RDS Visits Chateau d’Anet

RDS Visits Chateau d’Anet

I laughed out loud when I got to the end of the photos sent by Bob DeStefano, who I worked with at Grey Advertising in the 1960s.

RDS visits Anet, France, Home of Diane de Poitiers

Bob and his wife love to travel in “places where we don’t need inoculations or health insurance” referring to my recent visit to Morocco. He said:

We drove west from CDG airport and our very first stop on our first day was the très charmant village of . . . (drumroll) . . . Anet! Yes, a real typically French charmer about 45 miles due west of Paris. And it’s even pronunced with the “t” . . . Ah-Net. It has all the small village amenities . . . cafés, boulangeries, restaurants, quaint houses, hôtels, and a street-level, mostly-ruined château.

We planned for it to be our first stop and we were immensely pleased when we saw it. We stayed over in the hotel shown on the road sign. Needless to say, you MUST go there. Attached are some of the reasons why. You’ll love the last photo.

Diane de Poitiers in Aix en Provence

Chateau d’Anet was the location for the opening sequence in “Thunderball” and Bob and I had a lively Email exchange about Diane being a pistol. I shared that, about six weeks earlier, when I was in Aix-en-Provençe, I discovered this portrait of her, donated in 1860 as part of a private collection from Bourguignon de Fabregoules. It is of Diane as an “allegory of peace” and shows her holding the dove of peace in one hand and an olive branch in the other. Notice the shadows that the nipples create… The name of the painter is unknown.

Bob said, “There is a small museum across the street from the château where we got the full lowdown on Diane & Henri.”

OLLI Art – Artistic Couples

OLLI Art – Artistic Couples

I’m so glad I made the effort to get to the class taught by Linda Loveland Reid on artistic couples, even though it was less than 24 hrs from my return. Jet-lagged and with guts grumbling from careless snacking in Morocco, I loved the class. This was my favorite quote:

“I’m Frightened All The Time, But I Never Let It Stop Me.”

By learning the stories of the two artists together, I finally have some context for Georgia’s disturbingly sexual images. I learned that Georgia couldn’t tolerate live-model class in art school (with undraped models) and yet she not only allowed Stieglitz, a married man, to take hundreds of nude photos of her and she allowed him to exhibit a selection in New York City, laying the groundwork of her name being connected with sexual exhibitionism and promiscuity. Did Stieglitz make money from this show?

Mabel Dodge Luhan and O’Keeffe

The teacher also touched on their contemporary artist, Arthur Dove. But who became famous: O’Keeffe or Dove? The recipe continues to be that sexual favors pay for the marketing expertise that few artists can manage. [Exceptions: Koons, Rauschenberg] I look forward to the day we can tell the truth about what works, about how humans really are…

My favorite photo that the instructor showed showed was of Georgia, in the desert, with her arm around the woman who taught her to drive — a woman who maybe was for her, what Georgia was for Stieglitz — someone who could see her and could help her get what she needed.

Book “How Democracies Die”

Book “How Democracies Die”

by S. Levitsky & D. Ziblatt

David McCuen recommended “How Democracies Die” in the class on Terrorism he taught at Sonoma State University in the Spring of 2023 in the Osher Livelong Learning Program. The book was published in 2018 and details how Donald Trump was preparing, in 2016, to deny the results of the 2018 election if he did not win. On the day that Jack Smith indicted Trump in D.C. Federal Court for Conspiracy and Obstruction of Government Process, I read the authors’ four key indicators of authoritarian behavior.

  1. Rejection of (or weak commitment to) democratic rules of the game. Trump consistently undermined the legitimacy of elections by questioning the validity of machines, of ballots, or counting methodologies, and of who had authority to what the actual count was.
  2. Denial of the legitimacy of political opponents. Trump’s personal attacks on Hillary, Obama’s citizenship, and Biden’s son.
  3. Toleration or encouragement of violence. Trump’s encouragement of violence toward hecklers and protestors at his speaking events and his incitement on Jan. 6, 2021
  4. Readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents, including media. Trump’s effort to nullify legitimate electors by fraudulently installing his own, which would rob citizens of their right to have their votes count.

