviously recognized the two women. So I did what any American would do, when they went to the left end of the counter I went to the right end. In my mind this indicated we were not together.

Apparently it doesn’t work that way in France because as the brunette helped the two women, the blond stood there smiling. So I squirmed around a bit. Nothing. I fidgeted some more. Still nothing.

Then I sighed in a loud and indignant manner and started to head for the door to at least tell Hubby we had found it. That got their attention. They asked if I was with the other women. I said, “Noooo.”

Yep, you read all that right. Lyon turned me into an Ugly American, but I couldn’t help myself.

So then the blond came to help me. We had reserved a parking space, which was good since there was nothing obvious on the street. She told me we had to go into the first left turn (the one Hubby passed) and they would open it up. I ran back out to Hubby with an update. Turns out they didn’t have a garage, per say. They had a two-car garage and we got to use one of the spaces. It was kind of weird, but, shoot, we were off the street and at our destination, so we didn’t care.

Hubby was all nice and polite, which hopefully made up for me being obnoxious.

What's That Smell?Lyon landscaping
The room was fine. It had a big bathtub, the bed was fine, and we had a nice view of the river.

After relaxing for a bit we went questing for dinner.

Here is something the guide books probably won’t tell you: Lyon smells bad.

I don’t know if it was the subway, the sewer, or the river, but it stunk. It was the warm, vaguely sewer smell cities get. Just to show you I’m not being xenophobic, I’ve smelled it in New York City as well.

Lyon also added to our hatred of the Fodor’s that started in Avignon. The book listed a cluster of restaurants as being across the Soane, a little north of us, and almost at the Rhone. We trooped over in that direction. We passed some nice park areas, but mostly it was ghost town empty streets, which made me nervous.

Since Lyon is one of those cities that has its foundations back in the 15th Century, perhaps earlier, the roads don’t always come together at nice right angles. This makes it hard to navigate. Well, we never did really find any of the places listed in the Fodor’s.

Mmm, Truffle Sauce
We ended up wandering into a place called Les Arcades.

We skipped appetizers as it was getting late and we were hungry. The menu struck me as Nuevo Continental cuisine. Hubby got a duck stir fry. He said it was ok.

I got a crepe stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese in a truffle cream sauce. Mine was very yummy. We could smell the truffle as soon as the plate got near the table. Hubby was very jealous as he loves truffle. He actually started dipping his duck in my sauce! It was very flavorful and rich. I did what damage I could and then Hubby finished the rest.

Creme Brulle in LyonWe shared one crème brule for dessert. The presentation was very neat. The waiter brought it to the table and then lit the sugar. This caramelized the sugar as we watched.

Really, who doesn’t appreciate an open flame for dessert?

We made it back to the hotel safely, despite having to cross through the empty streets again.

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