Thursday, June 14, 2012

A day in Lyon, France

When Paula and I were in Vevey, last December, for her pre-visit to Nestle, we took the train to Lyon, France to see their Festival of Lights (more on that festival later).  We had such great food that we promised ourselves that we would re-visit Lyon when we got the opportunity.  We fulfilled that promise, with a visit on the weekend of June 2nd and 3rd.

Arriving at the Lyon Train Station.

Lyon is located approximately 292 miles from Paris, 199 miles from Marseille and 99 miles from Geneva.  Two major rivers, the Rhone and the Saone, runs through the town.  The residents of the city are called Lyonnais.  It is the second largest city, in France, with a metropolitan population of over 2 million inhabitants.

In 43 BC the Roman military colony of Lugdunum (Lyon) was founded on Fourviere Hill, which now overlooks the present city from the west.  It served as the capital of the Roman territories known as the Three Gauls under Augustus, but had to wait until the 15th century for fame and fortune to strike.  With the arrival of move able type in 1473, Lyon became one of Europe’s foremost publishing centers, with several hundred resident printers contributing to the city’s extraordinary prosperity.

By the mid-18th century, the city’s influential silk weavers – 40% of Lyon’s total workforce – transformed what had already been a textiles center since the 15th century into the silk-weaving capital of Europe. By the early 19th century, Lyon had tripled in size, boasting a population of 340,000 people and 100,000 weaving looms.  

In 1870 the Lumiere family moved to Lyon, and sons Louis and Auguste shot the first moving picture – of workers exiting their father’s photographic factory – in 1895. Cinema’s birth was an instant winner.

During WWII some 4,000 people (including Resistance leader Jean Moulin) were killed and 7,500 others deported to Nazi death camps under Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie (1913–91), the ‘butcher of Lyon’. Nazi rule ended in September 1944, when the retreating Germans blew up all but two of Lyon’s 28 bridges. A Lyon court sentenced Barbie to death in absentia in 1952 and again in 1954, but it was not until 1987, following his extradition from Bolivia (where he had settled after WWII), that he was tried in person in Lyon for crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment. The 72-year-old died in prison three years later.

The international police agency Interpol has been headquartered in Lyon since 1989.

Today, the city has developed a reputation as the capital of gastronomy in France. The city is also known for its famous light festival "Fete des Lumieres" which occurs every December 8th and lasts for four days, that earned Lyon the title of Capital of Lights (not to be mixed up with Paris the city of light). Over 4 million people attended last years' festival.

To get to our hotel, we walked along the Rhone River.  Near the bank was this family of swans.  You can see the two baby swans in the middle of the picture.

Lyon is considered to be the "Capitale de Gastronomique" of France with 2 principal approaches to dining. First is classic French cuisine featuring the complex sauces and formal presentation. The second important approach to dining out is at a restaurant called a Bouchon. These are generally small places that do a great job with peasant food. Le Bon Bourgeois, is such a place, where we enjoyed salade Lyonnaise, escargot, goat cheese, lemony pasta and other simple, yummy stuff. 

Bon Appetit

Cath├ędrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon (St John’s Cathedral of Lyon).
This Roman Catholic cathedral was founded by Saint Pothinus and Saint Irenaeus, the first two bishops of Lyon. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Lyon. The cathedral is also known as a "Primatiale" because in 1079 the Pope granted to the archbishop of Lyon the title of Primate Of All the Gauls with the legal supremacy over the principal archbishops of the kingdom.
Begun in the twelfth century on the ruins of a 6th century church, it was completed in 1476. The building is 265 feet long (internally), 66 feet wide at the choir, and 107 feet high in the nave.
Noteworthy are two crosses to right and left of the altar, preserved since the council of 1274 as a symbol of the union of the churches, and the Bourbon chapel, built by the Cardinal de Bourbon and his brother Pierre de Bourbon, son-in-law of Louis XI, a masterpiece of 15th century sculpture.
The cathedral also has a working 14th century astronomical clock (a clock with special mechanisms and dials to display astronomical information, such as the relative positions of the sun, moon, zodiacal constellations and major planets.)

