OBSERVATIONS from the SADDLE of a BIKE
FRANCE: LYON and PEROUGES
The name Lyon has nothing to do with the animal, it is more likely associated with the Latin name of the city Lugdunum, which was reduced to Lyduum and then to Lyon. The lion emblem has been used in the city since antiquity.
After arriving at Lyon main train station we came face to face with a mass of other travellers and I have to admit we were overwhelmed. Before arriving in a city or town I have in my mind that they are quaint cosy places but of course this is not the case.
The present population of Lyon is 1 704 738. How the experts work out such a figure is a mystery, all you can do is take their word for it. The population density of Lyon is around 10 000 persons per square kilometre but nothing compared to some Asian cities (Go to Archives May 2013 and scroll down to the post Hong Kong to Perth to read about population density of Hong Kong). The reason I think of Hong Kong when thinking population density is because of the sardine-like living in much of the city.
In 2016 the average living space per person in rental space in Hong Kong was thirteen square metres. That’s equivalent to a space of 3.6 m x 3.6m. That’s sardine tin living.
A large populace makes me think of ant societies as they have a lot in common with humans. Ants and humans go to war, solve problems in groups, share the workload and defend their home or nest as an organised group. Cities are like ant nests, they are organisms, some might say an organism of progress. The organism of progress spreads over the world killing off the natural order of things, which has taken billions of years to evolve. However I expect this is the evolution of the planet.
Lyon is known for its historical and architectural landmarks and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was historically known as an important area for the weaving of silk and in modern times it has developed a reputation as the gastronomy capital of France. Much of its gastronomic reputation is based around the bouchon.
The history of the Bouchon Lyonnais relates to silk workers who took a hearty pre-midday meal of mainly tripe. Tripe is the lining of a sheep’s stomach and if you were at all ‘hard up’ as my family was when I was a child you ate tripe. A professional dresser carried out the preparation of tripe; it was cheap and nutritious and was mostly eaten by the working classes.
It was actually the Mothers of Lyon, women of humble origins in the 18th century, who set up their own businesses and cooked simple food using all cuts of meat in homemade and traditional cuisine. These days a typical bouchon meal comprises a starter, main plate, cheese and dessert. Sausages, duck pate and pork feature in some dishes. If you happen to be a vegetarian, bouchon food will not fit into your eating regime.
A Lyon bouchon setting is typically simple. Furniture is usually checked, cutlery plain and heavy, serviettes are larger than the average European bath towels and the waiter usually wears an apron.
The word bouchon is used in English. In the times of horse drawn coaches the owners of inns hung skeps of twisted straw outside their premises to let coach drivers know they were serving wine. The drivers would stop for a drink and wipe their horses down with a bunch of straw, called a bouchon, meaning a bunch of foliage.
One cannot visit a new city and not visit the farmers’ markets. Our host Melinda took us to her favourite one along the banks of the Saone River. All the stallholders were doing good trade. In some countries the traditional farmers’ market has waxed and waned but in France it has never died and has remained a part of life.
Not only vegetables are sold at markets in France but cheeses as well.
Morbier is a soft cow’s milk cheese and is named after the small French village of Morbier. It is immediately recognisable by a thin black layer separating it horizontally in the middle. Traditionally the cheese consisted of a layer of morning milk and a layer of evening milk and the line was actually ash, which was spread over the morning. These days the cheese is usually made from a single milking with the ash line replaced with vegetable dye.
Comte cheese is no rarity as it has the highest production figures of all French cheeses, at around 64 000 tonnes annually. The texture is hard but flexible and the taste is mild and slightly sweet. It is made from unpasteurised milk. We preferred the younger cheese but of course many people prefer the cheese that is matured for a lot more months, even years.
There are some cheeses of Europe that are very nostrilic due to the bacteria used in their production. This is the same bacteria that causes underarm odour.
On the opposite side of the river was an upmarket food hall located in the Hotel-Dieu, the once main hospital for Lyon for 800 years. Melinda took us there as well and it was similar to the Harrods of London food hall.
In late medieval times (476AD-1492) the building was a hospital (it was taken out of service in 2010). It first served as a pontifical meeting place and a refuge for travelling members of the clergy. The building evolved into a functional hospital when the first doctor was appointed in1454. Lyon was a city known for trade and seasonal fairs and many of the early patients were travellers of foreign descent.
It would not have been a pleasant experience getting sick in medieval times as doctors didn’t have a clue what caused disease. Doctors at the time believed you became ill when the ‘Four Humours’….phlegm, black bile, yellow bile and blood, became unbalanced. Bloodletting was the fashion as were herbs and boar gall, used as an antiseptic and anaesthetic. Who would want to have lived in medieval times? Not me!
It’s a pleasure to ride around Lyon. There are designated cycleways leading to every nook and we took some of them.
Lyon is at the confluence of the Saone and Rhone rivers and most towns and cities located at confluences like to brag about it. Lyon is no exception.
From the confluence it’s downhill for about three hundred kilometres to the Camargue, a vast delta where the Rhone runs into the Mediterranean. During our 2013 travels we visited the Camargue, which is known as horse and cattle country. We saw our first flamingos there and they were very pink due to the carotene in the water. If you go to Archives 2013/02/05 Provence, France. Tarascon and the Camargue#1 you can read all about flamingos and carotene.
Adjacent to the junction is the Confluence Museum, a science centre and Anthropology Museum and from an architect’s point of view it would have been a challenge to build. The following image shows what I mean.
