21 April 2011

Lyon's Changing Skyline

Exactly four years ago today I snapped this first photo while walking down one of the many stairways leading from the Croix-Rousse into the center of town.

Here you can see the Rhône river and the 82-meter high Swiss Life Building (1989) in the background. In 2007, the Swiss Life Tower was the second tallest building in Lyon. That changed only three years later with the construction of another skyscraper.

This second photo was taken nine days ago from nearly the same spot as above, but with a different camera and under better lighting conditions. It clearly shows the newest — and now second tallest —  downtown office building in Lyon, the Oxygen Tower.

Finished in 2010, the Oxygen Tower's 28 floors rise to a height of 115 meters. 80% of the offices in the building are lit from direct, natural sunlight. And perhaps most importantly, there are 420 parking spaces spread out on four sub-levels beneath the tower. You can see some nice photos (not mine) of the Oxygen Tower here or here.

The Swiss Tower (left), the Oxygen Tower (middle) and the Crédit Lyonnais Building, otherwise known as le Crayon (the pencil) due to it's cylindrical shape.

The Pencil's 42 floors of offices and hotel reach 165 meters into the sky, making it the tallest building in Lyon. For now.

Plans are underway to construct an even taller building, the Incity Tower, over the the next several years. If I'm still in Lyon when it's finished, I'll update this post with a new photo.

Petite notice - the above photos are © Alex Quici 2011

20 April 2011

A Springtime Gathering of Artists

A mid-spring, nocturnal gathering of neighborhood artists. An opportunity to meet - and support - some local, creative talent. An informal exhibit and showcase of:
-Artistic lighting

You might even get a cup of tea...or three.

This causal community get-together will feature a different guest or two in each of the nine boutiques.

There will be painters and fashion designers and jewelry creators: Sophie Guyot, Pauline Pluquet, Gaëlle Richard, Cécile Raquin, and Emie Latestaire, to name just a few.

In the Croix-Rousse, Lyon. All participating shops are literally a five-minute walk (or less) from each other. It's simple to get there: just take the metro to Place de la Croix-Rousse and walk up the Grande rue and turn right. See the map below.

Thursday, April 21st, from 5 to 10pm. That's tomorrow!

For the chance to chat, mingle, rub shoulders, go elbow-to-elbow with the makers of some unique artistic creations.

To stretch your legs after a long day at work.

Because it's Thursday, and Thursday is such an I-want-to-go-out-and-pre-celebrate-the-weekend kind of day.

And finally: why not?

I know it's too early to talk about Christmas, but wedding season is upon us, and we're inching closer to school graduations, family reunions and summer birthday barbecues. You just might get thee gift idea that friends and family will be talking about for the next five years.

You just might bump into that friend or neighbor you've been meaning to call.

You just might come away from it all feeling inspired to fashion a little bit of artwork from your own burgeoning inspiration.

Influences: Zeste d'Anis
Lyon Croix-Rousse
Thursday 21 April, 5 to 10pm.

15 April 2011

Visiting Lyon's Fine Art Museum, Part 2

The photos in this post are from my latest visit to the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Fine Art Museum) in Lyon.

One of the delights of taking time in a museum like this is the chance to observe the artists' skill in creating and manipulating light to achieve a desired effect.  Not only is it pleasurable, it's instructive as well.

Looking up a naturally lit stairwell off the main museum entrance.

One of the first galleries we pass
through during our visit.

"Les Parapluies Revel" by Cappiello, 1922. You can 
see more of Cappiello's work here or read about him here.

"Saint Cécile" (left) by Guillaume Perrier, early 1600s. 
Cécile is known as the patron saint of music, a handy bit
of trivia should the question ever come up during a pub quiz.

Natural light filtering down through the ceiling.

"Le Mauvais Propriétaire" by Jean-Claude Bonnefond, 1824.
I translate the title of this one as "The Wicked Landlord". 

"Entrée du pont de la Guillotière par un temps de pluie" by Nicolas Sicard, 1879.
This bridge spans the Rhône river and is crossed by thousands of people every day.

Below is a color photo lithograph (not part of the museum collection) from roughly 
the same period and shows what the bridge and surrounding areas looked like near the turn of the century. Source: Wikipedia

A man sitting in front of "Choppy sea in Etretat" (right) by Monet, 1883, 
while listening to an audio guide (included in the price of your entry ticket).

The audio guide includes hundreds of hours of commentaries about selected works of art throughout the museum. Click here to listen to a commentary of the above work by Monet or here for a list of available English language audio guides.

"Jeune femme en blanc, fond rouge" by Henri Matisse, 1946.
The colors of my photo aren't right - it wasn't until I got home I realized
my camera settings were a bit off.  You can see the museum's version here.

The museum also houses some more modern pieces.
Here is a temporary exhibit (until 3 May 2011) dedicated to
French artist Max Schoendorff, born in Lyon in 1934.

"Naturam natura docet" by Max Schoendorff, 1985.

"Le Coq" by Marc Chagall, 1947. 
The rooster (coq), incidentally, is the national bird of France.

"Intérieur de couvent" by Fleury Richard, late 18th/early 19th century.

Though relatively small, especially compared to some of the other
gigantic pieces hanging in the museum, this is one of my favorites.

