Credits: Long walk to the castle / Lucas. Van before castle / George.
Saturday at the border we met a welcoming committee of two stiff-backed gentlemen in peaked caps, one with a trim French moustache, the other with a clipped accent and both blessed with a keen sense of curiosity. Their searching glances were the preliminaries to what promised to be an exhaustive inquiry. Our hand luggage, jackets and wallets were turned out, inspected and patted down with finger-tip precision. Still entertaining the possibility that our tousled appearance might be caused by something stronger than Chimay, Trim-tache and Clipped-accent told us to ‘ouvrelevoiture,’ only to be greeted by the spectacle in the photo a left. Faced with the choice of unpacking Lucas’s flat or sending us on our way… they sold us a road-tax sticker and welcomed us to Switzerland.
I last spent time in Lyon back in the late summer of 2002 when, being jobless, my circumstances confined me to an austerity diet of a sandwich or two a day and water from the public fountains. This time however I was determined to test the place’s reputation as the country’s gastronomic capital. So, after finally squeezing the van into a spot Friday night, Lucas and I found a typical hole-in-the-corner restaurant: think scarlet walls, retro decor and a bead curtain dividing the kitchen from the tiny dining room. Lucas enjoyed duck salad followed by chicken stew while I gobbled up asparagus soup and French black pudding. Still parched from the drive we went on to a Belgian beer bar where two locals – William (a rock drummer) and Ludo (an artist) – bought us a round and, fueled by civic pride and Chimay, expressed their love of Lyon, the Lyonais, and, most of all, the Lyonaises. The night ended in another bar where one member of the party was hoping that the Lyonaises, or at least one of them, would return his affections. Unfortunately, having drunk far too much Chimay, I cannot say if his hopes met with success. I can say however, that William and Ludo were great hosts and a lot of fun. At my current rate of progress my next dining experience in Lyon will be in a Michelin-starred joint and instead of Chimays we’ll drink champagnes–on me.