Lyon, and west to St Genix, St Pierre de Chartreuse and Cremieu

Posted on January 31, 2015


I hate New Year. Planned fun never quite works out and on NYE you pay twice as much to be surrounded by ten times more people. Bah humbug. So I escaped to Lyon where some friends have bought a ramshackle manor house that they are doing up (and I suspect will continue to do so for the next 20 years!)

image1We arrived in Lyon in the evening, which I loved as we got to explore the town by night with snow sprinkling down and then again on a beautiful sunny day. It could almost be two different cities. 
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There’s a fairly small old town, to the east of the Saone which is easy to explore within a day. Make sure to walk down the little alleyways as you’ll be treated to some fabulous courtyards and architecture. If you’re feeling fit, take a walk up the steps to the Basilique Notre Dam de Fourviere where you will have spectacular views across Lyon and on a clear day, as far as the mountains. If you have time, it’s worth walking along to the ampitheatre.

We stayed in the second arrondissement, nestled between the Saone and Rhone rivers and centred around Place Bellecoeur. A fabulous boutique hotel Hotel Le Royal overlooks the main square. The well appointed rooms were comfortable and I loved the decor. With a bit better planning of dates, we would have coincided a visit with the cooking school that’s located within the hotel.

image2Famous for its cuisine there are many good restaurants. Traditional Lyonnaise food – generally heavy, meaty dishes and often with offal (beware the Andouillette) can be found in the plentiful Bouchons. It would be a sin to go to Lyon without eating at one of the Paul Bocuse restaurants, a hero of the region. One of his restaurants l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges is one of the rare awardees of 3 michelin stars. If you are looking for a cheaper option, try one of his other brassies, the four most prominent called North, South, East, West Brasseries, each of which has a different flavour. We tried north with a hearty soup a l’oignon, and a creamy, fluffy quenelle with langoustine. Their foie gras was pretty damn good too.

Be aware that restaurats close around 2/3pm and, especially during high season, be sure to book ahead. WE made that mistake and missed out on a couple of good lunch options, particularly Cafe L’Epicerie. A little more about Bocuse, L’Institite and a few recommendations are summed up in a good article by the Wine Tattoo.

image5We then headed west for just under an hour to St Genix sur Guiers to spend a few days at our friends’ Manoir La Tour over new year’s eve.  With some parts of the house originating back as far as the fourteenth century, the place is steeped in history. The base of the tower is still in place with a windy staircase that would have led up to a higher tower where you can see for miles over the Savoie. The views from the roof are breathtaking. The project is not for the faint hearted though as only a small space is habitable and there are some fairly big developments that need to happen. As a long term project, I can’t wait to see how it develops, not least before the barn is converted for their wedding this summer, yipeee.

St Genix isn’t necessarily a town you would travel far especially to visit but it has a quaint village centre, and there are some lovely walks along the river and the surrounding countryside.

image4On new years day we thought we’d blow the cobs away and drove 45mins to their local ski resort, St Pierre Chartreuse (yes, we were in the Chartreuse region and yes, we did have a little tipple of homemade Chartreuse – not for the faint hearted!). It’s not a huge station but seemed a nice size and mostly locals. I am a beginner so far from qualified to comment on the skiing but the rest of the team seemed to love it. I was happy with mastering the little green slope although for more than a day trip I would have wanted a few more long easy slopes. Cost wise there was a good deal on the ski passes  for the late starters – half price after 12.30. And rewarded with a vin chaud at the end, what else could you want?

image7Before we headed back to the UK,  we stopped off en route to the airport at the medieval city of Cremieu for lunch and a wander around. We’d heard it was nice but hadn’t done any research so were delighted to find a gorgeous village, complete with covered market and citadel on the hill. Frankly we needed the walk up to the citadel after a huge lunch at Le Castor Gourmand. With several menus from 20euros up we had an enormous four course lunch of local produce including a generous portion of foie gras, wild boar en croute (pictured)image6 local cheese and a selection of deserts. Washed down with local wine and a bill for under 70euros – amazing.