Our favorite spot: Le Broc’Bar

Lyon’s neighborhood bar for everyone

Our visit to Lyon was to be a three-night layover on the way from Paris to Narbonne. We had reserved a fifth-floor walkup in the 1st arrondissement, the Presqu’île, but since we’d never been to Lyon we really didn’t know if this would turn out to be a good choice. Would the location be convenient or difficult? Would the neighborhood be vibrant or sketchy? As it turns out, it was perfect, and Le Broc’Bar was one of the reasons.

While our intention was to have a nice dinner in Lyon the first night, we missed our scheduled train out of Paris. So instead we grabbed a sandwich at the station and ate it on the way. (No hardship there, though. It was delicious! Thank you French Toast.)

By the time we arrived at the apartment in Lyon it was late and we were beat. We’d been traveling more than 24 hours, yet we couldn’t just go to bed without seeing some of the city. So we set down our bags, and headed out to find somewhere to toast our arrival.

We didn’t have to go far. Just 100 feet from the door of our building, on the corner of Rue de la Paltere and Rue Lanterne, was Le Broc’Bar. It was a colorful and inviting scene.

Patrons filled about three dozen red and yellow metal chairs outside on the terrace, beneath the glow of white fairy lights strung from a large mulberry tree. The bar inside was tiny, about a dozen seats, but most of them were empty. Even though the temperature was in the 30s, everyone wanted to be outside.

One can’t visit a bar or restaurant in France without noticing the popularity of tobacco smoking. Coming from the states, where cigarette smoking is mostly restricted to the home and sidewalk, France is quite a different story. While smoking inside public buildings is not legal, there appear to be few restrictions about smoking outside.

Most restaurants have partially covered and open air terraces with large freestanding and even ceiling mounted heaters. When we visited, the temperatures dropped into the 30s yet most outdoor seating areas at cafes and restaurants were full. Patrons in full on winter wear ate dinner, sipped coffee, drank beer – and smoked. Broc’Bar was no exception.

During the day I can imagine Le Broc’Bar is great for people watching. But we were there in the evenings. All the shops were closed, so most of the activity was happening immediately around us. It was a young crowd of twenty- and thirty- somethings: drinking, snacking, smoking, chatting. Such a comfortable and cozy atmosphere, like a communal winding down.

Clearly, we were the oldest patrons at Le Broc’Bar, but we felt completely welcomed. So much so, in fact, that we made it our nightly ritual. Before going to bed each evening, we wandered down for a pint or two. The selection of beer was small, just three or four on tap, but it’s all we needed. We always found something appealing and enjoyable. It was a great way to end each day.

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