By Matt Ramey
Staring south from the hilltop at Croix-Rousse, the spires and chimneys of Lyon pierce the morning haze. Hundreds of years reflect from the rooftops of a city founded by Romans and carried into modernity by merchant traders, silk workers, and printers. Basilique de Fourvière is a silent sentinel standing watch from its hilltop post and protecting the spirit and the soul of the city.
Cinema was born here. The brothers Lumiere invented a new visual language and brought it to the world. Gastronomy is the city’s heart and Lyon is proud of the excellence of Paul Bocuse, the tradition of its bouchons, and the culinary innovation of its new guard. Farmers markets draw the young and old, both equally passionate for the region’s flavors, traditions, and future.
This is the city of Jean Moulin and the French resistance. Where underground newspapers rallied against an approaching Nazi regime. Secret command posts operated behind the dusty shutters of forgotten cafés and members, if discovered, were dragged from their refuge to their deaths. All in the name of Free France.
Brocante markets display odds and ends of lives lived – lives woven with reverence into the fabric of its modern age. I move through the crowded market stalls, fingers grazing fabric and hands measuring the weight of antique knives long retired from duty. The respect vendors have for their time-worn wares is tangible and I am honored to experience it alongside my envy of the camaraderie between old men, gathered in the sunlight for a morning smoke.
The Lyonnaise are proud of their heritage, but never boastful. Whether eccentric or exquisite, the museums have no pretense and while the city welcomes travelers, it is not accustomed to them in great number.
The chapel of Basilique de Fourvière holds hundreds of plaques reading en reconnaissance of loved ones lost. These markers are meant for us. Meant to recognize, to celebrate those who built this city, and to guide the next generation.