Friday, May 25, 2012

Lyon : Final word

 Just to finish up with a few images from Lyon.  

I said I was getting away to find quenelles and art.  I found both and was pleased by one and not the other.  I will give the quenelles a chance again only in a top restaurant.  I think it is one of those things that  needs a lot of expertise.   But I do find Lyon to be a lovely city with some wonderful architecture and lots of high end shops where one can forever do the "leche vitrine"  ( literally means" lick the window") such a great expression for window shopping. 

The Hotel de Ville or city hall. 

Fountain in front of city Hall. 

 After hoofing it all over the second arrondissement, I crossed the river to the old town and found that it was more run down and touristic than last time I came.  I quickly found my way off of the main street with its marionette and miniature museums but not before I caught the two images below at the entrance to the latter.

This is a model of a book seller's, in the foyer to the miniature museum.   Someone has spent hours on this and I knew Monsieur would appreciate the image as he wishes this was his real library( and that no one else was allowed to touch a thing!)

Here is what they did for a minature model barber shop.   I didn't go into the main museum though.

  I had other fish to fry.  I was looking for a good restaurant for Gail and I to have dinner together our last night before the train ride back to Nice.

Notre Dame of Fourviere basilica. Lyon, France   This time I didn't climb the hill to this magnificent Cathedral.  I wasn't there for churches.

                                                                  La Machonnerie

  But I did find this restaurant, in the old town out of the way of the tourist path.  After reading the menu, I knew they had "the food sensibility". ...and also recognition from the Michelin Guide didn't hurt.  

 The place is called La Machonnerie, on 36 rue Tramassac, tel. 0478422462.  It is run by Joseph Viola who was awarded as one of the best workers in France.  Meilleur Ouvrier de France is a coveted award for best in your field.

  Luckily I reserved a table at noon that day or I doubt we would have been seated that evening. It was packed.

  We really enjoyed our white asparagus with speck starter ( a juniper flavored ham from the Tyrol), our fish and veal and all the various dishes of vegetables that came with these.   We loved just sitting with our bottle of wine before signaling the waitress that we were ready for dessert.

 I will never get over how one is never "nudged" from the table in a FRench restaurant when you are finished with your meal as you are in many places in America.  You can be the last to leave but you won't get any "dirty looks".  It's unthinkable to a FRench waiter.

For dessert we both opted for the Floating Island , "Oeufs a la neige"  ...eggs in snow.  It is made in Lyon with little nuggets of red nougat which is a specialty of the town.  Interesting.

  I will be back to this little gem of a bistro one day I hope.  It was not expensive or fancy but it was just right for what we wanted: homey, well executed dishes, and great service.  Even my gourmand husband would surely have enjoyed it.

On Sunday morning after a coffee and a pastry at Paul's ( oldest bakery in France) we walked over to the Quay Romain Rolland to see the arts and crafts fair : Market of Creation:

There are several art markets, but we only had time for this one and a glimpse of the food market on the other side of the river.
  • Arts and Crafts markets
Marché aux Tupiniers (pottery), Marché aux bouquinistes, Marché de la création, Marché des artisans d'art...
Many places to choose from if you want to shop or simply take a leisurely stroll!

La Foire aux Tupiniers
Vieux Lyon’s pottery market that takes place during the second weekend of September.
5 montée Saint-Barthélemy - 69005 Lyon
Tel. +33(0)4 72 77 92 42 

Marché aux Bouquinistes
le Marché des Bouquinistes
Every Saturday and Sunday at Marché aux Bouquinistes (second hand books), shoppers are able to travel back in time as they stumble across their most loved childhood books and novels or complete their collection of original works will those one of a kind books.
This is a charming and charismatic market where you can buy all genres of books at incredibly low prices!
Quai de la Pêcherie - 69001 Lyon
Every Saturday and Sunday 10am – 6pm

Marché de la Création
Un dimanche matin, au marché de la Création
Every Sunday morning Lyon’s painters, sculptures, jewellers, musicians, poets and many other craftsmen come together at the Marché de la Création.
The riverbanks are transformed into an artistic forum where amateurs, professionals and visitors exchange and explore ideas in a creative and friendly environment.
Quai Romain Rolland – 69005 Lyon
Every Sunday :6am – 1.30 pm 

  I had remembered Lyon as an art city from the first time I visited .  Very fine artists are showing at the river on weekends and some other artists with great potential and decent prices.  To qualify to show, one must be admitted by a committee who judges the artist's submitted dossier.  This way there is a higher quality of offerings than we have in Nice and a variety of types and styles of work including hand crafts .

 I couldn't resist a necklace as a souvenir from Helene Hutinet, a maker of fantasy jewelry.   Her online store is called L'Object d'Effet.

