The reason lyon should be your next European weekend break

The ingredients for a great European weekend break are simple. You’ll need a walkable city centre, a handful of excellent restaurants, some cool bars, affordable places to stay, interesting attractions and good transport.

Lyon, one of France’s most delightful small cities and the country’s culinary capital, offers all these and more. Here’s why it should top your travel wish list.

 

1. It’s gourmet heaven

With more than 2000 restaurants and a prestigious culinary history stretching back to the nineteenth century, Lyon easily ranks as one of the top foodie destinations in Europe.

Visiting traditional bouchons for dishes such as andouillette and tarte aux pralines is a must, while the city’s indoor market, the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, will keep you occupied for hours; stop at one of the market bars for locally cured charcuterie and a light red from nearby Beaujolais.

 

2. It’s the perfect size to explore in a weekend

Lyon is a delight to wander. You’ll spend most of your time between the ancient alleys of Vieux Lyon and the grander streets of the Presqu’île, perhaps with forays into the appealingly gritty district of Croix-Rousse. You’ll rarely find yourself walking for more than half an hour, with café terraces aplenty for stops en-route.

Venture a little further, and there’s even more to discover: inventive contemporary restaurants in the modern quarter of the city; the vineyards of the northern Rhône; the charming village of Pérouges.

 

3. It’s home to some of France’s best museums

Chief among Lyon’s attractions is the stand-out Musée des Confluences, devoted to science and anthropology.

The city also holds an excellent Musée des Beaux-Arts, with works from the likes of Rubens and Rembrandt, while you’ll find exhibitions by big names such as Yoko Ono and Andy Warhol in the Renzo Piano-designed Musée d’Art Contemporain (MAC). Make time, too, for the Institut Lumière, which celebrates the birth of cinematography.

The city best food experiences

If you really want to get to the heart of Tokyo‘s culinary scene, you’ll need to go beyond the city’s bustling restaurants and best-loved drinking dens. Rebecca Hallett booked onto one of the city’s cooking classes and learnt about more than just the food.

I’m about to eat fresh wasabi. I hate wasabi, but have been assured that it tastes different when grated directly from the root. I’m not sure I’m convinced.

Still, I take the spoon, pick up the tiniest amount and raise it unwillingly to my lips. And…

“See, I told you it tastes different! It’s much more fresh and mellow like this. Most of the green paste you see in cheap sushi-ya is made of horseradish and green food colouring, with just a little wasabi added. It makes it harsh and chemical-tasting, too overpowering.”

This is about the fiftieth nugget of foodie information chef and Tokyo Cooking Studio-founder Yukari Matsushita has served up – and we’re still only making the salad. It’s fair to say that I’m learning a lot at Yukari’s cookery class.

And not everything I’m learning is about Japanese food, either. Yukari is Japanese, but she studied French cuisine and worked in a San Francisco restaurant before marrying a Taiwanese man.

Eventually, she opened the Tokyo Cooking Studio (near Shimokitazawa) in which we’re now making our scallop, avocado and wasabi salad.

Their motto is “think globally, act locally” and that comes through in the class; between the five of us we speak at least four languages and our conversations run the gamut from British cuisine’s unfair reputation to why French-Japanese fusion baking is so delicious. (It’s because “the cuisines rely on different flavour profiles but similar techniques, so they’re very complementary,” in case you were wondering).

The next place you take your kids

Sri Lanka is blessed with all the essential ingredients for the family trip of a lifetime. Comparatively compact, with a colourful cultural identity, incredible wildlife and food you will never forget, this is the subcontinent at its most manageable. Rough Guides Managing Editor Keith Drew has the lowdown on why this tropical island paradise should be next on your family’s holiday hit list.

 

1. There are ancient kingdoms “ruled” by monkeys

Most children will be able to tackle the climb up Sigiriya, a royal citadel remarkably perched atop a weathered hunk of rock at the centre of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle – though a head for heights is needed for the metal staircase that marks the final push to the summit.

After this, you should be able to fit in another sight before temple fatigue kicks in, so pick the former capital of Polonnaruwa. Fifty-five kilometres to the east, it’s colonised by macaques and enlivened with tales of King Parakramabahu I (and his 300 wives).

Where to stay: The ground-breaking Jetwing Vil Uyana is set in former arable land now returned to paddy-fields, marsh and forests. Large thatched “dwellings” share an infinity pool, but the best thing for kids is the variety of wildlife, including the rare (and ridiculously cute) slender loris.

