When I saw the beautiful old Théâtre des Célestins from the year 1881 I knew I had to go and see something there, no matter what they were playing.
It turned out that they were doing a seventeenth century comedy by Molière (1622-1673) called Les Femmes savantes (The Learned Ladies).
Although seventeenth century French comedies are notoriously difficult for us poor foreigners to understand, I decided to give it a try -- with mixed results, as I will explain in my next two tips.
Second photo: People at the Théâtre des Célestins. Apparently the official name of this theater is now "Célestins, Théâtre de Lyon". According to their website, the Célestins is a theater that is open to "all the publics" (tous les publics), in other words people from all levels of society and from all districts of the city and the region.
I understood the beginning of Les Femmes savantes all right (two sisters quarrelling over a man they both liked) and also the end (the parents quarrelling about who the younger sister should marry), but I got lost a few times in the middle and didn't always understand what people were laughing about. In particular, I didn't understand why the two pompous intellectuals, who had been great friends when they came in at the beginning of the third act, suddenly started fighting and throwing books at each other.
Later, when I read the text of the play, it all became clear. One of these intellectuals had publicly ridiculed a sonnet written by the other. This was based on a real incident, evidently, that had happened in the hothouse intellectual atmosphere of Paris in the 1660s. When Les Femmes savantes was first performed in the Théâtre de la salle du Palais-Royal in Paris in 1672, probably everyone in the audience knew what Molière was referring to.
Second photo: Looking down at the stage.
Third photo: Balconies on the right.
Fourth photo: Program booklet for Molière's Les Femmes savantes (The Learned Ladies) at the Célestins, Théâtre de Lyon, directed by Marc Paquien.
The audience for Les Femmes savantes by Molière was very mixed and included a lot of young people, some of whom had the text of the play with them since they had evidently been reading it for school.
On the way out some of them already started looking up things they hadn't understood, which was a consolation for me since I wasn't the only one who missed some of the seventeenth century gags in the play.
For instance, I hadn't understood what the girls' uncle said about Lyon in the fifth act that brought about a happy end and enabled the younger sister to marry the man of her choice. Since the whole play took place in Paris, I was mystified by this one reference to Lyon.
So the next morning I found a small bookshop in the Old Town and bought a copy of Les Femmes savantes (fourth photo) for all of three Euros. A footnote in this book explained that Lyon was an important banking center in the seventeenth century. The uncle claimed to have received a letter from Lyon saying that his brother's two bankers had both gone bankrupt on the same day, so the family was destitute. This was a lie, but it had the desired effect that one of the suitors, a pompous intellectual favored by the mother, immediately decided not to get married after all, so the way was clear for the younger sister to marry the man she loved.
Second photo: Théâtre des Célestins at night.
Third photo: Full view of the façade at night.
Fourth photo: The text of Les Femmes savantes by Molière, in the edition folio classique, published by Gallimard. The picture on the front cover of the book is a small detail from a painting called Portrait de la marquise de Pompadour by François Boucher (1703-1770). The Marquise de Pompadour was the official "chief mistress" of the French king Louis XV. François Boucher painted several portraits of the Marquise de Pompadour, including this one from the year 1756 which is on display at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, Germany.
If you are a food lover, you may wish to visit the Lyon market at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse if only to feast your eyes on the produce.
It's located about 1.2 kms north east of the Quay on Cours Lafayette . Chef Bocuse is one of Lyon's favourite sons - probably the most revered chef in France (if not the world).
The market named after him is THE upmarket-market. The range of fine produce on sale is astounding. Each of the 50 or so vendors is a specialist in the products each has on display.
Tasting opportunities are available and freshly shucked oysters are a big hit.
Of course, if you are looking for a rich snack (or should I say a snack for the rich), Beluga Caviar is €440 per 50 gram tub - Blini (pancake) €5 extra...ha! There are of course less expensive grades of caviar available.
closed Monday (some restaurants stay open) . Dogs not invited to come in!
about 1km walk from Gare de la Part Dieu
Métro Stop: place Guichard (approx 350 metres to south west)
Tramway T1 : stop "Mairie du 3"
Parking LPA HALLES : entrance on rue Garibaldi
The Villa Lumière is now a museum about the beginnings of the motion picture. The first thing I did there was to take a guided tour (in French) by a knowledgeable young man who showed us a replica of Thomas Edison's kinetoscope (first photo) and then Louis Lumière's Cinematograph, which served both as a camera and a projector.
