In the space of fourteen days (because I don’t go out on weekends or public holidays, lazy person that I am, and thus don’t count these days) I visited ten museums. I felt like that was a fairly ridiculous number, so I decided to rate them with baguettes and give a quick summary of my experiences at each place.
1. Musée de Confluence
I took Alice here the day after we visited Pérouges, because she’d never visited it before, and I wanted to commence my museum marathon. It was a good place to start.
It’s an extremely strange-looking building, and apparently cost a bomb for the taxpayers. I’m not surprised. Alice said that it was supposedly designed to imitate a butterfly breaking out of its cocoon, but I’m not convinced.
Before entering the museum (which opened at the ridiculously late time of 11am) Alice and I went for a stroll along the Rhône and watched some adorable ducklings paddle with their mums for a while. I’m fairly sure that it was Alice’s favourite part of the day.
The museum itself was very busy (damn those school holidays), sprawling and grand, but it definitely lacked the old beauty of some of the other museums I had seen. It has some great exhibits, however, covering topics like climate change, evolution, death and the rituals/beliefs pertaining to it, the Renaissance and culture. I especially loved the section dedicated to Emilie Guimet, a man who founded a few beautiful museums in France and inspired the creation of the Musée de Confluence. He went around the world collecting items of cultural and religious significance to share with the people of France, and brought back beautiful sculptures, totems, jewellery and more.
All in all, I found it a nice museum, but often haphazard in its construction. Half the time I got lost and ended up skipping a section of museum, but that might just be the boulette in me shining through. It earned a three out of five baguettes from me.
2. Musée des Beaux-Arts
The day after seeing the Musée de Confluence, I dragged Alice to the Musée des Beaux-Arts. This is easily my favourite museum, due to the sheer number and variety of artistic and historical pieces there. I ended up spending both Friday and Monday at the museum, for a total of ten to twelve hours, and I want to go back to sketch some of the sculptures.
It was so much fun having Alice with me, because I had the opportunity to share my passion for art with her. I often found myself reading the French descriptions on the wall and then explaining the religious and mythological stories behind the works. At first, she wasn’t impressed, but soon she was gazing at them like I did. It was a nice feeling.
There are some incredible paintings there, by artists like Monet, Degas, Picasso and Cézanne, as well as a slew of painters from the 14th right up until the 21st centuries. The chapelle – a huge area that houses sculptures of marble, terracotta and bronze – was a favourite place of mine as well. Giants, gods, gorgeous women and posing men filled the space with beauty and myself with awe that someone could turn a lump of rock into something so very real.
I also wandered around the artefact exhibits until my feet grew sore: rooms with coins from when Lyon was still a part of the Roman Empire, doors from ancient Egyptian temples, and armour and weapons from the Middle Ages. When no one was looking, I sneakily touched a sculpture, and felt history under my fingers. (I apologise for the blather; I just really love this museum.)
I can’t remember the name for this artefact, but it is really cool!
Even the building itself is a work of art, full of murals and statues. The tranquil inner garden has many gorgeous old sculptures and fountains, and is a favourite lunch spot for many local workers as a consequence.
I think my rating is obvious: five out of five crusty, delicious baguettes.
3. Musée Miniature and Cinéma
This is a peculiar, but fantastic museum. Found in Vieux Lyon, it appears to be absolutely tiny from the outside, but, in reality, covers four or five floors.
I stated off in a seriously disturbing section: recreations of scenes from the French movie Le Parfum, complete with chilling music and fake bodies. I was down there by myself, and admittedly, found myself getting rather spooked.
The next sections I visited were dedicated to teaching about the special effects and techniques of films, with models and props from various movies. It was fascinating to learn about, because I didn’t know anything about film-making before visiting the museum. I also saw fabulous exhibits of gory props (for example, the torn-apart body from Alien) and detailed animatronics, like the huge alien shown below.
What I love most about this museum, however, is that the top floor is so very different from some of the other (awesome) horrific exhibits. The two final rooms of the museum are dedicated to miniatures: amazing, detailed pieces made to look like tiny picnic sets, clothes, finely crafted furniture, corner shops, hospitals and more. To me, they were art, and it was fascinating to think that some of the gorgeous dioramas took four months to build.
The Museum of Natural History, slightly shrunken.
As a whole, I loved the museum. I only took off the half baguette for being so embarrassingly spooked at the beginning, so it got a four-and-a-half baguettes out of five from me.
4. Musée Gallo-Romain
This is another deceptively huge museum. I originally walked in thinking, “Hey, I can do this in an hour,” only to be sucked in an underground labyrinth filled with beautiful artefacts from when Rome occupied Lyon. I must have been there for hours, gazing at the gorgeous old sculptures, mosaics and jewellery.
I decided to decline the free audioguide and test my French, and it ended up being a surprisingly good idea. There are many English translations next to the French placards, and when the English descriptions were missing, I could still read the passages with ease.
It was fascinating to learn about the historical significance of Lyon. I can’t believe that I’m in Lugdunum, the famous city of the Gallo-Roman empire. It’s weird to think that I’m in a place that was so important, thousand of years ago.
I gave this museum four out of five baguettes, because while most of it was incredibly interesting, I tried to read all of the tablets (there are at least fifty of them) which say pretty much the same thing, and sucked up a whole heap of my time as a result. Oops.
