Vieux-Lyon is the old town, characterized by its narrow streets, tunnels that connect adjacent streets, and bouchons. What is a bouchon, you might ask?
They were described to us by the lady at the tourism office as “small restaurants which are very hot where you eat a lot of heavy food.” After visiting one, there’s really no other way to put it.
We walked around for a while looking for food (with two meals’ worth still in our backpack…we’re relentless). There were dozens of bouchons, all claiming to be a “verite bouchon lyonnaise”, but we wanted to find the least touristy, most authentic one we could. Hanna found a couple, but since we were at that magical 3 p.m. hour between lunch and dinner, it was tough to find one. The second one we went to wasn’t serving dinner, but the server told us we could go to L’Amphitryon on the corner, and that it would be open.
That was a good enough endorsement for us, and we entered the tiny, stuffy, overly decorated restaurant and were seated at a small table crammed in next to several other tables. Hanna tried to close the gap between our table and the next, but she was brutally rebuffed by the waiter. We looked around and realized that it was the only way for the waiters to get from one side of the restaurant to the other.
I’m hoping to do a review of this place soon, so I won’t say too much, but let’s just say it had…interesting…decorations. To start we had a Lyonnaise salad (poached egg, lardons) and sausage wrapped in brioche. After seeing the meal of the man next to us, we feared that we may have ordered blood sausage (there was no English on the menu), but luckily when it arrived it was the kind we’re used to, sort of like a kielbasa. Both were very good, but the sausage and brioche were the star of the entire meal. It came in a red wine sauce that was soaked up by the bread…yum.
For entrees, Hanna ordered the steak in a white wine sauce and I went with the traditional andouillette lyonnaise. Now, in America, I’ve had andouille sausage. It’s kind of spicy, but very good and I saw the similarity in the name. I saw on one of the earlier menus that andouillette was actually made of tripe, a euphemism for intestines. Hmmmm.
After some contemplation, I figured if I was in Lyon I might as well try the specialty and try to broaden my palette in the process. It arrived in the same sauce as Hanna’s, and it actually wasn’t that bad…for the first few bites.
There was something a bit off about the taste that I just couldn’t get around. It was frustrating because I know that if I had grown up eating it I would have loved it. It was just such a foreign taste that I couldn’t overcome the discomfort.
Both of our dishes came with the other star of the meal, gratin dauphinois, which is basically like scalloped potatoes but with more butter, cream, and cheese. The dish was absolutely phenomenal, to the point that Hanna literally could not stop eating them. The words “ok one more bite” were uttered a few times, to say the least.
We both went to the bathroom, but only I actually used the bathroom. Hanna went, only to return quickly with a shocked look on her face. “It’s literally a hole in the ground,” she said in disbelief. I had to see this for myself, and she wasn’t far off. It was kind of like a tall urinal that reaches the floor, but the hole at the bottom was slightly larger. I can’t possibly see how a woman is supposed to use it, but nonetheless it was designated for both sexes. Gotta love Lyon.
Afterwards, we headed to the Loumiere Museum, which is the former house of the family that invented the first motion picture camera. We saw the first ever film, “People Exiting the Factory,” which was expectedly dull but still extremely cool. To imagine that people had never seen “moving pictures” before is pretty hard to believe.
The museum was very thorough, displaying several predecessors to modern video and film cameras. My favorite was the “photo gun,” which was basically a rifle that took pictures rather than firing bullets when you pulled the trigger.
After that we headed back to the hotel and ate our food from the farmer’s market. As we laid there, stomachs full, reflecting on the day we had, only one thought could come to both of our minds: “This sure beats Paris.”
In the interest of catching up to real-time, I’m going to summarize Days 3 and 4 in London briefly, and maybe I’ll be able to fill in some details later. Ok so here we go:
- Started off at the Tolosky Century, a modern museum of Tolosky, a modern British artist who does murals and portraits of great men like Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately…it was closed. Next.
- Walked over the Westminster Bridge, which gave us a great view of the Parliament Building and Big Ben. Very cool, and we had just seen Sherlock Holmes (the newest one) before we left, so there was a “oh hey that’s where they were” factor.
- Westminster Abbey: Awesome historical graves and of course I was taken aback by poet’s corner, where I got to stand over the dead bodies of all the writers I’ve read over my years as an English major. I was a little taken aback by the fact that Jeremy Irons provided the voice for the audio tour. I couldn’t help but think that Uncle Scar was talking to me the whole time.
- Next we walked across St. James’s Park to Buckingham Palace. The park was filled with weird animals like odd-looking ducks, aggressive squirrels, rats, and a giant pelican in the middle of the pond. The Palace was closed, but we got a good enough view from the outside. It was massive and, despite Hanna’s best efforts, we were unable to break in.