In an opinion piece in today’s NYTimes, Randall Eliason says, “The charging decisions in the indictment reflect smart lawyering by the special counsel Jack Smith and his team.” Trump is not charged with sedition or insurrection, which (if convicted) would disqualify him from holding future office. It does not charge the six unnamed co-conspirators. Trump is also facing federal charges before a judge that he appointed in Florida, for document mishandling.

Proceeding against Mr. Trump alone streamlines the case and gives Mr. Smith the best chance for a trial to be held and concluded before the 2024 presidential election.

Authors Levitsky and Ziblatt were alarmed that the primary process had failed in its gatekeeping role to weed out unqualified or dangerous candidates. Trump had never held elective office, was not a lawyer, has no mare than a bachelors degree in business. Only once in the past 100 years did a never-before-elected man reach the presidency — Dwight D. Eisenhower.

When gatekeeping institutions fail, mainstream politicians must do everything possible to keep dangerous figures away from the centers of power.

The indictment, a short 45 pages double-spaced, makes clear that leading Republicans in the targeted states, and the Vice-President himself, stood up to Trump and said No. In this moment, I have hope.

Yorty Creek July 2023

Yorty Creek July 2023

Brent put together a MeetUp paddled for Saturday the 29th of July at Yorty Creek. Lake Sonoma was full again after being dangerously low six months ago. Eleven paddlers showed up.

Yorty Creek Inlet Buzzing with Dragonflies and Happy Ecosystem

Wayne and I were the most experienced paddlers so we checked out the side inlets while the beginning paddlers moved toward the center of Lake Sonoma. After about two hours in over-90° sunshine, five of us returned to the boat ramp for lunch. Brent and Wayne accompanied the rest of the boaters across the power boat channel to a large island for lunch.

Frankfurt – Städel Museum

Frankfurt – Städel Museum

HolbeinSteg Footbridge to Städel

Thunderstorms were forecast for Thursday 22 June so I walked across the Main River using the Holbein Steg footbridge to get to the Städel Museum where I bought an all-day ticket with plans to visit in morning and return after lunch. I started upstairs and was dazzled by the ENORMOUS painting of Martin Luther defending his 95 theses at the Diet of Worms. I had never seen, in the U.S, France or Italy, a heroic painting of Martin Luther. It felt vaguely blasphemous and another wave of realization of how different Germany is from the catholic countries I usually visit.

The upstairs had a wonderful exhibition of Old Masters something I long for in the U.S. because where our museums really excel is contemporary art. I came to an empty gallery and as I sipped some water while I read the note about why the gallery was empty, a silver-haired guard came up to me and spoke for a couple of minutes, sternly. When he was finished, I explained that I had no idea what he said, so he started again, in English. Apparently, one is not allow to ingest anything in the museum. And, indeed, I later found a two-line posting at the bottom of a German language notice in the lobby. Sometimes learning new customs is uncomfortable.

Enormous Tribute to Martin Luther on Top Floor Lobby (from Städel website)

I was mesmerized by brilliant paintings and icons from the 1300s, 1400s and 1500s which made it clear that there was great distance between the rich and and poor even back then. The quality of the art was spectacular and the preservation was wonderful. Detailed mosaic icons that have enjoyed centuries of care. Plenty of portraits and half-dressed young ladies posed as goddesses, but not in as high a proportion as in the Louvre. After about three hours of Old Masters, I walked through the beautiful gardens surrounding the museum to Otto Hahn Platz and took the tram to the Sachenhausen district to check it out and returned to the hotel by tram.

When I walked back to the Städel in the afternoon, I saw the “Modern” ground floor boasted paintings by Picasso and the Impressionists and the special exhibition on the lower floors titled “Textures” featured artworks that were not two-dimensional paintings and not really three-dimensional sculptures in the conventional sense. I love seeing how curators show off stunning work in their collections that don’t fall into traditional categories.