 

2. You can learn to surf on a laidback beach

The best waves in Sri Lanka crash onto the long expanse of beach that curves around Arugam Bay, a low-key settlement in the southeast of the country. The vibe here is very different to the more popular west coast, and it’s a good place to drop out from a sightseeing itinerary for a few days.

Several surf schools run lessons for children around Arugam Bay and Pottuvil Point further north; Baby Point is an aptly named break to start things off on.

Where to stay: There are lots of rustic choices on the main road through Arugam Bay, but for something a bit more relaxing, head to Kottukal Beach House at Pottuvil Point. It’s a breezy villa with two family rooms in the main house and instant access to an empty stretch of beach.

Alive and kicking in Paris

The room is dark, illuminated only by glowing champagne buckets at the centre of each red velvet booth. Then, to the strains of a sultry Britney Spears cover, the curtains open.

Launching the second half of the show at the Crazy Horse tonight is Undress to Kill, a striptease like no other, designed by Dita Von Teese. The dancer is completely nude, dressed instead in Le Crazy’s signature projections – a backless red dress slowly morphs into an intricate veil of lace as the performer leans in and out of the light.

Today, the Crazy Horse is the most famous cabaret in the city. The artistic vision of Andrée Deissenberg, previously of Cirque du Soleil, it’s become a Parisian institution, renowned for its celebration of femininity and beauty. Under the guidance of Creative Director Ali Mahdavi, they aim to glorify “the powerful, dominant, insubordinate female” – essentially women who like to run the show.

Since Andrée took the reins ten years ago, Le Crazy has gone from strength to strength, with Dita Von Teese by no means the most famous collaborator. The last few years have seen famous faces such as Conchita Wurst take to the stage, and the star-studded audience range from Rihanna and John Legend to Cara Delevingne and Jean Paul Gaultier.

If some of the acts look familiar, it could be because Beyoncé modelled her video for Partition on some of Le Crazy’s signature performances. Her hypnotic fan of legs above a mirrored stage, and pole dancers illuminated bit-by-bit as if scanned by a sliver of light, are close to carbon copies of the originals.

Surviving solo travel

Travelling alone can seem daunting from the comfort of home. What happens if you get stranded somewhere? Can you go out at night solo? Won’t it feel weird to eat in a restaurant alone?

All these worries and more (Will I get attacked by bandits? Or my car stuck in a ditch?) plague most travellers before their first solo trip, but quickly evaporate, outweighed by the innumerable benefits. Here, our authors and editors offer their top tips on how to travel alone successfully.

 

1. Know your strengths

Are you a sociable person who wants to be in the middle of everything? You might go crazy if you can’t communicate, so head for where you speak the language. Or, barring that, go somewhere with very few tourists.

If you’re more of an introvert and prefer to observe a culture, forget the language barrier and go for passive entertainment. Vibrant cities are perfect for this, especially ones with good café cultures. Paris is classic, but other former French colonies, such as Vietnam, are also great for sitting and people-watching, all for the price of a coffee.

 

2. Sleep around

Look for room rentals in an apartment, which gives an automatic connection with residents when you’re travelling alone. Even if your landlord doesn’t take you out on the town, you’ll at least scoop up a few local tips. Try online bulletin boards in your destination, room-rental sites such as Airbnb and crash-pad networks such as Couchsurfing.

Bonus: as a solo traveller, you have tons of options to choose from. Hostels are of course ready-made for solo travellers, but you might wind up spending more time with other tourists than with locals.

 

3. Don’t be afraid of your own company

Being alone for large quantities of time can be daunting – but just roll with it. You might learn to love your own company along the way.

And if you’re feeling particularly social, you can always make new friends. Show off your free-agent status by offering to take a family’s photo at a big sight, for instance, or by sitting near a chatty gang at a bar.

 

4. Just say no

Sometimes, especially in more hospitable and foreigner-fascinated cultures like Egypt, the attention you get travelling solo can be a little intense. Learn how to say “no, thank you” in the local language, as well as “absolutely not” – plus the local nonverbal gesture for no, which is often more effective than both.

Also have local help numbers, such as the tourist police, programmed in your phone. You’ll probably never need them, but just knowing you have them can give you the confidence to deal with awkward situations.

 

5. Pack a book

A good book, a magazine or even just postcards to write or your travel journal to jot in – are all legitimate activities at a bar or restaurant if you get to feeling a little bored/lonely/exposed, so carry one of them with you at all times. And as a last resort there’s always fiddling with your smartphone.