Thursday, August 20, 2009

Trip to France Day 6: Lyon-Nancy I

Passageway in LyonDay 6, Part 1

Breakfast was in the piano bar. They were out of croissants, but there was a toaster, so I was able to toast my baguette. I also had yogurt. I was finally brave enough to try the yogurt the previous morning in Carcassonne.

Although it was plain, unflavored yogurt, it was so delicious I could have just eaten it out of hand. It was flavorful, but not as super tangy as American yogurt, and very creamy. I’d been watching Hubby all week, and the thing to do is mix in some jam to give it flavor. After I finally tried it, I was kicking myself for not eating any sooner.

After breakfast we headed out for some sightseeing, as was our wont.

Knock, Knock
The Fodor’s, because we had not entirely given up on that publication, informed us that Lyon has neat old passageways that were used back in the Renaissance by the silk merchants to transport their product to customers without exposing it to the elements. It highlights a number on the Rue du Boef and the Rue St-Jean that have attractive features.

As these streets were around the corner from our hotel they fit in with our need for something easy and fun to do before getting on the road. We put the river on our left, our hotel at our back, and walked for a block or two. Then we turned right into the city and away from the river. After another block or two we came to the Rue St-Jean and a little plaza lined with about a bazillion cafes.

I cannot tell you whether any of them were any good as we did not eat in them. We were very annoyed to discover all these eating establishments so very close to our hotel, considering how far we had to walk the previous night.

Now, I know that Fodor’s doesn’t have the space or resources to review every restaurant in a town, but it would have been nice to know they were there. A little shout-out in the description of the Rue du Boef or Rue St-Jean would have been enough. I guess it’s a lesson in remembering to ask for recommendations at the front desk, rather than relying exclusively on your guidebook.

tower in lyonAlthough it was around 9 am, the town was still pretty much asleep. Delivery trucks were out, and people were sweeping sidewalks, but most places were closed. People actually live in the apartments off the courtyards the passageways lead to. (to which the passageways lead?) I could tell because they had those buzzer panels listing names.

Many of the doors were closed. Some were open and we wandered down them and took pictures of the pretty or interesting courtyards. I wonder whether there is some rule that at some point in the morning those front doors have to be left open. I wonder if it is annoying for the residents to know that tourists are going to come wandering in and out.

In fact, in one we were on our way back out of the courtyard and saw a woman coming down some interior steps. She slowed down and looked at us kind of funny. But I almost think that is because she saw Hubby first. He’s cute and all, but I would slow down and prepare to retreat if I saw a big, unknown guy wandering around.

Wait, yarn?
Having satisfied our need to gawk at stuff we loaded up the car. Our sights were set on Dijon for lunch. Nancy was our goal for the evening. We were starting that vacation conversation of, “Oh, that will be our next to last night before we fly home.”

You might be wondering by now at the sever lack of fiber content in our vacation. I’m not a yarn tourist. I always plan to be, but it doesn’t usually work out for one reason or another. Before we left on this trip I spent some time online scoping out addresses for stores in the towns we’d be staying in, or passing through. Of course, I wrote down addresses based on the fact that we’d have a GPS. Without the GPS I tossed the idea aside like a broken pair of needles.

As we headed out of town, heading for the D933 it felt like we looped up and around town. We passed through a little neighborhood, so there were many traffic lights. As we pulled away from one light my brain suddenly registered that the store we were standing next to had a sign for “Plassard.” I thought, “Wait a minute.” I pulled out my little list of addresses, but couldn’t twig the street name and match it to my list. Hubby noticed me rooting around, but I denied any nefarious activity. He made the leap to yarn and how we hadn’t seen any stores, but I said not to worry about it since I didn’t know whether it was open, there was no place to turn around, and parking was (of course) uncertain. Also, I was still pretty mad at France and Lyon for the horrible traffic the previous day and wasn't much interested in giving them more money.

Route du Vin My Eye
We stuck to D933 for a while but ended up on the N74 along the way. We were in Burgundy country and thought we might see more chateaus. However, although we kept seeing signs saying we were on the Route des Grands Crus, we could clearly see the vines further to the left. Every so often we saw indications of another road over there, but we didn’t want to risk trying to get to it since it wasn’t on our map. It was hard enough to navigate when the road was on our map! We were pretty sure they put the signs on the wrong road in order to keep the tourists out of their hair.

The countryside was lovely anyway. Rolling hills, cute villages in the distance, stands of trees. It reminded us of Vermont.

After a while we realized that Dijon was still too far away for lunch. I flipped frantically through the guidebook, but everything it listed seemed to be closer to Dijon and therefore also too far.

Cafe Pommard
Suddenly, we started seeing signs for "Restaurant le Pommard." It wasn’t in the guidebook, but Hubby recognized the town name because of wine production, so we took a hard left and headed in that direction.