“Texture” at the Städel

Finding Sachenhausen

Yesterday I had a couple of disappointing meals so I resolved to be better prepared today and before I went to sleep I studied transit maps. In the morning I found a paper timetable (numbers only) for the 16 and hand-drew a map on it. It was still faster to walk to the museum but the 16 would take me to Sachenhausen, the restaurant district where Rick Steves recommended several restaurants featuring Applewine, a local specialty, and one restaurant opened at 5 p.m.

When I finished my second visit to the Städel, I set off again by tram from Otto Hahn Platz to find the restaurant Apfelwein-Wirtschaft Fichtekränzi but I got hopelessly lost. Google Maps could not locate me, my phone was heating up, and I got all the way to the river before backtracking to the warren of little streets that makes up this charming food and entertainment district. I found the right street but could not find the restaurant! Finally, I looked UP and saw a sign pointing down an alley. It was a little past 5 pm when I walked through the garden to big tables without people. The late June day was muggy and I had been schlepping around a rain jacket since 10 a.m.

I was pretty cranky when I sat down and couldn’t get a glass of water, but I ordered the frankfurter appetizer: grilled sausage with sauerkraut and bread and the legendary applewine which is a bitter hard cider. They go great together. The tab was 9,40 so I paid 10 and everyone was happy. Google did a better job of getting me back to the tram stop which I recognized because it was the one I had scouted earlier in the day so my research paid off. I was still dry when i got on the tram but the heavens opened within a few stops. Several loud noises and I thought the thunder had started, but it was riders slamming shut the transom windows with a forceful smack of the hand. The Main river was choppy and we crossed it, and the sky was pelting big drops when I alighted, clad in my sky blue rain jacket. One sharp burst of thunder, but I was back to the hotel in a jiffy — all the street people were standing pressed against the buildings and I realized the hard rain would wash the streets.

It was a good day, so much better than yesterday’s overpriced curry-wurst and lame 15€ dinner. Research and Rick Steves is the way to really have fun in a new city. Of course, it took me two hours of online research the night before and scouting the area today today, and I got lost, and caught in a driving thunderstorm, but it was worth it to have a frankfurter in Frankfurt.

The Trains Run on Time but Not the Escalators

S-bahn to Flughaven escalator

Friday 23 June was departure day. On the news, the Titanic deep dive submersible had imploded and all were dead. I took the S-bahn back to the airport and the lo-o-o-ng escalator was not working. Walked the length of the platform: not only was the other escalator now working, the transparent elevators were stopped in mid-ascent, filled with frightened-looking people who looked like they were thinking about the submersible. I carried my bags all the way up, impressed with my fortitude but breathing heavily.

There did not seem to be any passport inspection between Germany and France but I made my life harder by flying from Frankfurt to Lyon. If I had taken the TGV train from the main Frankfurt train station, just steps from my hotel, to Lyon’s Part-Dieu train station I would be door-to-door for less than $50, in only six hours and a lot less miserable. The tram from Part-Dieu goes straight to the hotel area of Lyon, but the connection from the airport to the Part-Dieu train station is $20, exorbitant by French standards. (It costs $60 to get to Santa Rosa from SFO.) I did not arrive any faster going by plane.

Returning to Frankfurt

Now that I understood that the trains ran on time, I did not need to stay at the airport for the one night layover on Tuesday 11 July. I cancelled my airport IBIS for 105€ and booked a room at the Rick Steves-recommended Victoria, still close to Hauptbahnhof train station but I could walk there on the much nicer Kaiser Strasse, and it was only 86€ with this wonderful breakfast for following morning. I never had an offer of decaf coffee on this trip.

The sausages in Germany look the same as in France but they taste much better!

Even though our departure from Marseille was thirty minutes late because French baggage handling did not work, the Lufthansa pilot tried to make up the time by flying so fast we arrived only five minutes past expected time. Alas, Frankfurt airport was not ready for us and people with tight connections sat with us while we waited for a bus. The clash of attitudes between the French and Germans is so interesting. I got back to Frankfurt in enough time to finally see Kleinmarkthalle. Because it was late in the day, I bought some stuff to go, and some expensive, delicious gingerbread at Lebkuchen-Schmidt.

