Recently I went on a road trip through France, originally leaving from the Stuttgart area of Germany. While a large factor for choosing this spot was location (Eastern France is an easier road trip to take on from Germany), we found this was the ideal travel destination for us for several other reasons.
This city is large and vibrant but much more low-key than Paris, is considered the gastronomical capital of France (this alone had me saying yes), and it is surrounded by amazing side trips that are super convenient to get to. For these reasons, Lyon became our home base for a week.
Before I get into which side trips we settled on, here’s a pro tip: download the map of the region you’re visiting on your phones Google Maps app before you set off. This allows you to use your phone GPS without wifi or data… aka LIFE SAVER. I would highly recommend doing this on any trip even if you’re walking or taking public transit, not just driving.
Here are the side trips I would 100% recommend:
Beaujolais Wine Tasting:
France is romantic enough as it is, but wine tasting in the Beaujolais region really takes it to the next level. While I think booking a bus trip for the day could be a good option, I loved having a car so we could slowly meander around the rolling hills, and explore the little villages throughout.
In Canada, wine tourism is quite the attraction. Wineries have inviting tasting rooms, and you can often find posh bistro eating experiences right at the vineyards.
This is not the case in France.
The tourism offices just told us “there are SO many wineries, just follow the road signs with the grapes”.
While there is a crazy amount of wineries (like, every house has a vineyard), we were confused when none of them had signs about tasting rooms or seemed, I guess… touristy. The drive we were doing was gorgeous but we were starting to get frustrated (we needed wine, STAT). We read about this awesome tasting “cavern” in a town called Vaux-En-Beaujolais (otherwise known as Clochemerle), so we decided to head there to do some tasting and get some expert advice.
The gentleman at La Cave De Clochemerle (which was stellar, do go there) set us on the right path with a few more recommendations, informing us that wine makers have to work- they can’t waste time giving tastings in the middle of the day!
So, pro tip: you do the wine tasting in caves or cellars within each small town, NOT at the actual vineyard.
Second pro tip: most restaurants in France close from 2-7pm, some of the tasting rooms operate similarly too. Plan accordingly!
Because of this mid-day break, we only ended up visiting one more cellar at the home of the most friendly woman, and then decided to have a French countryside picnic on Mount Brouilly.
All in all, wine tasting in France is one of those bucket list things that I highly recommend you do. I’m glad I did!
Ah Perouges. After researching this small town just a 40 minute drive from Lyon, I knew we had to go. It’s a remarkably well preserved medieval village that still hosts about 400 permanent residents. I’m pretty sure my medieval times/history nerd alter ego came out, because walking through the towns cobbly wobbly streets had me feeling blissful. You only need about 2-3 hours here making it the perfect half day side trip.
To add some extra time onto this excursion, take a walk around the outskirts of the city. There’s walking directions that are well marked, and the little jaunt through the peaceful green path was super lovely.
Just an hour away from Lyon, Annecy has a little bit of everything: a Venice-like canal weaving through the old streets of the town lined with restaurant patios and boutiques, and then there’s the lake. Lake Annecy is STUNNING. The crystal clear blue water reminded me of the Okanagan, with bonus mountain views of the French Alps. We lucked out and had sunny 25 degree weather, so we laid out in the grassy park after lunch in town, rented a paddle boat, and finished the day off with ice cream.
Okay… so this isn’t exactly a “side trip” from Lyon, it’s about a four hour drive. We chose this place as a stop-over for a few nights to break up our road trip back to Germany, but it was another delightful spot! We rented an Airbnb in Colmar for two nights, although this side trip could possibly be done with just one. This is another spot with a canal running through the town, but has a much different vibe than Annecy in that it’s so close to Germany (right on the border). You’re bound to hear a lot of German speaking, see a lot of German tourists, and Alsatian/German styled architecture.
And there you have it! This is a taste of how we spent a week in the Lyon region, of course exploring Lyon itself plenty (which warrants a blog post of its own). If you’re planning on visiting this area of France- I hope this is helpful! Feel free to email me to get a more detailed account.