 I could go on with what I discovered in the lovely city of Lyon but I will leave you to consider a trip yourself.    If you are on a sojourn from America , the euro against the dollar is looking pretty good right now.  There's that and  I am realizing that even though you love your town, your garden or your home,  one needs to change horizons from time to time..

Friday, May 18, 2012

Robert Combas: Artist , Musician

Robert Combas has been living at the "Musee D'Art Contemporain de Lyon" and will be staying there in his adjoining painting/ recording studios until his retrospective exhibition ends on July 15.

   Last week, I saw the grey haired rocker/painter through the 2 way glass the museum as provided on the second floor.  THat day he was composing on an electronic keyboard with a colleague.  An hour earlier he had been playing church music which was being piped into the "salle' of his religious themed paintings.   It seemed so fitting that he was there participating.


Robert Combas is a native son of Lyon born in 1957.     In his own words... paraphrased by my translation:  For the full text in French.

"I  had always painted and drawn and  I started to study Fine Arts at the age of 9 years old.  I was a pretty average student but I needed to paint."I am from a family of six children, my father was a laborer and my mother did housework. I went to high school until age 17, then I returned to Sète Fine Arts for a year, and then to Fine Arts school in Montpellier.   It was during the last three years of the five years at the "Beaux ARts" school that I started my first works that would become what was called later " free figuration. "Teachers often tried to control me but I was free, I did what I liked. 

The first painting that I made I changed several times, then I  separated it into 4 parts, then 3. It was after this painting I started making paintings very free, very colorful, and quite violent with lots of characters who were often spirited to fight or to make jokes, It was black humor. I did a lot of small battles by scribbling on school books. My first paintings were "Battle of cowboys against Indians "," Japanese against American "," Sea Battle "...

I always wanted to do something completely new, I always had the need to stand out over others.But I try to get out of myself and not care too much of the resemblance to someone else. I try to be as honest as possible, and in art it was thought impossible to do something we can not explain. At the Beaux Art Schools I was told this and I wanted to prove otherwise. 

I was blocked by others since kindergarten but at age 20 I was released because of my huge output of work, I got the diploma. I had nothing intellectual, but I had a mass of work."

Well, that sounds authentic.  He is just trying to do what he does and stay true to himself.  Refreshingly, there is no intellectual "art-speak" to wade through here. 

 And now some of my favorites of paintings that I snapped( not knowing if I was allowed photos):  

This one is very easy on the eye.  I like the use of complementary colors to pop it at you.  Combas seems to have an instinct for this.  I doubt if he thought about it.   I really get the feeling that he has always followed his instinctive- inner voice, and that art school didn't influence that.

  I especially like the composition of this one with the frieze along the bottom.   The colors are winning.

  I loved this painting which is "bas relief", the running figure being painted on "Gaterboard styrofoam" poly- styrene and stuck onto the main painting.

Combas' work is really not about technique.  There is an "art brut"," outsider art" quality      to a lot of it.  I feel he has an impulse to get the image down on whatever is at hand.   He uses mostly acrylics but on a variety of surfaces, wood, canvas, linoleum etc.

 I like the movement in this one.  This was the phase where he outlined every drip in black......very jarring on the eyes to see a whole room full of them.

 There is a definite " spoof" quality to many of his drawings.  Look at this "ass" in the background which has the face of a human.  Quite charming with the juxtaposition of a pitcher of flowers.

   Another of my favorites.  It had a more painterly quality than the others...... unusual for him.

As Bruce B says in the comments, this reminds me of  Robert Crumb and some other cartoon satirists.  I wonder if he knew their work when he started.  He obviously has been influenced by Picasso too in the first photo I show here.

These are full of his own symbols about the "church".  A lot of collage was used in this period.

     Here is a photo I found online of Robert Combas in his studio , with the painting I like so much.

    This was the first room of his early offerings on cardboard and ungessoed canvas.  He called this period, "Arabian pop art" and it is markedly different from the work to follow.

   This last image I include as it shows an example of one of the artist's most prolific styles.  There is  variety in his development but this graphic style predominates.   There are hidden messages he wants you to see so it pays to get up close and into the painting.  These over layered paintings don't work as well for me from afar.

  On the last floor of the museum is a stage set up with instruments. There is a video playing of Combas and his musical group.   IN the video he looks like a 50 + year old kid, rapping in a stilted, incomprehensible, ritualistic style, in French of course.    It is not hard to conclude after I look around the theatre with lamps , shoes,  guitars, cut out cities , marionettes etc,  all covered with his signature graffiti- like style,  that Robert Combas is off in his own little world.    

