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 Lyon France: Murals Bears, and Bikes

Professor Arnie Greenberg

Celebration symbol with Quebec City - click to enlarge
Celebration symbol with Quebec City

I recently had occasion to spend ten days in France’s second city, Lyon. It was a big surprise as the city is clean, colorful and filled with ancient churches, art and museums. Some famous people lived there many years ago including Andre Marie Ampere the self-taught physicist who defined a way to measure the flow of electrical current. The AMP laid the foundation for the science of electromagnetism.

Also in Lyon, there was a new art form created when the Lumiere brothers built the first film cameras and projected the world’s first moving picture on a 99 X 79 foot screen at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. Their home is now a museum open to the public. They made their fortune selling dry photographic plates and cameras as early as the 1870’s. This was done in a city known for its manufacture of silk. Obviously there were other ways to become rich.

Lumiere Brothers - click to enlarge
Lumiere Brothers 
Early camera - click to enlarge
Early camera

But the best way to tell you about this colorful city is to describe how almost 100 buildings have drawings of life sized characters painted on one or more side. It is a method to fool the eye called Trompe L’Oeuil.

In the south end of town there are over 20 such buildings, a museum and guides available to explain each one.

This is me taking a non-existent book from a painting of bookshelves.


The bikes and my wife are real. The postman and painter are not.

This is the summer that Lyon and Quebec are sharing a 400th birthday. There are 69 bears and lions sculpted and set in parks, and gardens. They are life-sized, very colorful and will be sold at a public auction next month. They give color to a city that really doesn’t need it. Lyon is a large, clean and artistic city that more people should visit, especially if you want to taste France’s best food offerings. There are some of the best restaurants available at popular prices. Some go back to the 19th century where they still make their own brand of beer.

If its candy or especially chocolate you crave, you’ll certainly be satiated with the huge array of chocolate shops. But pastry too should be on your want list. There are pastry shop and the best bread shops on every corner.

The city is built on the banks and beside two fast flowing rivers, the Saone and the Rhone. There are bicycles at major spots around the city for you to rent. They can be returned at any other destination. They are solid, easily found and very inexpensive. It’s an idea that other cities have now added and it might be a great idea to stop the belching of pollution on the streets of North America.

At a recent art competition a beautiful bouquet of flowers was created. It was colorful, could withstand the weather changes and it might bring color to a popular corner near the best restaurant in town. Despite some opposition, the city bought it and had it permanently installed near a waterfall. It drew my attention at first glance.

Nearby is a wonderful reminder of the 3rd most popular book ever printed. Near the bouquet of flowers and the city’s main square there is a statue of Antoine de Saint-Exupery with aviator goggles and standing behind him is his 1942 creation The Little Prince. Saint-Exupery was born in Lyon and the city fathers honor him with a poignant statue. He lived in Quebec City and New York for a while. The book considered a children’s story for adults has only been outsold by The Bible and Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. Saint-Exupery did in an airplane crash in 1944. Pieces of his plane can be seen at the Air Museum, Le Bourget, just outside of Paris. Le Bourget can be remembered as the landing spot of Charles Lindbergh after his flight from New York to Paris non-stop.

The Little Prince & author - click to enlarge
The Little Prince & author

You can see many of these buildings from the open-air tour bus.

Dedicated toTony Garnier, the artist.

Other things to put on your ‘must see’ list include the Cathedral, St Jean, the basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere atop the city which is gigantic, the Museum of the Resistence with pictures of the resistance hero Jean Moulin who did at the hands of the Nazis, Place Bellecoeur the town center with a monument of Louis XIV in the center. Also the the Opera, and Musee des Beaux Arts the Roman Theatres dating back to 15 BC with room for 10,ooo patrons and the Museum de la Civilization Gallo-Roman.

If you go to Lyon by TGV this fast train (320 kph) gets you there from Paris in 2 hours. When you arrive at Part Dieu station you will be in a modern business district. Look for the tall building that comes to a point. It’s called Le Crayon or the pencil.

There’s a funicular to take you to the city high point and back.

At the base there are many mansions reminding one that this was once a banking center. There is a modern subway that moves automatically without a driver and street trolleys that allow you to see the city in comfort and silence.


Here’s a full sized 5-story wall painting.

I was luck enough eat is two of the city’s best restaurants and to meet titled members who are ancestors of the once powerful ruling class. I will devote an entire article to some of them in a future article, entitled The Real Rose.

Email Arnie Greenberg at:

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Last Revised: Friday, May 15, 2015 06:38:58 AM
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