Words By Harriet Chubb
To Eat and Run
‘If Paris is the heart of France then Lyon is the stomach’… a saying that becomes immediately evident from walking around the old town of this charming city, every corner has a café and every street a myriad of chic restaurants and bohemian bars serving dishes traditional to Lyon, such as coq au vin, foie gras and sweet breads. Get lost in the streets of Old Lyon, which is the second largest Renaissance area in Europe after Venice, and spend your day dipping in and out of these gems, sampling dishes along with the (relatively cheap, but delicious) local wine. However, it is important to book a table for dinner in advance as nearly all of the good restaurants can be booked up well before lunchtime. For a true French bohemian experience, book a table at the beautiful and quirkily decorated Le Nef Des Fous, located on Rue Du Boeuf. The restaurant is so lavishly decorated that you can’t help but feel like royalty atop your plush, purple throne but the perfectly mismatched vintage crockery quickly shatters this illusion yet completes the bohemian, relaxed atmosphere. If you are lucky enough to have a table downstairs then you will also be shown past the roll top bath on the stairs, complete with goldfish. Although a very popular restaurant with the locals, it is not too expensive – you can choose the set menu of three courses, have a bottle of good wine and it will only come to about 40 Euros a head. And one of the best things about the food in Lyon is the number of pretty running routes along the river or through woods that you can do to burn off all those extra calories. So make sure that you pack your trainers.
There is no point in spoiling yourself with the gastronomic delights of Lyon without choosing an equally delightful place to stay. Located in the Old Town among the swathes of bars and restaurants is Cour Des Loges, a well hidden gem and 5* hotel. Take four of the finest Renaissance houses in Old Lyon, mix them with contemporary art works, a trendy bar and uber luxury and you have one of the most sought after boutique hotels in Lyon. The 61 rooms and apartments have all been lovingly preserved to maintain that renaissance feel, it is more than possible to get lost in the corridors and spaces of the hotel, but this is a space that you want to explore and take time to marvel at the architecture of the buildings. Under the arches of a gallery overlooking the courtyard, the focal point of the hotel, is the celebrated restaurant Les Loges. This is traditional French cuisine with a difference, imagination. Anthony Barret, uses seasonal produce throughout the year to create his signature dishes for the hotel. Before making your way to the marble floored courtyard restaurant, make sure you relax in the retro-style bar, Le Bar Fumoir, for an innovative cocktail, or our personal favourite on a chilly spring afternoon, an organic, dark hot chocolate – rich, but oh so satisfying if you need a pick me up after a long days sightseeing.
Whether you are visiting Lyon for its gastronomy or for its renaissance architecture, make sure you rejuvenate with a spa treatment or two to top off the experience. The Pure Altitude Spa at the Cour Des Loges was our tried and tested favourite, not least because of the sauna, Turkish baths, swimming pool and relaxation room, but because the philosophy behind the products used in their treatments is second to none. All of the products have plants or natural extracts found at the very heart of the Alps, encompassing all of the natural elements, earth, wind, water and fire to create treatments that rejuvenate and re-charge. Try the Bol d’Air Pur facial which detoxifies and leaves the skin feeling pure and fresh by combining manual techniques with the use of hot stones and jade rollers. Or, relax completely with a bespoke massage, the therapists are all highly trained and able to pinpoint areas in your body that need help to relax; perfect just before you check out of the hotel to leave you feeling invigorated and relaxed for the journey home.