Day 9 of FRANCE TRIP 2012: We had a long travel day from Chamonix to Lyon (5 hours on several trains). Once we finally arrived in Lyon, we lugged our bags to our next hotel. We had found Hotel Le Boulevardier in both Rick Steves and Lonely Planet’s “France” travel guides – a 2 star, budget hotel situated above a jazz club. We thought this sounded like a fun and hipster option, plus it was over 30 Euros below our targeted budget for hotels during the trip (making up for going over budget in Paris!).
When we arrived at the hotel around 1:30pm, the staff were in the middle of a thorough cleaning of the bar & hotel. We definitely felt like we arrived at the wrong time, but we were given the key to our room and instructions on locking the “special door”. We walked up the spiral staircase where our room was, and realized that our room (14) was off a open courtyard which also housed the utility room. It took us a little while to figure out which door was the lockable door to our room. It was a very odd placement, but we went in and found a huge modern bathroom and a queen and twin bed (for 3 guests). The window of the room was the french doors to the “courtyard” – which made it very awkward to prop the door and curtains open for some fresh air, especially when other guests and staff were nearby.
We left for a late lunch at Grand Café des Negociants. We both ordered the entrée and plat du jours – a goat cheese salad, a chicken salad, braised veal and noodles, and white fish and asparagus. It was all very very tasty. We washed it down with a Lyonnais-special pot (a 460mL bottle) of Cotes du Macon.
After a long lunch we went back to the hotel to grab our umbrellas – but the staff was still cleaning (mopping our “courtyard” as well), so we felt very much obligated to leave again quickly. We decided to trek across the river to Vieux Lyon (old Lyon) to explore the cobblestone streets and find some secret passageways. The rains started while we were out – AGAIN! We took shelter at Cactus Café and had café au lait while we waited out the thunderstorm.
It passed within an hour and the sun was shining again. We walked near the Cordeliers metro station where there are many pedestrian areas and shopping, called Presqu’ile. We enjoyed some time at the fountains and browsed a few boutiques. By 7pm, we were ready to search for our dinner bouchon, but we ended up stopping into a café to watch the last bit of France vs England Eurocup 2012. The game ended up tied, 1-1.
Another storm rolled through and we were unprepared with only one umbrella. We had planned on going to Cafe des Federations, the top choice in Lonely Planet’s France guide for Lyonnaise bouchons. Unfortunately we were turned down due to a full house – the first and only time on the trip that we didn’t get into a restaurant by just walking in!!! If we ever go back to Lyon, we will DEFINITELY try to come here again – it must be good if it was too full to fit a table for 2 on a Monday night…
We finally found a place to eat and get out of the rain – L’epicerie, where the menu was only tartines, open face sandwiches with various toppings. Shaun had a smoked salmon tartine and I had a pesto, tomato & mozzerella tartine. For dessert he had a chocolate & banana tart and I had “grandma’s chocolate cake”. We had another pot of red wine this time, Cotes du Rhone. The atmosphere here was really great – busy, chatty, happy. The food was good, but not gourmet specialties. I would say a great choice for a lunch instead of dinner.
The little rue de la Monnaie, where L’epicerie sat, was lit up with lights and open restaurants and bars all over. They were all packed with people escaping the storm.
We walked back to the hotel and past the Notre Dame church of Lyon, which was right across the street.
The jazz club in the downstairs of our hotel was closed. This made our decision with what to do for the rest of the night very easy – crash. We were exhausted from the traveling, running in rain, and huge meals, so we just called it a night. We planned for the next day’s train schedule, Lyon to Avignon at 11:20am, so we would arrive close to check-in time at our next destination.
Based on this stay at Hotel de Boulevardier, I would not recommend it – the awkward courtyard next to the utility room, the cleaning, the closed bar, it almost felt like we had arrived when the entire place was meant to be closed.
We felt that Lyon was so much more “real” – a real place to live and work. We wish we could have had a bit more Lyonnais food, since it’s known as the gastronomic capital of France, but our time was short. Definitely would be a good stop for anyone who is interested in food and a bigger city feel but not quite as fast-paced as Paris.
Check out our 3 Weeks in France page for a full summary of our trip!