Fresh Porchini Pasta

Porchini mushrooms are in season here in Lyon and available in the markets. I couldn’t resist buying some along with some chantrelles.

Used some fresh leek and garlic along with a good splash of rosé and whipping cream and served it over fresh pasta, bought that morning at the market.

Delicious!

Self-Serve Craft Beer

This card can quench your thirst

One of the reasons I love visiting craft breweries is the simplicity of ordering, quaffing and going. The pandemic has seen more table service, but many establishments still do simple counter service. But in Annecy, France we found an even better system.

At Beer O’Clock, you load a card with cash and then you head to the taps to try as little or as much of any beer available.

The self-serve taps

Each tap has a glass cleaning device. So step one is to clean your glass. Then you place your glass under the tap (at a 45 degree angle to start, of course) then place your card in an indentation next to it with a tap/NFC symbol. That starts the beer pouring! As long as your card is in place, the beer flows.

As you pour, the quantity, cost and balance on your card are displayed. At first I found it difficult to keep an eye on all that data as well as how much beer I poured, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly.

The description of this beer starts with, “The Desert Storm is a tornado of freshness!”

The great thing about it is that you can have a little of everything, or as much of any beer you like. The minimum buy-in is 10 euros, which buys the card and the full 10 euros to spend. After that you can load the card with as much cash as you like! I have heard of similar systems in the States. I’d bet Canadian liquor laws would find a way to prevent it at home.

Here are the beers I tried on this visit:

  • LeFort Brune (Belgian brown)
  • Bacchus Kriek (a cherry beer)
  • Brussels Calling (Belgian IPA)
  • Cognac Barrel (French amber)
  • Nice to Meet You (French double IPA)
  • Tempete du Desert (French pale ale)
  • Vitus (German wheat beer)

One more thing about the bar… it had a disco ball in the bathroom that turned on with the music!

The Classic Lyonnaise Dinner

Cafe Restaurant Du Soleil in Vieux Lyon

Tonight we have been in France for one week and in Lyon for five days. It was time for a classic Lyonnaise meal. The restaurant we chose, Restaurant Cafe du Soleil, was a five minute walk from our flat in Old Lyon. It’s in a historic old building next to one of the steep “Montees” that wind up the Fourviere hill.

Interior of the restaurant. Like the tourists we are, we arrived at 7 pm. By 8:30 it was packed.

For pescatarians (those who eat fish, but not meat) the cuisine of Lyon is challenging. Lots of sausage and offal (read: guts). But there is a very special dish that the Lyonnaise have always made. It’s one that has grown in popularity outside Lyon: the Quenelle.

Quenelle of Pike in Nantua sauce

A quenelle is hard to describe. It’s not unlike a souffle. Light as a feather, it’s like a dumpling but not as heavy. The traditional quenelle is served in a sauce called Nantua, which is made from crayfish and cognac. And the recipe is quite involved.

the fluffy soft interior

Tonight it came piping hot so it took a few minutes before I could take that first bite. I was not disappointed. Despite being made from a fish that, in Canada, is discarded for being too fishy and boney, the flavour was very delicate and it was not overwhelmed by the sauce, which is often used on lobster. Accompanied by simple buttered rice and a nice Viognier from the Loire Valley, it made for a fantastic dinner.

Bon appetit!

The Three Churches of Vieux Lyon

Vieux (or Old) Lyon with the three churches in orange

Vieux Lyon is one of Europe’s most extensive Renaissance neighbourhoods. There are three distinct sections: Saint Jean, Saint Paul and Saint Georges. Each is named after the church in that area. Today we walked to each church to see the inside and learn more about their history.

St. Georges

This is a church with a long convoluted history.

A church has stood on this site since 550, but the first one was destroyed around 732 during a raid of the Saracens, and was restored in 802.

In 1793, after the revolution, it became a hay barn and became a national property. In 1892, it was again restored by the architect Pollet.
The current church was rebuilt in 1845 and completed in 1848, after plans by the architect Pierre Bossan who also made plans for the basilica of Fourviere in Lyon. Abandoned between the late 1970’s and 1989 but is now back to full use.

