'Three reasons NOT to by-pass Lyon:
White truffles by the pound in August
A glass of Nuit St. Georges at the Domaine Gouges in Les Porrets
Mind-blowing indulgences at the Chateau de Bagnols
... and these are just the first three on a long list.'
The view of Lyon from the Autoroute de Soleil is not pretty. It's even worse if you take a short cut and end up in a four-kilometre tunnel. But discerning travellers have learned over the years that first impressions are at best unreliable, at worst entirely false. In fact, France's third largest city, built on the confluence of the Rhône and Saone rivers, close to both the Alps and the Burgundy vineyards, has more to offer the visitor than initially meets the eye; but it's the outlying region that is particularly enrapturing.
What to Expect
Arriving by air
Lyon Saint Exupéry International Airport, 16 miles (25 kilometres) east of the city, is the second hub of airline Air France and enjoys excellent connections with the rest of Europe and the US. It also offers mixed air/rail connections and close proximity to major French autoroutes from Paris through to the south of France. Taxis and buses into Lyon city centre are available from outside the arrivals hall. Expect a taxi fare of approximately 330 FF during the day and 480 FF at night. Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Sixt and some local car hire firms are represented on Level 1 in the central hall. They also have offices in the city. Most hotels will arrange transportation for you. The journey to the centre of Lyon takes around half an hour.
Arriving by train
There are two railway stations in Lyon, Part Dieu, in the centre of the business district, and Garre de Perrache, which is more central. TGV trains (high speed) pass through both stations with regular connections to Paris and Europe's major cities. Transport to hotels is easy to find at the station information offices. Metro, buses and taxis are all widely available.
Arriving by car
It is about 20 to 30 minutes into the centre of Lyon from the autoroutes on the perimeter of the city. Château de Bagnols is about 13 kilometres away and takes approximately 20 minutes. Avoid travelling by car between 7:00 am and 9:00 am in the rush hour.
On arrival, be sure to secure your dining out reservations with the concierge. Although Lyon has many restaurants, the most popular ones tend to book up very quickly.
What you will see in Lyon and its surroundings
The areas surrounding Lyon are rich in all that is quintessentially French; famous vineyards, exquisite little villages, excellent restaurants, canals, lakes and mountains. Here, you can stay in one of France's most exclusive hotels, or even on the River Rhône, and enjoy the delights of gastronomic cuisine; explore a myriad of unspoiled mediaeval buildings; ski, sail, ride, cycle and hike, all with the promise of a luxurious soak in a hot, bubbling natural spring with a glass of Clos St-Jacques in one hand and a beurre de foie gras canapé in the other.
An alternative way to explore the region is to leisurely wind along the waterways of Burgundy's canals in gracious barges equipped with every creature comfort including private en suite cabins, sumptuous décor and gourmet dining stops in some of the best restaurants in the world. The masters of barge cruises 'Continental Waterways' have 32 years of experience and boast 'the largest fleet of ultra-comfortable hotel-barges in France'. Travellers are promised a magical experience on fully air-conditioned vessels with daily excursions, private charters and the option of hot-air ballooning.
The Rhone valley carves its way from the meeting place of Lyon's two rivers, spectacularly cascading on a mission to find the Mediterranean. Following the course southwards from the city will lead to the Roman spa town of Aix-les-Bains. Relax in a natural spa bath and experience the healing, soothing powers of the bubbling hot springs. Water sports are available in abundance on the lakes of the Alps whilst a more relaxing day can be spent simply cruising the waters or horse riding along bridle paths carefully chosen for their truly inspirational vistas.
Where to Stay
In the city
High above the rooftops of Lyon, overlooking the Roman amphitheatre, is one of Lyon's premier hotels, the Villa Florentine - a combination of breathtaking, period architecture and supreme modern comfort. Nineteen beautiful rooms and a poolside terrace share incomparable views over the city. Guests can take breakfast on the veranda and dinner in one of France's finest restaurants, Les Terrasses de Lyon, where chef Stephane Gaborieau prepares contemporary French cuisine complimented by a large collection of splendid wines.
