Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Our trip to Lyon, France

I never expected to be on another trip so soon after my last trip to Europe in September 2013, but here I am sitting in my sister's house in New Jersey, trying to complete my travel posts from last year. Well,what can I say... the horizons keep beckoning and I keep following...

Now for a sneak peek of what I've been gazing at over the past month...
Manhattan in the distance and the Hudson in all her serenely swaying beauty...

Now getting back to Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France and one of it's largest cities, which we (me, Nam and Vinod) decided to explore one fine Sunday in October 2013. Lyon is just a two hour train ride away from Geneva, and once we got off the train we decided to head first to, Pérouges, one of the most beautiful villages in France, located near Lyon. After visiting Yvoire, we made it a point to scout out other beautiful villages near any city we visited. So we asked around and surprisingly no one knew how to get to Pérouges, so we pored over our maps, found a train going in a similar direction and got in. After some time, we realised we were in the wrong train, we though of getting down in the next station and catching a train back to Lyon. So the next station, Les Etes, arrives and we get down, walk to the booth there to read the train timings. Turns out we got down in the middle of nowhere... the next train back was at night. Taped to the same paper were a few car drivers numbers, my brother rings them all up but they were reluctant to work on a Sunday. So there we are... stranded in a village that wasn't even on a map, wondering what to do. We decide to get something to eat first, so we walk, cross a lot of fields, meadows and finally we spot a sign with the words falafel and shawarma on them. We walk into the Istanbul kebab restaurant, and talk to the young guy behind the counter about getting back to Lyon, we order our food and resign ourselves to catching the late train back. Mid way through our lunch, this young guy comes up to us and tells us that his dad is driving to Lyon, and we could hitch a ride with him. We were like, 'Wow! A Turkish Angel!' That's how it felt back then, I could almost see his halo... so that's how we got back in time to check out a few sights in Lyon and to catch our train back to Geneva, all because of a beautiful Turkish family. 
As soon as we reached Lyon, we headed straight to the old town of Lyon, otherwise known as Vieux Lyon, a Renaissance district and a heritage city as recognised by UNESCO. John the Baptist cathedral, seen above, is a famous landmark here...
And right opposite the cathedral is the Fourvière hill, upon which rests the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière, or the Basilica of Our Lady of Fourvière. Standing here in the centre of the square, where I stood while taking these pictures, you marvel at the beauty of it all and wonder if this is how the medieval people felt...walking and taking in the sights of a bustling town square, while discussing their kings, princesses, queens, knights and squires...
Silhouettes of John the Baptist baptising Jesus...
Inside the cathedral...
The stand used during Benediction, look at the angel... never seen anything quite this.
Apparently, in the past, the bishop of Lyon was quite a powerful person... and his vestments bear proof to that. Check out this golden robe with all the design and embroidery...
The angels standing by the Lamb of God... pretty detailing on the robe.
Another extravagant robe...
So after exploring the cathedral in the old town, we decided to head up the hill to visit the Basilica. There are about 800 steps to climb to reach the top of the hill. My brother immediately disappeared into a nearby Moroccan cafe telling us that he would wait there for us. So me and Nam, started out climb and after a lot of huffing and puffing, we reached the top... and it was so worth it!
Saint John Paul II at the entrance...
The entrance to the Basilica...
And this is how it looks inside...
This candle like lighting led an ethereal charm to the entire place...
Stained glass windows...
A scene from the bible...
The ornate ceiling...
The intricate doors to the altar...
The lighting casting a mystifying glow over everything... 
Another biblical scene...
From inside the confession chamber...
A four winged angel...
Candles and a biblical picture...
The Holy water font...
Inside the holy water font... inlaid with design. 
Angels holding up the pillars...
Madonna and child surrounded by angels, on the ceiling...
An angel on the front door... 
A winged lion, the namesake of this town, Lyon, standing guard over the Basilica...
The pretty view of Lyon from the Basilica... 

Lyon is also famous for it's festival of lights which takes place on the 8th of December every year. The origins of the festival date back to 1643 when Lyon was struck by plague. The municipal counselors promised to pay tribute to Mary if the town was spared. Ever since, a solemn procession makes its way to the Basilica of Fourvière on this day to light candles and give offerings in the name of Mary. The event thus commemorates the day Lyon was consecrated to the Virgin Mary. This uniquely Lyonnaise tradition dictates that every house place candles along the outsides of all the windows to produce a spectacular effect throughout the streets, and the Basilica of Fourvière is lit up beautifully during the festival. 

Lyon is a fascinating city, vibrant, gentle and a little mystical ... she embraces you with her laid back charm. Even now as I sit here writing about her, the memories of her warm embrace still lingers... strolling along the well worn streets, walking in and out of eclectically cute places and tasting french cuisine was pretty exciting.

Friday, August 15, 2014

And my trip to Gruyères continues...

So in the last post about Gruyères, we had just entered the castle and seen the medieval flooring and the ancient kitchen... 
Here are the suits of armour, only the kinghts are mising... 
The information given to the side of it: Burgundian Cope, third quarter of the 15th century
Part of the booty from the battle of Morat (1476). It bears the great ducal coat of arms of Burgundy (Burgundy Ancient and Modern, Brabant, Limburg, and Flanders) and the coats of arms of Zealand and the Franche-Comtè above three flints and steels (emblems of  Philip the Good, father of Charles the Bold).
 The knights conference room...
 With armours like that, chairs like these were probably comfortable enough... 

So after the  medieval ages, a noble guy inherited the castle and his artist cousin, took up residence here...
He kinda went overboard with his talents and painted...
Lovely whimsical pictures like this on every surface he could find... 
Check out the painting behind me... it covers the entire wall... 
Impeccable aesthetic sense...
There were a few religious paintings like this too... Jesus raising the little girl from the dead. Look at her, in her white clothes, it's a beautiful picture. 
Another room... with coloured paneling 
Vestiges of the past... a cannonball with the wood it splintered 
 The gardens outside...
The church near the castle...
Inside the church...
The candle stand in church...
After taking in all the sights it was time to shop... my brother specifically told us to get Gruyères products like the famous Gruyères cheese, the meringue and the double cream all made here in Gruyères. The cheese was quite nice, I used it to make French Onion soup. The meringue and double cream were scrumptious... of course they weren't in the least bit healthy but they dissolved wonderfully in your mouth.

Bought this toilet roll holder there... cute, right?

So that's it about Gruyères, a beautiful little village... I bet it looks even more beautiful in winter, everything covered in fresh blankets of pristine heavenly powder, snow. Should plan a trip there one winter season...