Vegetables in Foreground, Bread in Background

I loved Germany and really got a feeling for why they have been fighting the French for centuries. It’s like they are both big, strong smart dogs: one is a German Shepherd and the other is a Standard Poodle. Very different, each excellent. But we know which one will win the fight. For me, the contrast between Martin Luther Protestants and Avignon Catholics was telling.

Frankfurt – Getting Started

Frankfurt – Getting Started

Hauptbahnhof Train Station in Frankfurt

I arrived Tuesday 20 June 2023 feeling nervous. I had tried to memorize YouTube video on how to get from Flughaven (flight harbor) to Haupbahnhof on my own. The RMV ticket machines were not really in English but luckily I was right by a ticket office. S-bahn (suburban light rail) to Hauptbahnhof was easy and I went straight to Tourist Info office for good help and lots of brochures.

I had been fretting that the reservation that I had PAID for a month in advance would not be honored. 180€ per night 540€ total. Had to walk down Muchener Strasse narrow, dirty, crowded but room on top floor, delightfully chilly, interesting shower

I was so hot in the muggy June weather, schlepping the bags wearing long sleeves, a vest and two shirts. I took a cold shower and set out cruising for Euros, beer and dinner. Got 250€ from the train station ATM which perfectly charged my Wells Fargo savings account $332.51. Found a doner place with outside seating and sat next to Evan from Australia who helped me order a delicious meal and a lager beer. The restaurant only offers one kind of beer because muslims frown on drinking and it is called “pils.”

Frankfurt gets its name from being a shallow place to cross the river (a ford).

The weather was clear on Wednesday, the Summer Solstice, so I visited the top of the tallest building in Frankfurt, the Main (mine) Tower. Instead of taking Rick Steves walking tour through the red light district, I waited 25 minutes for hop-on/hop-off bus but gave up and walked the 15 minutes, past the Euro offices to Main Tower, afterwards visiting the lobby of the adjacent building to see the Bill Viola video artwork in the lobby.

Main Tower (Tallest) Römerberg center foreground, Big Red Paulskirche on right (stock photo)

Frankfurt is a Financial Capital

I was hoping to get a sense of direction from the top of the tower but I could not see Römerberg (center foreground in stock photo above) because it was blocked by a new skyscraper is being built, but I was happy to see the train station.

HauptBahnHof from Main Tower

From the Top of Main Tower with Main River in Background

I was surprised, when I was making lodging reservations for Frankfurt, that the price I had to pay was triple the going rate week before and for my visit few rooms were available. I am guessing what drove up the rates was the summer solstice food event at Opera Platz which I could see setting up from the Main Tower. I checked out Opera Platz t was still before noon when I walked through the fancy shopping district of Zeil or Hauptwache or Konstablerwache before took the S-bahn back to hotel for nap. At 3:30 took the hotel desk recommended taking the U-bahn (oo-bon, underground city metro) to Rómerberg which was efficient but traveling underground didn’t give me any orientation. My jet lag was kicking in despite buzzing from the strong, delicious morning coffee. I was disregulated and tired.

OperaPlatz was a Summer Festival

Kaiserdom – St. Bartholomew’s

I intended to eat at Kleinmarkthalle, but I didn’t realize it was behind me, across Berliner Strasse in Altstadt (New Old Town). The U-bahn put me in Römerberg, rebuilt in 1983 to look like the half-timbered houses of yore. It may have been intended as a gesture toward history but it is more like a purpose-built tourist attraction and I was overcharged 8,50€ for a curry-wurst.

Holy Roman Emperors were elected at St. Bartholomew’s, called Kaiserdom (Imperial Great Church) locally. Portable artwork survived the Allied bombing in WWII and I finally grasped that the very old, carved altarpieces were designed to be portable, painted on both sides so they are beautiful even when closed.

Römer is the Town Hall which faces central statue of the goddess of justice without her customary blindfold. This market square was the birthplace of the city where trade fairs were held as far back is the 12th century. Banking in Frankfurt dates back to 1405. Today the Römer houses the city council and mayor’s offices.

