So Inclined- Belgium’s lift technology

From Tournai we made our way easterly, stopping for the night on a dock equipped for large barges just outside Ascenseur 4 – on the old Canal du Centre. There are four elevator locks on the old canal, replaced by the new canal and the Strepy-Thieu lock that bypasses the four locks, raising boats 73 meters/240 feet straight up in a single motion. This saves hours compared to the four old elevators.

Nearby our mooring there’s a store called Bella Sicilia. No choice, we just had to go there, even with rain threatening. The recommended route took us through a closed-off underpass along a muddy unused dirt road for a few hundred meters. Then it was a wooded country lane into town.

When we arrived there was a sign saying Bella Sicilia was permanently closed. Disappointed and about to leave, we saw that behind us stood Bella Sicilia reborn, open and doing business in a much bigger space. Inside it’s an instant journey to Palermo. Almost everything is Italian branded. There’s a huge deli counter, five employees serving the locals. You can choose among a huge variety of stuffed breads, and several arancini, the rice balls that are THE street food of Palermo. All this and more in a tiny country town in a very small country far from Italy.

I learned that almost all the employees speak Italian. I spoke with a woman who wanted to know where we were from and the like.

After two daysat the dock by the elevator lock we went to the Strépy-Thieu Boat Life. We were about to rise 73 meters straight up.

thieu lock in distance
The lift’s tower rises in the mist

Four hours later at the Viesville lock the lock keeper said it was closed for a week due to objects that had damaged the mechanism. Fortunately our batteries were full and there was plenty of water in the tank. We sailed back two hours to Menage, a tiny village with a brand new barge dock, directly across from Le Nautic Lodge, a restaurant we enjoyed several years back.

Manage has grocery stores, bars and bakeries, as well as a train station. The train to Brussels takes just a bit over an hour with one change. We visited the Victor Horta Museum, a house designed and lived in by the architect Victor Horta (1861-1949), before taking a self-guided walking tour to see a half dozen turn of the century Art Nouveau houses, some designed by him.

horta 1

After four days near Manage we again sailed away from our destination for about two hours to the WSV (abbreviation for a marina owned and run by members) at Ittre. We’d been there before and found the location to be pleasant even if barely adequate for a boat of our size. The people were very friendly and helpful on our last visit. Getting to town to make purchases requires ascending a long and very steep hill. A member drove us there to get a few things that time.

On the way to Ittre we passed through the Plan Incliné de Ronquières, the Inclined Plane, a lock that moves boats from one level to the next in a large basin that is moved along rails.

Plan Inclinee in Belgium
Plan Incliné de Ronquières
cheeese bella sicilia
Cheeses at Bella Sicilia
One of the first two arancini we tried. I biked back for 2 more.
thieu lock tower
After entering the lock the gate drops down, then the tub rises
One of the planks at the Nautic Lodge.

ittre club
Some of the friendly members in the club house

After sidling up to the visitors dock we helped a couple dock their boat. In turn they bought us a beer. There’s Chouffe on tap, one of Belgium’s best that is available nation-wide, exported as well. We spent the next few hours talking. Our story is unusual in many respects, being Americans deep in the Belgium countryside on our own boat after starting far away in Haarlem. In boat terms that is a good distance. Many boaters are confined to local travel due to time and budget constraints so are interested to learn more.

Afterwards we saw an email from Wallonie notifications. The blocked lock had been cleared. Tomorrow we have several hours to go before we get back on course, including another trip through the Plan Inclinee and several locks with 7 meter drops.

Our friendly neighbors for the night left at 9:30 the next morning. When we arrived at the lock at 11:30, they were still waiting. The backlog of commercial vessels was just clearing.


Tournai is an ancient city sitting on the banks of the river Schelde, which terminates in Antwerp and there subject to some mighty tides. Recently a large barge capsized, killing the captain. Here there is just a gentle current.

Dating to Roman times, fortified in the 3rd century. It was the capital of the empire of the Franks in the 5th century. The next capital was Paris.

