Section: Chocolate and More in France (and a bit of Italy)
After a recent trip to Lyon, France, I can unhesitatingly
recommend that city as a destination. I must reserve judgement
on Turin, Italy, though, as I was there for a large food exposition
and didn’t get to see much of the city. However, I can
comment on my accommodations in Turin, a few places of interest,
and as a way not to get to that metropolis. A few words about
both countries: it is common for many attractions and shops
to close for lunch for 2 or 3 hours (museums may only partially
close); be sure to plan for this. Also, particularly in Italy,
many attractions may be open only earlier or later in the
day on any given day of the week. Museums and other attractions
often have surprisingly poor gift shops and no or very minor
food vending; they are simply not the businesses they are
in the US. Make yourself aware of any restrictions on photography;
if you don’t see signs, ask before taking pictures.
Alas, smoking is all too prevalent in both nations, and many
“non-smoking” sections of cafes and restaurants
are jokes, as they are merely separate sitting areas and not
shielded from smoke in any way. It is helpful beyond description
to be able to speak at least some of the local language in
either city. One further tip: take two different credit cards
from two different banks. My card was unexpectedly (and, I
may add, undeservedly) cut off by my bank; it required
5 phone calls to the US and a day and a half to sort everything
Where I Stayed: The Citadines Lyon
Presqu’ile, 2, rue Thomassin, www.citadines.com.
This is an “apart’hotel”: that is, a hotel
composed of apartments. It’s in an excellent location,
within easy walking distance of many attractions, shops, and
conveniences. Because these are apartments, they have cooking
facilities---ideal for saving a little money on meals, should
you choose. I stayed in a 4-person apartment which I felt
would be a bit tight for 4, although for 2 or even a couple
with a child it would be just fine. The apartments are comfortable
and the front desk staff is terrific. They answered my innumerable
questions with good humor and went out of their way to help
me when my bank gave me trouble with my credit card. There’s
a wonderful morning open-air food market on Quai St.-Antoine,
a 2 minute walk, every day but Monday. One caveat: the laundry
system here is very expensive. There is one small washer and
one large dryer; it cost me 17 euros to put through two washloads
and one dryer load.
--Musee des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts Museum),
Palais St.-Pierre, 20, place des Terreaux. I’m a sucker
for a good art museum, and this place, with paintings, religious
objects, and artifacts spanning many centuries, fills the
bill beautifully. A must-see.
--Musee Historique des Tissus and Musee
des Arts Decoratifs, 34, rue de la Charite. Housed
in the same complex, the Textile Museum and the Museum of
Decorative Objects are an easy walk from Place Bellecour.
I didn’t find the Decorative Arts Museum that interesting,
but to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the Textile Museum,
which contained scraps of fabric many centuries old, beautiful
rugs, laces, and garments that again, spanned many centuries.
--Musee de L’Imprimerie (Printing
Museum), Rue de la Poulaillerie (closest cross street: Rue
du President Edouard Herriot). Fascinating. Traces the history
of printing in France and beyond. Examples range from the
16th century to much more recent documents. Don’t miss
the Salon du bois grave on the way out, with woodcuts and
--Cathedral St.-Jean, 70, rue St.-Jean.
Breathtaking. Built over several centuries, with elaborate
ornamentation and fabulous stained glass windows. There’s
an ancient but still functioning astronomical clock, too.
Don’t miss this if you’re a medievalist at heart.
--Basilique de Notre-Dame-de-Fourviere,
Place de Fourviere, Fourviere. Take the short funicular ride
up a very steep hill to find this. Very pretentious. The Musee
de Fourviere, located nearby, has religious objects
from several centuries, but most were disappointingly recent.
The best part of this attraction, perhaps, is the Basilica’s
Observatory. There are no elevators, and
it’s a long, steep climb, partially on some rather rickety
stairs, but your reward at the top is a panoramic and memorable
view of Lyon and her surroundings.
--Cruising the Saone (Seine) River, Quai
St.-Antoine. A company called “NavigInter” gives
60 or 75 minute cruises on the Seine River. Pleasant enough,
but the boat moves too quickly for still photography, and
that portion of the commentary translated into English is
so thickly accented that it’s difficult to understand.
--Hotel de Ville (Town Hall), Place des
Terreaux. A picture-worthy, monumental center of municipal
--Les Halles de Lyon. I’ve lost the
map I had for this, but any hotel in the city should be able
to direct you to what is one of Lyon’s main markets,
with stand after stand of seductive produce, cheeses, meats,
chocolates, etc. Tasting rooms, too. The joint jumps on weekends.
A dangerous place for foodies. One note: while there are facilities
here, they are not modern; the toilets are the old-fashioned
holes in the ground.
Chocolates, Pastry, and Other Necessities of Life
(in no particular order):
--Palomas, 2, rue Colonel Chambonnet. Just
a short walk from the Tourism Office, the chocolates here
were among the best I found. Some pastries, too. Beautiful
--Maison Perroudon, 6, Rue de la Barre.
Another short walk from the Tourism Office, but in the opposite
direction. More pastries than chocolates. Very popular. There
are at least two in the city.
--Maison Blachere, 1, Avenue Adolphe-Max
(near Cathedral St.-Jean). Gorgeous and delightful pastries
and breads. Less variety than many.
--La Minaudiere, 5, Rue de Brest. Possibly
the swankiest patisserie in Presqu’ile. Go
in a little while before you want to order, because you’ll
need a few minutes to make up your mind. One of the counter
clerks here has a definite attitude, but the others are very
nice. Some outstanding pastries.
--Millet Patissier, Rue de Platre. A very
credible Tartelette Croque Madame (cheese, ham, and eggs).
--Royaume du Chocolat, Place de la Republique.
