On Saturday we had a lovely day out in Lyon with the line dancing club. We were taken by coach with Voyages Clunysois to the new Musée des Confluences.
Arriving at the museum
We arrived quite early, before the crowds. Just as well as the security was horrendous. We were allowed in four at a time through the bag search and metal detector. By mid afternoon there was a queue of Disneyland proportions outside and another long queue at the ticket desk. (Tip: buy your ticket online and you can jump the queue). Goodness knows what it will be like in the holidays.
The exhibitions are upstairs, the first floor being devoted to the temporary exhibitions. We started with ‘African pots’ and soon moved on to ‘Shoes’ (yawn) and some weird videos of ‘Contemporary Dance’ which I suppose might have been more interesting if we had bothered to ask for headphones. The exhibition that most people had gone to see was ‘Antartica’ (long queues in the afternoon) with displays of life in subzero temperatures and a sort of 360° film à la David Attenborough with penguins leaping in and out of the sea. I particularly liked the seals wending their way through the ice floes. The rooms were so dark it was difficult to find the way out.
As for the permanent exhibition there was a seemingly random selection of museum artefacts, from dinosaurs to stuffed animals to Egyptian mummies and Cambodian buddhas, with a lot of airy fairy philosophy which boils down to the fact that humans are just passing through this world and we are all basically the same.
A mammoth found locally
and a mosasaure
The ‘Origin of the Universe’ was quite interesting and a lack of comfy seating elsewhere led me to sleep through three showings of a video about the big bang theory. There were a few seats amongst the exhibits but the cavernous corridors and halls were bereft of benches, except for a sloping stainless steel thing outside the first floor toilets which I kept sliding off. The floor was the better option.
But don’t take any notice of what I say. The exhibitions were good but a bit of a mishmash. To my mind there are still teething troubles and irritations. The permanent exhibits had English translations that were so faint they were difficult to read. However I couldn’t fault their English (my normal gripe in French museums) except once – “All primates are not monkeys“. Some of the exhibits in ‘Societies’ were protected by beams from above which set off the alarm if you happened to lean over to read the descriptions. However you were welcome to touch a dinosaur skull, a mummified cat and a rock from the moon.
What is undoubtedly spectacular and unmissable is the building itself. Built by an Austrian firm of architects, intriguingly called Himmelb(l)au, it cost about 300 million euros.
It was built at the point where the Rhône and the Saône come together
I read that “the turbulance of two rivers coming together created the idea of crystal flowing into a cloud with interruptions in the shape like eddies, full of chaos, complexity and nonlinearity”. It looked like a spaceship to me.
From the south
It’s an exciting building, but not for people with a fear of heights. Chris refused to go down the suspended walkway, or go up to the cafe on the roof to see the incredible views of Lyon. Funnily enough he was not bothered by the glass floor through which you could see people walking far below, underneath the building.
The scary walkway
but there’s an escalator
or you can go down by the stairs
By the way, you don’t need to buy a ticket to get into the museum building, nor to go up to the roof or walk in the gardens. You only need a ticket to enter the galleries and exhibitions.
A windswept walk in the grounds
It was a cold windy day but we went down to explore the garden. If you want you can stand with one foot in each river. There are moorings for boats, and a beautiful pedestrian and tram bridge connects the Confluence to the other side of the Rhône.
A tram crossing the Rhône
After a hard day at the museum, we enjoyed a meal at Brasserie Georges, next to the gare de Perrache. Established in 1836 as a brewery, it soon became one of the largest and most famous brasseries in Europe, seating up to 700 people at a time. Here you can see how skilled French waiters are. The service was quick, efficient and unobtrusive; in the huge main hall the waiters were almost running. And best of all, the meal was delicious.
Our line dancing group at the Brasserie Georges
So, thanks to Cluny Dreams and Voyages Clunysois, it was a brilliant day out!