I am in awe of Notre Dame de Tournai. What a magnificent structure and so old – construction began in the 12th century. Its five towers stun the observer with their beauty, soaring high, dominating the skyline. The square towers rise to 83 meters/272 ft. It is a World Heritage Site.

The building was hit by a strong tornado in August 1999, revealing underlying structural issues. Repairs and and archaeological work continue.

Tournai main square
The Gran Place

We revisited our favorite restaurant here. L’Imperatrice (The Empress) is traditional Belgian cuisine, heavy on the meats, also featuring rabbit and duck. Sauces and gravies are a big deal in the cuisine, and these they do superbly, as with the fries. The same waitress served us. She’s a pro, making sure we understood what was on offer this day. Peg did, and loved the duck with its rich dark sauce. I did not quite get it. They served a substantial amount of smoked salmon on my plate, with two stuffed tomatoes, their version of the diet plate. I liked it but it was not what I came here for, which in this case I believed was a sauteed salmon. I also failed to order one or more of their many Belgian beers on tap and in the bottle, opting for wine, good but not Belgium. But beer with fish? Maybe with deep fried, on the menu as Fish and Chips, but not salmon in any configuration.

L’Imperatrice in Tournai

Previous visit to Tournai

cathedral tournai
Notre Dame de Tournai from the Grand Place
mons jesus sculpt
Jesus giving the keys to Peter. The most effeminate Jesus I have ever seen.

Tippy canoe

We entered the Oster (east) Schelde after a night in Willemstadt. The Oster Schelde leads to the North Sea. This means we are in a tidal zone, with significant tidal current at times. If the wind is against the current, or simply if it’s very windy, the water can get pretty rough. This can make us passengers pretty uncomfortable. Fortunately we did not have this issue despite the wind. However upon entering the harbor for the night we had to turn to face the wind to control the boat, otherwise the wind can push the back end of the boat away from the dock when you want the opposite to occur, of course.

Some friendly boaters helped with the lines, showed us where we were supposed to go, as we had first moored in order to find our assigned spot rather than taking the boat into more narrow spaces. Then they helped us moor at our assigned space, the one given to us by phone earlier in the day.

The next day at 6:45 a.m. we left for Terneuzen. We did not get far. Just outside the harbor the water was too rough for comfort so we returned to our mooring, having to pay the big bucks for the night. This zone is more expensive than most areas of the Netherlands. The next day promised to be sunny and calm and indeed it was. It is a route said to be traversed by many big ships. It was that as well. The small craft lock was closed for maintenance or repair, so after some confusion we found ourselves going into the huge lock with the big boys.

On the canal going south we were in some dense fog from time to time. It lifted by the time we arrived at the next lock, at Haanswert. After that huge lock you enter the Wester Schelde. Following it in the southeasterly direction takes you into Antwerp. As we head in the opposite direction, to Terneuzen, we were running with the low tide. We cruised at 7km per hour over our normal cruising speed of 10 kph. Going against the current would mean 7km under our cruising speed, about 3km per hour, so there’s a huge difference. had we gone to Antwerp at this time it would have been very slow going. Here you must pay attention to the tide tables, which we had not required to do since we took the U.S. Power Squadron course in the early 1990’s.

The last time we entered Belgium we went through Antwerp, going south from the Haaswert lock rather than angling to Terneuzen as we did today. By this route you enter the port of Antwerp, the largest or second in Europe. However AIS (Automatic Identification System) is now required. Something approaching $1000 is what you need to lay out for the purchase and installation of the equipment. This is the first time we have found it to be a requirement, so the expense is not justified.

So we were off to Terneuzen. We weren’t alone. We were with huge inland barges and gigantic seagoing vessels, but this is a large body of water so we were not at all concerned. For safety and to avoid the sometimes significant wakes, the harbor master told us to stay between the green and yellow markers, the small craft lane. The route is well marked so you avoid the shallow areas exposed by the tide. In fact we passed by several visible sand banks along the way. Most large vessels stayed out of the zone marked by the green and yellow buoys. Using it reduces the distance you need to travel. We were bounced around by wakes from time to time, but nothing above about .5 meters.

