I do like wine and am somewhat picky about what I’ll have. I will not spend a lot for any particular wine and delight in finding a great wine at a good price. Although I know my way around most American and South American wines, I have not spent a lot of time learning French wines as of yet. One of the principal differences between the U.S. and French wines is that the French tend to blend wines a lot more and that the wines are known by their region, e.g., Bordeaux. Even within a region there are different blends, so you unfortunately need to be pretty knowledgeable about the particular producer to know what it is. It’s hard to fake it. There is a famous line in Sideways about the lead character not wanting any more “f@#$king merlot” and then having a particular French wine that is largely made of merlot grapes. This was the classic inside joke that most everyone missed, including me. Given the challenge of knowing what to order, we mostly went with house wines, and I can say they were all really good. There was only one white that was not great, but to be fair the waiter warned us that we had just ordered “liquid sugar.” We all loved the Côte de Rhône best of all, and we’re bringing some back. Wine knowledge is pretty good here; it’s more of any “everyman” thing since wine is a standard part of many meals. It’s not perfect though, since some restaurants served us red wine that was almost hot in temperature. Beer tends to be Heineken, Leffe or another Belgium brand. Kronenbourg, which we think of as a marquee French beer, is considered like Bud Light. There is also a beer/tequila mixture called Desperados, which no one wanted to try since we thought that basically nothing good could come of that.
As I mentioned earlier, Uber is a great choice for getting around, as well as taxis. We made good use of the Metro, which is incredibly cheap and easy to use. It’s set up like the system in Montreal, with rubber tires on the cars that removes that perhaps romantic but more likely annoying clack-clack of the train cars. If you come to Lyon, learn to use the Metro- it’s the best way to go.
For intercity, there’s been a huge issue over the past couple of months due to strikes. Labor issues are very common here, where labor rights are prized more than profitability in more cases than not. There have even been cases of CEOs taken hostage by the workers in a sort of French Revolution fashion. As I’m writing this, our flight home has been canceled and we are re-routing through Los Angeles due to the strike. We are sitting in the Air France lounge but to be clear are not being held hostage.
What seems unaffected by strikes is the use of intercity buses. New, private companies such as Flix and Oui have started jazzed-up bus service at incredible prices. Riding the bus is cool again. Well, maybe it was never cool, but at least it’s an alternative. Adam’s friend from college came to visit using the Oui bus, and it was a good deal with on-time arrival. You can see them below holding the UVM banner.