We also saw some examples of early films made by the Lumière brothers (second photo), including The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, a fifty-second film which allegedly caused a panic among the first spectators because they thought the steam locomotive was really coming towards them.
A hundred years later the Lumière Institute invited dozens of prominent film directors to make short films of their own using an original Cinematograph machine from the 1890s. The results can be seen in a viewing room in the basement of the Lumière Museum, including a film made in the 1990s of an express train going through the station at La Ciotat without stopping, taken from the same angle and with the same machine as the original film.
Second photo: Some examples of early films by the Lumière brothers.
Third photo: Our tour group in the Lumière Museum.
Now, I think that a "things to do" tip is correct here.
Art Deco is the style I believe, and it does look pretty impressive. Most customers heading to the restaurant which looked very tempting but, as ever, the Bonio's were not dressed for such a place although we did visit the small bar area for a beer, brewing equipment here but did look unused. Enjoyed the atmosphere and wished we had stayed for a meal.
Our visit in Dec 2011, an opportunity to visit the Christmas Market. All the goodies you'd hope to find, decorations, gift opportunities and some good food and drink.
Alays enjoy a visit but rarely spend too much other than a warm wine drink and maybe a sausage!
Just down the block from the Villa Lumière is the "Hangar of the First Film", where Auguste and Louis Lumière first tried out their new Cinematograph machine.
At the time this Hangar was the main building of the Lumière factory for mass-producing photographic plates. To make their first film the Lumière brothers set the Cinematograph machine up on a tripod in front of the Hangar and filmed the workers (mainly women in long skirts or dresses, but also a few men with bicycles and a horse-drawn wagon) as they came out of the factory after work. Actually there are three different versions of this, taken at different times of year, with slight differences such as the number of horses (two, one or none) and whether or not there is a dog in the picture.
The first public showing of this and nine other short films by the Lumière brothers was in Paris at the Grand Café on the Boulevard des Capucines in 1895.
Soon after that, the Lumières started hiring and training "operators" who travelled to different parts of the world and made short documentary films (all less than one minute) showing for example a street scene in Saigon or camels walking in the desert in Africa. These "views" were then shown to paying audiences all over Europe by the same "operators" or by concessionaires who split the proceeds 50/50 with the Lumière company.
This was a thriving business in the late 1890s, but soon the novelty started to wear off and the Lumières withdrew from active filmmaking, though their company remained one of the leading suppliers of film equipment and materials.
According to the Lumière Institute website, the Lumière company produced at least 1408 short films between 1895 and 1905. The negatives of all these films were carefully preserved, so they still exist today.
The Hangar is now used by the Lumière Institute as a cinema where they show classic films from various epochs of the history of filmmaking, mainly from the 1930s to the 1970s.
Update: Thanks to VT member JLBG for pointing out that the word hangar ends in –ar (not –er as I originally wrote it) and means shed. Actually I should have known this because the word hangar is also used in English to denote a large building where airplanes are kept.
Our family, OK all girls except me, enjoyed the museum of textiles and tissue. Numerous displays of every day through and many time periods. There was also an interesting display of famous movie costumes.
This "Chestnut Theater" is a small theater in a small room at the end of a narrow passageway. The entrance is on rue des Marronniers, "Chestnut Street", which is a small street full of restaurants between Place Bellecour and the Rhône River.
The play I saw at the Théâtre des Marronniers was L'anniversaire (The Birthday) by Jean-Pierre Roos. The play is about the fiftieth birthday of a man named Louis Martinon, played by the author himself in this production.
Louis and his wife are getting ready for the birthday celebration, and he hopes that his three children and one grandchild will soon arrive. He has long telephone conversations with his older son, who is a pilot in the French Air Force, and his daughter, who works in a chocolate factory in Chambéry and is busy breaking up with her boyfriend, but we gradually come to realize that the children have been dead for eighteen years and the grandchild is imaginary. And that somehow the death of the children was their father's fault. Exactly how this happened does not become clear until the very end.
I found L'anniversaire to be a very well-written and well-performed play, and I certainly understood more of it than I had understood of Molière's seventeenth century comedy a couple days before. But to fill in the details I was glad they had copies of the text on sale after the performance, so I bought a copy (fifth photo) and got the author to autograph it for me.
Second photo: The courtyard of Théâtre des Marronniers.
Third photo: Seating in Théâtre des Marronniers.
Fourth photo: Stage of Théâtre des Marronniers.
Fifth photo: Book with the text of the play L'anniversaire by Jean-Pierre Roos.
