Take the train from Edinburgh to France's gastronomic paradise


On May 6, 1994, the Channel Tunnel opened, creating a direct link between the United Kingdom and mainland Europe, connecting the people of Scotland, England and Wales to the endless rail network of the continent and beyond. it was done. Thirty years on, it's the perfect way to enjoy an eclectic culinary journey to Europe, starting with breakfast in Scotland's capital and then exploring the gastronomic mecca of France for lunch and dinner.

Just before 7am on a Saturday morning, a crowd of people carrying backpacks and trolley bags were waiting anxiously for Pret A Manger to open at Edinburgh Waverley Station. I was one of them, and before I ordered a chocolate croissant and left the cafe, I looked at the departure board with blurred vision. Bathgate; Dunblane. Tweedbank. It is far-fetched to think that these regional stations in Scotland are connected by rail to Europe and Asia thanks to the Channel Tunnel.

The LNER train from Edinburgh to London is the first of my three-leg journey from the Scottish capital to Lyon in one day without flying. The sun beams down on Scotland's east coast as the train detours around the sides of towering cliffs between Dunbar and Berwick-upon-His Tweed. To the left of the train, a sea of ​​denim blue stretches for miles.

Stopping in Newcastle, the carriage's volume increases as it hurtles through the north of England. Day trippers depart from Darlington and chat excitedly about York's attractions. Then it's a straight line to London.

We arrived at King's Cross on time and with a 2 minute walk to St Pancras International Airport, an hour and a half may seem like a long time, but the Eurostar ticket check, airport-like security, Time is wasted waiting in the passport control line. A starving man at a banquet. By the time I'm in the packed departure lounge, the train in front of me, 12:31pm, has already left.

A trip to Paris on the Eurostar probably won't make it onto your list of “Europe's most scenic train journeys.'' It's a mostly black tunnel with strange lights passing through the windows. But it takes him just over two hours to get to Paris.

After 35 minutes of darkness, the tunnel emerged with the words “30 years'' engraved on the concrete entrance on the French side. Excavation of the Channel Tunnel began on both sides in 1987, and the undersea link between Britain and France was officially opened seven years later.

My father was an avid railway enthusiast and was eager to be one of the first to ride a train. I remember taking the motor train Le Shuttle from Folkestone to Calais to France in 1994, visiting a huge warehouse where we were loaded with frozen snails and other French delicacies, and returning to England the same day.

At the age of seven, I realized that the tunnel was just a long stretch of darkness, not an illuminated glass tunnel like an aquarium with schools of fish swirling overhead, as I had imagined. I was extremely disappointed. As an adult, I can balance the visual disappointment with the delicious culinary delights that await me on French soil.

When you arrive at Gare du Nord, don't expect to step off the Eurostar and be immersed in the romantic atmosphere of Paris' Haussmannian style directly from the platform. The train station is in a slightly seedy part of the city, but easily accessible at Gare de Lyon in 10 minutes. Immediately I emerge into the Haussmannian Paris of a bistro filled with postcards and Instagram grids.

Gare de Lyon is home to one of the most luxurious and beautiful station restaurants in the world, so we made sure to leave enough time for a late lunch at Le Tran Bleu before the final leg of our trip. Even as the perfectly crispy filet mignon arrives and the locally aged cheese is wheeled out on a trolley, I can't help but stare in awe at the gold-leaf frescoed ceiling. can not.

A cheerful “ba ba ba ba” announcement from SNCF (France's national railway company) announced that the platform was ready, and I boarded the high-speed train to Lyon. It takes him just under 2 hours. The villages drive through the vast countryside, becoming more and more idyllic with their honey-colored beauty, and the canes of churches pierce the sunset sky.

Arrive in Lyon on a crisp evening, just in time for a nightcap at one of the many cavernous wine bars along the Saone in Vieux Lyon. Fourvière's Notre-Dame Cathedral is illuminated by the night sky, rising above its ancient roofs.

I am happy with the fact that I managed to get from Scotland to the banks of the Rhone without going near the airport. Arriving at 8:30pm meant we were hungry. So head straight to River Thorne's rustic cafe-bar and enjoy a creamy cheese platter and charcuterie platter.

After staying overnight in a quaint 4-star college hotel, you'll quickly step into Old Lyon and explore the streets of the old town. The well-worn sidewalks are slick from the rain, but the weather doesn't take away from the city's beauty.

A great way to start your day in France is to pair the buttery layers of freshly baked pain au chocolat with a strong black coffee from a local bakery. It overshadows the Pret A Manger I had chosen in Edinburgh the day before.

I wander the streets of Lyon and stop at the Marionette Museum. There, a collection of weird and wonderful string characters stare blankly back at me, wandering through my father's little shop. Every street seems to be filled with bouchons, traditional Lyonnaise restaurants serving the delicious rustic cuisine that the city is famous for.

Lyon has more than 4,000 restaurants, 16 of which have Michelin stars. To whet your appetite, hike up to the stunning snow-white facade of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Fourvière, visible from almost anywhere in the city. The views of the shabby old streets and boulevards beyond are worth the climb, and the cathedral's frescoes and glittering gold interior provide a quiet respite from a whirlwind tour.

I chose the traditional Bouchon Palais Griet for lunch: pistachio sausage, dripping potatoes, and rich onion gravy. Filled with Lyon's most hearty gastronomy, I have enough energy left to visit the Museum of Cinema and take a surreal journey through Hollywood and other special effects.

Still full from lunch, I choose a casual bar for dinner and people-watch as they slowly munch on plates of cured meats, cheese, and pâté, served with generous portions of crunchy homemade bread. It's the perfect ending to a plane escape. French gourmet heaven.

Updated: May 6, 2024, 12:05 PM



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