Coincidences Happen

By all means, see Paris in the springtime if you must, but promise you’ll take a French foray to Lyon.

Lyon sits between and sprawls across two rivers—the Rhone and the Saone. The hotel is a great location for exploring either direction. The room was eclectically decorated and I loved the shuttered full length window with a tiny “balcony” space. 

A 2,000 year old city, Lyon boasts glorious architecture and shares a multitude of delicious restaurants with visitors. My husband traveled there one November for work. As he is apt to do in any urban place we visit, he discovered a specialty wine and food store. He brought home a mustard that was so good we rapidly devoured it. It was a delicious Edmond Fallot mustards from Beaune, France.

Traveling with Alex on a return trip to Lyon, we planned on purchasing more mustard. Alex usually has an unerring sense of city memory and direction. (I’m the country gal.) With confidence, late our first evening, we began searching for the store just off the main Square. Thinking he recalled it on a corner, we searched ends of the blocks first. Then we strolled the middles of the sidewalks and wandered other streets, unable to find the specific store. In defense of Alex’s bewilderment, after closing, the stores frequently pull down solid metal fronts to cover the glass displays. Smart for them, but hard for a viewer to see their products.

Lyon Encourages Walking, Eating, and Exploring

On many of our European trips, I was alone most days because Alex was working. The way the schedules in Lyon worked out, I wasn’t alone very much. Both ways were fine with me in this city. Walking around by myself was easy. With map in hand, there was little chance of getting lost.

We stayed at the Globe et Cecil, a grand old hotel that reminded me of New Orleans. Picture me, time-warping to the era where women carried parasols and wore kid gloves. 

Lyon has a huge shopping district, with stores tucked into centuries-old buildings. In the states, we tear down old buildings and start over. In Europe, they made them pretty and to last in the first place, so they continually get repurposed.

We took a ferry, discovered an intricately designed, mind-boggling orange building, and were serenaded by a French Elvis. He was quite good even if his Elvis had more country twang than the original.

Lyon green river in France
Lyon is gorgeous

We took the funicular up to the Notre Dame. Erik explained that every city has a Notre Dame even though the famous one is in Paris. The church has two churches—a top one and a lower one. We couldn’t go in the top for some reason, but the lower one—my gosh it was beautiful.

Wandering more, we discovered Roman ruins! Before some trips, we read like mad about the area and make lists of things to do. For others, we plunge in and see what we can find. Discovering this grandly preserved Roman site was a marvelous surprise!

On my own the next day, I roamed Lyon’s cozy city center hither and yon and back again, still searching for the elusive mustard boutique. 

No luck. 

Lyon is an Epicure’s Heaven

That evening we had dinner with Alex’s colleague Erik from Marseille. We explained the store-search to him. After our exquisite meal, we roamed as the Europeans regularly do. Those evening constitutionals help wear off the delicious pasta we ate. Ah, the food … seafood lasagna, Tagliatelle, stuffed shells. The men indulged in chocolate ravioli for dessert. Really, what will the French think of next?

Alex was able to get his much-loved Beignet—larger and more flavorful that what we’d tried in New Orleans. He’s wild for pastries, so this was delightful for him.

Wandering the streets another evening with a colleague, we came across some college students. They tasked me with shoving a pie plate full of shaving cream into the face of one student. The colleague explained that students do this when beginning an advanced degree program as a way to earn money. You pay them and then get to Three Stooges the “pie.” I had the most difficult time actually doing this! Who knew it would be harder as an adult than when my kid brother and I would food fight?

The Coffee Coincidence

I stumbled upon the Nespresso store. Gazing with delight at the colorful displays of coffee pods, I thought how haute the arrangement. Clearly a French employee had a flair for art. I’m sure I drooled a little. Rather like a fashion-lover staring in the Valentino and Gucci windows in Milan. (The robust doormen peer at me as I walk by. No matter how formerly I may be attired, their looks dissuade me from I thinking of going inside wasn’t my agenda.) Not so the Nespresso store. But that wasn’t my agenda. Sighing, I moved on.

The Basis of the Coincidence 

As we started down a street, Erik pointed out that it was the Rue Emile Zola. I might have guessed this was a name, probably a man, but that’s as far as I could have gone. He explained that Emile Zola was a prolific and well known French writer. 

As an avid reader, it’s a delight to discover bountiful writers I’ve never heard of. Emile Zola lived from 1840-1902. A great quote, “If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.”

Always willing to try someone new, I made a note to look him up. I added (because it was free) The Dream to my always overflowing Kindle queue.  We left Lyon the next day mustard-less.

The Paris Coincidence

Some months later, we were on the Paris Metro making our way to a nighttime viewing of the Eifel Tower. Through one of our unlikely events, I rode one end of the extensive subway car and Alex the other. Alone as I was, I indulged in a favorite pastime: people watching. Not far away was a twenty-something fellow, scruffy around the edges, rapt in the book he was reading. The title? The Dream by Emile Zola.

I asked him about the story and we chatted. Years later, we’re still Facebook friends.

The Pittsburgh Coincidence

Between trips to Lyon, we discovered that Penn Mac, an iconic Italian market in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, carried Edmond Fallot. I have a life guideline—if something crosses my path twice, I should pay attention. If it crosses my life three times, I have to act on it.

Back in Lyon

The third time for Emile? Turns out the specialty store is half-way down the Rue Emile Zola.

A visit to Lyon presses on my adventurer’s heart. I’d like to spend a week walking and exploring, seeing what I saw before and all new sights. The city is inviting, the people are gracious, their default personality one of kindness. Lyon is infinitely repeatable.

When do you want to stroll Rue Emile Zola?

Read, The Sweet Life in Paris