Wednesday, February 17, 2016

More Lyon love to share

My last two posts about my recent visit to Lyon were about museums, but my sister and I didn't spend our annual winter weekend get-together entirely indoors; Dame Nature was kind enough to cooperate so we could spend most of our time outside, discovering the beauty of France's third-largest city (a UNESCO World Heritage site).

Looking at Vieux Lyon from quai Tilsitt

One of many lion sculptures in Lyon

Lyon's history goes back about 2,000 years. Founded in 43 BC, it was one of the most important cities in the Roman empire and capital of the Three Gauls, which comprised most of modern France and Belgium. Located midway along the routes from Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, Lyon was an important center of trade. Eventually the city became renown for its silk-weaving and textile industries.

The Saône river from one of several pedestrian bridges in Lyon

Along the Rhône in Lyon

My visit begins at Place Bellecour, France third-largest square (behind Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux and Place de la Concorde in Paris) and Europe's largest pedestrian square. Located on the Presqu'ile between the Rhône and Saône rivers, it is just a short walk across la Saône into Vieux Lyon.

Carved stone face on a bridge in Lyon

We decide to forego the funicular and walk up, up, up to Basilica Notre-Dame de Fouvière. The cathedral was built in the late 1800s; its interior was completed after World War II. The panoramic view from the esplanade is awesome — even on this overcast morning.

Enroute to Notre-Dame de Fouvière in Lyon

View from the esplanade at Notre-Dame de Fouvière in Lyon

Detail of exterior of Notre-Dame de Fouvière in Lyon

Interior of Notre-Dame de Fouvière in Lyon

As the sun comes out from behind the clouds, we head a short distance to Lyon's maze of Roman ruins: an odeum, the foundation of a temple and a theater — the oldest such structure in France. Built from 17 to 15 BC under the orders of Augustus and expanded during the reign of Hadrian, the theater has steep seating and foundations of a large stage. The odeum's floor contains original inlaid marble from Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia. Even in its day, the size and variety of marble made this stage one of the most remarkable in Roman Gaul.

Remains of Amphitheater des Trois Gaules in Lyon

The Odeon Theater (or odeum) was a venue for music and poetry.

Original inlaid marble from the Mediterranean on odeum stage in Lyon 

We return to our hotel for a late-afternoon rest because we have special plans this evening — a date with "Lady Macbeth de Mtsensk." Our night at the opera provides us with some lessons. (Excuse the generalities, as this is the first time I've attended an opera here.) First of all, French audiences are silent the moment the lights go out and do not applaud between scenes. Even between the second and third acts, there is about a 10-minute silence while sets were changed — no orchestral interlude, no whispering, no quick trip to the toilet. The audience does, at the end, give a rousing and extended standing ovation. Another lesson: Do not expect that a Russian opera, especially one about heartbreak, betrayal and cold-blooded murder will be fun or uplifting. Shostakovich was no Marvin Hamlisch. But I do appreciate Dmitri Chernyakov's unusual staging. My sister and I agree it is an experience we don't regret and won't forget.

Opéra Nouvel in Lyon is named for architect Jean Nouvel who redesigned
the opera house between 1985 and 1993.

Here are some other sites from Lyon, a city I hope to return to again and again.

Temple du Change once housed Lyon's stock exchange.

"The Weight of One Self" by Michael Elmgreen and
Ingar Dragset in Lyon

Classic car on rue Victor Hugo in Lyon

Detail of la Fontaine des Jacobins in Lyon

Detail of woman cradling a fish (or is it a rabbit?) at
la Fontaine des Jacobins in Lyon.

Whimsical sign in Lyon

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