Sunday, January 18, 2009

A stroll through the streets in an illuminated sort of way

Hotel Hotelo is very welcoming and the hosts very pleasant, making our stay in Lyon very easy! Set in renovated building/s, it is at the same time chic and clean, and revealing a little of its past.

With Lyon's history dating back to 50 BC, there is a wealth of interesting history.

We started today by visiting the Institut Lumière that chronociles the development of the moving picture by members of the family Lumière. Meredith and Fliss, you will understand better than most Michael's interest in this museum! Located in the Monplaisir district, we emerged from the Metro into a regular Saturday market set up in the town square (complete with beggar and child sitting on the ground smack bang in the middle of the cross paths!) Here we could see locals buying their weekly fruit and vegetables. Our WHS and food safety people would be horrified - a butcher, fishmonger and delicatessan operating from their vans alongside he produce sellers - however, you must realise that the temperatures here are vastly different to those at home!

This museum is housed in the most beautiful art deco house that was home to the Lumière family. Wealthy from the shrewd and carefully managed development of their industry, the family built this amazing home away from the centre of Lyon (but still accessible by tram) in the rural neighbourhood of Monplaisir where at the time, they had views to the Alps. Entry in to the property was through the impressive porch that still stands. The building itself is amazing - it had the city's first central heating and one of the first internal telephone systems. It is also a remarkable example of art deco decoration.

The focus of the museum is the development of the Cinematograph and its application firstly to the family and their lives and then the commercialisation. Very entrepreneurial this family! It houses numerous artefacts that tell their story through the development and refinement of this technology, as well as a rich collection of their films, including their first ever film. At its height, there was a factory located next to the house where photographic plates were manufactured.

We spent what seemed like a hurried 3 hours here immersing ourselves not only in the interesting development of this technology, but also in to the lives of the Lumière family that they captured so well on film - both static and moving.

Sons Auguste and Louis Lumière also had a keen interest in medicine and pioneered a prosthetic arm, a fabric treatment for burns that is still in use today. Not only entrepreneurial, but also very inventive.

We had needed to keep an eye on the time as we have booked a 2 hour walking tour of Lyon today. We felt the need for some local flavour on the history of the city - and some of the tidbits that only a Lyonaisse could provide! We make our way back to Place Bellecour and the Office d'Tourisme. Our english speaking guide Annalisse gathers her group around her - an eclectic mix from many quarters. In all some 18 of us (including a few french who felt the french speaking group of about 40 was too large).

Off we set across the Place Bellecour. Annalisse explains that this is the only large square in Lyon and as such, is the place for many public gatherings. As we had been waiting, we could witness two such gatherings - protest marches for two very different causes - one with placard wearing families (including young children) protesting the government moves to reduce the number of teachers, thus increasing class sizes - same everywhere huh! I remember such protestations being made while working for Education Qld some years ago. Guess the public purse is feeling squeezed all over the world. The other protest that was considerably more vocal was one against the middle east conflict. This is a big one in Europe right now and nightly the news broadcasts show images of such protests in most large cities.

Analisse now takes across the River Saône via the Pont Bonaparte. Our first stop is at the St Jean Cathedral to watch the Astronomical Clock working. By the oohs and aahs, it is obvious that many of our party have not seen such a clock in motion before. This clock is much smaller than the one in Strasbourg and less ornate, though just as intricate in its movements. Just outside the cathedral there are numerous indications of the earlier settlers in this area including parts of earlier churches built on this site and walls from roman settlements in the first centuries.

Lyon has a very strong trade history due to its siting at the junction of the Rhone and Saône Rivers and the history of settlement. The early Governors of the City helped to cement this by abolishing taxes on goods traded during the trade fairs here. This helped to further establish the City. During this time, with the passage of traders, the city's reputation in silk trading and weaving really took hold.

As many of the residential streets were long and public space for squares limited, a series of shortcuts known as traboules (silk workers passageways) developed. These led through magnificent interior courtyards, complete with wells and spiralling staircases to individual houses. We were lucky enough to visit about ten of these.
At a number of points during our walk we came across a hodge podge of musicians playing loudly in the Squares. This annoyed Annalisse as she could not be heard over them - the rest of us hoewever, were busy taking photos! There is something distinctly European (and really quite French) about this type of entertainment.

Our tour continues through the back streets with Annalisse a veritable wealth of knowledge and snippets. We pass Lyon's greatest trompe l'oeil mural - one the side of the wall of one of the best hotels - Le Cour de Loges. This image depicts the traboule that now forms part of the foyer of this hotel. They do not appreciate hordes of tourists just traipsing in to have a look, so this was their answer to satifying everyone! Inventive? Sure!
We finish our walk and make our way back to the Cathedral where we get the Metro back to our Hotel. We get lost coming our of the Metro Station and end up on the other side of the River Rhone. My feet are too sore to continue traipsing and we have decided to stay another couple of days so need to get stuff out of the car as the secure car park is closed tomorrow. Too tired to bother going out for dinner, we pick up a couple of Croques Monsieur to eat at the Station. Then off to the Hotel for a well earned foot rub!

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