Lyon: Of Silk and Chocolate

If you decide to stay overnight in Lyon (which I recommend), let me suggest a hotel. Cour des Loges, once an abbey, is now a wonderful lodging. Aside from being very comfortable (yes, there’s air-conditioning) and centrally located in old Lyon, Cour des Loges has a fine restaurant. But the best part about this hotel is the outstanding concierge service. Several months before we arrived in Paris, my mother was communicating with Monsieur Gerard Ravet, head concierge and Clefs d’Or member at Cour des Loges. Monsieur Ravet wanted to help her with everything. He wanted to know the family’s interests, how long we would be staying, etc., so he could create an itinerary for us that would maximize our stay in Lyon. When we met him, he was just as nice as he sounded. Rarely have I met a person so full of energy and passion about what he does. He genuinely wants to help people discover Lyon, his home town. After settling into our room and returning to the lobby, Monsieur Ravet sat down with us and outlined what he had planned for us: a visit to Europe’s largest private rose garden, a chocolate tour, a tour of a traditional silk weaving shop, a visit to the Basilica at Fourviere, a day of antique shopping, a morning at a flea market, an art fair (held every Sunday morning), and dinner at two of Lyon’s best restaurants. (Restaurant reviews to follow in a later article.) We set off right away on the chocolate tour—not really a tour per se, but rather a list of three fine chocolate shops that you can visit. All are on the Cours Franklin Roosevelt, which makes it very easy to visit them quickly. The first shop we visited, Bernachon, is a wonderfully old fashioned place. They sell chocolate of a very high quality. Bernachon doesn’t limit its wares to chocolate: it sells cakes, jellied fruit, and nougat candy, too. Next door, the Bernachon candy shop sells more chocolate, as well as the tearoom standards of pastries, ice cream and a café crème. A little further down the street is the second store: Richart. In contrast to Bernachon, Richart is very contemporary. All of the chocolates here, those for sale and those hanging on the walls as art, appeal to your senses. They really are a treat for the eye, because each piece of chocolate is covered with wild, interesting designs. And, most importantly, they taste good. The third shop on the tour is Tortillier. This is probably the least impressive of the three (and the staff isn‘t entirely pleasant), but it does sell some good chocolate. I would hit this one last. After we finished the tour, we strolled (or should I say rolled?) to Atelier de Soierie, a silk mill where you can observe traditional silk manufacturing. The address is 33 Rue Romarin (telephone 78-29-59-73), but the store is very hard to find—take a map with you. Inside we met Cedric Brochier, whose family has owned the business for four generations. He very kindly explained to us, in English, how silk scarves were colored. The process is quite interesting, and not what you might expect. Upstairs, a young lady demonstrated how cut velvet is hand colored. (It’s amazing what the humble Q-tip can do.) After learning about silk and how it’s colored, we bought some silk scarves at the small boutique on the second floor. By the time we left the factory, it was getting late. The sun had almost set, and the plane trees’ tall shadows stretched out across the street paralleling the river. A cool breeze was blowing, a nice contrast to the hot day that had just ended. I was glad we were in Lyon. There was much more to do here than I had expected, and I began to suspect that two days would not be enough time to stay in this gem of a city. Taylor Horton is a high school student who considers himself very fortunate to be writing for Bonjour Paris this summer.
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