Hall dedicated to the Italian painters.

"Jeune Fille au Ruban Bleu" by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1888.

Visiting a museum virtually like this doesn't let you get up close and see the fine details of the master's brush strokes. Or in the case of Monet and other Impressionists, take enough steps back to appreciate the whole scene in a startling new way.

There are hundreds more works, large and small, ancient and modern, still waiting in the museum to be discovered, including many temporary exhibits throughout the year. 

The Musée des Beaux-Arts is open every day except Tuesdays and bank holidays.

12 April 2011

The Rhône River On A Spring Day

Looking south from the Morand Bridge, Lyon.
Click on the photo to see a larger image.
© Alex Quici 2011

08 April 2011

The Rising Price of Gas in France

There's a proverb the French like to repeat this time of year:

En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil;
en mai, fais ce qu'il te plaît.

It means that with the arrival of warmer temperatures, usually in April, don't strip down to your tank-tops, tees and shorts just yet; you could still get hit by an unexpected cold snap. But in May you're pretty safe to wear whatever you like.

Except, we're already wearing shorts and tee-shirts, and it's only the beginning of April.

Yesterday evening's news broadcast showed images of people sunbathing on the beaches from the shores of Brittany to the côte d'azur, with record-breaking temperatures reaching 30°C (86°F) in some cities.

But the temperature isn't the only thing that's going up right now. At this gas station today, people in Lyon are paying 1.56 euros per liter for unleaded 95. That's about 15 cents per liter more than I payed three months ago. With the current exchange rate, that equals roughly $8.50 a gallon (US).

We hear lots of explanations for this continual upward creep (Libya...Middle-East unrest...global geo-politics...), but the fact remains: the average consumer is paying more at the pump, and if we choose not to change our habits which, admittedly, would require some radical adjustments to our everyday lifestyle, there isn't much of a solution.

Or is there?

A company called BFS (biofuel systems) thinks differently. At their pilot plant in Alicante, near Valencia, Spain, BFS has found a way to make petroleum using sunlight, CO2 and algae.

This news clip from France television's TF1 explains the basics behind "Blue Petroleum", the brainchild of French engineer and company founder, Bernard Stroïazzo-Mougin. It's in French, but here's a summary:

The process begins by first growing a culture of ultra-concentrated micro-algae in a "forest of tubes" using natural sunlight, water and C02 (from industrial emissions), in this case conveniently delivered via a pipeline from a neighboring cement factory.

Once the algae have multiplied and reached critical concentrated levels, it's filtered to remove water and the omega 3s. The resulting paste is then transformed into artificial petroleum through a process using high temperature and pressure.

The final product acts like a classic fossil fuel, minus the pollution.

Pierre Baros (associate director, BFS France) goes on to explain that with an area of 40 hectares (nearly 100 acres), the goal for this particular factory is to produce up to 230,000 barrels of "oil" per year all the while absorbing 450,000 tons of CO2.

Blue Petroleum isn't on the market yet, but already we can start to dream of a future, says the commentator, where each industrial complex that produces C02 is hooked up to its own factory of green tubes, thereby paving the way to solving our current pollution and energy worries.

In the meantime, what can you do now if you're fed up spending more of your hard-earned money for the rising prices of gasoline?

Leave the car at home and take a bus or ride the subway or tram. That's pretty easy in Lyon where you can get just about anywhere with public transportation.

This is a map of the of subway, bus and tram system in Lyon. One of the newest — and heavily anticipated — developments, inaugurated in August 2010, is the extension of the tram, called rhônexpress, which runs between the center of Lyon and St. Exupéry airport in under 30 minutes. A one-way ticket for an adult costs 13 euros; 11 euros for 12-25 year-olds. It's quick, easy and clean, and beats the hassle, and price, of a taxi.

Ride a bike. Paris has vélib' and Lyon has Vélo'V, an incredibly dense network of self-service stations where anyone can rent a bicycle, 24/7, for a minimal charge (the first 30 minutes are free).

Or do what I love best — walk. There's so much "city life" we miss out on, not to mention great cityscapes, when we're shooting through dark underground tunnels or whizzing by on a bike.

And with weather like we're having at the moment, we might just prove that old proverb wrong and be persuaded to take off those extra layers once and for all.

Petite note: the gas station photo at the top is © Alex Quici 2011

01 April 2011

GFiMP...A Favorite Blog!

It's no April Fools' joke — the fine folks over at TravelAvenue.com have given my wee little blog the distinction of "Favorite Blog 2011".

A BIG thanks to the editorial staff for this honor.

You can click here (or the TravelAvenue button in the sidebar) to visit their homepage or here to see several "Got France in My Pants" articles on their site.

In case you don't know them, TravelAvenue.com is an on-line travel source that aims to give readers and travelers an original and refreshing way to discover the world — through travel blogs.

You can search for articles and reviews by region or by city; there are also some easy navigation tabs that will take you to "Hotels & Accommodations", "Restaurants & Bars", and "Activities".

The advantage of social travel sites such as this one is that you can find some of the most up-to-date information as well as some off-the-beaten-track tips by people who've been where you want to go.

So if you're traveling in the near future, don't hesitate to check out their site for some reviews. You might just find that perfect tidbit of information that will make your next trip an exciting and fun-filled adventure.