5 & 6. Musée des Tissus and the Musée d’Arts Decoratifs
I’m going to write about these together, because while they are different museums, the two buildings are right next to each other and were paid for with the same ticket.
I decided to venture out to these museums after reading a pamphlet at the Musée Miniature et Cinéma that they held thousands of old, interesting pieces. I think that part of the museum must have been closed off, however, because “thousands,” was a bit of an overstatement.
The Musée des Tissus showcases incredibly detailed and old clothing, tapestries and fabrics from Europe and parts of Asia. It was beautiful to look at, but as someone who can’t make anything with fabric or thread, I felt that I couldn’t fully appreciate the beauty of some of the pieces. Additionally, I was rather disheartened to find I had a lot of trouble reading the French descriptions, only to find that due to the textile-related jargon, the English translations made just as much sense.
The Musée d’Arts Decoratifs is full of gorgeous old furniture, crockery and cutlery, with rooms set up like someone is still living there. I found it incredibly interesting at first, but twenty rooms later, the museum had lost a bit of its charm.
I gave these museums a two out of five baguettes for the lack of information. It didn’t help that I was the only person in the converted old mansions, and that every time the floors creaked, I jumped out of my skin.
7. Musée Lumière
This museum is also in a converted old house, but was a lot more interesting to me. The site is dedicated to the history of the Lumière brothers, who revolutionised film and photography back in the 19th century. They were responsible for inventing many super cool things, including an improved, working film camera.
It was fascinating to see the early versions of the cameras, and the first films shot and shown in France. I loved watching snapshots of time that passed by long ago. They were only short movies, and didn’t have any particular storyline, but instead captured moments of daily life: girls dancing, men playing chess, or an infant laughing during a picnic.
I gave this museum a three out of five baguettes, for although the content was very interesting and entertaining, the museum wasn’t big enough for me. I was also rather miffed that they charged me for an English audioguide when the French proved too difficult to read.
8. Musée d’Art Contemporain
This is another one of my favourite museums. There is definitely a theme with my most highly-rated spots – there always seems to be art involved.
This newer museum is found right across from my favourite park. It holds various exhibitions of modern works but doesn’t have a permanent collection of art. As a consequence, the museum completely changes every few months, but is rather small.
I had the opportunity to view a gorgeous selection of contemporary art from South-East Asia: works from Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. It was absolutely incredible to explore the museum, as many of the pieces in the exhibition feature themes such as war, famine, political upheaval, religion, education, and stories of cultural and historical significance.
Normally, I’m not much of a fan of modern art as I can’t find the meaning behind it, but all of the pieces made sense to me, and had a certain beauty or purpose to them that many other contemporary works that I have seen didn’t possess. I loved it, even the slightly creepy room filled with waxwork figures of famous communist leaders.
It was designed to be a very morbid take on five communist leaders’ greatest wish: a grand meeting of the minds, and sharing of thoughts. Lenin has a breathing machine that makes it appear as though he is taking his last breaths. Rather interesting, but it spooked the hell out of me when his chest moved and a spluttering bubble of air escaped his plastic lips.
I granted this museum four-and-half out of five baguettes, for while I thought it was rather small, I had an amazing time and felt it was well worth the entry fee. I will be going back when the exhibitions change!
9. Maison des Canuts (I’m almost finished, don’t worry)
This is a very small (and thankfully, free) place found in the Croix-Rousse region that covers the history and method of production of silk in Lyon. Lyon – particularly Croix-Rousse – was known as a major producer of textiles, and was responsible for creating a third of all exported goods in France quite a while ago.
The museum has a guided tour (which I missed, due to my incredible ability to miss every desired bus) but apart from that, not much. There are a few textile machines and things, and I learned about the silk revolution of 1831, so I felt it was a worthwhile visit, but I probably wouldn’t go again.
This museum earned a two-and-a-half out of five baguette rating from me.
10. La Soierie Vivante
This is even smaller than the last museum, but I enjoyed it a lot more. Found in an old silk-seller’s house, the museum is full of old, but working, textile machines.
The previous owner of the house used to make the detailed ribbons for the clothes of soldiers and clergymen, and her family donated her house to the Living Silk association after she died. Now, the workspace is used for demonstrations, and holds various fabric-based artworks.
It was great to be able to see the machine in action, because something that had previously flummoxed me – the creation of beautiful fabrics from thread and a machine – suddenly became a lot clearer. It was fascinating to see the machines in action. There were a few demonstrations, and I found them all rather mesmerising, as the techniques used were so complex! Thread just seemed to go everywhere.
I was going to insert a little video here, but WordPress wouldn’t let me. What a shame.
The guide was also fantastic. I was so excited at the end, when I realised I understood about 75% of what had been spoken.
It has earned three-and-a-half baguettes from me. I would have given it more had it been larger, but otherwise, it was definitely a worthwhile visit.
I really haven’t done much else this last month. I got fined a while ago for not validating my ticket on the tram, then got out of another fine by pretending to panic and burst into tears after I stupidly decided not to pay for public transport yet again. I’d make a terrible Buddhist, but a fantastic actress.
I also went on a little adventure in the rain with Sylvie’s nephew from Paris, and ended up sick for the entire weekend he was in Lyon. Hooray.
Since I’ve essentially finished seeing all there is to see in Lyon, I plan on starting to venture further out and see more of France. I have plenty to visit, and not much time left!
Featured photo is of this super cool fresco I found in Lyon during one of my adventures.