Wander Or Bust: Lyon, France

By Deanna Pai

Wander or Bust is an Elite Daily travel series that follows young women all over the globe to record their journeys as they experience the thrill of the far-flung and unknown.

They'll track their budgets, where they stay, where they eat and drink, and where they took that amazing Instagram that got them ~maximum exposure.~ The internet is full of travel advice, but none from women just like you. Read on for the tips no one else gives you, and when in doubt, get on the plane.

My Name: Deanna Pai

What I Do: Freelance writer

Where I Live: New York City

Where I Went: Lyon, France

Purpose of trip: Solo adventure, to work, eat, and explore

How Long I Stayed: 6 days, 6 nights

My Spending Style: I try to pinch pennies with the occasional splurge, usually on dinner.

Exchange Rate At Time Of Travel: $1 USD = 0.91 euros

What That Looks Like IRL: $50 USD = 45.57 euros

Where I Got My Recommendations: Good old Internet research!

Preferred Payment Method: I try to pay by credit card as much as possible, since taking cash out abroad can rack up fees. I also save leftover euros when I leave a trip, so I had about 70 euros in cash to start.

Phone Bill: $50. I got an international plan where I had unlimited talk, text, and data for $10/day, but only for days that I actually used it.

Luggage Type: I always pack a carry-on suitcase to make getting around as simple as possible.

The 10 Most Important Items I Packed: Lip balm, brow gel, jeans, extra socks, running clothes, my e-reader, contact lens solution, long-sleeved t-shirts, a lightweight jacket, an umbrella.

What Shoes I Brought: Leather sneakers, running shoes, and flat strappy sandals, since I’d been in Greece prior.

Mode of Transport: I flew to Lyon from Athens ($264), where I was on vacation with my family. At the end of my trip, I took a train to Paris ($52), where I caught my flight home. Flying into one city in Europe and leaving from another can be stupid-cheap, as in, I paid $380 to get from NYC to Athens and from Paris to NYC. Yes, that's roundtrip.

Extra Costs: To get to Lyon’s city-center from the airport, I booked the Rhônexpress from Lyon’s airport through the Expedia Mobile app, where I could get train tickets plus the City Card (which offers free access to 23 museums and public transportation around the city!). Bonus: Expedia’s app made it super easy to pull up tickets and vouchers. The Rhônexpress and two-day City Card together were $56.23.

Transport Total: $752.23

Accommodation: I stayed in an apartment rental (which made it easy for me to make breakfast and save money on eating out).

Location: Presqu’ile, which is the heart of the city and between the Rhône and Saône rivers.

Price: $75.18/night

Extra Costs: $104.74 for the service fee, cleaning fee, and taxes

Would I Recommend It To Someone Else: Absolutely. The location was central, but next to a cathedral — so it was dead-quiet at night.

Accommodation Total: $555.82

Breakfast Cost: $3/day

I bought bread, butter, apples, and croissants to tide me over because I’d rather save my money for dinner.

Lunch Cost: $8/day

I skimped on lunch and would usually just pick up a baguette with tuna or a salad — yum!

Dinner Cost: $25/day

Average Total Cost: $36/day

Tip Situation: Tipping isn’t standard but it is appreciated. Usually, I would leave any pocket change, like 1 to 2 euros for dinner out.

Food Situation: Lyon is known as the gastronomy capital of France, so they’re serious about food — especially meat. The bouchons, a type of restaurant unique to Lyon, serve up lots of sausages, pâtés, and offal. They’re also known for quenelles, which are fish dumplings in a crayfish-based sauce.

Favorite Restaurant: A Ma Vigne, a classic French restaurant known for its steak. The restaurant was pretty small, and the lone server had to turn away quite a few people, so I felt pretty lucky to get a seat!

Favorite Dish: The steak was served up rare and swimming in butter sauce. It was accompanied by a salad and the crispiest fries I’ve ever had in my life.

Location: 23 Rue Jean Larrivé, 69003 Lyon, France

Price: ~$35 for the prix fixe, plus a carafe of red wine (because, duh).

