Today in France: Lyon inspires

I’m always very happy when the American press manages to get past the extremely erroneous but unfortunately very widespread thought that France = Paris+Azur coast+big ski resorts.

The New York Times published an article today in its Europe section entitled, “Smitten by Lyon, a Visitor Tries to Recreate the Magic” (free registration may be needed, or use bug me not). If you read my About page you will quickly sniff out the fact that I live in Lyon, so I was particularly happy to see this article.

To summarize, after a visit to Lyon, the entrepreneur Buti Saeed al-Ghandi was inspired to create an architectural project in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) that will seek to capture the mood, magic and richness of Lyon, while at the same time avoiding any Disneyland-like imitation of the Capitale des Gaules.

I thought I’d use my blog to create a sort of web-compliment for the article. What follows are a few of the key words of the article that may not be completely clear for the non-lyonnais

Lyon: The “third-largest city of France according to the article, the second-largest according to me (I’ll explain all that later in another post).

Paul Bocuse: Quite simply the current reigning king of French cuisine the world-over and surely Lyon’s most famous citizen.

The Museum of Textiles: The textile industry is a major part of the history of Lyon, particularly the silk industry. The Museum of Textiles is part of the “Musées des Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs”

Lyon’s soccer team: The Olympique Lyonnais or “OL” for short has racked up an unprecedented 6 French championship titles and the team is on its way to making it seven (although this years been a bit tougher, a lot of injuries).

Mayor Gérard Collomb: The current Mayor of Lyon and also a Senator on the national scene, Socialist party (center left).

University of Lyon: Pretty self-explanatory; the only thing to know is that the University of Lyon has three divisions:

  • Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 Specialized in sciences, medicine and pharmaceuticals. Pretty prestigious University on the French scene. Website is in French only
  • Université Lumière Lyon 2 The educational program here is diverse, with a particular emphasis on languages and human sciences. Website in French or English
  • Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 Like Lyon 2, this university provides courses in a number of subjects, in particular the department of Law is quite well known. Website in French only.

Notre-Dame de Fourvière basilica: This very impressive church was built in the 19th century and is a bit the visual “symbol” of Lyon, as the Eiffel tower is to Paris.

Lyon’s traditional gastronomy: As the New York Times article mentioned, it’s a bit difficult to eat Lyonnais cuisine if you’re a vegetarian. Meats and notably pork are key ingredients. True Lyon cuisine is in all reality a “food of the people” if you will, and probably should not be confused with the Lyon gastronomic scene, lead by Bocuse and Co. which has earned Lyon the title of “Gastronomic Capital of France”. That said, the very famous Lyonnais chefs search often for inspiration in this “traditional gastronomy” as the New York Times called it.

Hôtel-Dieu: The Hôtel-Dieu is another of the architectural monuments in Lyon. It is historically (and still) a hospital. the history of the building dates back to the 12th century, but it’s current form is more closely related to the French Renaissance period and on into the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. It’s function as a hospital is soon to end though; Lyon is currently considering its future.

“Reader’s Digest last year named Lyon the ‘seventh most livable city’ in the world.” I just wanted to make sure that that got mentioned a second time.

Museum of Gallic-Roman Civilization: This museum, close to the Notre-Dame de Fourvière basilica is a very interesting visit if you’re a fan of Gallo-Roman history. Lyon’s history goes back more than 2000 years to the time of the Roman Empire. The city, notably the Fourvière hill, has a very rich archeological history with several Roman amphitheaters and other vestiges of this period of history.

Looks like that does it! I hope the information that I’ve provided here has helped you to better understand my home-town-by-adoption and why it can inspire such remarkable projects. But believe me, this is far from all that the city has to offer. Stay tuned for even more on the ins and outs of Lyon; should be a pretty regular subject here.

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