10 September 2016

France -- Lyon, Burgundy, Paris

My continuing food adventures have led me to an increasing interest in wines.  In particular, I have been developing a great appreciation for the wines of Burgundy.  So, for my early June trip, I decided I wanted to go on a tour of the Burgundy wine region.  Searching on the Internet yielded a few such tours.  I found a small company called Burgundy Discovery (www.burgundydiscovery.com) that seemed to have the types of tours and flexibility that I wanted.  There were three levels of day-long daily tours. The Hidden Secrets and Grand Premiere tour availability worked well with the schedule I was starting to sketch out, so I secured places via email contact and then started planning out my stay.
Looking at possible airfares and routings, I decided that I would fly into Lyon.  After spending a couple of days there, I would take a train to Beaune, which is the heart of Burgundy.  After Beaune, I can then take a train to Paris and spend a little time there before flying home.

Normally, when I fly to Europe, I like to take an evening flight because it works better for sleeping.  However, since I was going to connect all the way to Lyon’s airport, I did not want to get in too late (I had never been to Lyon, so getting to town would be all new).  So, an early-afternoon flight brought me to Frankfurt with a mid-morning arrival.  My connection brought me to an early afternoon arrival into the St. Exupéry Airport on the outskirts of Lyon.

Upon arrival, even though I was on an intra-European flight within the Schengen Zone, all passengers were directed through immigration formalities, where we were questioned (no passport stamp) and then allowed to exit.  Though not especially cheap, there is a direct rail connection between the airport and one of the main rail stations (Lyon Part-Dieu) called the Rhône Express that runs every 15 minutes.  Once I reached the train station, I walked around the station and found the entrance to the subway.  There, I bought a day-pass transit ticket and then went back to the street and found the bus that would take me to the Marriott Hotel at the Cité Internationale (about 15 minutes).

The Marriott was very modern and located in a somewhat quieter section of the city near the river and across form a large park.  The only disadvantage was that you had to ride a bus to get back towards the center of Lyon.  But I thought it was convenient enough.
I had some time before my dinner reservation, so I decided to go into Vieux Lyon and explore a little bit.

My dinner was at a small place located away from Central Lyon in a business park.  It required taking the subway to the end of one line and then a bus for a short ride.  It was called Kos-I and served moderately-priced modernist food.

For the full write-up, click here.

The next day, I explored more of the old and new parts of Lyon.  This included visiting the Roman amphitheater and other ruins.

One of the things I had to deal with in France was an ongoing rail workers dispute.  I had pre-purchased my tickets directly from the French rail company before arriving in the country.  I received an email from the company that my TGV train from Lyon to Beaune was cancelled.  I went to the train station and spoke with a representative as to my options.  I saw that there were regional trains that I could take.  I asked if I could reserve space on one, and they said I could just get on the train with my current ticket.
On my departure day (which was a Sunday), I got to the Part-Dieu station mid-morning and waited for the train platform announcement.  I was going to take a regional train that runs between Lyon and Dijon.  It was ready on  time and I had no problem finding a seat in the 2nd class session (even though I had a 1st class TGV ticket, I didn’t readily see a 1st class coach.  I ended up arriving in Beaune a little earlier than I would have than if I had been on my originally-schedule train.  No one checked my ticket.

Upon arrival into Beaune, it was a 20-minute walk along the ring road to my bed and breakfast, Les Jardins de Lois.  This was a nice choice, located just outside the city wall and a short distance from one of the gates into Beaune proper.

Beaune is the center of the burgundy wine region.  It draws a lot of tourists because of that, even though it is not a very large town.  There is a fair amount of historical things to see and it is picturesque.  Since I was staying in Beaune, I could enjoy the town after all the day-trippers left, which was definitely a nicer experience.

This photo is of the store front where I signed up for an all-day French Market Day/Cooking Class/French Lunch.

I enjoyed the wine tours greatly.  The groups are small and the wineries we visited were very interesting (each tour visited 3 with nice lunches included).  My first tour covered parts of the Côte de Beaune, which runs south and west of Beaune.  We saw mostly white wines and was the most anticipated part for me since I am partial to Meursault wines.  I earned a lot about the Chardonnay wines made here.  The second tour headed north and east from Beaune through the Côte de Nuits.  This is primarily Pinot Noir territory, including the famed Grand Cru region of Burgundy.  I ended up liking this tour as well, especially the very nice lunch, where we tasted and older red Burgundy with lunch.  We also were offered a barrel tasting at one of the wineries.

One of the tour options I was not able to do was a supplemental tasting opportunity.  They would take us to a place where we would be able to taste a few older vintages.  I wanted to do this, but it requires 4 people minimum, and no other tour participants were interested.

On my cooking class day, I was instructed to meet in Beaune at a cheese shop just off one of the main squares.  After our guides purchased some cheeses for our planned meal, we walked through the market and purchased some fruits and vegetables.  We then headed to the butcher shop for more purchases.

We then headed back to the shop and headed upstairs to the kitchen preparation area.  There were eight of us participating and we each had various assignments to prep food and participate in cooking some aspects of our upcoming lunch, including gougères (cheese pastry puffs), making Hollandaise sauce, and roasting meat.  It was educational and fun.

Our multi-course French lunch took up the rest of the afternoon.  The food was very good and the accompanying wine, which included a Champagne, was all very nice.

While in Beaune, I received another email about my train ride to Paris.  The strike was going to affect my short ride form Beaune to Dijon, but my ride from Dijon to Paris looked to be fine.  To get to Dijon, I again took a regional train (the same train run that brought me to Beaune, just on a different day.  It got me to Dijon with a few hours wait, so I used the time to walk around Dijon for a bit.

I boarded the train to Paris and I thought it would be smooth travels form there.  However, even though I had a reserved seat ticket in 1st class, I had no seat.  The train had my coach number, but did not have a seat labelled with my assignment.  I managed to find an open seat and hoped that no one would board wanting it.  Fortunately, no one came and since the ride would be non-stop to Paris, I was good to go.  No one came around to check tickets on this train either.
The train arrived at Paris Gare de Lyon. From there, I boarded the Metro which took me to the Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile.  I used a Diamond Suite upgrade, which got me a pretty ordinary double room suite with a great view.  This was my residence for two nights.

On my only full day in Paris, I visited the L’Orangerie Museum, with the exquisite Monet paintings, and the Jeu de Paume modern art museum.

For that evening, I had dinner at a place called Restaurant Kei, a French-Japanese fusion restaurant (sort of).  It was very nice.

For the full write-up, click here.

For my last night in Paris, I decided to stay at the Hyatt Regency Charles de Gaulle Airport.  So before heading out in the afternoon, I visited the Opéra Garnier (you can buy a self-guided tour from a ticket machine, or a guided tour from the ticket office).

There was a bus right outside the Paris Hyatt that would take me directly to the Charles de Gaulle Airport.  Once I got to the terminal, I went upstairs and found the right shuttle bus to the hotel (Silver Line bus).  That same bus would take me back to airport the next morning, where I caught my on-time late-morning flight directly back to San Francisco.

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