Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April 13, 2011: Lyon - Parc de la Tête d'Or, Botanicals, Zoologicals, Contemporaries, Funicular, Drinks

Today I figured out how to use the subway Metro system. It was all very straightforward (so much so that I didn't bother to switch to the English instructions on the ticket machine). My only problem was coming out of the station and getting oriented. I'd circled the block once, trying to recognize enough major streets that I would know which direction the Parc de la Tête d'Or (Park of the Golden Head) was in, but I had to pull out my map.

As I discreetly opened the map (trying to avoid looking like a lost tourist) a friendly man walked right over and asked if I needed help (in French). I said I was looking for the Parc, and he proceeded to give me detailed instructions (in French) which were mostly lost on me, but his gestures indicated which way to walk and I picked out the name of the boulevard I would have to turn on to.  He walked with me part of the way to get me started off right, and asked a number of questions (in French) about where I was from, what I was doing in Lyon, most of which I was able to answer (in French). I was quite pleased about the interaction - I'm feeling pretty immersed in the language now!

I started off with the botanical garden at the park. One of the great things about this park is that everything is free, so even though I've been to some bigger and better botanical gardens, the free public access was impressive. Their collection of carnivorous plants was particularly good - an entire greenhouse was devoted to them. It seems like I'd arrived just in between seasons for the outdoor gardens - the cherry blossoms have fallen and most of the bulbs are done, but the other plants haven't started flowering yet.

For lunch I sat and ate my baguette sandwich while watching a herd of reindeer amble about (descendents of deer from the original establishment of the zoo in the 1800s). Then I walked around the to see the rest of the animals. The history of the zoo was quite interesting - they had preserved one of the original bear cages with photos contrasting past and present environments of the animals - it really is astonishing how stark their surroundings were in the past.

While continuing across the park I realized that the contemporary art museum wasn't far, so I decided to pay it a visit. There was a very extensive survey of contemporary artists from India, which had many interesting works. There was also a solo exhibition of work by Pascale Marthine Tayou, which was kind of a crazy accumulation of objects, but some of it was was fairly evocative, rather than just frenetic. The best work was right as you exited the elevator - sharpened tree trunks hanging down from the ceiling, mostly in the dark, presenting a menacing space to navigate through.

On the way back to the hotel I scoped out the location of the Bernachon chocolate store and our dinner reservation for Friday at Le Gourmet de Sèze. I stopped off in my room briefly, then came back out and hopped back on the metro without about a minute to spare on my hour-long ticket. I sped a few stations across to Vieux Lyon and switched to the funicular railroad that goes up to the Fourviere - I'd already walked up there yesterday, but since it was free with my metro ticket, why not?! It was pretty fun actually - and older style of train on very steep incline tracks. It reminded me of the cable cars in San Francisco, but those are mostly mobbed by tourists and cost quite a bit more to ride. Apparently the two funicular railways in Lyon are the oldest in continuous operation.

After walking down from the Fourviere I met up with a friend of Dominique, Melissa, for a beer. She's from Montreal originally, so it was nice to have a chat in English and have some human interaction after a couple of days of touring around on my own. After getting back to the apartment I made couscous with lentils, asparagus, carrots, onion, garlic and tomatoes for dinner. I can't believe I packed so much in to one day!

As I tried to get oriented after exiting the Metro, I came across one of Lyon's famous large murals - this one seems to be a stage set for an old-fashioned street scene

One of several elaborate gates to Parc de la Tête d'Or



Amazing yellow blossoms in the desert greenhouse

Carnivorous plant
Flamingoes (I have since learned that the French call them "flamants rose" which translates as "pink flamingoes". When asked why it's necessary to specify that they're pink, they looked baffled - it's just their name!)

A cattle egret

This one's for my sister - look, the bear is completely harmless, he's eating a sweet potato!

Reindeer, resting in its meadow

 Installation by Pascale Marthine Tayou

 The funicular railways tracks leading up to Fourvière

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