Have you ever wondered who the suckers on those big tourist buses are? They just might be a bunch of middle aged ladies with patchwork purses on their way to a quilt show! (Go ahead and skip to the next entry if you’re just looking for the quilty stuff.)
You have no idea the hilarity which may be going on inside. Our trip was well organized by Uta and Sylvia who kept us entertained with hourly tips and tricks like how best to keep the leaves on your plants shiny or what works best to clean your cloisonné jewelry, a raffle with grand prizes like a dryer (OK, a clothespin) or a panoramic view of Heidelberg (a postcard), and a sing-a-long. They also provided snacks and drinks in a most professional manner (notice the “uniforms”). We pretty much laughed all the way to Lyon. And yes, that is free champagne for each of us.
Once in Lyon, we stayed at a very nice hotel, with what’s probably the easiest navigational system. It’s the giant tower in the middle of town. That’s our room, way up high on the 37th floor.
The inside of our hotel looked like Drunkard’s Path blocks. It also echoes the traboules which the city is famous for.
We knew we were at a classy place when Kathy noticed her tea bag was made of lustrous organza.
Tea bags aside, France is definitely shabbier than Germany, but even some of the graffiti was pretty cool:
Lyon is traversed by the rivers Rhône and Saône. The rivers are traversed by many bridges. We traversed the city on foot, by tour bus, by city bus, and by tram, but unfortunately, not with the popular rental bike system. Here I am, not really paying attention, at the foot of a bridge on the way to Fouvriere, the cathedral on the hill overlooking the city.
On Sunday, my roomate (and friend), Kathy and I took a funicular up the hill to the cathedral.
Up top we enjoyed the view and took a short rest at a café. As we got up to leave, a tall, attractive lady dressed in turquoise, approached us and asked if I was Kristin La Flamme. It was very strange to be recognized away from home by someone I have never met, but wonderful in the way that the internet can make the whole world seem like a small village. So, “Hello to Wenche from Norway!” We chatted briefly about quilting and blogging (she makes patterns for whimsical quilts), but I’m not great at small talk, so we went on with our separate tours, giggling about how odd this “alternate reality” of blogging is.
Aside from seeing the view from the cathedral, Kathy and I hoped to find some of the famous traboules of Lyon. According to a book I bought in the gift shop, traboules are pedestrian passages which connect streets to courtyards and courtyards to streets and are integrated into the foundation of the buildings. The stairwells and arcades through which ones gets from apartment to apartment within a building are also considered to be part of the traboule system. Apparently, the traboules began when river commerce was popular and the banks of the rivers were not yet contained with stone walls. Boats could deliver their goods riverside directly into the cellars of the buildings and the passage ways would lead the goods to the merchant at street level. Later, the silk industry recognized the practicality of being able to move the silk from the weavers’ workshops to the merchants in other buildings without exposing the fabric to the elements and integrated traboules into the new construction. These secretive passage ways came in handy during the French Resistance as well, as only the locals knew which buildings were connected to each other and where one could enter a building on one street and exit another building on another street.
From the cathedral we spotted a few tower-like stairwells which were probably part of the traboules.
From the streets below, we spotted another enclosed stairwell:
My book had a map which showed where we could find the traboules, so we began our hunt in earnest. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had the chance to read the part with the list of the traboules who’s owners had signed contracts with the city to make them available to the public. We tried one door, but it was locked. Luckily, though, a tour group exited another door as we were reading the plaque posted outside. As the guide told us we could go in, I noticed a flash of turquoise down the street and called for Winke and her man to join us. Though this was not one of the more architecturally imaginitive traboules, it was one of the longer ones, connecting four buildings through four small courtyards. From the inside, here’s the door we entered through:
Through these entry tunnels, one gains access to stairwells to the upper floors, the central courtyard of the building, and other tunnels continuing to the next building, or radiating to several other buildings (there is no space between individual buildings in old European cities). We did not have access to the stairs as they lead to private apartments.
The view from a courtyard in a connected building:
This arcade/stairwell was unusual as it was on the outside of the building, but I suppose the alley I was standing in could have been home to another building at one time, or perhaps a building was planned but never built. Nevertheless, moving from a weaver in one apartment to a merchant in another, silk would stay warm and dry under these arcades and in this stairwell.
And to prove we were there, here’s Kathy’s and Wenche’s man’s backs as we exit through another building. Notice that this passage lacks the vaulted cieling of the other one, though based on the wrought iron, it may have had one in the days before electricity and unsightly wiring:
Here’s what these hidden mazes look like from the outside. Apart from the brass plaques, these doors look like most others in the old section of the city.
After checking “find a traboule” off our list, Kathy and I wandered through the old town, bought a tuna sandwich baguette and tarts for lunch and happened upon a street market. As we ambled, we wondered if we might find some of the trompe l’oeil Lyon is also known for. According to Kathy’s guide, the best examples were to be found in the newer old town, but that was on a hillside and we weren’t up for the hike. Instead, we sat on a shady riverside bench to eat our baguette. We were pleasantly suprised to look up and notice this:
OK, we can check off “find trompe l’oeile.” We also pefected the French “man laugh” while in Lyon. We chortled “Hough, hough, hough” all the way home in the bus. Now if I could just find the time to check off “make this dress.”
Onwards to the actual Expo X and quilt content in the next post!