Friday, October 29, 2010

LYON : The hill that works for me

I enjoyed today so much … I enjoyed this day in Lyon so much that I thought I’d try something a bit different – a more-or-less complete reconstruction of a day of Munson and me wandering around the city, split over several posts.

2010-10-29 LYON the hill that works

My preparation for the day was looking up the location of the traboules and the Parc de la tête dór, suggested respectively by contacts in Australia and France. The traboules are a network of corridors in the older neighbourhoods, notably used by silk-workers to move their wares through the city in all weathers. Yesterday we spent most of our time on or near the Fourvière hill topped by the basilica. In local parlance, this is “the hill that prays”. Today I concentrated on La Croix-Rousse “the hill that works” – the base of the city’s silk industry which could be seen in the long panoramic shot yesterday where buildings cascade down between the rivers Rhône and Saône into the city centre where the strike action took place.

Once I’d identified a nest of traboules on that hill of the russet cross, and that the park of the golden head was an easy walk away, I simply aimed the satnav at the area. I didn’t hurry in that morning as I’d observed that Lyon is not a city of early risers: many businesses operate solely from 2-7pm. Once I reached the site of the Lyon Opera, I parked for the day, and set off with Munson to explore further.  We started in the square (top right) near the Opera and drifted purposefully in the direction of the Passage Thiaffait on rue René Leynaud, past squares of children at play (it’s a school break) and windows of piggy banks. Passing l’école maternelle Robert Doisneau which I freely speculated was for the offspring of couples who had met while kissing on the street.


At one corner, I find myself looking at this building, heavily disguised by trompe l'oeil painting.

Passage Thiaffait Passage Thiaffait - looking back

The Passage Thiaffait is a small courtyard with a bunch of studios, and a cafe. It’s almost lunchtime and I’ve not had breakfast, so I enter and enquire about the plat du jour. I’m told it’s a parmentier – I didn’t recognise the word when spoken, but my look of consternation draws a smile from the young woman at the counter and she draws me into the kitchen to look at a tray of bubbling white in the oven. The chef explains “mashed potato and minced meat”. Oh of course, shepherd’s pie! I explain that that’s tourte bergère en Anglais.

Properly filled with warm pie, I’m standing by the door of the Laspid studio, peering at T-shirt designs through the glass, when two loud crashes have me nearly shooting out of my skin. If Munson and I had not moved a second earlier, the strong wind rattling above us would have deposited a flower-pot on each of our heads from four stories above. I looked up to see a couple more plants waving dangerously, and quickly dragged Munson up the staircase at the read of the passage to go looking for traboules.


From the site I’ve downloaded to my phone a map of a walking route that will lead me through a number of these passageways to the top of the hill. Many of them are now blocked off so you have to do some backtracking to reconnect with the route. The passageways as passageways aren’t that interesting (at least not the few dozen on this route), just corridors and stairs, but you do see catch interesting glimpses into courtyards and windows, or just touching plaques citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a stairwell off the public street.


Now at the top of the hill, we find a rock from the last ice age that was uncovered in ‘the course of building a cable-car in 1890, and which became an artistic symbol during the 1930s.


Our descent is by an adjacent street which offers not only wider vistas of the city, but a riot of graffiti art and a children’s bookstore window ( Pleine Lune, LouLou, Little Red Riding Hood) – all mysteriously wolf-obsessed. I’m also hearing the whispered “loup-chien” (wolf-dog) so many times that I think Brent and Jean should call their next child Lucien.

PA290555  Bottom left: A History of Art


Past houses of god and houses of dog, we’re back at Passage Thiaffait to await Laspid’s 2pm opening and I’m still keeping a wary eye on the flower-pots wobbling on the sills above like plates twirling on a circus performer’s pole. Our path up and down the hill had been littered with laundry items blown from balconies, and other larger flowerpots lying cracked and upended in a pool of soil. I collect one Laspid T-shirt, and then whisk Munson over and along the Rhône in the direction of the Parc de la tête d’or.

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