Monday, 26 October 2015

An afternoon in Lyon - street art and fountains

It's going to be a photo-heavy post this evening because I am exhausted
Street art in Lyon 
after our afternoon exploring Lyon and won't write much but will write a lot anyway. We knew Lyon is a large city so opted to just visit two areas, but this still involved several hours strolling around and two slightly stressful train journeys. For a start, the half hourly trains shown on the timetable at our campsite don't exist. We missed one by about thirty seconds and the next wasn't due for ninety minutes so we got to wander Anse for an hour! The train was one of the double decker ones which we still find fun as they are unusual to us. The return fare was about €11 each for a twenty-five minute journey. Once at Lyon Vaise station we were a bit baffled by which Metro platform we needed, but two friendly station staff were very helpful giving us a pocket map and directing us the right way. And it was worth the perseverance to get to the old city centre! We really liked Lyon and would return to spend more time there if back this way in the future.

Vieux Lyon is, as its name implies, the old district of Lyon and it
St Jean cathedral 
reminded us of Trastevere in Rome. There are more eateries than you can shake a stick at, cute little boutique shops, narrow streets and architecturally pretty buildings. The area is dominated by the huge Saint Jean cathedral which towers up into the sky and was just too big the capture on my phone. Instead this image shows one of the arches over the gigantic wooden doors. Originally all these figures would have had heads!

We could also see the Basilica de Notre Dame de Fourviere high up on the hillside above the cathedral. It is an impressive white structure reached by way of a funicular railway.

Lunch was at a creperie called Le Banana. I loved the olde-worlde decor
Inside Le Banana 
inside and they had an interesting range of savoury pancakes. I chose the Fjord which was filled with smoked salmon and goat's cheese, both hot. I wouldn't have thought to pair those two flavours, but the crepe was delicious. Dave had the Margharita with three types of cheese and fresh tomatoes. We enjoyed people-watching and were delighted to spot two cycle rickshaw-like taxis which are operated by Cyclopolitain. After lunch, we spent longer wandering Vieux Lyon and visited a 'traboul' - an alleyway like a twitten which leads into a courtyard. There are several in the area, all privately owned, but with a few open to the public to view.

View along Le Saone, Lyon 

Views from the frequent bridges over Le Saone vary. We saw more
Roman amphitheatre in Lyon 
dismal and grim functional buildings than impressively historic architecture although I did like this particular view upstream. Lyon does have its fair share of grand buildings - the Bank Of China being beautiful - but they are hemmed in by concrete monstrosities. Once over the river we headed towards Roman ruins and the ancient amphitheatre. This was fenced off and I don't know if it was just shut on Mondays or more permanently. We were able to look through the fencing and helpful plaques explained the history. The amphitheatre was built in 12BC and enlarged under the rule of Emperor Hadrian some hundred and thirty years later. (Yes, the same Hadrian of Wall fame!) It seated twenty thousand and was used as the annual meeting place of the sixty-four nations of the Three Gauls as well as for torturing the first Christians (AD177) including Sainte Blandine. Not much of the amphitheatre now remains - more than in Chester but far less than in Italica.

We saw fabulous street art 'over the river' including this tall yellow
Amazing mural
 in Lyon 
apartment block which is painted with residents from several historical eras on its balconies. I also liked the mural of a man painting a mural (shown in the first photo) especially as we had actually seen a man painting a mural last weekend in Brixton. The painting man was on this same building, but around the corner.

Streets were noticeably quieter in this district than in the touristy Vieux Lyon. The area used to be home to silk weavers and we did see a shop selling its own woven silk wares. Fortunately it was closed as the fabrics were stunningly beautiful and probably pricey! Artists have studios and small shops there too. I couldn't get good photographs of their works, but window displays that caught our eyes included a truly fantastical collection entitled Machines A Rever created by Lionel Stocard.

Nearby was the Lyon Opera House which is a grand building alongside
Louise Labe sculpture, Lyon 
the equally as grand Fine Art Museum. The Place outside the Opera House was hosting lots of skateboarders and some rehearsing dancers too. I loved this sculpture of  Louise Labe, a Lyonnais poet, created in 1981. Louise Labe is also shown, together with fellow poet Maurice Sceve, in the yelliow building mural but, unfortunately not on the side of which I took my photo. You can see it on this terresdecrivans page though which also has a short biography of her life (in French).

My final wonderful Lyon scene is the oversized La Fontaine Bartholdi which was sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and realised by Gaget and Gautier in 1889. I guess the only reason Dave is happily smiling for the camera is that he hasn't seen the four huge horses bearing down on him! The fountain depicts France as a chariot-driving woman controlling the four great rivers of the country depicted as the almost out-of-control horses. Bartholdi first designed the fountain for a Bordeaux competition which he won, but apparently Bordeaux weren't actually interested in making it happen until they learned of the impact of another Bartholdi sculpture - The Statue of Liberty. Then Bordeaux's mayor got in touch again, hummed and hawed over the cost, and eventually sold the monument to Lyon. Definitely Bordeaux's loss!

Bartholdi Fountain, Lyon 


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