Friday, July 9, 2010

Corbusier Church in Firminy, France

When Corbusier, the father of modern architecture, designed a church for Firminy outside of Saint-Etienne, an industrial town in the Rhone Alpes, you could've heard a concrete block fall. His ingenious design which fills the chapel with natural rays of light was not appreciated by the local clergy who cherished their medieval, gothic and renaissance cathedrals.

Today, however, Corbusier's church is part of a larger site that draws hundreds of architecture fans a year. The site includes two Corbusier residential towers, a cultural center, swimming pool and stadium. While you're in Saint Etienne - check out the collection of medieval weapons and vintage bicycles at the Museum of Industry & Design and have lunch al fresco at the Museum of Modern Art. The art is industrial and the museum's restaurant is on par with MOMA.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dining in Lyon

Le Mere Lyonnaise, a 100-year-old Lyon restaurant now in the capable hands of two-star Michelin chef Mathieu Viannay, won me over from the first course - succulent raw oysters in a basil jelly with caviar. The private dining rooms are the former bedrooms of the original owner and give the contemporary restaurant a Belle Epoch intimacy.

Dining here is theatre that will leave you shouting, "Encore! Encore!"

Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse

Paul Bocuse, the creator of Nouvelle Cuisine, put Lyon on the gastronomic map and Lyon returned the favor by adding the chef's name to its glass-enclosed gourmet market, containing 59 purveyors of the finest produce, cheeses, fish, meat, wines and desserts in all of France.

This is a great place to buy edible souvenirs, grab a picnic lunch or take a cooking class at Institute Paul Bocuse. Vendors offer free samples and are happy to discuss their products. Restaurants and seafood bars on the premises. (Wear loose-fitting clothes!)

Annecy, France

If you like romantic canals, swans, snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes, chalets and scrumptious cuisine, you'll fall in love with Annecy. This is where well-heeled Parisians ski in the winter and sail in the summer. You can smell the money in the pure, crisp mountain air.

While the Glitterati stay in 4-star resort hotels, mere mortals pitch their tents at campsites around the shimmering lake. Rent a bike, paraglide or visit one of the charming villages within a half hour drive. My favorite activity? The outdoor Antique Market on the last Saturday of the month along the canal.