Dijon, Lyon & the Alps

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September 12th 2008
Published: September 16th 2008
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After we dropped my Mom off at the Paris airport, we jumped on a train and headed down to Dijon. Dijon is a sweet little town, the capital of the Burgundy region, with a lot of pride in its regional gifts; selling all sorts of yummy flavors of mustard and gingerbread, French lavender, and those little aniseed candies my cousin and I ate when we were young. The town mascot/symbol is the owl and they sold little owls all the souvenir shops, the bakeries sold owl shaped cookies, and the sidewalks had doormat-sized owl plaques indicating important sites.
Our next stop was Lyon, where the town mascot/symbol is…the lion, as you can imagine. You just get a feeling in some towns, and I got it in Lyon. I loved Lyon. It’s the third largest city in France, but much smaller than Paris. But it felt like all of the good parts of Paris, just not as touristic. It also reminded me a bit of New York. There was something about the small streets of the old town, the way the buildings hugged each other and the lights shone on the Rhone River that made me feel very comfortable. Comfortable enough to say, if I ever live in France, it would be in Lyon.
One night we ate dinner at an African restaurant (that felt more like hanging out in a living room than a restaurant) run by a friendly Cameroonian guy that took our order, prepared our food and chatted with his customers. We went to the miniature museum (www.mimlyon.com) ,which was like walking into the imagination of Dan Ohlmann, the creator, surrounded by miniatures used in movie sets and tiny versions of medieval towns. One of his miniatures was of a famous Lyon restaurant founded in 1836, the Brasserie Georges. The tiny restaurant looked so beautiful we decided to have dinner at the life-sized place the following evening. Lyon is also well known for the trompe l’oeil frescos and Guignol puppets.
We then rented a car and headed towards the Alps. Annecy was our first stop, and our favorite; situated on a large lake, with canals going through the old town. It looked like all of the cute little towns we’d seen before all rolled into one. But it also felt young and alive, with restaurants staying open later than in other towns and a high number of college aged kids running around town in packs. During the day, we saw a few groups of young men doing push-ups in a fountain and playing something that looked like follow the leader through the park. We couldn’t decide if it was freshman “get to know your dorm-mates” or Greek rush week. There were so many people in town that night, we couldn’t find a hotel room (we tried over a dozen places!) and had to get back in the car and drive to Geneva, Switzerland.
Entering Switzerland, we passed through what used to be a border crossing, which had clearly not been used for many years. The next day we walked around Geneva center, which is situated on Lake Geneva. Maybe it was the modern architecture or something else, but we did not love Geneva. We could definitely tell we weren’t in France anymore; we noticed that the people were much more diverse and almost everyone was multi-lingual (Switzerland has four official languages, and everyone speaks English in addition).
The last little town we visited in France was Chamonix, a picturesque ski resort, before driving through the Mt. Blanc tunnel (which cost a whopping 33 euro) and into Italy.

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23rd September 2008

Glad you liked Lyon
I'm glad you liked Lyon. I spent my junior year of college there -- rented a room in old Lyon a few blocks away from the Opera House and attended University in the old buildings next to the river. I loved the red roofs, the small streets and the fact that it was smaller than Paris. Thanks for all your great photos and the history lessons in your wonderfully written comments.

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