08 September, 2011
We are on a boat with Harry and Denny. Our presence in Lyon emanates from one of many intersections with these dear friends, going back to our original meeting at UNE (University of New England) circa 1972.
Harry and Denny converged on Armidale from South Africa, Suzie and Mark from Apollo Bay and Sydney respectively. There began a friendship that has endured 40 odd years. By way of South Africa, Sydney as an emigration destination for H and D, and our respective journeys with jobs, kids and other life events in different places and over time, we have remained closely connected. Recent convergences at Malua, after which our host boat is named, were the catalyst for us getting together
Our path then takes us to Restaurant Georges, a Lyon institution. Despite its vastness, Georges is an almost perfect embodiment of the great tradition of the French brasserie, Waiters in white, service at its best, boudin noir jostling with lamb and duck as our mains arrive. Only the surprise inclusion of snails in a fish dish creates any discomfort. Georges’ own label beer, Sancerre and Crozes Hermitage complete the experience.
Pivotal in that experience was the search for the famed Bresse chicken. Unrivalled elsewhere. Harry was on a mission and after several false starts, found THE BRESSE PLACE. The bouchier offered a range for selection, Harry chose the perfect chook, and was then asked whether he wanted the head on or off. Off was the decision. The chicken was then prepared for sale, head off, organs removed and cleansed than returned with the chick for wrapping and sale. All for 34 Euro. That’s a lot of money for a chook. The reason for this investment was to marry the chicken with preserved truffles purchased in Macon. Days later this marriage took place but that’s another story.
This was enriched by a visit to the Parc de Tete d’Or near the Museum of Contemporary Art, a very tranquil park containing the Lyon zoo.
And helped by the insight provided by our friends, we observed first and second hand the French approach to customer service – their focus is only on the person being served, not allowing distractions for others in the queue (who will find their time in focus) nor anything else. All this is very different from our Australian experience.
So as rivers and friends find their confluence, here is a poem to celebrate the experience . . .
A fusion of perspex, steel and timber. Colours and textures.
A coming together of truffles, rosemary and thyme.
Poulet Bresse and butter. Juxtaposition of modern and mediaeval.
Glass reflecting and intriguing.
Desperate consumers, shoppers teeming – later, sheltering, teeming rain.
Tranquil gardens, cycling, jogging in train en famille.
Back on board, sharing the market spoils. Making memories.
Swans sail by in pairs. Partners forever.