Lyon, the City of Lights
Located precisely at the junction of the Rhône and the Saône rivers, Lyon is part of the Rhône-Alpe region of France. The city centre is filled with histories dating back 2,000 years. You can enjoy a walk on the Roman Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls or wander through the alleys of the Vieux Lyon district to discover Medieval and Renaissance architectures.
Presently, nearly 519,000 people live in the city of Lyon.
Lyon During World War II
During the Second World War, the resistance played a primordial role in Lyon.
- On 3 September 1939, France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany.
- On 19 June 1940, German troops entered Lyon city and occupied it for the first time, for nineteen days.
- On 22 June 1940, France signed the Armistice. France was cut in half by the line of demarcation that separated the free zone, where the authority of the Vichy government was exercised, from the zone occupied by the Germans. Lyon stayed in the free zone until 1943.
- In 1941, Lyon welcomed refugees and became a centre of resistance. “The traboules”, passages through the courtyards of buildings that allow people to go from one street to another, are very important to the history of the resistance in Lyon, because they allowed refugees to flee the Gestapo.
- It was in Lyon between 1941 and 1942, that the three major underground newspapers of the southern zone were born: Combat, Libération, Franc-Tireur.
- In 1942, Lyon, still in a free zone, became the capital of the Resistance.
- In February 1943, Klaus Barbie, nicknamed “the Butcher of Lyon” became the head of the Gestapo in the Lyon region. He tortured and executed many members of the resistance.
- The “Pérache” railway station was a central element of the German measures. It carried the convoys of supplies & military, as well as transited the convoys of deportation.
- On 26 May 1944,Lyon was bombed by the allied air force, and Perrache railway station was hit by the bombs.
- On 3 September 1944, Lyon was liberated by the 1st Armored Division and the FFI.
The Festival of Lights
In 1643, an outbreak of plague devastated the south of France, not sparing the city of Lyon. On 8 September 1643, the town councillors of the time went to Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica to ask the Virgin Mary to protect the city from the coming plague. They vowed to renew this pilgrimage if Lyon was spared from the disease. In the end, Lyon was not affected by the plague, and every 8 September, the people of Lyon celebrate their protection by the Virgin Mary.
In 1850, the religious authorities of Lyon launched a contest to create a statue of Mary that would be installed on the top of the hill of Fourvière. The inauguration was planned for 8 September 1852, being the celebration of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary and the anniversary of the vow of the aldermen of 1643. However, due to the flood of the Saône, the statue was not ready and the inauguration was postponed for three months, on 8 December.
During the days leading up to 8 December 1852, everything was set up for the festivities. The statue was to be illuminated by Bengal fires, fireworks were planned from the top of the hill, and brass bands would play in the streets. Nevertheless, the bad weather struck again and the festivities had to be postponed a second time. On the evening of 8 December, the Lyonnais, who had grown tired after already waiting 3 months, spontaneously lit the candlesticks they had prepared.
It was at this point that the Festival of Lights was born.
The tradition of the Festival of Lights has continued, but the religious aspect has faded. Every year on 8 December, Lyonnais place candlesticks on their windows and wander the streets of Lyon to admire exceptional light installations. Furthermore, since 1999, the Festival of Lights has lasted for four days, adding to the celebration.
Les Bouchons Lyonnais
Gourmets, take notes! You cannot take a trip to Lyon without visiting “Les Bouchon Lyonnais”.
“Les Bouchons” is from the tradition of “Mâchons” (“chews”), introduced by the Canuts, silk workers. Originally, the term refers to a place where you can “chew”. This name was created because the Canuts worked very early in the morning and at around 10am, they organised a snack called “Les Mâchons”, or “the chews”, often composed of the leftovers from the day before. These snack breaks took place in a bistro, a wine merchant or in the workshop of the Canuts.
The term “Bouchons” has several meanings: it can refer to the bunch of ivy, which was hanging at the door of the cabarets to distinguish them from the inns, the straw that the inns give to the travelers so they could rub their horse down, or simply to the cork of wine bottles.
At the time, in the Bouchons, the dishes offered were often composed of leftovers from the day before, which the cooks arranged to avoid waste. Nowadays, the Bouchons offer dishes made with traditional Lyon products, such as: Les Grattons, L’andouillette, La Quenelle, and more.
Lyon is known in the culinary world for more than just its Bouchons. The famous Chef Paul Bocuse was originally from Lyon and revolutionized the French and Lyonnaise cuisine, through delicious dishes and recipes. His restaurant is a must-visit!
Our Little Tip:
Take a trip to “Les Bouchon Lyonnais” for a meal and order the dish of the day. You and your taste buds will be delightfully surprised by the chef’s dish!