      I asked the docent jokingly if after the time he has spent in the museum, meeting the artist and all, if he thought that Robert Combas was "crazy".   "Yes", he said, "but in a good way".    ANd that is what I have concluded too.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Parc de la Tete D'Or : Lyon

One of the loveliest municipal parks I have ever had the privilege to nap in is called the Parc de la tête d'or in Lyon.

 It's a vast space with a beautiful design and excellent gardens. The specialty irises in rich shades of gold, violet and mauve are magnificent at this time of year as are the roses.   Apparently there is a zoo within the 290 acres of the Park, but I hate the whole concept of zoos so I won't see that or the African safari animals either.  It is too hot a day to walk far anyway.   But if I come again to Lyon I will rent a city bike and do the tour.  

I came to the park an hour earlier than the opening of the museum of Contemporary Art of Lyon , open at 11am.   Since the park is just across from it, I did a partial garden tour with the park's  sunny and absolutely dark forests. .. an amazing variety of foliage, in fact.

 I came again to the Tete d'Or after spending over two hours in the museum with EVERY FLOOR occupied with the strange, garish and hallucinatory art of ROBERT COMBAS.

 I still don't know if I really love his work or am just in a trance.  But I do appreciate his work which I will talk about in one of the next posts.    

My commitment to looking at it for over two hours has ended in exhaustion, however.  I think I will just crawl under this gingko tree and lie down. So what if a goose craps on my shoes.    AFter ROBERT COMBAS,   this is the only place to be. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pigging out in Lyon

I still don't know how the Lyonnaise eat like they do and stay healthy and relatively trim. 

  The traditional Lyonnaise dishes are high in fat with a  preponderance of meat dishes often topped with foie gras, very few green vegetables and with the meat dish may come pasta and gratin potatoes on the side.  Sausage and pork are mainstays.  And charcuterie is often the starting dish.   That is not to say that this is not tasty and the food changes with the skill of the chef or restaurant which is reflected, of course, in the prices.

Our first meal was at the moderate Brasserie Georges , a few steps away from our  hotel Normandie in the second arrondissement which lies in the "presqu- ile" between the two Rivers: Saône and Rhône. 

 Brasserie Georges is in an old brewery built in 1836 by an Alsatian owner, Georges Hoffherr .   The restaurant is in much the same genre as La Coupole in Paris and has been meticulously refurbished in 1924 and again in 2005 in the art deco style.  And since 2004, the owners have started brewing Georges beer again in the adjoining bar in view of the customers.  It is a beautiful dining room and bar.

I took this picture when we arrived at 8pm.  It doesn't show how vast the interior is (700 m2 without pillars, held up by three immense beams brought from Chartreuse by oxen in a cart) or all the people who will have arrived after 10 pm.  It seems a popular place.

I was warned by "trip advisor" not to expect friendly or good service from the waiters at Brasserie Georges, but that was not so.   As Gail said, this is probably the only waiter you have ever had who asks you to feel his "abs". ( this segued from a comment about how rich the food was in Lyon and did one have to exercise like mad in order to eat it)  And the service was great too.

   Actually we had a really good time talking to our waiter as it was so unusual to have friendly conversation with a waiter in a busy Bistro anywhere. ( see my last post).

But did I like the meal ?  NO.  I was determined to eat a quenelle which is a mixture of creamed fish, in this case, Pike, sometimes combined with breadcrumbs, with a light egg binding.  Mine, at the brasserie, was in a rich cream sauce flavored perhaps with lobster.  I could only eat part of it.  It was interesting but the sauce overpowered the dish.  

 What else..... the  tiny little cheese ravioli that Gail had for a starter were delicious.  My crab cocktail was a disappointment as I don't like gelatin and the crab was mired in that.  Yuck. very French that.

But we vastly enjoyed our time there .  We would go again if we were in Lyon, as the atmosphere is great.   I got a kick out of all the birthdays, at least 7 were celebrated that night.  For a birthday , the lights would dim , the hurdie gurdie would play and a host of waiters would sing,  all the room then applauding.   Most of the birthday desserts were "Norwegian Omelettes", a specialty of the house.   We teased our waiter that these were nothing but "Baked Alaska", from the States.

While in Lyon,  I did get a glimpse of that "oeuf  en meurette" dish that monsieur and I tried to make a few weeks ago.  The one I saw looked a lot less "Grey's anatomy" as the poached egg was not really cooked in the red wine.

 It looked good but again , a starter in Lyon is a whole meal .

And I did try a Lyonnaise salad too,  while I was there.  It is composed of  bacon, croutons, and a poached egg over salad with tomatoes .   Way too much bacon for me but I wish I knew how their eggs come out so prettily. ( I have tried those new floppy egg cups but long for the old aluminum ones we had as a kid, the ones all connected together.  When you don't use a cup you get "wandering white" which is not the best look.)  

