Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Vieux Lyon and the Traboules

No Blythe Dolls in this post - but there is a lot of history and amazing architecture / architectural details. 
Vieux (old) Lyon is a wonderful pocket of close set, ancient (many Renaissance-era, some older) buildings, skinny lanes and secret passage-ways (the Traboules).  This was the first district in France to get legal protection as a historic site (in 1954).

If you can, get there early and step down a side street, away from the tourist traps and then - it is really easy to imagine yourself in another time, a very different era, living a very different lifestyle.

Would you be a silk merchant?  or a member of his family?  comfortably well off with servants to do the dirty work.  Or would have been one of those unfortunate servants?

Le Temple du Change  
built between 1631 & 1653, redesigned in 1748-50, now the Eglise Reformee

Would you be a canut (a silk weaver)?  Was this the good times when there was a Louis on the throne decreeing that everyone at court had to wear wonderful silk clothes?  Or were you seeing the beginning of industrialisation and fashionable ladies wearing little dresses of cotton from India!
A Canuts' home - from a museum

Did you take pride in your skill at weaving beautiful fabrics for other people to wear?
Or did you resent that loom that you spent so much time at - the precious, clunking loom occupying far more space in your home than you and your family had to eat, sleep and live in!
Perhaps you took part in the Canut Revolts of 1831, '34 & '48 when the weavers fought for better pay.  When I think of the French Revolutions I think of Paris and Versailles but it seems that the Lyonnaise were equally feisty and difficult to govern!

Looking down on Vieux Lyon from Fourviére Hill

Like many really old districts in cities, this is a very built up area with tiny narrow streets - an area built by people who had to walk everywhere.

Most of the old buildings back onto courtyards - and this brings us to the Traboules. 
Secret passages between buildings, originally used by merchants and by the canuts (silk weavers) to transport the silk and keep it dry (rain could cause spots on the fabric).  There is a lot of history in them - the Canut Revolts took place in and around some of the Traboules and it is said that the Traboules helped prevent the occupying German forces from taking total control of some areas of Lyon during WW2.

If you want to see the Traboules and courtyards behind the magnificent old facades then it is best if you have a local guide.

It can feel like you are trespassing, people do live in these buildings - they really are precursors of the modern secure apartments - only there are no car-parking spaces!

Tours can be booked - but we were lucky.  Standing in front of a locked door / gateway with our map and looking like silly tourists we were 'rescued' by a wonderful local historian - one of the guides not booked that morning.  He took us in & around a confusion of courtyards, passages, staircases ...

Really remarkable spiraling staircases ... especially when you remember how old these buildings are - those architects and stone masons didn't have pocket calculators or power tools.

This 'spine' and spiral stairs ...
here - looking up into the spiral ...
are in this tower
The stairs are often in towers that remind you of fairy-tails (and if you scroll up to the photo where we were looking down on the rooftops - you can see the tops of towers among all the chimneys)

La Tour Rose in the Quartier Saint-Jean of Vieux Lyon

This tower looked a bit spooky!
Looking up inside a grand staircase / tower

The following 6 photos are from the "Ancien Hotel de la Chamarerie", originally built for ecclesiastical dignitaries - Madame de Sevigne lived there in 1672 - 73, she was a very famous letter writer ...

Lovely painted vaulting on the ceiling of the passage
And, in the courtyard - a well
Here we've more vaulted ceilings - from some of the passages / corridors

Is that iron ring for hanging a lantern from?
Now let us look at some more Courtyards - like the one above, most have a well ...
Cour Philibert Delorme, rue Juiveri
Many wells still have the pulley system for bringing up the bucket full of water

The courtyard of La Tour Rose also had a pair of canoodling bicycles ! 
and on that note, we'll leave this post ... more of Vieux Lyon next time.

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