Until the construction of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere, it was the pre-eminent church in Lyon

We traveled to Lyon with a few of our friends from Nestle, from left to right, Ash, Patty, John, Paula and Kathy.

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere.

The entrance to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere.

From the base of Fourviere Hill we too a funicular to visit this church.  As you exit the funicular, this is the view of the church.

Construction was started in 1872 and finally completed in 1884. It has four main towers, and a bell tower topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. It features fine mosaics, superb stained glass and a crypt of Saint Joseph. 

Fourviere actually contains two churches, one on top of the other. The upper sanctuary is very ornate, while the lower is a much simpler design.

The Basilica is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who not only saved the city of Lyon from a cholera endemic sweeping Europe in 1823, but during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1), Prussian forces, having taken Paris, were progressing south towards Lyon. Their halt and retreat were attributed, by the Church, to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.
Perched on top of the Fourviere hill, the basilica looms impressively over the city of Lyon, from where it can be seen from many vantage points;  the basilica has become a symbol of the city.

It has four main towers, and a bell tower topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. It features fine mosaics, superb stained glass and a crypt of Saint Joseph.
Fourviere actually contains two churches, one on top of the other. The upper sanctuary is very ornate, while the lower is a much simpler design.

Paula and Ash descending the stairs to the lower sanctuary.

Lower sanctuary.

Lower sanctuary.

Upper sanctuary.

Standing to the right of the basilica is the Chapel of the Virgin Mary.

In 1168, a chapel was built to Our Lady on the hilltop of Fourviere. This chapel was destroyed in 1562 by the Baron des Adrets (a notorious persecutor of catholics) but the chapel was soon rebuilt.  As a side note, Baron des Adrest converted to Catholicisms before his death in 1587. 

Marian devotion continued to develop in Fourviere, becoming especially popular when in 1638 King Louis XIII consecrated France to the Virgin Mary

In 1643 the people of Lyons consecrated themselves to Our Lady Fourviere and pledged themselves to make a solemn procession on September 8th of each year, in thanksgiving for her saving the city of Lyon from a cholera endemic. On that day, the people make a present to the Virgin of a seven-pound candle and a gold coin. This annual procession continues to this day.

In 1830, the steeple of the chapel was deemed to be in poor condition and unsafe, and it was demolished. It was then decided that a golden statue of Mary would be added to the re-built steeple. The inauguration of the renovated chapel was initially scheduled for September 8, 1852, feast of the Nativity of Mary, but heavy rains instead flooded the foundry where the statue was stored, causing the inauguration to be moved to December 8th.

The statue was installed but again the weather was uncooperative, so the planned fireworks and festivities had to be cancelled. The people of Lyon, undismayed by this, put out lanterns on their windowsills when the rain abated later in the evening, as a sign of their devotion. This episode is at the origin of the street illuminations of December 8th, an annual tradition in Lyons nowadays.

A view of Lyon from Fourviere Hill with the Saone River in the middle.

The Roman ruins on Fourviere Hill.

The Lyon Amphitheater, pictured above, is often referred to as the Amphitheatre des Trois Gaules (or Amphitheater of the Three Gauls), is among the oldest ruins to be unearthed in France.  

Another view of the Roman ruins.

La Fontaine Bartholdi.

According to many travel web sites, this is one of the most famous statues in all of France.

This massive bronze structure, which sits in front of Lyon’s City Hall, was designed by Frederic Bartholdi in 1888, two years after he completed work on the Stature of Liberty.

The fountain depicts France as a female seated on a chariot controlling the four great rivers of France; Seine, Loire, Rhone and Garonne represented by wildly rearing and plunging horses, highly individualized but symmetrically arranged, with bridles and reins of water weeds.  The statue weighs 21 tons and is made of lead supported by a frame of iron.

The classic French dining experience at Chef Paul Bocuse Bistro, Le Sud.

Bon Soiree!

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