Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lyon gastronomic capital of France.

Lyon roofline from pont La Feuillee. drawing Peter Kreet


To return to your past may often prove to be a daunting experience and revisiting Lyon after fifty-five years was no exception. The city first visited in my youth however did not disappoint, although our arrival to take up an apartment tenancy proved to be disappointing. Our landlord simply failed to show up and honour his agreement. But I do not wish to dwell on negatives for Lyon over the years has developed from strength to strength. It is easy to understand why the city in recent has enticing visitors in great numbers. Its delightful building painted in a variety of pastel and earthy tones throw out a welcome greeting. Lyon standing as it does between two wide rivers, the Saone and the Rhone has a spacious feel and does not force itself upon the visitor unlike some European cities. It is possible to walk around its wide squares, parks or down wide streets to feel the space the city offers.

View from Fourviere.
For our eight day stay I intended to draw many of the wonderful roof lines of the beautiful 18th cent buildings and explore the museums, restaurants and attractions at will. August unfortunately is not the best time to visit private art galleries and interesting boutiques as many owners take their annual holidays in August as well. But the Museum of Beaux Art was open home to a fine collection of historic and modern painting, along with an extensive Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquates. The city after all was capital of Roman Gaul.
rue de la Platiere  drawing Peter Kreet

Standing proudly on Place des Terreaux breathing jets of vaporised water through their nostrils are a wonderful group of rearing horses the creation of Frederic Bartholdi designer of the Statue of Liberty in New York. One of the highlights of Lyon however would have to me Basilique of Notre-Dame standing guard on Fourviere a large hill overlooking the town. This unique building built in the last years of the 19th century was constructed as a thank you to the Virgin Mary for saving the city from the plague devouring Europe at the time. The Cathedral is a wonderful example of old and modern design. Built with carved stone this neo-gothic building contains an extraordinary ornate interior. Indeed the Basilique is more like a palace than a church decorated with tens of thousands of mosaic titles depicting various biblical scenes. How the late 19th century found the hundreds of artists craftsmen to carry out the work I have no idea, but the final result is quite breathtaking. Considering the building is barely hundred years old, the stone features and general structure suggest a much older place of worship. It is possible to return to the old city via a zig zag track down the hillside a great walk in itself.

La Fontain Bartholdi
Basilique de Notre-Dame

After a few days drawing we decided to take a tour of the nearby Beaujolais wine district. In my youth I spent the odd summer holiday with my uncle who lived in Chamlet pruning a few vines on the edge of Beaujolais district. Our tour guide turned out to be a very lively commentator as we stopped at the little medieval village of Oingt considered by many as one of the prettiest in France. Built of a yellow-ochre coloured stone the buildings have a wonderful warmth and glow, I could not resist the opportunity to carry out a few drawings. We then visited a local winery. The Beaujolais is divided into twelve appellations according to soil type, so the wines vary accordingly. A more mineral flavoured wine from the blue stone soils and a softer fruity flavour from pink granite. Nearly all the vines I saw were gooseberry bush pruned, that is close to the ground to obtain maximum reflected heat to enable early ripening.

Village of Oingt.
Another don’t miss experience while in Lyon is a visit to the Sunday market along both sides of the River Saone
. Unlike most markets in Tasmania, all the stalls are grouped according to the produce they sell. The book section was all together, while on the other side of the river was devoted to arts and crafts. Many artists worked away on site, painting, drawing and even potting. Further down over the river again ran the fruit, vegetables and some great cooked on the spot take away foods. It is possible to select a chicken, select your desired spices and have it cooked while you wait. I believe these markets are to be found all over Lyon.

River walk Soade.
While on the subject of food which is central to any visit it is a must to partake of a genuine Lyonnais meal in a bouchon. One near our hotel Chez Paul offered a unique dinning experience. The menu consist of some six to eight entrees, a selection of three mains and three deserts. However unlike a normal restaurant each entrĂ©e dish is placed on the table and the dinner may take a serve of each. The same applies to the deserts all this for a fixed price. The food is traditional Lyonnais home cooking and dinners are seated on entry on the first vacant seat, table by table not unlike a farm kitchen meal. This procedure   is carried until the restaurant is full. Don’t think the dishes are plain one night I enjoyed pork cheek. The major problem for many visitors is the dishes are new and the temptation to taste them all is great.

Entrance to Cath. Of Notre-Dame
Towards the end of our stay, we took the metro to Lumiere Museum housed in their villa an architectural creation of Antoine Lumiere. The brothers registered nearly 200 hundred patents during their life time over a very diverse field. Apart from their development of all sorts of new techniques in the fields of photography and cinema, Louis invented the articulated handgrip in response to the causalities from the First World War. Later he invented the diaphragm out of folded paper, a predecessor of the acoustic membrane of to-days loudspeakers. August invented the Tulle Gras dressing, anon-adhesive dressing impregnated with active ingredient for the treatment of burns. The list goes on and Lyon must be very proud of its Lumiere brothers.

Villa Lumiere

Finally no visit to Lyon would be complete without a visit to Paul Bocuse Restaurant; unfortunately there is a year’s waiting list! Still I decided to visit Paul Bocuse Food Hall, housing a vast array of all sorts of possible ways to prepare food. Stalls producing all manner of dishes from snails to mouth-watering pastries, Lyon is always worth a return visit. 

                                                               Roman Theature.