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April 8, 2014

Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation


On Sunday morning Marie Antoinette invited a group of us to Lyon for a guided tour around a exhibition of what people were wearing during the time of the German occupation in 1942-3 when it was impossible to obtain material to make clothes.

We appreciated the skill in recycling clothes and sewing beautiful fashion items out of scraps. But as our French was not good enough to understand the anecdotes of the guide, like naughty children we soon escaped to explore the rest of the museum.

It was quite horrifying. It has taken me two days before I could sit down and write about it.  I had known about the rafle du Vel’ d’Hiv in Paris, the roundup of the Jews in 1942, the capture and deportation of people from Cluny and Cormatin, the ghettos, the concentration camps…. but nothing I had seen before had made such an impression as this museum in Lyon.

The Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation (CHRD) is on the site of the old military hospital which became the headquarters of the Gestapo from spring 1943 until the building was bombed by the Americans in mistake for the docks in May 1944.

After northern France fell to the Nazis Lyon had become the capital of the Resistance with France’s bravest freedom fighters plotting liberation. Women made successful spies, being ‘invisible’ as they wiped tables and served food. The Resistance used clandestine printing presses to print their tracts. The  men found using this printing press were caught and executed.


The Museum highlights the events concerning two men,  Klaus Barbie and Jean Moulin.

Klaus Barbie was appointed the Head of the Gestapo in November 1942. His mission in life was to seek out members of the Resistance, Communists and Jews. One of his first actions was to build torture chambers where he gained a reputation of being sadistic even by Gestapo standards. He was called ‘the butcher of Lyon’ because of his brutal methods of interrrogation.

A cell door in the basement

Jean Moulin was the most iconic leader of the French Resistance. Although he never blew up a train or shot anyone he unified the many small Resistance groups under the direction of de Gaulle, then exiled in London.  Jean Moulin was beaten to death by Barbie in July 1943 for courageously refusing to give information about other activists.

Jean Moulin

Jean Moulin

When the allied armies were approaching Lyon in 1944, Barbie gave the order to machine-gun the remaining 109 Jewish prisoners, and 120 Resistance members. Under his command 7,500 people were deported, and 4,342 were murdered

Barbie was tried for crimes against humanity in 1987. The trial was filmed so no-one should forget and you can watch the witnesses talking about their torture. At the cinema I noticed nobody sat down but hovered in the doorway ready for a quick exit. It was difficult to watch these people, crippled or blinded at the hands of Barbie, struggling even after 45 years to talk about what happened. One survivor remarked that for Barbie gaining information was just an excuse for cruelty.

The MHRD not only shows life in occupied Lyon but is a valuable collection of documents and films.  So, even when nobody is left from that time,  the bravery of the Resistance and the suffering of  France  at the hands of the Nazis will never be forgotten.

I am determined to hold on as long as possible, but if I should disappear, I should not have had the time to familiarize my successors with the necessary information.

Jean Moulin


On a lighter note we had a lovely day out in Lyon.  A shared picnic by the river……


followed by coffee and cakes at a pâtisserie!

December 9, 2013

The Fetes des lumieres in Lyon

Filed under: Events,Places — Tags: , , — Mary @ 18:43


Merci Marie – According to a card given to me by an African missionary on the steps of the Cathédrale Saint-Jean, Mary has saved Lyon from many things. Scurvy in 1638, the Plague in 1643, cholera in 1832, invasion by the Prussians in 1870…

Notre Dame de Fourvière, the basilica erected to the Virgin Mary

In 1852, the Fête des Lumières became a popular festival when a statue of the Virgin Mary was erected next to the Basilica, overlooking the city.  It is said to be the third biggest public celebration after the Carnival in Rio and the Oktoberfest in Munich. Four million people watch the shows which run for four nights.

Re-enactment of how Lyon was saved from the plague.

This year the illuminations were not just the in centre of Lyon but in far flung locations. It is impossible to visit all the sites in one evening so we had to pick and choose. It is good we met up with our friend and guide, Marie Antoinette, as the choice of shows and venues was mindnumbing.

The Hôtel de Ville

The Hôtel de Ville

You couldn’t fail to be impressed by the lights, fireworks and flames. We joined thousands of people the city centre to see Lost Paradise at the Hôtel de Ville, Le Prince des Lumières at the Place des Terreaux and Pierrot le Feu at the Place Bellecour.  Then a colourful son et lumière on the banks of the Rhône below the Fourvière.  It was a metro ride to the Aliens in Place Guichard and we managed to get out to the Chinese Corner in the Parc de la Tête d’Or. From one of the bridges which span the Rhône we marvelled at the lavish display of fireworks.

The Chinese corner in the Parc de la Tête d'Or

We were equally impressed by the logistics of the Fete des Lumieres. Shepherding millions of visitors in the city centre is no easy task. It helped that all transport in Lyon is free during the festival so we were able to hop on and off the metro, trams and buses.

The main streets into the squares were one way. We flowed into the Place des Terreaux in a river of people, and after the show we were swept inexorably onwards to the Place Bellecour.