I also visited the big red St. Paul’s Church (Paulskirche) which was destroyed in 1944 and rebuilt. A smaller church told the story of Martin Luther in the 1500’s and is a stop on a Luther pilgrimage route. I was headed toward the river to cross Eiserner Steg footbridge. Looking back, I could see the Röm. I considered walking over to the area with the nice restaurants (Sachsenhausen) but I was tired and saved that for another day.

Römerberg – Justice is Not Blind

Plaque on Exterior of St. Paul’s [Paulskirche] Rebuilt in 1944

Eiserner Steg Footbridge with View of the Dom (two photos side-by-side)

I share the hope of many who venture across dark waters to meet people from different cultures and languages. This Greek inscription from Homer’s Odyssey might allude to Frankfurt’s beginnings as the furt (ford) where the Franks (early French people) crossed the river to reach the marketplace.

“while sailing over the wine-dark sea to men of strange speech.”

Greek Inscription on Eiserner Steg

Aix-en-Provence was Hot!

Aix-en-Provence was Hot!

Anet in Aix

On Friday, the 7th of July, the Berkeley Folk Dancers trip came to a close and most of the dancers returned home but I headed for Aix-en-Provençe, only 40 minutes and 7€ away by bus but I had to take a 10€ cab ride through a seedy part of Marseille to get to bus/train station Gare Saint-Charles at the top of a hill.

Departing from Gare Saint-Charles, Marseille

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aix is a city of fountains. In 123 B.C., when the Roman consul Gaius Sextius Calvinus wanted to lay siege to the walled city (oppidum) of the Celtic-Ligurians on a plateau about 3 kilometers inland, he chose a site with plentiful springs, some of which were hot. The camp was called Aquae Sextiae, the waters of Sextius, shortened to Aix in the local language.

The camp eventually grew into a Roman city with thermal baths, ponds and fountains to cool the narrow lanes. Some fountains today still bear the Roman markings. The old town now has 27 public fountains within the ring roads.

 

The fountain in the main circle (rotonde) is referred to by the locals as Place Charles de Gaulle

 

 

Main rotonde marked by big central circle in this map

Bus Station on far left corner next to Hotel Rotonde where I sweltered for four nights

Place des Augustins has water squirting from all four sides of the base

Place des Augustins is ringed by pubs

The water is warm in this fountain called Mossae by the locals

 

Restaurants surrounds this soothing and cooling fountain

 

Saturday I visited the big market on Cours Mirabeau but it was really hot so I skipped the tour of the nearby lavender fields. I walked back to the hotel to the music of the cicadas. Sunday was predicted to be even hotter so I got up early and visited the obelisk-fountain Place des Augustins and the “architectural masterpiece” Place d’Albers before 10 a.m. when the Granat and the Granat XXeme museums opened. It was already 90° by 10 a.m.

Renovation in Progress of Place d’Albers on left. Right side not yet renovated.

When the museums opened at 10 a.m. and I was so overheated that I was little disoriented. I had to get directions down Rue Clovis Hugues to get to the Granat Museum.

Rue Clovis Hugues

I had been standing in front of the Granat Musuem to take this picture but because the museum was not open, and it was 90° outside, I did not recognize it. I was mesmerized by the parishioners arriving for 10 a.m. Mass at Saint Jean of Malta.

Saint-Jean-of-Malta Parish Church

I really loved the Granat XXeme Museum and it merits its own post. I was looking forward to lunch at the bistro near my hotel but was dismayed to discover that, because it was Sunday, the cafés were closed. It was also wicked hot, 37° Celsius (close to 100°) with 38°C. predicted for tomorrow so I spent another afternoon in my hotel room taking cold showers. I did not have in-room temperature controls and I was too torpid to realize that I needed to call the front desk and negotiate a room temperature in Celsius. My coconut oil, which melts at 78°, was liquid the entire time in Aix.

Monday, another really hot day, I visited the Tapestry Museum and was delighted to be charged only 4€.

Tapestries from about 1650 in the Bishop’s Palace

Back to the hotel for Monday afternoon to hide from the heat and to contact the bank to make sure my credit card transactions worked for hotel in Aix and the following night in Frankfurt. Frustrated that I have to use insecure networks to reach my bank because I can’t rely on them honoring the travel plans I filed. I ventured out for dinner around 7 p.m. but the restaurants were filling with groups of couples and families with two small, beautifully dressed, well-behaved children. Sitting my myself, sweaty, seemed undignified and poorly-planned. Aix is a place for love and connection, not solitary adventure.