Lovely caramelized, chocolate-covered almonds.
--Regal Glace Café, 43, Rue Merciere.
Incredible sorbets—don’t pass up the apricot or
the mango. Many ice creams, too, which I didn’t try.
--Charcuterie Bonnard, 36, rue Grenette.
Dig that duck terrine!
--Boulangerie D’Albon, Rue Chavanne
(closest cross street: Rue des Bouquetiers). Pastries and
sandwiches. The best Bichon au Citron I found in the city
(a large half-moon shaped flaky pastry, partly caramelized
on the exterior, filled with lemon curd). Popular with locals,
especially at lunchtime.
--Bernachon, 42, cours Franklin Roosevelt.
The most famous name in chocolates in Lyon. Divided into an
elegant tearoom and a stylish patisserie/chocolaterie.
Much more variety than most. Good chocolates; I was unable
to try the pastries.
--Fromagerie Roul S.A., 39, rue de la Charite.
Charming cheese shop.
--Chocolats Pierre Ginet, 9, rue de la Charite.
Nice selection of some of the better chocolates I found in
--Tous des Chefs, 81, rue Boileau. A chance
discovery a short walk from Bernachon. Cooking equipment and
tools, jams, etc. Fun to browse.
--La Boutique des Musees, 21 Rue Paul Chevannard.
Objets d’art and other delightful, sometimes expensive,
--Mandragore, 52, Rue St.-Jean. A rather
touristy shop in a rather touristy area, there are nonetheless
some interesting items in this store selling medievalia. Bottled
hypocras, jewelry, weaponry, medieval-style clothing.
--Librarie Mecanique, 1, rue de l’Ancienne
Prefecture. Books and references on aviation, cars, boats,
and more. Impressive selection. The books are in several languages,
including French and English. No returns; exchanges only.
Where I Stayed: Located off a little plaza,
the Victoria Hotel, Via Nino Costa, 4, www.hotelvictoria-torino.com,
is always busy. It’s well-known and next to a conference
center, as well as a convenient and quiet base from which
to explore the city. Breakfast, sometimes included in the
price of your room, is an astonishing spread, with cereals,
breads, eggs, pastries, meats, cheeses, fruit, yogurt, juices,
coffee, and tea, and I’m sure I’ve left something
out of that description. The décor is a bit fussy for
me, but my double deluxe room was pleasant enough save in
two respects: the lighting was too dim, and it was always
too hot. It never got above 70 degrees F when I was in Turin,
though it had been warm for the time of year, and of course
it was cooler after dark. But the room was consistently uncomfortably
warm unless the windows were wide open, an impossibility at
night considering there are no window screens and mosquitoes
were still around. At present, there is construction during
the day as the hotel adds a swimming pool and a sauna, doubtless
in preparation for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Reserve in advance
if you’re planning a stay here! One other note: I was
unable to reach this hotel by phone, though I tried both from
the US and from France; the calls would simply not go through.
Attractions, Gelato, Chocolates, and More:
--Galleria Sabauda/Museo Egizio, via Accademia
delle Scienze 6. The art collections from the royalty in the
house of Savoy are in the same building as a world-class Egyptian
museum, albeit the two are on different floors. I’m
not much on ancient Egypt, frankly, but the hieroglyphics
from The Book of the Dead are great, not to mention the objects
discovered in the pyramids that you find everywhere in the
exhibits here. The Galleria Sabauda has mouthwatering medieval
(and more modern) art, much of it, as you might expect, religious
in nature. Beautiful.
--Gelateria Grom, Piazza Paleocapa 1/D,
corner of Piazza Carlo Felice. I didn’t physically set
foot into this gelateria, but I did sample 6 of their products
at a seminar during my food exposition. The co-founders are
obsessive about their raw ingredients, for which, they claim,
their girlfriends love them not. But once you taste their
products, the girlfriends’ objections will be swept
aside. The gelati were a bit sweet for me, but the sorbetti
were glorious. Try the peach, the apple, or, if you’re
prepared to pucker, the lemon.
--Pasticceria Gertosio, via Lagrange 24/H.
Although this cioccolateria/pasticceria is well-acquainted
with tourists, they make some decent chocolates. And their
dark-chocolate covered gianduiotto are better than many others
I tried. Don’t let them fob you off with the prepackaged
ones, which are sweeter; these are in their chocolate case;
ask for a few to go in a small bag.
--Pastifico Defilippis, via Lagrange 39.
A beautiful pasta shop with windowsful of accompaniments and
prepared foods. If you can do so, try a piece of the torta
di spinaci (spinach torte), with its bottom layer of
cheese and top layer of spinach.
How Not to Get to Turin: Turin has an airport,
but one cannot fly there directly from the US (at least, not
now). There are connections from Milan’s Malpensa Airport,
however, and I purchased a flight some months in advance from
an airline based in Europe. The problem was that it turned out
not to be a flight at all; it was a bus trip (it is not possible
to fly from Malpensa to Turin, it turns out). There was no indication
whatsoever, either on the website or the ticket itself, that
this was not a flight; it’s referred to as a flight on
the website, and there are small airplane symbols next to each
leg of the trip on the ticket. Even this wouldn’t have
been so bad except that I was charged US$293.20 for the round
trip and found out upon arrival at Malpensa that I could have
bought a round-trip ticket (Malpensa-Turin and back) on a public
bus for 35 euros (about US$45). Both bus trips took exactly
the same amount of time and both vehicles were modern and seemed
relatively comfortable. The buses I was on for both legs of
the trip also had no bathrooms, which for a 2 hour trip one-way
might be questionable for some people (like me). I realize that
not everyone will have such problems with this airline; these
were just my experiences. That being the case, I wouldn’t
dream of telling you that the airline with whom I had these
difficulties was Alitalia.