It was all very confusing. The metro stations were one way too. People in and people out and never the twain shall meet. Sometimes we had to queue on the pavement to get into a station as only one trainload of people was allowed down to the platform at a time.  An army of friendly security men were posted at every entrance and barrier and they couldn’t have been more helpful in explaining how to get here or there. They added to the evening’s enjoyment as, with their help, we were never lost for long.

Looking at the catalogue I realise that there was a lot more we didn’t see but it was becoming very late and very cold. At minus 7° a thick frost had formed. Time to get back to the coach waiting for us near the Confluence. Our driver Sandrine whisked us effortlessly back up the motorway to Cluny. With Voyages Clunisois it was a very easy trip to Lyon.

May 5, 2013

A day out in Lyon

Filed under: Events,People,Places,Weather — Tags: , , , — Mary @ 22:56


We’ve had a wonderful day in Lyon. Pascale organised an outing and a group of us from Cortambert and Donzy were more than happy to take up the invitation. I think she must have organised the weather too as we enjoyed a cloudless day with warm sunshine.

When I get the chance I’ll describe what we did; the tour of the murals, the lunch at a typical Lyonnaise bouchon where we had silkworkers’ brains, the guided tour through the traboules……

But just for now I’ll talk about the Mur des Canuts, the most impressive mural ever, the biggest trompe-l’oeil in Europe. It was painted in 1987, the first commission for the artists’ cooperative Cité de la Création..




There was an ugly building on the Boulevard des Canuts and the owner wanted to improve the look of it while displaying adverts for his business. The artists decided to paint a scene typical of the area, the Croix Rousse, which was the centre for the silk industry in the 19th century. It is extraordinarily difficult to believe that you are looking at a flat wall!




And here we all are. Don’t you think we are as pretty as a picture ourselves?

March 8, 2013

The Lyon Museum of Miniatures and Cinema

Filed under: People,Places — Tags: , , — Mary @ 20:56

We are incredibly lucky to live just an hour and a bit away from Lyon. It’s jam-packed with historical sites, Roman ampitheatres, wonderful cathedrals and museums. The restaurants and bouchons are said to serve the best food in France. So yesterday we jumped at the opportunity to visit Lyon for lunch and an afternoon’s sightseeing.

Louis XIV in the Place Bellecour with Notre Dame de Fourvière behind

Louis XIV in the Place Bellecour with Notre Dame de Fourvière behind

In the Place Bellecour we found lots of tourists enjoying the sunshine. We crossed the Saône by the Pont Bonaparte into Vieux Lyon, much of which dates from the 16th century.

We passed the Cathedral of St Jean and continued to the Maison des Avocats which houses the object of our visit, the Museum of Miniatures and Cinema. www.museeminiatureetcinema.fr


The Maison des Avocats

The Maison des Avocats


While working as a cabinetmaker in Paris, Dan Ohlmann began creating miniature furniture in 1985. In 1987 he built a scale replica of Chez Maxim’s restaurant which brought him to the attention of the public. After staging  travelling exhibitions as far afield as Japan and New Zealand he came to settle in Lyon and was given the use of the Maison des Avocats. Since 2005 he has been exhibiting his miniature collection as well as collecting models used in films and setting up a department devoted to the techniques of special effects.

The lower floors are devoted to film sets such as those used for Perfume; The Story of a Murderer. It is incredible to see the amount of detail the set designers have put into recreating authentic sets representative of the era.

Set from Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Set from Perfume: The Story of a Murderer


 There is a room full of huge props such as the huge flying boat used in The Three Musketeers and the White House from Independence Day.  A video showed how these models were incorporated into the film using green screen techniques and computer generated images. I was most impressed with the model of the train that crashed through the wall in Montparnasse station in 1895 and the video on how this event was reconstructed for the film Hugo.

The train accident at Montparnasse station 1895

Reconstruction of the train accident at Montparnasse station 1895

There were many costumes, prosthetics and latex masks used for sci-fi films. The animatronics as used in Gremlins were very clever. Amongst the smaller props there was even Harry Potter’s wand and the Hogwart’s letter. All the artifacts were those actually used in the films. And we saw many famous characters from R2D2 to Stuart Little.

Upstairs were rooms dedicated to the miniature world, scenes of an artist’s studio or violin maker’s shop scaled down to a minute size. Everything was so realistic. There were models of famous restaurants, copied from the real thing using thousands of photos.

Dan Ohlmann and his model of Chez Maxim's

At the top of the building were miniature works of art. There were carvings from matchsticks and a section on paper cutting. You needed a magnifying glass to examine the tree with more than 300 branches cut out of a piece of paper the size of a centime. A young Japanese girl had cut out a French proverb on a slip of paper. With scissors! Hours and hours of painstaking work.

We were lucky enough to see Dan Ohlmann himself in his workshop where he was restoring film memorabilia. Thanks to him we had had an afternoon to remember.

ps Coming out of Lyon on the metro we were amused to see this poster -


I think our friend and guide Marie Antoinette quite thought she’d adopted two!

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