We made our way to Lyon, France from Amsterdam, by way of Paris. We had both been to Paris a few times and thought we’d try something different on the way to the coast. Since Travel + Leisure’s November 2014 issue said, “Lyon is the capital of French gastronomy, high and low — a place of traditional haute cuisine, casual bouchon cooking, and all the pleasures of the table.” I had to see what all of the fuss was about.
My feelings about Lyon are mixed because, while it was a scenic, there wasn’t much to do. The entire place was shut down on Sunday…and we sometimes felt like we were in a ghost town. We stayed at the historic Le Royal Hotel (which I thought was extremely overpriced) and found out later that we should have stayed at Collège Hôtel that was located in the heart of the old city (what we later found out was the best part). Oh, wellllllll…
We snacked on croissants from Boulangerie Saint Vincent, wandered around the farmers market that lined the Saône River for lunch, and had dinner at Le Bistrot De Lyon – which was delicious! While exploring Vieux Lyon, we purchased a miniature bocce set from the most adorable children’s shop called Les Jouets Des Anges. Some of my other favorite moments were small and quintessentially French: viewing the art that lined the river, eating fried sardines from street vendors, and dipping our feet in the Saône. Although it wasn’t my absolute favorite city on our journey, it was historic and beautiful. I’ll never forget it.
After Lyon, we rode the train to Marseille…followed by Nice. If you Google “Marseille or Nice”…you’d find that everyone has a different answer. Since it was left up for debate, we had to try both! I ended up loving Marseille more than any other French city (including Paris). It has a certain grit to it that makes you want to stick around for a while. Unfortunately, for this trip, we had only arranged for one night – one night in the coolest hotel ever – Mama Shelter – view my post about it here.
Our main reason for stopping in Marseille was to hike to the lagoon-like Calanques scattered about the rocky coasts. We arrived in town mid-day, dropped our bags at Mama Shelter, and immediately headed to the bus station. We rode the bus for 30 minutes to the entrance of the park near Luminy University…only to discover that it was barricaded by police. We later learned that, during the summer, they occasionally close the park because the heat creates a risk for forest fires. This was devastating news because it meant that we wouldn’t get make the hike at all. Our train left for Nice the following morning at 9 :(
We sadly headed to the beach only to discover that the beaches in Marseille aren’t that great. I had read this opinion in many-a-trip-advisor-review and I can officially confirm the mediocre beaches. So, because of limited time, we packed up our things and headed into town to purchase some Savon de Marseille and find some delicious food. After making our soap purchases, we found the BEST street pizza I’ve ever had. It was 5 euro for 2 slices + 2 cokes. Steal of a deal. That night, we decided we couldn’t leave Marseille without hiking those damn Calanques. So we found a train that departed later in the day and planned to wake up around 6AM to hike Calanques Sugiton – best decision EVER.
It was about a 30 minute hike up to the top (photos above)…and then about a 30 minute climb back down the other side to the lagoon. Once we got down there…the water was the prettiest blue and clear as glass. It was also freeeeezing. We stayed for about an hour and then made the hour hike back up so we could catch our train to Nice. This day was such an experience.
Nice – the final stop in our French journey – was a completely different experience than Marseille. It was just as busy, but much more touristy. We stayed at The Hotel Beau Rivage because it was one of the only hotels with a private beach and very close to Vieux Nice (the old part of the city). We enjoyed our stay, but weren’t really impressed with the rooms.
The beaches in Nice have giant, smooth pebbles instead of sand. They’re extremely hard to walk on and it was hilarious to watch people try and climb out of the ocean. I spent the majority of the day at the water’s edge collecting a few to bring home and frame alongside the shells we gathered in Costa Rica from our honeymoon.
Our favorite part of the city was Vieux Nice (the old city) because it reminded us of Barcelona. That night, we wandered around and ended up choosing Chez Juliette because of it’s location and extensive menu selections. Afterwards, we wandered own to Fenocchios for gelato.