Turns out everything in Pommard is named “[Blank] le Pommard.” This made it a little tricky to find the restaurant for which we’d seen the signs. Not that it mattered since there wasn’t any parking anyway. But then we saw a sign for parking for the Cave le Pommard.

We knew by then that Cave=Potential Wine Tasting, so we pulled in.

We were even more pleased when we saw the little enclosed courtyard parking lot had restrooms. Hubby hit the facilities, then headed into the store. I took a little longer getting out of the car. I was probably trying to disentangle myself from the four map type reference items I used for navigation (the Michelin map, the Fodor’s, the Southbey’s Wine Encyclopedia, and any pamphlets I snagged).

When I bounced out of the car I saw a lady sitting in the courtyard talking on the phone. She greeted me, so I
said, “Bonjour!” But apparently I said it at such a volume that she understood what I said without hearing how badly I mangled the pronunciation because she asked if I was French.

Ha! I was so surprised I actually did that thing where I looked around to see who she was talking to, while knowing I was alone. I said No. Then she asked if I was British. That made me laugh, because we got that a lot on the trip. I said I was American, and we continued on our way. She, however, sounded like she was British. It turned out she was French, but had learned English in Britain so had that accent.

In the meantime, Hubby was asking the young man inside if we could park there while we quested for lunch. He asked whether the kid spoke English. The kid said yes and started using slang, idioms, and such. Hubby asked if he was French. The kid said no, he was from Manhattan! He was a college sophomore and was just working in France for the summer to learn more about the wine industry. His dad is an importer in The States, so it was a logical move.

We walked around the corner to the Restaurant de Pommard. As it was by then 2 pm they were no longer serving full lunch. The waitress pointed out four lines on the menu from which we could select. Turns out they read “Ham, Ham Large, Cheese, Cheese Large.” Despite being overwhelmed with choices, we selected the large version of each, figuring it would be enough to share. Hubby also ordered two glasses of wine.

You will understand when I tell you my heart quailed when she brought out two slices of a ham terrine! The binder was a whitish material flecked with green, which might have been either broccoli or parsley. Yeah, we couldn’t quite tell by taste. The flavor was much more mild and less spicy than the rabbit terrine I had that first night in Paris. It was much more approachable. There were also a few leafy greens, a cold beet salad, and another red salad that was either more beets in a different sauce or cranberries. Also, there were these little piles of a cubes that were a clear, gelatin substance. I was brave and tasted the clear stuff, even though it reminded me of the putty, slime goop stuff I used to play with as a kid. It didn’t taste like much, just kind of salty.

There were four cheeses on the other platter. She told us to eat them from mild to strong. She told us the names, but as they meant absolutely nothing to me I was unable to retain them. The first was a soft white cheese like brie. The second was slightly orange, firmer, a little crumbly, but also with a mild flavor. The third was a soft white again, but with a crust that looked like crushed nuts. Hubby said he tasted horseradish so I stuck to the center of that one as far from the crust as I could get. The fourth cheese was orange again, kind of like Velveeta. It looked melted and had a rind with the appearance of crumbled paper.

It tasted like stinky feet.

I took one wee bite and couldn’t get bread or wine into my mouth fast enough to get rid of the taste. Hubby agreed. We had a good giggle wondering if they really eat it or just feed it to tourists to scare them away. The cheese platter also had a wee pile of greens, as well as some apple slices.

Hubby said we had to eat everything that was edible since we had to make a meal out of it. And we did clean the plates, aside from the stinky foot cheese and the cubes of clear gelatin.
Cave de Pommard
We headed back to the Cave. NY Boy had four or five wines Hubby could taste from all around the region. It was very convenient that he knew about American wines as he was able to compare French label conventions—referencing if a wine is from a single vineyard or from a general region—and such to the way we do things here. This was very helpful for putting information in perspective. As we were the only two in at the moment, Hubby really put him through his paces with tons of questions. Hubby bought two bottles of wine. This earned him one of those cardboard carry cases, which was very handy for packing later on.

It was getting late by then, so we sucked it up and hopped on the A31 in order to blast the rest of the way to Nancy. We must have paid cash, as I don’t seem to have toll receipts. It's probably just as well. By then we'd already been joking for a few days that President Sarkozy should give us the Key to the City of Paris for single handedly reviving the French economy through our use of their toll roads. We were also concerned that President Obama would tell Customs and Immigrations not to let us back in as punishment for not spending all that money at home instead.

We amuse ourselves terribly.

1 comment:

  1. Oh - I so want to try that yogurt. It sounds so yummy! I am a total dairy and cheese freak. I also know what you mean about the stinky feet cheese! I hate when that happens! ;)

    And... finally.... just how many wee bottles of wine did we bring home, Ann????