This delightful four-star hotel is perfectly situated above the hubbub of downtown Lyon, on its own little island of tranquillity. Yet Lyon centre, with its exciting delights, is only a short distance away.
Out of town
Just north of the city lies the famed Burgundy wine district. The small, quiet roads that meander through delightful countryside make the region ideal for cycling. The beautifully gilt-wrapped package deals of Butterfield and Robinson can take you on a gentle bicycle ride from one great wine village to another, tasting as much as you dare along the way. Nightly stops in some of Burgundy's finest accommodation culminate at the pinnacle of luxury, the fabulous Château de Bagnols in Beaujolais.
If cycling packages are not your thing, Beaune has a choice of luxurious accommodation with several first-class hotels. The Michelin-starred restaurant 'Lameloise' is the place to enjoy the epitome of classic French cooking. The staff of American company R.Crusoe 'a not-so-small bunch of people who are passionate about travel', regularly take the passionate few on a truly individual journey through the region, specialising in the unusual and the obscure. Based at the Château de Bagnols, their guests are promised flawless service and individually tailored activities.
Château de Bagnols
It is not purely coincidental that almost every luxury travel idea mentioned here has among its itinerary at least one night in the Château de Bagnols. Voted best small hotel by Tatler magazine, this irresistible 13th-century château reaches the summit of perfection. Sitting majestically in the heart of Beaujolais, amidst vineyards, forests and rolling velvet hills this elegant haven of tranquillity has 20 exquisitely decorated rooms and apartments filled with period furniture, antique hangings and 300 years of historic paintings. Outside, a sun terrace beneath lime trees is the best place to enjoy the unsurpassable delights of gourmet chef, Thierry Bonfante. Two 18-hole golf courses and tennis courts are close by and the grounds are home to a renowned series of summer concerts. To come to the region and not visit the Château would be as remiss as watching TV during a solar eclipse. Some things are a must.
A visa is not required for France if you are American, Canadian, European or a New Zealand national. Contact your country's French consulate if you are not sure.
To make an international telephone call to France, prefix the number with 33.
To make an international telephone call from France, prefix the number with 19.
The French unit of currency is the French Franc available in coins and notes. There are 100 centimes to the franc.
Useful web sites:
The Red Guide France 2000 published by Michelin.
The Green Guide France 1998 - third edition published by Michelin.
Accommodation and Restaurants:
Château de Bagnols
69620 Bagnols en Beaujolais
Tel: +33 (0) 474714000
Fax: +33 (0) 0474714049
Hôtel Restaurant Lameloise
36, Place d'Armes
Tel : +33 (0)3 85 87 65 65
Fax : +33 (0)3 85 87 03 57
25 - 27 Montée Saint Barthélémy
Tel: +33 (0) 04 72 56 56 56
Fax: +33 (0) 04 72 40 90 56
For information about accommodation and the national baths at Aix-les-Bains, visit the city's official web site. http://www.aixlesbains.com/english/index.html
Tel: (800) 676-6613
Fax: (212) 668-9467
Web site - http://www.continentalwaterways.com
October is an excellent time to travel. July and August are less popular than spring and autumn.
R. Crusoe & Son
566 West Adams Street
505 Chicago, Illinois 60661
Tel: 312 980 8000
Fax: 800 585 8555
Web site: http://www.rcrusoe.com/burgundy
Departures in May, September and October.
Butterfield and Robinson
70 Bond Street
Toronto MSB 1X3
Tel: 416 864 1354
Fax: 800 678 1147
Web site: http://www.butterfieldandrobinson.com/trips/biking/Burgundy_cb_main.html
Classic biking tours include at least seven nights' luxury accommodation. All meals, maps, equipment, baggage transportation and excursion fees are included and all travel costs from point of rendezvous, NOT international flights. Tours take place from May to October.