There is not one but two huge locks at Terneuzen. The lock “meester” directed us to the one to starboard, and to go in behind a particular huge ship, one with lots of pipes and things on it making it look like a floating oil refinery. We were tied to the huge ship splinter-laden moorings for over an hour as more lumbering giants entered. Finally about a half dozen monster commercial ships emerged from the open door. Then in went the big boys waiting with us, followed by us and one other small boat, once the lock meester told us it was our turn. It took over an hour to this point and we still had the lock to go. Huge ships struggle to get going, so once the door was open it was at least another 20 minutes before we were out and into the canal, the concerns about the crossing behind us.

Giant lock at Haanswert, two huge barges at the front.
One of the huge ships staying in their lane
In the lock at Terneuzen
The gigantic gates at the Terneuzen lock- I am holding the boat in place while shooting this thus the shakiness.

Ships pass in the night

With good weather upon us we sidled into a mooring on the Gouwe River in Waddinxveen next to the lifting bridge. Along the way we passed a huge lot filled with containers used to transfer goods on container ships. The barges that load and unload there passed by our mooring over the next few days, day and night, as we snuggled behind the huge pylons.

After completing the chores we had been unable to complete due to the weather, we moved down the river to Gouda. Gouda is an ancient town, founded by the Goude family circa 11th century, near where the city hall is now, in what was then a peat zone. Peat was harvested for fuel for centuries.

The 13th century castle was destroyed in the 16th century. In the 19th century the city walls were removed. However the city is still divided by many canals.

As we were coming into the central harbor we had to wait for a bridge to open. We blinked our eyes trying to interpret what we were seeing. A large barge was backing up through a narrow bridge.

After passing the lock and the next bridge, and had been moored for a few minutes, the friendly havenmeister (harbor master) came by, recommending we move to the other side where there was electricity and water. The price was the same where we were, while lacking those amenities.

We walked through old neighborhoods to the old harbor. There are a dozen or so turn of the century barges converted for their live-aboard occupants. There’s a very charming small restaurant by the lock with its what I half jokingly call guillotine style gates, as I cower beneath their sharp looking down facing blade when we enter.

Gouda’s city hall is world famous, for good reason. Today the huge plaza is filled with the Thursday cheese market

Gouda cheese market
Photo by Peg

Gouda is indeed the home of the cheese of the same name, in case you were wondering. It is the world’s oldest cheese produced with the same recipe, first mentioned in 1184. It is wrapped in wax to retain moisture. Here, unlike in most countries, there are many versions of the cheese, varying by the degree of aging, from one to twenty months. The latter is termed ‘oude Gouda.” I have tried some that are as hard as a well aged Parmesan.

Traditional barge in the old harbor in Gouda
Turn of the century barge in the old harbor

Laying in Leiden

After a cold and wet week in Haarlem we traversed the town’s bridges as we navigated south, getting a bit lost for a few minutes when we were uncertain about interpreting our new navigation software. The day had turned partly sunny, a rarity to date. We found our way into the municipal harbor in the historical city of Leiden, welcomed by the friendly and helpful harbormaster and his assistant. They were waiting at the two available spots, then had us turn around to face into the wind, as high winds were expected the following day.

Leiden is an ancient city at the junction of Oude Rijn (Old Rhine) and the Nieuwe Rijn, with earliest written reference dating to the 9th century. It is home to the famous Leiden University (1575), where the likes of Rembrandt and John Quincy Adams studied, along with 13 Nobel Prize winners. As we walked about students filled the streets visiting their favorite hang outs, shops and cafes, along with a substantial portion of the city’s population 125,000, with another 100,000 or so in the immediate area.

leiden city hall

It is late spring so as in Haarlem there’s a fest, with a live band playing on a stage along one the many canals.

We stopped for fries at a friets haus (house). Note the clever add-on sauce cups in the photo. In one there’s mayo, in the other a peanut sauce, termed ‘satay’ here. The use the Indonesian term, a remnant of the days of the Dutch East India company that exploited that island nation.


