We strolled along the footbridge as the waters of the Saône swooshed by below, serenaded by the wind running its invisible bowstrings across the great twisted steel cables, sounding a low pitched hum that reverberated through the railing and into my fingertips.
Across the river is the old city, and above us stands the Notre Dame basilica. It glows in the nighttime, as does the nearby antenna, a cousin of the Eiffel Tower, hundreds of miles away in Paris.
Overnight I had dozed only fitfully on the plane, and upon arriving I marched through the massive Terminal 2 to catch the tram that would take me to Terminal 3. There I met D in his hotel, from which he had a view of the Concorde, and we had a welcoming breakfast before beginning our excursion.
In planning this trip we considered a number of destinations. D has been to France before so could have eschewed Paris, whereas I, on the other hand, insisted on Paris. As I worked through the options of the Loire Valley, Champagne, and Normandy, the latter was actually the leading candidate. It was relatively close to Paris, and apparently spectacular (D has been there and would happily return). Then D’s sister mentioned Lyon, which is only 2 hours away by high speed train, and it is considered by some to be the food capitol of France.
So it was that, after a brief moment of consternation at the train station, I spent the early afternoon sleeping on a high-speed train headed south from Paris. In the bosom of the train, the pace of the machinery made a low thrum in my body, lulling me into a doze, which is how I spent most of the two hour ride from Paris to Lyon, waking only periodically to see small herds of cattle grazing alongside the tracks and to eat industrial madeleins bought from a machine back at the station.
In Lyon we checked into the hotel, which stands on a street just down from the Theatre Celestins, and asked after lunch. The proprietor stuttered nervously, explaining that today was a Sunday so many restaurants were closed. It was also a little late, so many restaurants which would have been open have now closed. And, to complicate matters further, it is also Armistice Day, so many of those that would have been open are also closed. He finally settled on a recommendation and we were off.
After some confused wandering (the directions were opaque, to say the least), we ended up at a large restaurant at the end of the nearest Metro line. The massive size of the seating area, marked by a small calliope that regularly belted out the notes of “Happy Birthday,” left me wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. The answer, it turned out, was deliciousness, as I had big strips of duck, duck confit, and even duck liver, all of which were delicious, with a side of spectacular roasted potatoes.
We took the metro back to the hotel and both collapsed, and given that the entire town was closed for the holiday we really didn’t feel bad about missing anything.
It was much much later that we crossed to the old town, where we were found a collection of tourist-oriented restaurants. The owner of our hotel had largely written them off, but they had one advantage over anything in our neigborhood, which sits on a peninsula between the rivers Rhône and Saône: they were open. Having gorged ourselves earlier, we weren’t wanting for much, so eventually we settled on a small corner restaurant on a square and helped ourselves to a nice warming bowl of soup.
Welcome to France.