Stay tuned,  I have a few more discoveries to report from this lion of a city.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

And the winner is LYON

                                                                                          Poster by Denise Gallager

The first pleasant surprise on spending a few days in Lyon is how friendly everyone is.  In fact, although the word is a bit limp, its the only one we have, SO I'LL JUST SAY IT,  the people in Lyon ARE NICE!

 It started on the train with my seat partner, the gentlemen who helped all the older ladies with their luggage carrying it down the stairs for the most needy and then the niceness continued with that same fellow trying to PAY FOR MY TRAM FARE, and  going out of his way to show me which tram I should take to get to my hotel, all the while carrying my case , against my protests.

 I escaped to Lyon, to get a way for a few days and take advantage of sharing my friend Gail's hotel while she worked a medical conference.  But I was not expecting any help from strangers, because frankly, it's been so long since I have gotten any .

 Not many of the Niçois are "nice" to strangers,  lets face it .  There is no use pretending otherwise.   There is a reason for example that Nice was awarded the distinction of the third worst driver's in FRance, after Paris and Marseille.  Drivers here are NOT courteous by even French standards.

 But for me, just off the train from Nice, the gallantry continued as a uniformed "prevention" monitor on the tram guarded my luggage so I could take a seat.  "N'inquiétez pas Madame" ," Don't worry , Madame I will look after it."

 Finding my hotel I am warmly greeted by the two young ladies behind the desk.

 Then having settled in,  ready to explore the town, there is the charming young man who WALKS me to my destination when I inadvertently ended up on the wrong side of the Gare Perrache

 There is no end of courtesy and smiles and not just from the men.  When I lament no more "pain au chocolate" the next morning, the bar maid offers to thaw and heat one for me if I can wait.   She brings it over with a big smile and re-warms my tea.

Since living in Nice, I have never had a charming man have a friendly, jokey conversation with me as I wait out the rain in a cafe....  and he's not trying to pick me up!  Of that I am fairly certain. After all he is 20 years younger than I and waiting for his daughter to call.  But it's fun and civilized.  Finally after trying teasingly to get me to lend my umbrella, he heads off to get soaked.  But I am amused by the encounter and so was he.  We both recognize a moment of complicity and what's wrong with that?

  And how is it possible later, as I sit in a cafe , that the  Lyonnaise man and woman next to me want to know if I am writing a book as I scribble in my notebook after enjoying a Salad Lyonnaise.  No one has ever dared venture a personal question to me in Nice, and I like the change, it's friendly.   And isn't it fun when the waiter teases me about not eating all of my lardons on that same Lyonnaise salad?

No, sorry , Nice you are not the winner of courtesy and smiles.  Lyon is.

 Gail and I want to start a campaign.  Let's bring Niceness to Nice.  AFter all the city has made so many strides recently with popper scoopers and the disposal of cigarette butts why not wish for the return of  gallantry as well.   It would be a NICE change.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Advice to Myself : Louise Erdrich

Advice to Myself ...... by Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic— decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

All week I have been going through my odds and sods, vintage pieces of jewelry that I no longer wear, handbags that are collectibles, a few of my coats etc in view of taking the once costly items to a "depot vente" or selling them online. 
 But after tracing makers marks on silver pieces, and looking up the postage of various prepaid containers I am not any closer to finding new homes for still attractive old items. Frankly,the amount of work and expense to be done to get the item to the right person isn't worth the effort or the value of the item.  

 None of these things are particularly valuable, they shouldn't be in Christie's for example, but they are all little demons dragging me down with their tiny little claws. 

 The last time I went to the consignment store here in Nice to recuperate an Escada skirt that THEY had lost the first time I was there, the fellow said that probably they had given it to charity (without warning.)  "Oh that would be too much trouble for us to call everyone" , he claimed.
 Well, I wanted that piece to find a new home and now it has. Some tiny waisted girl is swishing around in a beautiful black pleated skirt,  still very much in style for this season. 

But oh, Louise Erdrich has it right. There is only so much pushing around of material objects that one should do in one lifetime. 
Basta, I think I'll go sit on the porch and look at my irises. I might even have a "lemon drop" (vodka,lemon) while I'm there.   These beauties will bring themselves out again next year and I won't even have to wash and iron them .....or try to get rid of them on ebay!!! What a thought.      

Karen Louise Erdrich, known as Louise Erdrich, (born June 7, 1954) is an author of novels, poetry, and children's books featuring the native American heritage. She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance. In April 2009, her novel The Plague of Doves was a finalist for the Pulitzer prize for fiction. She is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent book store in Minneapolis.