Auguste Lumière (1862-1954) and his brother Louis Lumière (1864-1948) became very wealthy in their early twenties thanks to their invention of a machine that could mass-produce photographic gelatin dry-plates. Their factory quickly became one of the largest in Europe and their dry-plates became a best-selling product because they made the profession and hobby of photography much more convenient than it had ever been before. Suddenly more or less anybody could take pictures, not just highly skilled professional photographers.
In 1894, their father (who by the way was both a portrait painter and a professional photographer) returned from a trip to America and told them about a new technology he had seen there, Thomas Edison's kinetoscope, a mechanized box that a person could look into and see pictures that appeared to be moving. Louis Lumière improved on this by making a machine that could project a moving image onto a screen so it could be seen by many people at once. His machine, the Cinematograph, was a light-weight self-contained camera and projector which was patented in 1895.
Second photo: The winter garden of the Villa Lumière.
Third photo: A large poster at the villa with portraits of the brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière.
The City Hall of Lyon was first built from 1646 to 1672 and then re-built after a fire in 1674. It is not open to the public except on special occasions.
The best place to see the City Hall is from the restaurant Les Muses on the seventh floor of the opera house (first photo).
Second photo: The front entrance to the City Hall across from the opera house. There is also an imposing façade on the opposite side, facing the Place des Terreaux.
Like most historic squares in most cities, the Place des Jacobins in Lyon was badly mutilated during the Age of the Automobile in the twentieth century.
In 2006/2007 the city of Lyon started a design competition to restore the identity of the Place des Jacobins. The main objective was to enhance the historical character and heritage of the square by making it into "a true public square instead of the current roundabout for automobiles" and by "restoring the balance between pedestrians and motorists."
The designers who took place in the competition were expected to come up with suggestions for re-opening the square to a mixture of uses, including outdoor cafés and window shopping, and making it possible again for people to socialize and have their lunch breaks around the fountain.
The new design is intended to facilitate the use of the square by "various modes of transportation (pedestrian, bicycle, car and public transport)". To this end, the number of lanes devoted to motor traffic will be reduced and car parking will no longer be allowed in the central part of the square. Also the taxi stand will be relocated and space will be provided for "urban facilities such as newsstands, public toilets and telephone booths".
The entire project was planned for six years, including lengthy phases for public consultation and development planning. The actual construction work is scheduled for 2011/2012.
I took these photos before the rearrangement of the square, on a Sunday morning in 2011 when there was very little motor traffic. Presumably the square will look quite different in another year or two.
Second photo: Fountain with statues at Place des Jacobins.
In the opera "The Tales of Hoffmann" by Jacques Offenbach, poor Hoffmann falls in love with four women, one of whom turns out to be a life-size mechanical doll named Olympia who can sing, dance, bow, roll her eyes and even speak ("oui").
After seeing this opera numerous times (e.g. in Frankfurt with the marvelous Brenda Rae as Olympia), and after visiting the German Mechanical Instrument Museum in Bruchsal with a nice group of VirtualTourist members, I was also very interested in seeing the Musée des Automates in Lyon, because they have a collection of 250 automatons spread out over 20 scenes in 7 rooms.
The museum is open every afternoon (except May 1 and December 25) from 2-6 pm, but I unfortunately arrived too late to get in, so I will have to go some other time.
This Cathedral is also known as the Primatiale Saint-Jean, from the time when Lyon was the Capital of the Gauls and thus its archbishop was the Primat (the first in importance) in the Gauls. In Lyon, I stayed up in Fourvière and could see the Cathedral well, with its large squat towers. But for some reason, when I was near it, it seemed a bit cold and without the character of other famous cathedrals in France.
The style is high gothic but the whole remains ill-defined between Romanesque and Gothic and one can't help but wonder about the identity projected here. The interior seemed cold to me but I'm sorry now that I didn't take more time to discover it. I just saw photos of some fantastic 13th century stained glass windows in the Cathedral, on hquittner's page, and realise to my sadness that I didn't notice those wonders to their rightful value.
There's a monumental astronomical clock from the 16th century inside, really worth seeing.
Nearby, at the banks of the Saône, there are ruins excavated from a convent and two pre-Romanesque churches. Rather nostalgic.
Unfortunately, I hadn't opened my boxes of prints for years and when I did, to write this tip a few days ago, I confused the façade of the Église St-Nizier for that of the Primatiale Saint-Jean. So I'll remove St-Nizier from here and try to find time to build a tip on it soon.
Now let's hope I find a pic of the Primatiale Saint-Jean!
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