St Jean

The Cathedral of Saint Jean is the most important and oldest church in Lyon. It has seen the crowning of a pope in 1316, and in 1600, the cathedral hosted the marriage of Henri IV and Marie de Médicis.

In the 1600’s nearby Grenoble was the epicentre of a radically puritan sect of Calvinists which forbade images such as human faces in art. During that century they swept into Lyon and trashed many of the faces and heads depicted in stone on the churches exterior:

Inside, there is a spectacular astronomical clock that dates from the 14th century. Most of its original clockworks are still intact and, while it was turned off during the current renovations, it is still capable of calculating Catholic holidays, including those that don’t always fall on the same day, like Easter:

St. Paul

The third and final church, Saint Paul, was closed when we visited. During the Revolution, the church was used to stock saltpetre, which was used in explosives. The first church on this site, which was part of a monastery, was built around 549 and destroyed in 732. A new church was built over the remains of its predecessor in the 9th century, but the church you see today is the result of different stages of reconstruction dating from the 11th to the 19th centuries.

When in Paris, order the salad

Eating out in Paris can be daunting. There’s the menu to interpret, the high prices and, when you’re a fish and veg guy like me, there’s the French love of meat. But you can’t go wrong with a salad. In France they take their salads seriously.

“Dis-moi ce que tu mange, je te dirai qui tu es”

(Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are)

In North America, ordering a salad can often mean a bowl of lettuce with a choice of dressing. But not in France. Copious hunks of cheese and vegetables are the norm. And when the salad does include seafood or meat, the serving is usually generous. Most times, the thought of adding on a main course seems quite redundant.

Today, after a couple of hours at the Musee Carnavalet we wondered through La Marais and randomly chose a restaurant. Well, not entirely random. An Italian place called Fuxia had free tables, and in an area like La Marais on a pleasant Saturday at 1 pm, that’s not common.

My partner’s Mediteranian salad had big chunks of perfectly cooked eggplant, large slices of burrata cheese, sun dried tomatoes, topped with shavings of grana padano. My quinoa salad came with four massive prawns and included bocconcini, avocado and cherry tomatoes.

Tonight is our last meal in Paris before we move on to Lyon. If it’s as good as lunch, we’ll be happy!

Over the first hurdle

We are checked in for Paris!

There were some tense moments, though, when the Air Canada check in system said Covid-19 documents were required and the only option was to upload PCR test results.

Fortunately, a “quick” call to Air Canada cleared up the confusion. They confirmed that fully-vaccinated travelers from Canada do not require test results, just proof of full vaccination.

For me that’s really easy as I have both my BC vaccination record and my French Passe Sanitaire. My partner has her BC vaccine record which will work to get on the plane and enter France.

We’re still hopeful that the French government will email her Passe Sanitaire today or tomorrow. But if not, we have instructions on how to get one at a pharmacy in Paris. We’ll need it to get into the classic Parisian jazz club, Le Caveau de la Huchette on Saturday night! This club was featured in the Hollywood film “La La Land”

I’m Back

On the road again…

I know it has been a while, and I appreciate those that have stuck it out. I went through a tough divorce and my life changed radically. Eventually the change was for the better and I feel as good as I ever have. Retiring recently didn’t hurt.

In a matter of hours, I’m off to Europe. Yes, in the midst of a pandemic.

I’ve looked at the risks and feel it’s time. We’ll visit France and Spain where vaccination rates are at or above Canada’s.

I hope to document the flight experience as well as the usual food and drink once we’re there. Just preparing has been a challenge. I have managed to get my French “Passe Sanitaire“, a vaccine passport which is good for all of the EU. My partner is still waiting for her’s, but we can always get it in Paris if need be. But we’re still figuring things out. Right up to today I’ve discovered new details on how we will get tested before returning to Canada, assuming it is still required eight weeks from now.

The plan is to spend a couple of nights in Paris before spending four weeks living in Lyon, the gastronomical capital of the France. Then we’ll have a little over three weeks to tour south west Spain in the province of Andalucia.

Complicating matters is my conversion to pescetarianism. So, no meat, but fish and dairy are fine. That’s going to be a tough thing to do in Lyon where meat is king. Vegetarianism is still controversial in France and the language barrier makes it tricky too.

So, join me. Let’s see what travel is like in the age of COVID.