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Pain Au Chocolat

15 Mar 2016

I have a massive sweet tooth when it comes to French pastries, most specifically the pain au chocolat, or chocolate croissant. When I was planning my travel for this past weekend, I definitely considered locations depending their food (as that’s one of the most important things for me when I travel!). The promise of chocolate croissants was too enticing, so off to Lyon I went!

I flew in on Friday afternoon and, after checking into my hostel, left straight for the center of the city to walk around. I accidentally came across a number of beautiful sights in Lyon, some of which I hadn’t been planning on seeing until Saturday or Sunday! My very first impression of Lyon was that it’s similar to Paris in some of its architecture, the style, the food, and the atmosphere, but that everyone in Lyon is friendlier and warmer than Parisians. That alone was a plus!

First, I found the Hotel de Ville of Lyon, its city hall. It’s a stunning building and I found it right before sunset, so while it may be half shadowed, it was golden and practically glowing in its little square. 

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Hotel de Ville before sunset.

I then walked north to try and find potential restaurants for dinner, something I was ready to splurge on a bit more. Lyon is often known as the gastronomy capital of the world, so I didn’t want to lose my opportunity to have some wonderful and unique French food. While exploring small alleyways north of the Hotel de Ville, I almost walked past another building on the waterfront before realizing that it was not an apartment building (at least on the side that I saw) but a famous mural painted onto an entire building!

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La Fresque des Lyonnais.

Called La Fresque des Lyonnais, it’s a mural painted onto the side of a building near the river. It has typical city scenes painted, from neighbors chatting between balconies to men in a restaurant below. I almost didn’t realize it was a painting, but the number of people standing outside the building tipped me off that it was the same building I saw in images while doing research prior to my trip.

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Lyon waterfront at sunset.

I walked across the river to go explore the old town at sunset and became even more confused about where to go to dinner, as I was surrounded by bouchon after bouchon (a specific kind of Lyonnais tavern). Not able to decide and also not feeling like I wanted dinner at 6:30pm, I walked up to the cathedral at the top of a hill overlooking the old town of Lyon. It was QUITE the hike up. When I arrived at the top though, I was greeted by beautiful views of the city and a stunning cathedral, though I missed being able to go inside and see it by about 10 minutes!

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The cathedral at night-time.

I followed up my walk up with a long walk down to try and find a restaurant before walking into the nearest hotel and asking for their recommendations. I ended up having some solidly good French food, but nothing particularly special, as I have pretty high standards for French cooking.

On Saturday, I spent more time walking through the city and paid a visit to Les Halles, the gourmet food market where I purchased the first of many chocolate croissants. Sadly, I didn’t have any extra space in my backpack or purse, or I would’ve bought as much food as possible to bring back to Spain! I even debated going straight to the market before my Monday flight back to Madrid to buy lots of cheese to bring with me over spring break, but decided that it was too much of a gamble to hope that the cheese would stay fresh until I could get it into the refrigerator in Madrid.

I wrapped up my Saturday with two massively important events: the first, a concert, the second, crepes. Prior to arriving in Lyon, I purchased a ticket to see the Lyon orchestra play one of my favorite violin concertos and one of my favorite symphonies, and I could not have lucked out more. The violinist was absolutely brilliant and the audience (including me!!) clapped and shouted “bravo” enough times to get TWO encore performances from him! After the concert, I walked back towards my hostel and got some delicious crepes on the way.

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Crepes.... need I say more?

As just about everything is closed in Europe on Sundays, I spent my Sunday morning and afternoon at two different museums, first going to the Musée de Confluences, a natural history/modern art museum on the river.

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Musée de Confluences has some fascinating architecture.

I followed that visit up to the Musée des Beaux Arts, an art museum in the center of Lyon. I really enjoyed the focus that it had on not only major artists, but also more local ones (and also very talented!).

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Musée des Beaux Arts.

While I won’t admit how many chocolate croissants I ate over the weekend (or took back with me on Monday for my flight back to Madrid), I will say that I had quite the successful food weekend. Any weekend that I get to spend eating chocolate croissants is a good weekend! While they may be the only food that I can successfully and properly order and pronounce in French, I must say, I’ve been having trouble in the last two days speaking Spanish, as I’ve automatically blurted out words in French a few times! Let’s see what happens to my Spanish when I’m away for all of Semana Santa… hasta luego! 

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