Monday, 20 June 2011: Saint-Étienne to Lyon
Written 24 July 2011
Monday morning, we packed up the car and headed for Lyon, where we planned to spend the night before catching our flight home on Tuesday. I had visualized turning the car in on Monday at the Part-Dieu train station and getting public transport to the airport (and accordingly reserved at a hotel and restaurant near each other and the station), but David instead arranged for us to turn in the car at the airport on Tuesday—okay be me as long as he was driving!
For once we took the direct route and actually entered the city on the freeway, surely the best bet for getting straight onto the through streets toward the train station. We could see on the map that the freeway entered the city from the south, ran up the eastern edge of the peninsula, and then took a sharp left across the peninsula and into the tunnel under the Fourviève. When the freeway turned, we planned to keep going straight up the quai along the eastern edge of the peninsula, then to take a right across the Rhône when we reached the level of our hotel. We had good maps this time, including the detailed city map of Lyon showing the one-ways, so we had a pretty good chance of its working.
Sure enough, the freeway took us just where we planned, and it was even backed up several miles from the tunnel entrance, so we were slowed to a crawl and had plenty of time to read the signs and plot our moves—we definitely didn't want to miss our exit and get swepte into the tunnel. We'd be halfway to Roanne before we could get off and spend the rest of the day getting back! The only tricky part was that the signs clearly said, "Quais du Rhône, serrez à gauche." Really? When the freeway is about to turn left, and you want to leave it and go straight, you should get into the left lane? We learned long ago not to argue with the French roadsign people, though, so we did, and sure enough our left lane dove downwards onto the quai as the freeway turned left over our heads, and we were soon speeding north. Now, count the bridges carefully—turn right over the eighth (counting the footbridge), look for our right turn on Ave. Garibaldi, and sure enough, there was the hotel on the right. David turned right immediately after it, and mirabile dictu, pulled into a vacant parking space!
The nice lady at the hotel assured us that all the parking for blocks around was pay-and-display, but she tried to convince us to move the car to a smaller cross street, on the theory that the police check the street where we were parked all the time, but on a smaller street we could probably get away without paying. Not a chance, though, that we would give up that parking space and/or chance not paying, so we had to feed the meter every two hours until 5 p.m., but it was a small price to pay.
Next order of business was lunch. David stomach was still unsettled, so he wanted an omelet, but we hiked all over the neighborhood, getting hungrier and hungrier, but nobody around the reserved anything like an omelet (though they did, as you can see, have some lovely bakery windows.
In the end, we settled at Le Théodore, where this gilded lion marked the spot where the waiters crossed the street from the restaurant to its canopied sidewalk operation in the street's median, because David thought the mushroom ravioli on its menu sounded good. (All French restaurants post their menus outside, by law. Very convenient.)
The ravioli turned out to be of the disorganized sort. Some of the mushrooms and sauce were loosely wrapped in sheets of pasta, but mostly the pasta and everything else were just piled on the plate. David pronounced the whole thing delicious.
I, on the other hand, was delighted to see the choice of whole grilled daurade or whole grilled bar. They were out of daurade, so I got the bar. Yum! It came with roasted potatoes, roasted veggies, dill sprigs, and half a lemon, but I didn't bother with the lemon—it was great just as it came.
'Fraid we didn't make terribly adventurous or productive use of the afternoon. David still had no energy, I was way behind on the blog, and we had much more complicated packing to do than most days, because of the flight home, so we mostly spent the afternoon in the hotel room, venturing out as necessary to feed the parking meter.
Our restaurant for the night was very nearby—just at the other endof a one-block alley (called the Passage Cazenove) from the hotel. It's the "second" establishment of well-known Lyon restaurateur Pierre Orsini, essentially next door to the original, higher-end place, which is closed on Mondays.
A critic once said of Mama Leone's in New York that some sculptor "had Mama's number"; Cazenove gives the same impression. It is dense with statuary all pretty cleary by the same guy, and it leans heavily toward the dark wood and dark red decor popular in Italian restaurants the world over. Lots of mirrors, all with designs etched around the edges.
Some of the decor (e.g., the lamps) seemed to be genuine Art Nouveau, but much of it, like the design on the window behind the three statuettes, was something else. I couldn't tell whether it was authentically in some other style or just supposed to be a vague evocation of Art Nouveau.
First course, David: A fricassee of calamari and large prawns. I didn't taste it, but he pronounced it very good.
First course, me: I had an excellent "feuilleté" of escargots and sweatbreads, a crispy tile of buttery puff pastry split and filled with the snails and sweetbreads in a creamy sauce. Delicious! You can get pretty good escargots in Tallahassee restaurants now, but sweetbreads? Forget it.
Second course, David: Two of David's favorite things, wild bar (a grilled boneless filet) and beurre blanc, a sort of liquid protoHollandaise strongly flavored with shallots. It came with a slice of stuffed zucchini, asparagus, plain roasted zucchini slices, and a little pasta topped with a dab of confit tomato.
Second course, me: A quail stuffed with mushrooms. I got the same slice of stuffed zucchini and the confit tomato but with carrots and snow peas.
Cheese, David: One last shot at fromage blanc with cream.
Cheese, me: A selection from the cheese trolley, Brillat-Savarin, Neufchatel, and a cylindrical fresh chevre—all cheeses you can nominally get in Tallahassee, but boy are they not the same.
At this point, David was tired and wanted to go home, whereas I was looking forward to dessert, so he left (nobody bats an eye if some member of a party gets up and walks out of the restaurants—they assume you've gone outside to smoke), and I hung around, explaining to the waiter that David wouldn't be back.
Dessert, me: "Calice aux trois poires"—chalice of three pears—a tall silver goblet filled with three scoops of excellent pear sorbet topped with a beautiful rose made of slices of poached pear tinted slightly pink. At this point, the waiter offered to add the third pear, a pear liqueur to be poured over the whole thing. I debated briefly with myself but turned it down. The rest was great all on its own.Finally, while I waited for the check I was prsented with a little saucer of outstanding almond and pistachio nougat (I'm not usually a nougat fan, but this stuff was wonderful) and this bowl of perfect cherries.
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