Our only full day in Lyon began in one of the most famous squares, the Place Bellecour.
It takes up nearly two full blocks and includes a metro station…
this lovely statue of King Louis the 14th, known as the Sun King and one of the most famous French kings of all time (he was the one married to Marie Antoinette)…
and this green space, including the fountain and giant flower bouquet sculpture at the end!
But most of our time today was spent up this hill. The view from Bellecour only really lets you see the church, but there are a lot of cool things up there!
We started with the church though. It is actually a basilica and is named the Notre Dame de Fourvière. The outside is beautiful, but the real treat here is inside!
The church interior is absolutely covered in ornate carvings, tile mosaics, and bright paintings. Metallic gold and white accents set everything off, and the stained glass windows (which still didn’t photograph too well, argh) only play up the light and colors!
It feels more like a celebration than a church! It’s honestly one of my favorite churches in France.
I mean, just look at it! I could have sat there all afternoon and been perfectly happy just taking it all in.
But we didn’t have all day, so we got up and walked down the street a bit to find this ancient Roman amphitheater. Yes, a small part of it is in ruins, but so much is left in such good shape that they actually still hold concerts here on a regular basis!
Next we explored this large park, which…really isn’t. It’s actually a series of gardens that are all connected by one long walking path. It is built into the side of the hill, so the path is a switchback trail, winding back and forth slowly across the width of the park in order to even out the path. The hill is far too steep for you to go straight up or down! This picture was taken in the Rosary Garden, so named because it is directly underneath the Notre Dame.
At the base, in Vieux Lyon (the old part of town) is this other church, the actual cathedral of Lyon. Named for Saint John the Baptist, we wanted to visit it as well but didn’t have the time. We really wish we could have one more day here in Lyon, for that and many other reasons!
But at least we got to enjoy some more delicious food, starting with the most famous of French appetizers – snails! It was my husband’s first time trying snails so the waiter and I taught him how to eat them. See, they come still in their shells on a special plate with little diverts in it (so the shells don’t roll around everywhere) and you’re given two special utensils to eat them with: a pair of vaguely shell-shaped tongs, used to grab the shells individually and hold them steady, and a very long and narrow 2 pronged fork for digging the actual snail out of the shell.
There are three easy steps to eating snails the French way. First, grab a shell in the tongs with the shell opening pointing up. Then, grab into the closest bit of meat you can see near the opening with the fork. Finally, just pull it back out, usually dragging it a little against the shell for leverage (sometimes twisting a bit can help if it gets stuck). It takes a little bit of practice but you get the hang of it pretty quickly – after a few tries, my husband was practically an old pro at it!
Snails tend to gross out some foreigners, but once you get past the idea of “ew, snails!” they’re quite tasty. It is a very, very mild flavor, and snails are cooked with a sauce in the shells with them (that’s the goopy stuff that comes out with the meat, I swear! It’s not gross snail bits!) so most snails end up tasting like whatever sauce they’re in. Garlic butter is the most common; ours had a bit of a garlic pesto almost which was very good. Most people think snails are going to be really chewy too, but in reality they aren’t any more chewy than any other meat, especially when they’re cooked well. Just like steak or chicken, cooking them poorly will result in that rubbery meat texture, but a good chef knows how to make them tender and delicious! My husband’s verdict? It was unlike anything he’d ever eaten before but he enjoyed them and would “definitely order them again”!
For our main course, we tried another local specialty cashed quenelle. It can be made with either chicken or fish (ours was made with pike) that has been minced very fine and/or creamed. It then is mixed with breadcrumbs, eggs, and other such ingredients before being formed into a long oval between two spoons and poached in stock. It’s always served piping hot with a rich, spiced sauce underneath. We were surprised at how light and fluffy it was! It was very tasty as well and we were super glad we’d tried it instead of going with a classic like a hamburger or steak.
Our comments winner for today is…Rilee M! Congratulations Rilee! Tomorrow we’re up super early (ugh) to catch an early train to Brussels, Belgium, but the good part is that also means we’ll get there fairly early to start exploring!