Three weeks ago, at 28 weeks pregnant, my husband and I decided to go on (possibly) our last child-free holiday, ever. We spent weeks deciding on location within reasonable budget. We dabbled with the idea of music festivals (but would I fit in the sleeping bag and how would I cope with the chemical loos?) How about a beach holiday (but I don’t want to get too hot, and a pregnant lady in a bikini?) And traveling to a far & exotic land (but will I cope with a long haul flight, and risk getting an icky tummy?)
What would any pregnant woman like to do on holiday? Eat, of course! Our final decision was made to visit the gastronomic French city Lyon, situated in the Rhone Valley. Being on a tight budget, (and v e r y organised) half our suitcase was full of food – mini cartons of soya milk, a kilo of muesli, oat cakes and herbal tea. Also brought along plastic bowls, plates & cutlery as I was determined not to have to pay an extortionate amount for hotel breakfast of croissant + hot chocolate. In our hand luggage we had sandwich wraps, and sweets for take-off & landing.
Complimentary snacks on our flight
Stepping off of the flight was like entering into a sauna. I was wearing super-thick compressing maternity tights so found the 32 degree heat unbearable. A short hop on the tramline to our Hotel, we were relieved that it had air conditioning. After a long nap, we headed out down Rue du Victor for dinner. Unaware that this was predominately a shopping street, we only came across a few chain bakery stores & kebab stalls. Little did we know everything was hidden down the parallel streets…Tired from walking & grumpy from hunger, we quickly selected a restaurant off a side street. They gave us an amuse bouche – courgette leaves stuffed with local French cheeses, fried in batter. After a long time trying to figure out the menu, we opted for asparagus & chiperoles for starters, chicken and fish tartare for mains. I made the mistake of ordering tartare, heat had got to my brain as I was thinking of tartare sauce, not raw fish. Luckily, David was happy to trade. The chicken was delicious, stuffed with mushrooms & oozing with butter.
Fish tartar, chiperoles, chicken & mushrooms, asparagus
Morning walk to a local boulangerie to pick up a multi-grained baguette, breakfast back at the hotel room.
We braved the heat to explore the Croix Rouse and the Old Town, stopping every so often for a watermelon ice lolly and a cold drink.
Unfortunately I couldn’t go bare legged in fear of threatening bulging veins in my legs (thanks to all that extra baby blood pumping around my body) so I found the heat rather uncomfortable. After exploring the Traboules in the old silk-making district, we stopped off at a Bouchon for lunch.
We shared a 3 course menu, the heat supressed my appetite. Our request for a Lyonaise salad ended up as a Chevre salad – 2 large rounds of goats cheese, covered in breadcrumbs & fried. I gingerly ate a bit of the cheese, fully aware that I wasn’t supposed to. Our main was Tripe Stew – David enthusiastically ate away, I found the flavour and texture rather leathery, and couldn’t detach myself from the fact that I was eating stomach lining. Dessert was raspberry pannacotte – a bit too gelatinous and not as creamy as I had hoped. For €13.90, this was a good deal.
Goats Cheese salad, Tripe Stew
Budget picnic dinner in the park, followed by Rum Baba in the hotel room. Fancy salad, complete with a test-tube of olive oil & balsamic vinegar and bread sticks. Rum Baba was disappointing – stale bready cake soaked in rum flavoured syrup.
Pasta salad, Rum Baba
We took the morning easy before going to catch the TGV to Montpellier, a 2 hr train ride south from Lyon. Montpellier is full of interesting architecture, students & hills. We wandered down the streets in the old town. There was an abundance of shops selling ‘ethnic’ products & hole-in-the wall fast food joints – which was evidence of the high student population. Dinner was at ‘Une Autre Crepe’, where we shared a savoury and a sweet pancake. After much confusion with the different set menus, we settled for a Ratatouille crepe, and a crepe filled with Crème de Maron. We delicately savoured these two pancakes very slowly.
