Lyon Day 1: Silkworms and Gamey Meats

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Note: This is one of a series of articles about Art in Voyage -- Beyond Travel's tour of Paris and Lyon, co-hosted by Scott Joseph with Kevin Fonzo. Previous articles include A Food Adventure in France Begins, Paris Day 2, Paris Day 3 and Paris Day 4.

LYON, FRANCE — Because of the unpredictability of the French rail strikers, we traveled from Paris to Lyon in a van. It was comfortable, and it’s always nice to have door-to-door service, but what would have been an hour and a half trip on the TGV was a four-hour journey by highway.

We arrived later than we had anticipated and headed to our lunch reservation at Le Sud, or the South, one of the Paul Bocuse brasseries (there’s one for every direction). The last time I dined here, circa ’95, it had just opened.

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I dined on pork terrine, veal, Mere Richard Marcellin and Baba au Rhum with a help-yourself pour of Havana Club rum.

Because our lunch was delayed, so was our meeting time — and meeting point — for our tour of Lyon. So instead of the foot of the mountain leading to the basilica, our guide, Jeff, came to the restaurant and started with some of the city’s history while we continued to eat.

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Then we strolled to the old part of town and visited a shop that still produces its own silk, a commodity that once defined Lyon. It keeps a couple of tubs of silkworms on mulberry leaves, the only thing they’ll eat.

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After some time to ourselves, we met in the bar of our hotel, the wonderful Cour des Loges, to find a place for dinner. Our first choice, Mounier, was too packed for a group of seven, but we all liked the look of the menu at nearby Bouchon des Carnivores — and they had seating inside next to the chef — so we settled in.

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I had local saucissons with boiled potatoes in gravy. But one of my dining companions gave me a taste of her rack of lamb and I couldn’t believe the flavors. With all the domestic lamb we get in the U.S., I had forgotten how wonderfully gamey real lamb tastes.

There were canoe-cut marrow bones, a pied du porc (pig’s foot) and escargot. We marvelled at the meats hanging in the aging room, and enjoyed watching the chef cleaver the lamb chops and grill them in front of us.

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After a long day of travel, it was time to head back to the hotel. Cour des Loges, by the way, is what a five-star hotel should look like. I’d stayed here years ago and remembered it as one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in. Still is.