Chapter 32 – We Move to Lyon

Our beautiful and wonderful Babish, our first dog in Genas, after Puppy died that first summer. She is running toward us with a ball in her mouth (1997)

In 1986 we had to move to Lyon, since CCPN was decentralised to Villeurbanne, a sister town of Lyon. We found a suitable house with just the right size yard in the town of Genas,, east of Lyon and quite close to Lyon/Villeurbanne. Genas is comfortably close to our working places, which were on the Campus in Villeurbanne. 

The house we bought has now so much become a part of our lives that we could never imagine living anywhere else. Our three animals, a dog Katia, “type colley,” and two cats, brother and sister, Benny and Babette, are totally happy in this house and in the yard, and both have been updated and greatly improved on over the more than 30 years we have now lived here. In fact, they are so happy with us that it hurts to leave them at a “pension” when we go on vacation. It hurts, but at least we have a very good and safe pension where they are well taken care of. Katia is let out and played with every day, even though I am not sure how well she plays with the young people at the pension. They are willing, but maybe Katia is not. 

Benny and Babette are investigating the newcomer to our menagerie.

doubt t if you will ever see animals happier than our three treasures. Each one is more lovable than the other, and it’s impossible to have a favorite. There remains the fact though that Benny is special because of what happened to him in 1914, as we came back from two weeks in Iceland. Our cats were at a pension where they did not have double doors. The lady,, a former nurse, who generally took care of the cats was in a wheelchair because of a complicated leg fracture, and her daughter had to take over. The daughter was obviously quite careless and Benny escaped through the single door of the ‘chatterie’. He could not possibly find his way back here where he wanted to be, since we had taken the cats by car to this house in Bron, right outside Lyon, and he could have no idea of where home was. To make a long story short, he was gone for 47 days.

We had set up posters all over Bron with a picture of Benny and promise of reward. We got to know a very nice lady who had clearly seen Benny close to her apartment building and later in a nearly huge park, a paradise for joggers. We walked with her through the park one day, but there was no sign of Benny. We got calls from people who had visibly seen our Benny close to a hardware store, Leroy Merlin. John went there (I had gotten sick in the meantime with a nasty infection.), but he did not see Benny.

One day, as we were having g lunch the telephone rang. It was our vet who said that she had just been shopping at Leroy Merlin and she had by sheer coincidence seen Benny, called him, and after a couple of failed attempts, she managed to pick him up. She was pretty badly scratched, but no infection fortunately. She said I am holding him in my arms. We put down our knives and forks and got into the car and hurried to her ‘cabinet‘, also in Bron.

It was absolutely unbelievable. Here was our beloved Benny, just a bit less well-fed, but seemingly unharmed. The next day we brought our wonderful vet ten lang-stemmed magnificent roses. Of course she said, as the French do “‘Il ne fallait pas”, but of course we would actually like to give her even more, but we couldn’t think of what that might be. This woman, Mme Cara, has now become a very dear friend in a way and we will never ever forget what she did to make our lives complete again .

Both Katia and Babette had clearly been wondering what had become of Benny, and they were all happy to get back their brother and playmate. All three are very much attached to each other. Babette when she comes in from the outdoors always goes by Katia’s sofa (a Japanese futon) and rubs up against Katia. Yes, she has her own sofa. It just so happened. She first had a dogged, but one day she probably felt she was now grown-up and she moved over to the futon. I put a cover over it to keep her from dirtying it too much and the futon soon got to be her”home’. 

