Friday, April 15, 2011

April 15, 2011: Lyon - Bon Anniversaire, Gadagne, Zoo, Bernachon, Gourmet

Today was my birthday! And spending it in Lyon was probably one of the nicest ways I could imagine.

In the morning I went to the Musée de Gadagne, where I got a full picture of the city of Lyon, from its earliest Roman foundings as Lugdunum to its modern history (for example, in the first half of the 20th century they had the same mayor, Edouard Herriott, for fifty years - the Hazel McCallion of France!). I learned that the silk industry was a major influence on the social structure and architecture of the city, which piqued my interest in the guided tour of the traboules ("secret staircases" of the silk sector) - I signed us up for the Saturday English-language tour with the Lyon tourism office. The museum is housed in a beautiful Renaissance-era complex of buildings - the views from the windows over the hilly city streets, and from the courtyard of the bright blue sky, were fantastic.

After meeting Mark at the train station mid-afternoon we had a short rest at the hotel, and then were off on the Metro to Parc de la Tête d'Or. I gave him a quick tour of my favourites from the zoo before the gates closed, and then we walked the long way around the park down to Bernachon. I almost thought we'd arrived too late and that it was closed, but it turned out that it was just the cafe that closed early. We had just enough time to select a mid-sized box of assorted chocolates from the woman behind the counter (who was pleased to hear that we were Canadians and that it was our first time visiting).

We still had an hour of time to kill before dinner, so we walked over to the river, sat and watched a game of boules, then strolled back. Our reservations at Restaurant Le Gourmet de Sèze were for 8:00 pm, which is still on the early side for dinner in France. We were the first people at the restaurant, but before long others arrived, and by 9:00 the tables were all full.

Dinner was amazing - probably the best meal of my life. There were multiple small delicious courses (five different deserts!) with a total of six wine pairings. Everything was beautifully planned, balanced and presented as an entire whole (you simply chose one of two set menus, and that was it), and the wine pairings were perfect - I never realized wine could be so well matched to food. It was also very friendly. I managed to tell the watiter (in French) that it was the best meal of my life - he seemed genuinely surprised and pleased to hear it. And when he asked where we were from and I said that we were Canadian he exclaimed "sirop d'érable" (maple syrup) with delight.

Here's the menu as best I remember (the details may be a bit hazy, due either to the length of the meal or the drinks...):

Amuse-bouche: a tomato jelly with shrimp - with the house aperitif of sparkling white wine with orange infusion

Appetizers: tiny crisp breadsticks, a creamy cheese with herbs, a pâte on tiny crackers

First course: langoustines (which are a kind of smaller lobster, without large claws), morel mushrooms, asparagus (and pasta? and celeriac?) - with white wine (for me this one was the most perfect of the wine pairings - each made the other more delicious)

Second course: a mild white fish, potatoes, scallops (other vegetables in a mash?) - with a different white wine

Cheese plate: 2 chèvre cheeses, Roquefort cheese, a very creamy cow's cheese - with red wine

First set of deserts: a strawberry/rhubarb cup, lemon square and a sliced fruit dish - with a different red wine

Second serving of desert: chocolate fondant cake

Third serving of desert: chocolate mousse - with another red wine

The funniest moment in the evening was the crumb comb! I had been describing to Mark how my sister had the crumbs brushed from her table at the restaurant she and Anthony ate at the night of their wedding. And sure enough, before desert our tablecloth was "combed".

At the end of the night we shook hands with our waiter, and the chef, and left deeply contented.

Another of Lyon's famous murals - this one is above the city's oldest ice cream shop

The Renaissance-era courtyard of the Musée Gadagne

A view of city rooftops from Musée Gadagne

A display of silk flower-making tools and materials, from Lyon's silk heyday - I especially love the leaf molds

One of the Jacquard looms that revolutionized the silk industry

Punch cards from the loom - an early form of computing!

A stone carving of the "danse macabre" during the Plague in the 1300s (see all the upside down skeletons?)

It seemed appropriate to take a photo of this carving of Aries on my birthday

Reflections on the curtain in front of the window highlights the uneven quality of the old glass panes even more

Church of Saint Nizier - note the brick steeple from the15th century and the stone steeple from the 19th century

A mural for a bookstore

Giraffe at the zoo

Chocolate display for Easter at Bernachon (note the bell, which will bring the Easter Eggs back from Rome, after it returns from being blessed by the Pop)

Enormous egg - does anyone really eat it? Can anyone even afford to buy it (I didn't see a price, but it must be in the hundreds of Euros)?

Peter Mayle writes that 40% of trees in Paris are plane trees, popular because they withstand rough conditions so well, and are beautiful and easily pruned. See how both the painted and scratched grafitti are wearing away as the bark peels and renews itself?

A skateboard park - there were many of these alongside the rivers

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