Honorable Mentions: A restaurant called Butcher, where I had delicious, soy sauce-infused steak tartare, fries, salad, and a moelleux au chocolat (AKA. chocolate lava cake.)

Food Total: $250

Nightlife Situation: There are a ton of wine bars (obviously), cocktail bars, and a few cool jazz clubs.

What People Wear Out: Anything warm and casual — Lyon seems like a very low-key city.

Average Cost Of A Drink: 7 euros for a glass of wine.

Local Drink Of Choice: Côte du Rhône wine — welcome to the heart of the Rhône wine region!

Average Total Cost Of A Night Out: $10, because I was traveling solo and am not exactly a night owl.

Best Bar I'd Actually Go Back To: La Cave Des Voyageurs. It was a warm, cave-like wine bar with generous outdoor seating, and on a great corner for people-watching, no less.

Going Out Total: $40

Most Interesting Thing I Learned About My Destination: It was the place of La Résistance during World War II when Paris was occupied. I went to the Centre D'histoire De La Résistance Et De La Deportation, where I learned just how much French citizens in Lyon contributed to the fight, working with Charles de Gaulle to free France and work with the Allied Powers. Fascinating!

Most Fun Interaction With A Local: I went to the same boulangerie to get sandwiches, and the very nice guy behind the counter humored my subpar French three days in a row.

Best Day Trip I Took: I booked a car using my Expedia Mobile App (with all the insurance I could possibly get) and drove to Perouges, a medieval town built on a hilltop in Rhône. It was so cool (and terrifying) to drive throughout the French countryside and navigate this place by myself.

Most Interesting Historical Site I Saw: On a hill in the city, there’s an ancient Roman amphitheater, the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, that dates back to 15 BC. It’s beautifully preserved and free to visit. I wandered into it by accident on my way to the Notre Dame basilica.

Best Guided Tour I Took: The Secret Food Tour, which I booked through my Expedia app, paired food with history lessons! The group explored les traboules, which are passageways that lead through private courtyards and towards the Saône river. I ate praline brioche, foie gras macaron, and St. Marcellin cheese as well as veal feet and tripe — but only because we weren’t told what the dishes were until afterwards. Whoops!

Excursions/Culture Total: $400

What I Spent A Lot On That Was Totally Worth It: Renting a car through my Expedia app to drive to Perouges. The office was hidden in a subterranean parking garage, which I was able to locate via the app. I had to pay a zillion tolls and for gas on top of the car and the insurance coverage, but the tiny town was unlike any place I’ve ever been.

What I Spent Little Or No Money On That Was Awesome: On my last day, I rented a bike with my City Card to hit up all the arrondissements I hadn’t yet walked through. I rode through Parc de la Tête d'Or and sat on the lawn for a while. It was generally tourist-free and so relaxing.

Favorite Hidden Gem I Found: I spent a solid hour in Vieux Lyon trying to find more of les traboules, some of which are unmarked. Thank you to the Secret Food Tour, which I only discovered through Expedia’s 'Things to Do' recommendations.

Favorite View I Saw: The best view was from my runs in the morning along the Saône river.

Best Lyon Hack: Get the City Card, which you can get in a package with the Rhônexpress from the airport in the Expedia app. I had it for just two days, but was able to maximize my time and save myself a lot of money.

Advice For Anyone Traveling Alone To My Destination: I usually stick to myself when I travel solo, but going on a food tour was so much fun. It was a low-stakes way to socialize. And booking it through the Expedia app made it easy to keep track of my itinerary, know where to arrive, and pull up my reservations in a pinch.

What I Wish I Knew Before I Went: I wish I knew how much there is to do in Lyon so I could’ve added a few days to my trip. The city has a really rich history that it doesn’t always get credit for.

Total Trip Cost: $1,948

Worth It? Why? Definitely. Lyon is a smaller city than Paris and thus can get overlooked, but there’s a lot to do and see. What other city has Roman ruins, was the base for the World War II Resistance, and offers groundbreaking cuisine? Plus, there are fewer tourists, the museums are unique, and it’s overall just a beautiful city.

This post is sponsored by Expedia.