The Pilgrims lived in Leiden before some of them left for the “New” (to them) World, some remaining behind to eventually blend in with the locals. They resided in the area surrounding Pieterskerk. FDR, the Bushes and Obama trace their heritage to this location.

Pieterskerk is a magnificent former church with ceiling soaring high above. Its long central isle has a large organ at one end. There was a chapel here circa 1100, while construction of the current building began in 1390. It became a Protestant church in 1572, The church’s artwork was destroyed during that period, as is common in the Netherlands. The church was deconsecrated in 1971. It isnow is rented out for events. Where the altar once was there now sits a bar with tables.

Beginning with the siege of 1574, there was an annual meal giving thanks for the liberation of the city and the arrival of supplies. This might be the origin of the American Thanksgiving celebration.

st pieter2

Small houses snuggle against the towering walls. A pulpit seems to hang mid-air.

st pieter pulpit
A short walk through the old and former church

Leiden University is both impressive and comprehensive in its offerings. Its library contains some 5 million volumes and numerous collections. Affiliated with the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, the University houses the Leiden Observatory (1633), the Natural History Museum, the National Museum of Antiquities, a museum of Dutch antiquities, three ethnographic museums, as well as geology and mineralogy museums. The botanical garden is one of the oldest in the world, going back more than four centuries. The large university has no central campus, it’s buildings scattered about. This makes for lots of bike and foot traffic, adding to the dynamic feel. I imagine that living here would be a culturally enriching.

As the weather improved so we had several extensive walks on the busy streets along the canals, and the quieter narrow streets in residential areas. The architecture is typical Dutch, laid out along canals, alleys and a few main streets with little traffic to be found in the center areas.

Eating the Lyon

Cuisine Capital of France: that is Lyon. We are here again, curious to find out more about what holding this title means. What do people eat and how much do they pay in the markets, the bars and restaurants? I have anecdotally added to my sense of what’s happening.

We rented an apartment on a busy street near the center of town. Next door as well as across the street are very popular local bars. Beer is the alcoholic beverage of choice in these bars, not wine, so if you think France is a strictly or even predominantly wine culture you should take pause. The French love to eat, but take pause again. In the bars very few people have something to eat, not even peanuts or some such, as they nurse their beer for hours while blathering to friends and lovers.

Also on our street, practically next door, is a bakery, labeled ‘artisan.’ Aside from the mighty French baguette, there’s the even better ‘tradition,’ produced the old fashioned way, yielding a crustier bread and better text for many 10 or 20 cents more. The French have bread making down to an art – the ones more ‘scientifically produced are termed ‘pain industrial’ and do not compare to the real thing, excelling only in shelf life.

You pay by weight for some breads.

Not far away is a patisserie, a pastry shop that may also sell chocolate. The red pastries you see below, called pralines, are a Lyon specialty, made with almond paste and red dye. It is super sweet pastry. There is also a wide, no, an immense variety of other desserts, from the wonderful eclair to the Napoleon, short like him, but otherwise tasty.

Patisserie, watercolor painting

Many bakeries offer a lunch special, a baguette, a beverage and a dessert for €7-9. By comparison, most sit down restaurants offer a first, an ‘entree,’ (meaning the first course), a ‘plat’ (main course) and sometimes either a dessert or coffee for around €20, an amount most people can not afford to do too often. The minimum wage is about €18,000 a year.

An extra fancy chocolate shop

Here’s what’s on offer at this place (see below) for €18.50. You get an entree + plat or plat + dessert, pay €4 more to get all three. For firsts there is a ravioli with a cheese sauce made with St Marcelin cheese, or onions gratinee, or eggs muerette (a red wine sauce cooked with bacon, onions, shallots, mushrooms and various spices). For seconds there is a steak, a foix gras dish, or a pork filet. For dessert its a praline tart with whipped cream, a fromage blanc (a not sour, sour cream like cheese) dish, a cheese spread with herbs or a sorbet.