On my walk back to the hotel, the air was filled with the squawks of tiny conures, a deafening din that rivaled the jungles of Guatemala. I learned that the SCNF train arrives in the middle of town but the TGV requires a bus connection that runs every 30 minutes. The airport bus stops at the TGV station.

Marseille – 2023

Marseille – 2023

At Bus Rest Stop On The Way from Lyon to Marseille

The Berkeley Folk Dancing group finished the boat tour in Lyon and took a coach to Marseille on Monday, 3 July and had a minute of trouble getting to the Hotel Mercure because of civil unrest troubling the city. Protests against police brutality in the Paris suburbs escalated to opportunistic looting in the commercial sections of Marseille and our hotel was right downtown in centre-vieux-port. The desk waved us away from the main Cours Canebière for the entire four-day stay. We were steps from the archeological site of the Port Antique and the adjacent Musèe d’Histoire, but they were closed down due to the unrest.

Marseille is the oldest city in France, founded about 600 BC by Greek settlers. It is today the second largest city in France with a population of nearly two million with a whopping 20% immigrants, half of whom are from North Africa especially Algeria, a French colony until 1962.

Camargue Marsh on Left, Dots Outline Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. To the right, Calanque Cliffs

Museum of Soap where Lynne Personalized Her Bar of Soap

About six centuries ago, Marseille was famous for french-milled soap and the second thing I did was visit the Musée du Savon. The first thing was to visit the Tourist Information and have them show me on the map the location of the two restaurants Google suggested for the best bouillabaisse.

Lynne from Canada joined me on the search for the best bouillabaisse, but the restaurants were reeling from the rampages the previous two nights. Not only had the storefronts of the luxury shops been vandalized, but also the glass wind barriers surrounding the bistro tables outside the restaurant. A shaken woman at La Daurade, 8 rue Fortia explained that while they served lunch, they did not know if they would open for dinner at 7 pm because the marauding gangs roamed at night.

We were too hungry to wait until then so Lynne and I had charcuterie at Pub Le Shamrock on the edge of the harbor and returned the following night to enjoy their bouillabaisse. It is just steps away from Chez Loury at 3 rue Fortia, also recommended by Google.

Bouillabaisse at La Daurade, 8 rue Fortia in Marseille.

 

Notre Dame de la Garde

The next day we set out by coach to visit the jewel Our Lady of Protection, the well-loved church of the faithful of Marseille which dazzles in comparison with the cathedral near the waterfront which is unadorned inside. As you can see below, the church nicknamed “Belle Mère” dominates the skyline.

Marseille sailboats

Harbor of Marseille featuring Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde on top of Hill

Berkeley Folk Dancing About To Visit Notra-Dame-de-la-Garde

Interior of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde with Hanging Ships as Prayers for Protection

The devotion in the south of France to the feminine face of God comes from the tradition that, after the crucifixion of Jesus on political charges, his known followers had to flee for their own safety. This is a detail of the mosaic over the altar that shows the small, single-sail boat that tradition tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene used to reach the area they call Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the dotted area in the Camargues marsh in the map above. There is a huge church in Paris, the Madeline, in honor of Mary Magdalene.

Detail of Mosaic over the Altar of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde

 

Walking Marseille

Here’s a quick zoom of some of the highlights. The city has an underground reservoir of fresh water and they show it off with this lavish fountain.

Marseille Fountain over City Water Supply

In the late 1800s an impressive cathedral was built near the waterfront so visitors could instantly be impressed with the power and wealth of the church and the city. Unfortunately, the cathedral is not popular with the people and it is unadorned inside.

Marseille Cathedral near Waterfront

Bougainvillea in Marseille Alley

One of the special treats on our walking tour was a visit to Cafe 13 (the number of the Marseille department) where our guide Dominique taught us the customs around “pastis” which is pronounced with the final S. The waiter put a bottle of tap water and two small tumblers in front of each of us and poured us a 1/2 inch of Ricard and Jayot. He showed us how to dilute it (3:1) and we had a taste test between the two top brands. Horrible both, Ricard less so, but I really appreciated learning about the custom.