- A quick Italian lunch at a small cafe outside of the Victoria and Albert Museum, then into the museum itself. It was massive and by the time we got to the top floor, where the glass exhibit Hanna wanted to see was housed, they were closed. The bastards closed at 5:30 instead of 5:45, so we were “proper” annoyed.
- Next up was Notting Hill, which is where the adorable Hugh Grant was able to win the heart of Julia Roberts. It was quaint, with different coloured row houses lining the streets. It’s also the home of Portabello Market, which was honestly the longest street market I’ve ever seen. This thing ran on for blocks and blocks. We didn’t even get to the end of it before we decided to cut our losses and take the underground to…
- Leicester Square, hoping to catch Avenue Q. Hanna’s seen it, but I never have so we tried to buy tickets. Unfortunately they only had a single seat or standing room, which didn’t seem like a great option for a 2 hour and 15 minute show, so we passed.
- Disappointed, we headed out for dinner and walked passed a theater where STOMP was playing. Neither of us had seen it, so we gave it a shot. Turns out the theaters was TINY. Two levels, with the top level hanging over the bottom level so low that about half of the lower level seats were obstructed. We sat in the last row in the bottom and missed an entire number because it took place on ladders. I guess when it was designed, everybody was 4 feet tall so it makes sense. The show was very cool, but very loud (as we should have anticipated from the name), and Hanna couldn’t get over her distaste for the baggy pants-wearing, hardcore-acting female lead. I liked it though…
- After dinner we headed back to Waterloo Station, where we catch the train to head home to Thames Ditton. We decided to get a pasty from the Pasty Shop (I mistakingly thought this said pastRy shop, so I was confused when they offered beef and potatoes stuffed in dough). I got one, and also something called a “sausage roll’. These were honestly two of the worst foods I’ve ever eaten in my life. We took about three bites until we convinced ourselves it was ok to throw them away and get some fool-proof cold meat sandwiches on a baguette. God those pastys were gross.
Finally we got home and had a good conversation with Cathy and Trigga before heading to bed. As Cathy told us, “you two must be knackered!” Indeed we were, and we slept well that night. I didn’t quite realize how much we did until I wrote it out.
Hey everyone, sorry for the lack of posts but it’s been pretty jam-packed here in England. We’re taking the Eurostar to Paris tomorrow, so there will be some time to write on the train.
We’re having a great time so far, but we’ll see how we do in a country that doesn’t speak English.
In the mean time, check out my review for this London pub. Give me some hits!
So I don’t leave for Europe until Oct. 6, but that doesn’t mean that my adventures haven’t started. I’ve been in Ontario, Canada for the past two weeks and since then I’ve gone to a heavy metal concert, seen a girl try to fight a man, worked 2 full days of construction (aka unloading trucks) at a Toys R Us in Bellville, and gone to a movie at the Toronto Film Festival.
Overall, I’m just happy that winter hasn’t set in yet (it’s going to be brutal when we get back in November). Here a few things I’ve noticed about Canada and/or Canadians:
- They are incredibly polite, except when you ask them to sit down at rock concerts; then they enter “you leave me no choice but to yell at you” mode. Which brings me to…
- Canadians curse quite a bit. It’s not like they’re vulgar, they just don’t consider cursing a bad thing. I mean, they’re just words after all. One of the first times my fiancee Hanna met my parents, during the course of conversation she used the word “shitty”. When I asked her why she cursed she said she didn’t. Apparently “shit” isn’t a bad word in Canada, a notion that was confirmed when I turned on television and saw that the word used liberally on basic cable. In some sort of trickle-down effect, the F-bomb is dropped continually in Canada without blinking an eye.
- Canadian signs are much more exciting than American signs. I first noticed this a couple of years ago when I noticed how happy their walk signal man was compared to his American counterpart. Their guy has his head up, shoulders back, enjoying life. The American is hunched over, reaching for some unattainable goal (probably more money). Am I reading too much into this? This notion was furthered when I saw their “don’t drink and drive sign” on the side of the highway. It’s the standard red circle with a line through it, but underneath is a martini glass with car keys where the olives should be. I don’t know why but I found this to be hilariously clever.
- Canadians are a fan of the phrases, “these ones” and “those ones”. Observe the following conversation: “Shopkeep, how much are these shoes?” “Those ones? Those ones are $115.” And….scene. It’s not that I’ve never heard that said in America, but I certainly have heard it quite a bit since I’ve been in Canada. And of course once I started thinking about it, I notice it more and more.
- Greeks are the Canadian version of guidos. If they were to create a Jersey Shore: Canada, it would definitely take place in Greektown of Danforth.
Well those are just a few things I’ve noticed in my two weeks in Canada. We leave for London on Wednesday, so hopefully I can find some WiFi and post my initial thoughts soon thereafter. Enjoy.