| |LYON,FRANCE...OLD AND NEW TRADITIONS
Future Vision News Bureau
Arline M.Lowenthal,Director and TravelWriter
The train Controller rapped sharply on the door of our couchette, "VINGT MINUTE A LYON!" It was 5:00 AM. We scurried to ready ourselves, the train lurched to a stop! As we stepped off the train all of the thoughts of travel in Europe flooded my senses... old, quaint places, classic architecture, delectable foods, and diverse cultures. These thoughts seemed to materialize almost immediately upon our arrival in Lyon, France. Our hotel room had windows that opened to reveal old buildings and vintage churches. The haunting chimes and the peeling of bells from a nearby tower betrayed their antiquity; hinting of hard use and long standing tradition. While visiting Lyon, we enjoyed the luxury of staying at the Villa Florentine, one of jewels in the crown of the Relais & Chateau group of fine hotels."Wishbook" bathrooms with gleaming stainless and brass fixtures help to establish a new tradition of comfort, while the ambiance, furnishings, and service embody old traditions. Perched mid-way up the hill on Monte Bartolomy, overlooking Vieux Lyon (the old city), this charming hotel, which was once a convent, offers the peace and tranquillity one seeks during a trip filled with many exhausting and exhilarating hours of work, play, and sightseeing. The fine touches provided for the guests help to ensure a memorable stay. A crystal compote placed in your room awaits you, always filled with exotic fresh fruit: figs, passion fruit, kiwi fruit, and more. High quality amenities; not just the ubiquitous shampoo and soap we have come to expect, but a lovely basket with many other items we often forget, and enjoy using, are beautifully set out for you. The controls to open and close the drapes are at your bedside. These drapes, when closed, offer complete darkness at any time of day or night to insure undisturbed sleep. When open they allow a breathtaking view of Lyon. Breakfast is served, and is a delightful part of your stay at Villa Florentine. There is a full assortment of cheese and meat, eggs to your preference, and the bread... Oh! The Bread! Crusty delectable baguettes, flaky croissants (some filled with chocolate), and many other varieties of rolls and pastries are yours to savor.Glorious fruits abound- they include stewed figs or prunes, fresh apple-pear sauce, lemon custard tarts, and delectably light fruit salad. An assortment of cereals with clotted cream or yogurt, and the usual beverages are served as well as cafe au lait, expresso and American coffee. All of this and, to top it off, the breakfast room overlooks the 18th century lobby with its frescoed, arched ceilings. This wonderful hotel is fit for heads of state. In fact, in June of 1996 President Miterand of France was in residence at Villa Florentine during the G-7 Conference in Lyon.Vieux Lyon is interesting with its narrow winding streets and quaint shops. Most of them are dedicated to daily sustenance of the Lyonnais citizen. We wandered through this charming area stopping at antique shops, meat markets, and boulongeries. What a joy!The surprises of Lyon abound! I was surprised to find that Lyon is the birth place of Jacquard, the man for whom many designs and patterns oon fabric are named. On a hill to the east of Vieux Lyon sits Croix Rousse, and there a statue of Jacquard proudly stands in the plaza at the trolley stop. In the 16th century the silk industry began to develop in Lyon. During the 19th century, the city's silk workers left the Old City and took up residence in the Croix Rousse district. Two hundred years ago more than 28,000 weavers, called "Canuts", were working on looms to create silk fabric. This was the result of Monsieur Jacquard's loom which he invented to allow the weaving of silk with ornate and intricate patterns included as part of this weaving process, while using far fewer steps and personnel. These designs are attained through perforated cards that are arranged at the top of the loom and move through the weaving process to produce such unique and attractive patterns. Many of these motives have come to bear his name. Jacquard prints are common parlance among fabric and fashion designers. These new looms were so tall that special apartment buildings, containing rooms with exceptionally high ceilings, were constructed to accommodate them. Each of these buildings is 4 or 5 stories high, and there are hundreds of them on the streets of Croix Rousse. It's exciting to realize that the halls of Versailles are covered with silk brocade made by the Canuts of Lyon. Today some of the restoration of Versailles is being commissioned to the few remaining Canuts of Lyon... a dying breed being replaced by modern technology. A Canut can produce approximately 2 feet of fabric per day.More surprises of Lyon! One of my many new "did you know's" is the extent of the past presence of the Roman Empire in Lyon. In fact, two Roman Emperors were born in Lyon. Just up the hill from the Villa Florentine is an excavation of an amazing Roman amphitheater, the Théâtres romains de Fourvière, built in 14-16 B.C.. It is the oldest in France, and is the oldest Roman archaeological site outside of Rome itself. This excavation includes a portion of a typical "Roman road." It gave me goose bumps to stand there and imagine the actors and orators performing in that arena....Within the area known as "Hotel de Ville" (translates to City Hall), is a perfect example of the merging of old and new traditions. The Lyon Opera House is constructed within a stately18th century classic marble edifice. The top section of the Opera House (comprising half of the total building) extends upwards, looming above the original structure in a large arch. This upper section has a very modern construction of stainless steel and tinted black glass. The Opera House is a structure of contradictions, either you love it, or you hate it. It is the pride of Lyon, and used often in travel promotion literature. If the jury is still out and awaiting my vote, there are hundreds of buildings in France I prefer over this one. It is interesting, however, and I do recommend you see it. Near the Opera House there is a large open plaza, Place des Terreaux, with rectangles 3-6 feet square. At the connecting point of each of four of these rectangles is a small fountain. The plaza abounds with many of these fountains. Sometimes they are set to be very short, confined "spouty" water fountains, other times to put forth a tall spurt of water. At the center of this plaza is a magnificent sculpture created by Frédéric A. Bartholdi. This same man sculpted the Statue Of Liberty, which stands proudly in New York harbor. The fountains are contained enough so that one can stroll about in the expanse of the plaza, view the sculpture, and enjoy the daily comings and goings of the Lyonnais people. Everyone feels that they must see Paris. This may be true, but don't overlook the many other charming areas of France. Lyon is just one example of a purely delightful city. Nestled between the Rhône and the Saône rivers, it can be easily reached by car, train, or plane. Bon Voyage!