There are many beautiful alleys and this steep one with stairs sported a magnificent bougainvillea. I could not resist a very-Marseille selfie.

We also visited the former poorhouse, a hospice for indigent women and children, La Vielle Charité which has restored its magnificent three-story cloisters. Part of it is now an art museum with separate admission so we didn’t visit that. I took a selfie in front of the building, too.

La Vieille Charité Cloisters

Hospice de la Charité

Dominique told us an riveting story about the prehistoric cave at the foot of a Calanques cliff with a below-water entrance that was discovered by the diver Cosquer. Because he tended to be a braggart, people didn’t believe his claims until he produced a photograph that showed a painted handprint on the wall.

Cosquer Museum on Marseille Waterfront – David Hillis photo


We were spellbound as Dominique told us that when the archeologists realized the magnitude of Cosquer’s find, they had to become scuba divers in order to visit the site. Cave diving is very dangerous and two divers lost their way and ran out of air, perishing. Many of us were so intrigued we visited the museum, and the next day Dominique revealed to me that she has written an novel about the cave called “La Main Immortelle” and she showed me on her phone a website featuring the book with the hand on the cover.

 

Lyon – 2023

Lyon – 2023

I was excited to visit Lyon because my Sierra Club kayaking/artist friend, Isabelle, had moved to the area about a year ago. We made plans to meet for lunch and I arrived a day before the rest of the Berkeley Folk Dancing group to spend some time with her. My agenda was to see the Lugdunum Roman Museum, to see how the famous Lyon silk damask is made, to enjoy some of Lyon’s famous food, and to get a picture of this beautiful footbridge (passarelle) which is officially named after Abbé Paul Couturier, a pioneer of ecumenism in the early 1900s but, because it goes to the church of Saint Georges, most people refer to is as Pasarelle Saint Georges.

Stock Image of Passerelle Saint Georges with Fourvière Noted

Isabelle and I met at the fountain facing the Museum of Fine Arts and had lunch after visiting the museum. After lunch at Le Bouchon des Filles, we walked for more than an hour in the hot sun to try to reach the passarelle but we gave up and retreated to the cool underground metro where I showed her how to buy a single ticket using the tumbler-cylinder to select. She visits Lyon rarely even through it is a short train ride away.

Bronze fountain commemorating the four great rivers of France

Lyon City Hall in the Square with Museum of Fine Arts which I visited with Isabelle


Lunch at Le Bouchon des Filles with Isabelle

The next day, the tour group took a bus tour of Fourvière and the old part of the city. The level of embellishment inside the church is astonishing! The arches! The mosaics!

It wasn’t until I got back to Lyon at the end of the cruise in early July that I was able to find the Passarelle Saint-Georges, early on a drizzly Sunday morning.

As the rain got heavier, I ducked into Église de Saint-Georges where I discovered high Mass going on, in Latin! When the congregation genuflected, I took this shot of the altar.

Mass was just getting out at the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, just a little further on in Vieux Lyon, so I could visit the stained glass windows and get a good look at the famous horloge clock which could calculate Easter. (It doesn’t work anymore.)

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Vieux Lyon

 

Finding Cherif, the Canuts and the Celts

To prepare for this trip, I tried to train my ear to hear French better by watching a lot of French police procedurals on TV. I watched four seasons of “Cherif” because it was shot in Lyon. I was fascinated by the exterior location for the police station which was across the street from Cherif’s apartment, just steps from a cliff overlooking the Sâone river. I researched until I discovered the little park on Place Bellevue in the Croix Rousse district, seen near the top of the map below. I had to take a tram from the hotel to the Perrache Train Station (that Isabelle used) where I transferred to the Metro to take me to City Hall (where the fountain is). At City Hall I had to transfer to another Metro line that went up the hill to Croix Rousse.