The museum was opened in 2014. In the architectural order of things the museum is classified as deconstructivism, which is characterized by an absence of harmony, continuity and symmetry. The following photograph shows the lack of harmony, it is nothing like the previous image, in fact, you wouldn’t think it was the same building.
This deconstructivist building has no guttering or downpipes so where does the rain runoff go? I imagine it simply cascades from the lowest edge. It would be interesting to watch a heavy downpour tumbling off the roof edges.
An exact opposite style of building to the museum in Lyon is the Basilica of Notre-Dame.
The basilica was built between 1872 and 1884 with private funds. If it was built with private funds the question is, who owns it now? This is partially answered in a blog, ‘Paris with a Parisian’, which states, ‘Since the Revolution churches were mostly confiscated by the state, and it has remained that way. These days all the cathedrals in France belong to the state and other churches belong to the towns and cities where they are located’. I wonder when entrance charges will be introduced (they already have at some Italian churches) as these massive ornate buildings are very expensive to maintain. Before researching the facts relating to ownership I assumed the Vatican was paying but no, it’s the taxpayer. Because it was built in the late 1800s it probably belongs to the state of Lyon.
According to Wikipedia a caryatid is a sculptured female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or pillar.
It was our intention to ride from Geneva to Lyon but after carefully studying the maps for the region we decided to stay with the Eurovelo 6 and this meant we would miss visiting the nearby hilltop medieval village of Perouges. Upon hearing this Melinda and Antoine took us there on an outing.
There were many aspects of the village that were impressive. The old entrance door to the walled village took my fancy; it was nearly as old as the village itself.
The rectangular gap at the bottom left of the main door was where a small door swung. Called a wicket door it enabled people to pass through without having to open the main door.
Following are a few images of fine detail around Perouges.
Our hosts in Lyon, Melinda and Antoine and their two young sons Laurent and Olivier, are leaving Lyon behind as they are moving 8000 kilometres to the island of Mayotte off the east coast of Africa to work. But before I expand on that event I will tell you how we met Melinda and Antoine.
Bev and I were walking on the Wineglass Bay track in Tasmania in 2018 and met them on the track. Recognising Antoine’s French accent we began talking about all things French. We had only just returned from France having cycled part of the Eurovelo 6 and I guess we were hungry for a French conversation. Later in the year the family stayed with us and at the time they told us of their plans to move from Melbourne back to France. Antoine was to study French civil administration. On completion of his course this year he was appointed as an education administrative assistant on the island of Mayotte, which is one of many French overseas regions and is located between Madagascar and Mozambique. The following map shows Mayotte and far-flung France. The family relocate in September. What an adventure ahead of them! Direct flights to Mayotte are available from Paris, Johannesburg and Nairobi.
These far-flung parts of France are called departments and overseas territories, all considered to be a part of France. Everyone who lives on these distant shores can vote in French elections and have representation in parliament. Bearing this in mind, France is just a single country flung all over the world.
Islam is the majority faith of the residents of the island with 97% being Muslim and the remainder Christians. Sultan Adrian Souli put Mayotte under French protection in 1841.
There is one last event that I must touch on before this post comes to an end. In Australia there is a radio program presented by Phillip Adams. He interviewed French woman, Aude Lalo, who is the editor of a quarterly magazine in Lyon called Flush. It deals with toilets, culture and society. Because I am a privyologist (someone with a deep interest in the finer workings of the loo) I contacted her and we were able to meet her in Lyon. The following image shows Aude, myself and two copies of Flush.
To read more of how Aude came to create her magazine there is an excellent article written by Jon Allsop, a freelance journalist who writes for the CJR newsletter The Media Today. Search for an article that begins with…In France, a new magazine uses toilets to look at the world…
That’s the end of another post. Make a comment if you wish. The next post deals with the return to the Eurovelo 6 from Lyon and the continuation of our ride to the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of France.
POST SCRIPT: OUR FRIENDS MELINDA, ANTOINE AND THEIR TWO BOYS (mentioned previously in this post) HAVE TAKEN UP RESIDENCE ON THE ISLAND OF MAYOTTE. FOLLOWING IS AN EXTRACT OF AN EMAIL MELINDA SENT US RELATING TO THEIR ARRIVAL ON THE ISLAND.
‘It’s hard not to feel like a minor celebrity here. Wherever I go everyone says a cheerful “Bonjour” or “Karibou Maore!” I’ve never felt so welcome anywhere. When we arrived at Dzaouzdi airport over a week ago, we watched as several foreigners were greeted with a thick necklace made of bougainvillea, frangipani and jasmine. Mayotte is made up of two islands, Grand Terre and Petit Terre, situated in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar, part of the Comoros Islands…….The airport is on the smaller of Mayotte’s islands. You know instantly you’re on island time when your baggage doesn’t show up and you walk outside to catch a taxi to take you to the ferry terminal and there are none. You wait, inhale the perfumed flowers, and watch the world go slowly by.
What a colourful world it is! The ferry brought us to the Mayotte’s capital Mamoudzou on Grand Terre across aquamarine waters glittering in the sunshine where it disgorged firstly its cars and then its people dressed in a vast palette of colours and geometric designs. Mamoudzou, home to 60,000 residents, has become our home’.
Congratulations Melinda and Antoine. We will see you down the track no doubt.
You’re torturing us with all those photos and descriptions of French cheese: it’s so expensive here (Australia). My favourite is Roquefort, which I got into a couple of years ago on a visit to the Cévennes (which I believe you’ve been to as well), not a million miles away from Lyon.
We never saw the flamingoes of the Camargue, but in Mexico they told us the flamingoes were pink because of all the shrimp they eat. I suspect the shrimps are the ones that actually eat the carotene.