Lyon: An unexpected experience

After bidding farewell to Dayton (the dog) in Rauzan, we left on our longest drive of the trip – a five hour drive to Lyon. We always planned Lyon as a stopover rather than a destination, but with the double whammy weekend of Bastille Day and the World Cup Final with France playing we knew it’ll be fun. We checked into our Airbnb and were quite disappointed since it was small, the washer didn’t work and most importantly it wasn’t safe for the kids with a spiral staircase and a loft. Since it was a holiday weekend we decided to drive around Lyon which worked out great since parking was free everywhere. That evening we walked along the Rhone river, across the walking bridge, and spent some time in the slides and water park along the river. Lyon was beautiful with two rivers, several bridges and a mix of historic and modern architecture. Also more chill than Paris with friendlier people more tolerant of children which was a great change after the Bordeaux wine region. Our favorite part of the evening was sitting on one of the boat rooftops overlooking the city while drinking some cider. One month into our trip we were craving some non-European food and we came across an amazing Sichuan restaurant called Bon Voyage, that compared well with our favorite Z&Y in SF. We slept that night with the sounds of fireworks celebrating Bastille day.

Next morning we decided to check out a day early out of our Airbnb and move into the Marriott close by. Anjali has exceptional benefits at Marriott and SPG that have significantly helped with the rates, upgrades and free breakfast! Our second day in Lyon was incredible. We started off by grabbing breakfast at a local coffee shop and their cinnamon brioche, soft boiled eggs and flat white was just what you would expect in Lyon. We then drove to the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere, a Sacre Coure like cathedral on top of the hill overlooking Lyon and it’s two rivers. We went for the view but the cathedral was a piece of art with paintings and sculptures to match the best of what we’ve seen – by far the best cathedral so far on our trip.

Next we went to the local park – Parc de la Tete d’Or to see the botanical gardens. This park was a complete surprise. In addition to the indoor and outdoor sprawling botanical gardens, it had some amazing kids activities. It was a free zoo with giraffes, zebras, bears, crocodiles, flamingos and other animals enclosed right the in the middle of the park – something I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world. In addition they had a children’s area where Ayaan enjoyed earning his first reward by “fishing” for 9 ducks. Ayaan is so caring that he gave one of his three airplanes he won to Ariana. Ayaan also enjoyed sitting on a baby “horse carriage” with me pulling the horse carriage for 10 mins through the track and tunnels (tiring!). Ariana enjoyed going to the carousel all by herself for the first time! She’s a little bold monsta (as she says).

I was particularly excited about the evening – it was the world cup soccer final and France was playing Croatia – and we were in Lyon, what luck! We drove from the Marriott and found parking very close to the main square where 20,000 fans were gathered to watch the game. It starts pouring in Lyon around 430pm everyday so by the time we walked around the square we were completely drenched. But the atmosphere was amazing. We got lucky to get into a bar with screens everywhere and French fans in full spirit. Ayaan slept through the game but Ariana was participating in the cheering and dancing as France beat Croatia 4-2 to win the World Cup. It was an incredible scene on the streets and we were so fortunate to have witnessed it! On our drive back to the hotel we accidentally joined the motorcade of cars with fans screaming, sitting on top of cars and honking loudly. Anjali of course joined the action by sitting on the window. Overall Lyon was a special experience and we are sure to be back!

Made it to Lisbon!

On the 20th of June, we made our way to Lisbon by car. It was a seamless 2 hour 45 mins drive to the city center. Both Ayaan and Ariana nap like little babies in the car ride which drove our decision to drive around rather than take the train. Also much easier with the luggage since we can leave stuff in the car.

We arrived in Lisbon to find the streets completely empty! One of the best parts of the trip so far is being in Europe during the World Cup – it is truly special and I feel so lucky to experience all of the cup in the best football countries – Portugal, Spain and France. Portugal was playing Morocco and the entire town had gathered in the square to cheer Christiano Ronaldo and their Home team – we were headed to the square too to watch the tail end of the game and reunite with Anjali’s family. We underestimated how chaotic driving would be with the cops shutting down the streets around the square. We were lucky enough to find street parking close by! The atmosphere at the square was fantastic with thousands of fans with their flags screaming. We met Anjali’s family at a cafe at the square and the kids were incredibly excited to meet Dhara masi, Kunal uncle, their cousin Shloka and most of all their Nana and Nani!

We checked into our Airbnb apartment on Avenue de Republica. It was a historic 5 bedroom 3 bath with original wooden floors and most importantly a washer and dishwasher. I made a quick run to the grocery store, Anjali picked up some food later and we spend the night drinking Portuguese wine and catching up in the apartment. Lisbon and Portugal remind a lot of Brazil. Day trip to Sintra up next.

First stop: Porto

Portugal is our first stop on our journey! It’s Ayaan’s 14th country and Ariana’s 10th; it’s also the first time for us. We made it here via EWR and two tiring flights and as expected it was where we got over our jet lag – luckily no more of that for 2.5 months. No better way to spend Father’s Day but to kick of our trip with the two little wanderers.

After checking in to the Sheraton Porto and a nice long siesta, we spent the evening on the Port wine side of the Duoro river. Nothing better than some Tawny and Ruby with some grilled octopus and spaghetti carbonara after a long day. A further treat was watching Brazil play in the square (The Portuguese are big fans since Brazil was a colony).

Our 2nd day started at 2pm (thank you jet lag) with a walk in the art district and the historical part of town including many churches and Ayaan’s favorite spot – the train station that has amazing tile murals. In fact the architecture is stunning in Porto with tile covered edifices and the 6 bridges across the river. Our favorite stop of the day was a truffle and port cave experience that we stumbled upon in a little alley in the historic district called Chocolataria Equador .

We spent the evening taking a boat ride, hanging out in the square watching musicians, walking over the famous bridge and drinking some port wine while the kids had a late nap. We met a lovely couple from the States who’d now made Burma their home and enjoyed sharing our life and travel experiences. Our last stop for the night was a children’s park with the most fantastic view that was extremely crowded for 10pm!

On Tuesday, June 18th we leased a white Peugeot 308 – the leasing experience was fantastic and I drove away with a brand new car with all coverage for the next 55 days. Our first trip in the car was a day trip to Duoro Valley – our first wine region of this trip. We visited one winery called Quinto do Vallado and it included a short tour of the Portuguese barrels where Port wine is stored and an elaborate tasting in a cave including white, red and port wines. Our final stop was at the stunning Six Senses where we enjoyed a lunch of Portuguese rice with chicken while appreciating the magnificent view. We finished our Porto experience with a stroll on the beach and grilled octopus and prawns with rice paired with a Tawny port at 5 Oceanos. Onto Lisbon tomorrow and looking forward to reuniting with Anjali’s family! – Gaurav