Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pride of Lyon...

We've spent the last couple of days with my Uncle Ben's family in Lyon, France (he disclaims any association whatsoever with the popular brand of rice). We left early on Thursday morning and made great time, roughly five and half hours, from Heidelberg to this great city, paying the French government around 30 Euros for the privilege of traveling the silky smooth highways at the more-than-reasonable velocity of 130 kilometers/hour.Although the weather didn't particularly cooperate on Friday, we managed to see some of the sites, have typical Lyonnaise fare and have a great time getting to know Ben, his lovely wife Li and their beautiful daughter Emily. That's right: there are two Emily Prickrils on the planet and they have finally met (and are getting along famously). Until Thursday, I had only spoken with my uncle on the phone. My dad's family had 10 kids, but, having spent my formative years a significant distance from Park Falls, Wisconsin, the epicenter of the Prickril universe, I know only a few of them.
Historically, Lyon is a fairly simple city, economically speaking. As is common all over the world in areas not known for their affluence, the traditional local diet is notable for its emphasis on parts of various animals not typically discussed in polite company. We ate at a lovely "Bouchon", or typical Lyonnaise restaurant. B, ever the conservative, had steak. I had a local variety of sausage made with pistachios. The girls had delicious looking crepes.
Today we went to Les Halles, a wonderful French market where we stocked up on good wine from the region (Côtes du Rhône), incredible cheese, pâté and, of all things, ribs. Although the freshly slaughtered chickens with heads still attached were tempting, we opted for a more conventional porcine repast (as faithful readers of this blog know, B is losing a protracted battle with rib addiction {and please, don't judge -- it's a disease}).
While at the market, we saw a nice young man meticulously slicing jamón, a traditional style of Spanish cured ham, right from the pork leg. Upon inquiring, we discovered that this variety was a couple of hundred Euros per kilo (when he offered me a sample, I wasn't sure if I should eat it or snort it). Fascinated, my uncle bought 16 Euros worth. While it had an interesting taste (you can really taste the pig blood!), I can't imagine handing over that kind of jack for it -- call me a gastronomically challenged American.We then went to a huge mall, La Part-Dieu, that made us feel like we were back in the States (or maybe Quebec?). We had a light lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then headed back to the Prickril Compound in Lyon (after the kids rode the inside merry-go-round a couple of times). My Uncle Ben and I then embarked on a mission to buy soy sauce in the Asian quarter of the city. We made this trek on rented bicycles, a relatively new approach to public conveyance found in Lyon and now Paris. The idea is simple: you grab a bike at any one of the unattended rental sites that are ubiquitous in the city. The first 30 minutes are free and you're charged a very reasonable rate thereafter. The kiosks that accept payment seem reasonably user friendly for those who speak French. I believe the idea was to minimize traffic congestion and ease the load on the public transportation system (and maybe give folks an opportunity to exercise?). Regardless, the bikes seem to be quite popular.Ben and I made it to the Asian market in 10 minutes or so. On the way back, we stopped at a Moroccan bar and had several pastis, an apéritif which reminded me of absinthe. Although marginally impaired, we made it back home unscathed and stuffed ourselves on Chinese style ribs and the incredible cheese we bought at Les Halle. My sincere hope now is that I'll be able to put my pants on tomorrow despite the 15,000 calories I've consumed each day we've been here.Above is the view from my Uncle's apartment. In the distance you can see the top of Lyon's only skyscraper, not-so-affectionately referred to as "the Pencil" (le Crayon).

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