Croix Rousse at the top, Old City on the Left, Hotel near Bottom, Airport on Right

If silk worms are native to China, how did the silk industry get to France? When King François I conquered Milan in 1515, he was amazed at the work of Leonardo da Vinci and persuaded him to move to France. The “Mona Lisa” was purchased by Francis I for 4,000 gold ducats, probably from da Vinci himself. François I also envied the Italian silk trade so he invited the first two Italian silk weavers to Lyon and supported them, giving them privileges including the right to create silk fabrics, and to extrude gold and silver to make thread to embellish the silk. He purchased their output and kept their taxes low. This, in turn, attracted the best foreign workers. The silk and silkworm-growing business thrived in Lyon and the heavy silk damask curtains, wall coverings and upholstery for Versailles came from Lyon.

The silk workers, Canuts, lived North of City hall, up the hill in the Croix Rousse district. The big technological breakthrough of the French silk industry was the development of punch cards to speed the accurate hand-looming of images woven into the silk, like the tapestries in the residence of the Archbishop in Lyon. I was very interested in seeing how they loomed silk using this Jacquard process.

On my way to find Maison Des Canuts, I passed the Croix Rousse neighborhood farmer’s market on a Saturday morning.

Croix Rousse Saturday Morning Neighborhood Farmer’s Market

I was at the door of Maison Des Canuts when they opened at 10 a.m. so I could buy a ticket for the demonstration. Too bad — the only demonstration was at 2 p.m. and I had to buy the ticket online, I couldn’t buy it in person. This meant I had to go all the way back to the hotel, because I don’t have the skills to buy something on my phone in French! I was dejected, but on my way back to the metro I took a detour to find the Cherif location, Place Bellevue. It made me so happy to find a location that I had only seen on my computer screen. The Hollywood screenwriter part of me is not dead, I guess.

Cherif’s Police Station was in the building on the left. Many exterior scenes were shot here.

I got back to the hotel and when I tried to buy the ticket online, my credit card refused to go through! I tried to contact the bank, but with the 12 hour difference, it was midnight in California. I was out of luck. Dejected, I went back to Maison Des Canuts at 1:45 and pleaded with them. “I have come such a long way, from California, and this is my only chance to see the demonstration. Isn’t there any way to fit me in?” They said no, sit over there, but it felt like a weak “no.” Eventually, they put a yellow dot on me and collected the admission price. The tour and demonstration of the authentic 19th century Jacquard hand loom was mostly in French, the yellow dot indicated English speakers for the guide (about 20% of the group).

The Weaving Studios Required 12-foot Ceilings to Accommodate the Jacquard Punch Card System

The design to be woven into the silk is programmed onto the cardboard punch cards. When the weaver moves a certain part of the loom, it advances the instructions one line and the punch cards pull up the correct threads so the shuttle with the correct color thread can be woven through. It is loud, noisy and heavy. The canuts were paid little even though the silk merchants became wealthy and we learned about labor unrest history during the tour. I loved learning about the history and the silkworm production (astonishingly, Louis Pasteur was involved in silk worm hygiene), but the silk available at the end was outrageously expensive. Even though later I also toured the museum of the competing silk maker Brochier Soieries, near the banks of the Rhone River, my entire silk budget was gobbled up by the purchase of a single 75€ scarf from Cath-Am in the old city.

 

Lugdunum

One of the highlights of Lyon is the Lugdunum Museum and Roman Theaters. On the map above, you can see that Fourière and Lugdunum make a V-shape pointing to the old city. The V represents the two prongs of the funicular that carries passengers up the steep hill. This hill is the site of the Roman theaters and the museum on one side the the big Fourvière church on the other. The first thing I saw in the museum was this magnificent bronze chariot from 700 BC, before the Romans arrived. The wheels are bronze, too. The central bronze vessel is believed to carry something ceremonial and venerated by the Celts, whom the Romans called Galli (derogotory), even though the Gauls sacked Rome in 390 BC. Around 50 BC, Julius Caesar drove out many, but some assimilated.

Celtic Bronze Chariot 700BC Lugdunum (now Lyon)

The mosaic floors in this museum were MUCH better than what I saw in Sicily. This is just one of them, and we could walk on them!

I loved Lyon.