Beaujolais wine is produced just a bit north of Lyon. The low tannin Gamay grape is primary in the area. Among the famous wines are Nouveau Beaujolais, a fresh wine that comes out with great fanfare in early November each year. Since the region is so close I expected wine tasting to be a big part of the local scene. Indeed, there are about 16 wine bars, nothing compared to the number of regular bars, but I think far more than one would find elsewhere in France, let alone other wine producing countries.

We went to two wine bars during our ten days. A glass of mid range wines runs between €6 and €9 at each. The second one we went to is called La Bouteillerie. We had two glasses each, delivered with extensive commentary from the host, whereas at the first our host barely said a word. We talked extensively about the aromas and flavors, as well as the viscosity (‘legs’) of the wines. We were among the first there at 6 pm so he had more time than he might when full, taking about ten minutes with us. It’s not a large place, just three tables inside and three out, so I bet he does a lot of talking regardless. At the very least he discusses the clients’ preferences, coming up with a recommendation if they want one, as we observed as the place filled. He was so communicative that when he learned we were going to his home town of Annecy he gave us restaurant recommendations without us asking. Of course you would want to know where to eat.

We ordered a cheese and meat plate to go along with the wine. The plate was so covered in salad that at first I thought he’d forgotten the cheese and sausage. However there were several very good, very room temperature soft cheeses – this is the way you are supposed to serve cheeses like Camembert as you get the most flavor that way. There was some rosette. A rosette is a Lyon version of salami, rosey in color, thus the name. There were several terrines, ground meat formed into a loaf. One had pistachios, each was spiced and flavored somehow or another. This delightful experience ran us about €60. He only served us €6 wines, not by our request but his recommendations based on what kinds of wines we each like.

Bouchon Les Lyonaisse, another member of the Bouchon Association of restaurants , is at the bottom of a steep hill, about 250 leg aching, next day painful steps down from the L’Antiquaille. Lyon’s excellent early Christianity museum housed in a now closed hospital founded by nuns centuries ago. A bouchon is an old style of restaurant originally serving the canuts, silk workers, specializing in hearty but inexpensive food. They do not seem to be that inexpensive to me, but it is indeed hearty and tasty cuisine. You can avoid the tripe and other innards if you like.

Bouchon Les Lyonnais
A look at the interior of Les Lyonnais.

This is the second bouchon for us. This time it was a lentil dish for an entree and a ravioli for the main. The lentils were in a vinaigrette, the ravioli in an Ementhal cheese sauce, and a lot of it. Both were super, served with some of the best bread ever, by friendly staff. Being friendly is part of being a bouchon.

Salade de Lentilles Vertes au Cervelas
Salade de Lentilles Vertes au Cervelas (a sausage found in several EU countries)
Gratin de ravioles du Dauphiné Label Rouge
Gratin de ravioles du Dauphiné Label Rouge

This lovely lunch ran about €70. Not exactly cheap, is it. If you want cheap yet still good, go to the bakeries or the kebab shops. In the latter a kebab meal, sandwich, fries and beverage run from €9-13.

Wherever you go, you will enjoy!

Montluc, the Gestapo Prison of Lyon

We are in the heart of what was Vichy France, and the home of the Butcher of Lyon.

Montluc prison was used by the Gestapo. In the museum today you can read the stories of some of the tortured and murdered witnesses, some of which you will see below, which I translated from panels in the exhibit.

The Gestapo in Lyon was lead by the infamous Klauss Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon. He was directly responsible for the death of 14,000 people, and the brutal torture of thousands. Forty years later, in May 1987, he was extradited from Bolivia, to which he had escaped with the help of US counter intelligence, judged for crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment. By then France had outlawed the death penalty. He died a few years later of cancer.

The Gestapo was first established at the Terminus hotel near Perrache station,  then in the premises of the School of Military Health Services on Avenue Berthelot and finally,  after the bombing of May 26, 1944, at 35 Place Bellecour. The torture took place In these locations, not at the prison.