To be continued

In those days, when Clara was a little girl and then a young girl (she is now a young woman) and there were lots of places in and around Lyon to go and see, it was always a great pleasure to have company for New Year’s. We also managed to stay up past midnight back in those days, which we barely do any more. We always spent Christmas Day with our oldest and best friends in this part of the world, Jean and Danièle, who lived close to Lyon. — Things have changed since those happy days when we had a group of friends from around Grenoble mostly. The two women I felt closest to were Geneviève and Astou, from Dakar, Senegal married to Kilé. They too have boys, three handsome boys who are all grown up. We see Kilé and Astou these days only at funerals and the like. There have been many. Danièle’s mother was one of the last ones, and then Danièle herself who died in a vicious case of breast cancer, which turned off her light in just three months. We saw her in the hospital the very day she died in the evening. She was beautiful, looking like a young girl. This was less than two years ago, and I now have tears in my eyes. .

For many many years we even had the big Christmas dinner at Danièle’s mother’s home in Lyon where sometimes up to three of her aunts were also present. This was Danièle’s mother’s and aunts’ home even during the war. However, since then the entire quartier has been wonderfully renovated and beautified. It is a small 4-room apartment with a tiny kitchen, and during the war it was the home of the entire family, five children and the mother, after the father died at their farm in Burgundy. The entire family participated in the Résistance, except Germaine, the youngest of the sisters, and there was also one brother.. In those days there wasn’t just the family of six but also any homeless body who was escaping from the Gestapo, usually other resistance fighters.

We had many many Christmas dinners at Boulevard des Etats-Unis, and there were all the aunts assembled, maybe with the exception of the one they called Clo-Clo. I never knew her real name, but she usually showed up after the big meal to say Merry Christmas, or rather Joyous Noël.One aunt lived on rue de Tolbiac, close to where we used to live for ten years, but we never got to know her. 

And, most importantly there was Olivier and hi wonderful wife nicknamed Prune. We know them very well, and I would say they are like family to us. They have four boys, the older now a young man. I will never forget when Prune one Christmas changed Roman’s diapers and did it with so much love and tenderness that I thought to myself. This little one must grow up and become a strong and secure young man. We are in fact due to see them now any day in their very nice restaurant, which they are planning on selling and starting a real estate business. Prune has an MBA and they could certainly do a good job that way. Olivier is smart and has a very nice personality. So we will see what happens during the next few months or so. 


Clara grew up to become bilingual since she spoke German with Ruth  and Jürgen and French in her special school. Now Clara lives in Munich during the year and she only spends a week or so with Jürgen during this end-of-year vacation, after having spent Christmas with Ruth and Christian in Autrans.

So this year it was decided that it would be too tiring for everybody to take the train to Lyon with the equipment Clara needs. Jürgen spends half his time with Clara in Munich and half the time in Paris, which is by far his favorite city in the world. They are also very close to Jürgen’s family in Lermoos, Tyrol, Austria and both of them love to spend a lot of time there in the summer. In the winter, however, when there is a lot of snow, the things Jürgen can do outdoors with Clara are limited and so they used to come to Lyon  and go for walks or take trips on snow-less roads.

A walking bridge that crosses the Saône

Le Pont Alphonse Juin spanning the Saône and leading to ‘Vieux Lyon’ on the left from the ‘Presqu’Île’, the very center of Lyon. In the background is la Croix Rousse.

Lyon is a city with a lot of remarkable historical sites. It is beautifully located on the two rivers le Rhône and la Saône, with the downtown Presqu’île (peninsula) between the two rivers. It has many medieval and also Roman monuments and buildings, art museums and a very good opera.

Among other sites there are les Théâtres Romains de Fourvière, the Roman amphitheaters, very well preserved and restored, where in the June and July there are often performances. And not to be missed is the incredibly beautiful Gallo-Roman museum at the top of the Fourvière hill on the west side of the Saône.

