Lyon on banks of Saone

Ride The Rhone And Dine The Saone: A Culinary Cruise

10 Oct 2016

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Lyon is the culinary capital of France, some even say the world. A city where Bouchons (restaurants serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine) are rarely bad, bakeries have a hierarchy and you will have the perfect wine pairing with every course you eat. This Southern French city hasn’t been crowned the culinary capital because of what is in the city, but thanks to what the surrounding regions produce. Lentils come from Puy, pepper from Espelette, chickens from Bresse, lake fish from Savoy, prunes from Agen, summer vegetables from Charlolais, pork from Monts du Lyonnais, mushrooms from Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid and beans from Tarbes. As all great chefs’ say, it’s not about the dish but the produce. If the produce is good, the dish will follow. And that is why chefs have flocked to Lyon, and continue to do so, making the standard of cuisine exceptionally high. 


Lyon on banks of Saone
Picturesque Lyon lays along the banks of the Saone River.

A Glass Of Wine To Go With That

On a Rhone and Saone Rivers Cruise with Uniworld, you will be introduced to what is arguably the best of the best when it comes to culinary delights. Not to mention the wine. While you may be forgiven for stamping Bordeaux in as the wine capital of the world, the Rhone and Saone rivers are flanked by of some of France’s best wine regions. Beaujolais, Macon and Burgundy lay along the Saone; Cote Rotie and Condrieu down to Provence along the Rhone. Within a two hour radius of Lyon there are grapes that make all manner of wines – one to go with each dish, of course.  


Beaujolais vineyards
The Beaujolais wine region is just north of Lyon.

The Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree

Travelling with Uniworld you will be introduced first hand to traditions where food and flavours are sacred. Go in search of the ‘black diamond’ at a truffle farm with a specially trained canine. Learn the art of wine with a local winemaker and discuss each sip with Uniworld's onboard sommelier. Rub shoulders with local produce farmers and their disciples (the chefs) at the incredible Les Halles de Lyon market. Dine at l’Institut Paul Bucose, the infamous restaurant of the father of modern French cuisine. A river cruise through this region is more than scraping the surface; it is a journey of sensory delights and discovery. 

Dining in Lyon and the surrounding regions of Provence, Cotes du Rhone and Beaujolais, meals are pronounced by rich, creamy, yet no nonsense dishes. The best Bouchons and restaurants are often found in the smallest, most unassuming villages, on the doorstep of where their produce hails. Nothing travels far and nothing goes to waste. 

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Culinary Traditions And Hearty Highlights

This is perhaps best described by, “Tout est bon dans le couchon!” – A Lyonnaise saying that means there are no bad parts of the pork. Here you will taste incredibly flavourful dishes, many with some sort of offal and most treated as delicacies not to turn your nose up at. 

Offal dishes that you will see featuring on main courses in Lyon include ‘Boudin Noir’, or black sausage and ‘Andouillette’, a white sausage made of pork offal. The former is usually stewed with apples and the latter baked with mustard or white wine. In Avignon, you can dine on ‘Pieds et Paquets’, tripe and trotters cured in parsley, pork and garlic. Or perhaps the less loud, ’Foie de Veau en Persillade’, veal liver with parsley sauce is more to your taste. 


Andoullette sausage Lyon
Andouillette is a popular local dish in Lyon.

What The Locals Love

Restaurant menus in Avignon all share at least one common ingredient – asparagus. It may be a seasonal vegetable, but it’s a local delight, the star of soups, roasts and grilled dishes alike. Similarly, the dish that reigns supreme in Bresse, north of Lyon is chicken. The dish most popular with locals is ‘Poularde’ or fattened chicken, stewed in white wine, cream and mushrooms – in many restaurants truffles.

‘Quenelles’ are another dish not to be missed. Small dumplings filled with fish, often from the Rhone, they are usually found served with white fish and rice. Some of the most common you will find are ‘Quenelles de Brochet’, made with a sauce of crayfish, celery, carrots and Cognac from Nantua, northeast of Lyon.


Quenelles dumplings
Quenelles are a local fish dumpling from the countryside surrounding Lyon.

Sweets And Treats

Not surprisingly, each region of France also has its own dessert specialty. In Avignon seek out some ‘Les Papalines d’Avignon’, sweets made with thin layers of chocolate and sugar filled with an oregano liqueur. They are handmade by patissiers only in this region. In Lyon, ‘Bugnes’ are a typical dessert, originally from Savoie in the east. They are thin, deep fried doughnuts – the name coming from the French word for doughnut, ‘beignet’ – often cooked with lemon or orange blossom to mask the oily taste. Further north in Beaujolais, the favourite is ‘Poires a la Beaujolaise’. Pears cooked in local red wine, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and orange peel the sauce is simmered down to a sticky syrup – the ultimate sweet treat to end a meal. 


Bugnes, french doughnuts
Bugnes are thin, deep fried doughnuts, originally from Savoie.

There is no doubt that the regions hugging the Rhone and Saone rivers form an important part of France’s rich culinary culture. Where local traditions and quality produce reign supreme over catering to tourists or passing trends, experiencing this region on a Uniworld river cruise offers an intimate insight into why France is the darling of wining and dining. 

Explore Burgundy and Provence with a luxury Uniworld river cruise. Contact your Travel Associates Travel Expert for more information and to book. Call 1300 017 849 or visit 

Vicki Fletcher

An Australian writer and photographer, Vicki loves road trips down unknown tracks, following locals to the best food in town and spending long afternoons people watching in city squares. She's written for publications across Australia and Europe. Top travel tip: always look up.