Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Slow Plane to Lugdunum

Half term was once again upon us so it's on with the wig and kaftan for me and the platform shoes and big glasses for madam and a brief rendition of our favourite half term song, and following a request from a Juan and Jaunita Hernandez, with accompanying subtitles in Spanish.

Except it wasn't a jet plane but one with two whisks on the wings ( propellers I believe they call them in the aeroplane industry ) that carried us sedately from the world's best airport at Southampton. (Park your car, walk into a terminal devoid of queues get on plane, fly away - simples) all the way to Lyon.

Lugdunum to those versed in all things Asterix, gastronomic capital of all Gaul situated at the confluence of the rivers Rhone and Soane and brim full of fish but more of that later.

After a thirty minute train ride and some bumbling about on the metro we dragged our cases across the cobbles to our billet in Vieux Lyon, the old part of town situated on the banks of the Saone. We were staying in a third floor apartment in a sixteenth century building once occupied by some silk weavers synonymous with the arrondissement.

To prevent their cloth getting wet, they covered over some of the narrow alleys and it was up one of these "traboules"

that we found our apartment which was reached via a stone stair case that was the stuff of Rapunzel.

The apartment was perfect, smartly appointed and despite the antiquity of the situation in which we found ourselves, we enjoyed superfast high speed broadband throughout our stay.

Out on the street it became quickly apparent that it is all about the food in Lyon. Settling down for our first lunch in a small square not far from our door every table was soon taken and we tucked into our first odd sausage of the week. There aren't many bits of a pig that they won't put in a sausage in these parts and by day two I'm sure we had sampled most parts. Quenelles were ok although I avoided the pike, and we had some surprisingly good steak. Madam was fond of some fluffy potato thing with ham and cheese whose name escapes me but I think began with the letter "T"

There was one exception to the "full tables at lunch time rule" This may have been something to do with Brexit or possibly the Lyonnaise are that food savvy that they realise that this kind of thing should only ever be sampled in the North of England where they are particularly adept at the dish and the requisite gravy.

Paul Bocuse is a big noise when it comes to French food, he was a pioneer of Nouvelle cuisine and he has his own hall dedicated to his methods in the newer part of town near the central station. There is much on offer, and it is possible to sample most things. We tried a few dainties, plus some madeleines and some super quiche. Most of the stalls have an area where you can sit down and feed on their fayre for lunch, but it isn't cheap, although most places were full by one o'clock.

Food done, we turn our attention to all else that this tremendous town has to offer. The rods were in and there were people fishing the river but that had to wait as we had a mountain to climb. On the hill overlooking the town is an enormous Basillica and a tower that is an exact replica of the top third of the Eifel tower.

There are many routes up the hill to Fourviere with many steps but we opted for a Funicular driven by a close relative of Miriam Margolyes.

The Basilica is mightily impressive. It isn't that old and was chucked up in the 19th century. The mosaics on the walls and floor are particularly impressive and the crypt is enormous, big enough to have a game of football in. The replica of the top third of the Eifel tower was erected around the same time as a symbol of progress, which left the two of us leaving the hill scratching our heads a little.

Around the back of the Basilica there are some well preserved remains of Lugdunum. A brace of roman theatres, one big, one small, both of which still stage live performances, and an old aqueduct.

Back down to the river and the inevitable cruisers. The Saone has a series of low bridges and we paused to watch a Swiss vessel negotiate the centre of town.

All of the rooftop tables and chairs were folded away and the handrails removed as the craft squeezed under two bridges by a matter of inches.

It has been suggested I make mention of the shops.

There are shops, many shops, Lyon is very good for shopping, our suitcase was four kilos over its limit on our return.

Toward s the end of our stay we caught a very smart vaporetto down the Saone to the regenerated area at the confluence of the two rivers. it is very well done .

There is the inevitable shopping centre, innumerable and individual smart flats

and a museum containing at least one dinosaur that highlights the history, ecology and importance of the two rivers in a building that is unique in design.
And while Madam went shopping, I went fishing.

I'd done the internet research beforehand, and even purchased my licence, as for a few euros the Carte de Peche de Vacances is easily purchased online. I'd hoped to repeat the fly fishing for catfish tactics that I employed with Oliver on the Arno in Florence last year. The Tarpon rod with 12wt line was in along with the requisite beefed up leaders and flies and the landing glove. There are many catfish in both rivers and Youtube will confirm that they are often caught from the bank. But the Wels catfish is a complex creature that switches from scavenging during low water to predation during high water and water was low and I'd have had more chance legering some unusual sausage than with my efforts with the fly. Although the fly fishing in the centre of town method is quite the conversation opener and I spent quite a lot of the time chatting. I spent the final afternoon working my way through town with my travel spinning rod chasing Zander and Pike. I regret not putting a carp rod in (note to self, buy a travel carp rod) as there were several good fish evident, and I may have enjoyed better results fishing at night, and if I was ten years younger I may well have done that, but the lure of the food and the wine prove too much in the evening.

After recent events elsewhere en France, there is understandably a high security presence and we came across groups of machine gun clad soldiers on patrol regularly throughout the stay, the Police are just as jumpy and several times a squadron of vehicles containing men with guns cocked roared through the streets with blue lights a flashing and sirens a wailing.

These are the times we live in, but it didn't detract from a superb stay.

The return flights from Southampton to Lyon with one case in the hold cost £100 each.

Five days in an apartment sleeping 2/4 in the centre of Lyon booked through AirBnb cost £350.

If you like food, shopping and fishing in a town brim full of history and culture give Lyon a go.

Oh yes the TV

Even with the English subtitles we remain baffled.

Answers on a postcard please

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