We started our Colors of Provence trip in Lyon and finished it in Barcelona. So we thought we’d start with our pre and post cruise experiences. Here’s the Overview post which you should read first and our Lyon with AmaWaterways post.
Due to schedule conflicts we decided not to do the AmaWaterways sponsored pre and post cruise extensions. Instead we stayed in Lyon only two nights which really gave us one full day to explore the city. The idea was two fold. First, have a day to acclimate to the new time zone (5 hours ahead for us). Second, leisurely explore the city.
Perhaps the highlight of our Lyon stay was a dinner. In fact we picked our hotel because of the restaurant. Our hotel, Hotel Royal was wonderful- boutique is the right description with a great location right at the Place Bellecour (central square), on the narrow peninsula between the Rhone and Saone rivers.
Our chosen restaurant was l’Institut. This is the culinary school of famous Michelin star restauranteer Paul Bocuse. We started with cocktails in hotel’s very red cocktail lounge. We were a little late but the hotel staff called down to the restaurant for us….drinking and eating in France is NEVER to be rushed! Make sure to reserve a table at the Institute ahead of time as it fills up rapidly. (We reserved weeks before). The meal was truly a highlight with each course better than the next. Above are some pictures to tantalize.
The rest of day in Lyon was spent strolling the city. That evening we walked to our ship just to see where it was docked (only about 15 minutes away). The city has a similar, if less grand feel as Paris. The architecture felt familiar. It seems to be growing and feels very comfortable to live in. The ship was docked across from one of the local universities and the trail leading along the river was invitingly lit up.
At the end of the trip we went to Barcelona. We purchased transfers from AmaWaterways as it was a convenient way to get to our hotel. We chose the same hotel as AmaWaterways guests but stayed only 2 nights so we didn’t do the full extension with them. The hotel was the Renaissance Hotel which was very comfortable, nicely sized and appointed room and nicely located. We even had a nice sized balcony.
Our highlight of Barcelona though was the Sagrada Familia. This is a cathedral that was started in the 1860’s and is due for completion in 2026. We visited it 30 years ago when the inside was not yet open. The building is truly spectacular both inside and out. It matters not if you are religious. It’s impossible to visit the cathedral and not be inspired, from an architectural perspective as a start, the sculptures and history as well. The entire structure has an organic feeling and indeed it feels like walking into a forest. We strongly recommend a guided tour which includes access to the museum (the self guided tour was OK but our English speaking guide was terrific).
We then headed to the Barcelona beach for some Paella. Sure it was November but there’s nothing more authentic. Check out Escriba’s for great Paella. We walked back to the hotel via La Rambla and stopped at a market, Mercado de La Boqueria, to pick out some food to take back to the hotel for a light dinner. A little cheese, a little ham, some bread and we were set.
Lyon and Barcelona
Lyon and Barcelona are such good contrasts. Both are large, growing cities (though Barcelona is larger overall). Lyon is proud to be French while Barcelona is at the center of the Catalan fight for independence from Spain. Both offer traditions from the past but are ever changing.
When we arrived in Lyon, we were anticipating our AmaWaterways vacation. Still a little jet lagged but we had the whole week ahead of us. When we left Barcelona , we had so many great memories and experiences to bring back home.
Next in our Colors of Provence series: Beaujolais and Vienne, wine and Romans