Probably thousands of people assembled to see and hear Woody Allen and his New Orleans band on a nice summer evening

Probably thousands of people assembled to see and hear Woody Allen and his New Orleans band on a nice summer evening — 2013

In the summer you often see the stage at the big amphitheater set for a play or an opera. Les Nuits de Fourvière have become internationally known events. We were there in 2013  with friends to hear Woody Allen play his clarinet with his New Orleans Jazz Band. Great event for New Orleans jazz lovers. 1

Lyon was at one time the capital of a region of the Roman empire, Gallia Lugdunensis, ‘Lugdunum’ at that time, meaning ‘fortress’. The ‘gd’ clearly got softened (mouillé) into a ‘ye’ sound. The Latin ending ‘um’ (or ‘us’ or ‘a’) always gets dropped in French and often becomes a non-pronounced ‘e’. So we have something like Luyoun, and we are not far from Lyon.

Woody Allen and his New Orleans band

Woody Allen and his New Orleans band

La Maison des Canuts is a museum on la Croix Rousse in the 4th arrondissement, north of the Presqu’Île. There you can see the way the Lyon silk workers (called les Canuts — etymology uncertain) worked when their industry flourished in the 19th century. Silk had been manufactured in Lyon ever since the Renaissance, but it became an important industry in the 19th century.  Les Canuts lived so poorly and worked so hard that there were at least two major rebellions in that century, that were brutally put down by his Majesty’s troops and cannons.

So the ancient network of trade routes that were called the Silk Road and that connected the East and the West through all of Asia ended at Lyon, among other places.

But let us above all not forget le Vieux Lyon where we always take friends from abroad, or from Paris, on a pleasant walk and a meal at one of the little Lyonnais restaurants called ‘bouchons‘, where the typical and very heavy typical lyonnais food used to be served — but less and less so now. It is highly fatty food from cow stomachs, tripes, andouilettes and such.

…And Lyon goes on

Lyon environs, mainly la Cité de Pérouge and le Beaujolais.

The architecture is Italian-inspired since the area dates from the Renaissance era when masses of Italians immigrated to Lyon. A great many Italian names are found still today in the Lyon area. It’s a marvel to wander around la rue Saint Jean from la cathédrale Saint Jean towards the church Saint Paul and then back  on la rue du Boeuf and la rue Juiverie, cobble-stoned streets with the gutter in the center. Remarkable courtyards surrounded by Italian-style buildings and small towers. And there are les traboules that are a very typically lyonnais feature, covered passages that take you from one street to a parallel one under beautiful Renaissance buildings.

A jazz concert with Dizzy Gillespie at l'Amphithéâtre de Vienne, a well restored Roman amphithéâtre

A jazz concert with Dizzy Gillespie at ‘Le Théâtre antique de Vienne’, a well restored Roman amphithéâtre that holds 8000 people.

In Vienne, a city south of Lyon at about one good hour’s drive towards Marseille on l’autoroute du Sud, there is also the huge Théâtre antique. It’s an enormous amphitheater that dates from the first century CE, and it holds 8000 people. They organize regular jazz festivals every year. It’s a miraculous show and we were there at least once in 1990 with four very good friends to see and hear Dizzy Gillespie and his band. It’s quite a story, but more about that in a later chapter. .

We also usually take our friends and families to see le Beaujolais, a vineyard region south of la Bourgogne (Burgundy). The best time is in the fall when the leaves are turning orange and red. Hillsides after hillsides covered in fall colored vine leaves is a gorgeous sight. We make it a day excursion and have lunch in a pleasant restaurant somewhere. There are many of them.

'La place' at the very entrance of Pérouges-- with friend Britt in 1990

‘La place’ at the very entrance of Pérouges — Siv and friend Britt in 1990

There are also numerous historical sites close to Lyon. Just about half an hour’s drive east of Genas where we live is one of the most see-worthy ones, la cité de Pérouge, an enchanting medieval village where, obviously, you park your car outside the town gate and then you walk on the cobble-stoned streets.

Continued: Chapter XX

  1. Year on year, driven by its director Dominique Delorme, the festival Les Nuits de Fourvière asserts its desire for daring and originality. Behind its conventional aspect a vast array of initiatives are to be found, all contributing to a rich two-month programme (theatre, classical music, dance, rock, world music…)Nuits de Fourvière