Normally, this would have been enough to fill me. However, I’ve been ravenous during my pregnancy (I’ve put on 10kg so far and counting) so we picked up a falafel wrap on our way home. It was odd to find frites were enclosed in the wrap. Eating this was less of an elegant affair.
Falafel & chips
After a sticky night in a humid apartment, we wandered over to the nearby Dia supermarket to buy bread. Little did we know that not ALL supermarkets in France sell bread. Reluctantly, we opted for the part baked baguette, thinking that we could bake this when we got back to the apartment. Alas, we were mistaken – no oven, no grill! So an attempt to microwave this was our only option. Doughy on the outside, hard in the middle – it ended up in the bin.
Breakfast – baguette was too disasterous to photograph…
We spent the morning marvelling the ‘blue box’ Hotel de Ville, followed by a walk along the river up to the neo classical with an 80’s twist part of the city where we settled down for a picnic feast of cherry tomatoes, rocket & cheese stuffed baguette, and fromage frais. Hopped on the tram to visit the Pierre Vives building designed by Zaha Hadid, which was a 15mins walk from the tram stop along the side of a motorway. It was confusing to how we were supposed to gain access to this building, but luckily found a way…Once inside the complex we were further baffled by the term ‘MediaTech’. However, I enjoyed sitting on the squishy plinths and eating Magdalens & hot chocolate that were bought from the vending machines.
Vending machine snacks
Drinks at a Belgian bar (where the barman had a great moustache and non-alcoholic cocktails were served in beer glasses), we were feeling rather peckish.
Liking the ‘statement’ glass garnish
We ended up walking in circles and past the crepe restaurant that we ate in the night before 3 times, anxious that the owners would recognise us. We went low-key for dinner that evening – shwarma kebab with frites from one of the take-away outlets.Sat down by the steps and ate this messily. Luckily no one was around to look!
Shwarma & frites
Bonne mamman lemon meringue pies for dessert back at the apartment.
The next morning we had an early start to catch our TGV back to Lyon. I hadn’t slept well as bump was kicking vigorously, all night. I had prepared cheese & rocket sandwiches to bring along with us on our journey.
For the last night of our holiday, we decided to splash out on a four star hotel. We stayed in the Mecure, a short walk away from Part Dieu station. I was impressed – our room had a kettle, and proper sized mugs! After a cup of tea, we headed down to the hotel pool. It was more like a Jacuzzi, but we attempted a few lengths before relaxing in the bubbles. I had an apple craving, so we bought one giant pink lady for €1.20. In the slightly cooler weather, we wandered back into the Croix Rousse area as we didn’t have the stamina to climb all those steps the first time.
Stopped for a drink at a trendy café/bar, before Croque Monsieur’s for dinner at Croque’n’Roll. These Croques were ginormous! One was filled with chicken curry, the other with ham & feta, both topped with lots of melted cheese.
Despite the super comfortable room, I didn’t sleep well at all. For our final day in Lyon, we headed over to the Modern Art museum, which was situated in the Park Tete D’or. Fantastic exhibition, shame there weren’t more visitors. Picnic outside – couscous salad, carrot & apricots. I was intrigued by the old-school candy stall outside the park – it was selling crepes, barba papa (candy floss) and churros. We tried the churros – however, they weren’t as exciting as I imagined.
Another speedy stop at Carrefour I took advantage of the ‘Pregnant lady’ fast check-out, stocking up on Bonne Maman tartlettes to bring back home as gifts.
Foolishly we didn’t buy any snacks before heading to the airport – the dinner options in the airport lounge was limited to sorry looking range of stale bread & limp lettuce, at 5 euros each. I was outraged, but reluctantly handed over a note in exchange for a bacon, chicken & tomato baguette, which tasted better than it looked, or maybe I was extra hungry.
After our seamless flight back to the UK, we celebrated returning to British soil with a large mug of milky tea, an egg sandwich and a Star Bar.