Violence governed the relationships between prisoners and guards, and the days were punctuated by summons for interrogation, where torture was used to obtain confessions and information.  Internees also were subject to deportation and execution. There were few bright spots in their lives. One was their ability to form friendships, despite the prohibition against all communication between prisoners. Also there were links, if tenuous, between the prison and the outside world. Prisoners could receive letters and packages, before this practice was prohibited, as well as news of the Allied advance brought by new arrivals, saving many from falling into despair.

Since the November, 1942 invasion of the Vichy zone, the prison had been coveted by the Wehrmacht for its proximity to rail transport. On February 17, 1943, the prison was requisitioned by the Wehrmacht. As a result also of Nazi laws governing the occupied territory, the Wehrmacht (German army) administered prison was used to intern resistance fighters, hostages and Jews starting shortly after the requisition. Most prisoners were were arrested by the Gestapo, less frequently by the Militia. The prison served the entire southern zone. Vichy police could enter only to take charge of the bodies intended for the morgue.

Beginning in the summer of 1942 the Vichy government collaborated with the Nazis, who relied largely on the French police. The Resistance was hit hard starting in the spring of 1943 as the hunt for Jews intensified aswell.  In 1944 massacres and summary executions multiplied.

Period photo

The creation of the Militia by the Vichy regime in early 1943 augmented the threat against Jews and Resistance fighters.  A paramilitary group heir to the Legion of Combatants and the Service d’ordre  Legionnaire, the Militia was divided into five services bringing together nearly 300 people in Lyon under the direction of Joseph Lécussan. The Courts Martial of the Militia were created in early 1944 to judge individuals acting alone or in groups, arrested in the act of “murder” or other so called crimes.  In Lyon, this courts martial sat at Saint-Paul prison. It met 18 times in 1944. Forty-five of the 52 resistance fighters brought before the court martial were sentenced to death and executed.  On June 29, 1944,  more than 722 prisoners, incarcerated for acts of resistance, were handed over to the occupier.  All were to be deported to Dachau.

 Later in the summer of 1944, when the trains were disrupted by  incessant attacks by the Resistance, many Jewish and non-Jewish detainees were taken to  be shot.  A final convoy left Lyon on August 11, 1944 with more than six hundred detainees on board,  including more than 400 Jews. Eleven days later they reached Auschwitz-Birkenau.

 Jews experienced conditions of detention harsher than the other prisoners. They were held until they were shipped to death camps.  Over two thousand Jews were interned, singles and even entire families, sometimes only for one night, like the children of the Izieu colony.

One description of Montluc prison reads: “It was a long barracks, a kind of beached Nordic longship, the keel  in the air, in the prison yard with its cargo of broken down prisoners.  Eighteen windows, three-quarters of which were smeared with yellow paint, opened and closed in its flanks, under the command of the men of the Wermacht. Bedbugs swarmed by the  thousands.   We were almost constantly traversed by the quivering of their agile little legs. Two rows of tiered beds, narrow like ship’s berths,  between them a long passageway, covered with piles of laundry.”  

Statements from prisoners

Émile Terroine, from “The Gestapo jails, Memories of Montluc prison” Editions de la Guillotièn notes:

Imagine the fate of prisoners, and even more so of female prisoners, who live in cells of six,  eight and sometimes more on an area of ​​two meters by one meter eighty, …lukewarm water {presumably it was summer at that time –Ed} in a bucket, ten minutes out in the morning to go to the toilet, because if we used the bucket life would become impossible. Not able to spread out simultaneously, neither at night nor during the day, taking turns trying to sleep while curled up in improbable positions.

Lazare Gaillard

The Montluc diet is particularly harsh, as is the whole regime. We were only allowed ten minutes outside our crowded cell, in the morning around 9 a.m.  During these few minutes in the heat we have the right to wash ourselves or our laundry.  Every 15 days, this  morning outing is replaced by showers in the afternoon.  Every week we can shave in the corridor serving the cells. During these different exercises absolute silence is required.  The guards kept yelling “Silence! ” Sanctions consisted of deprivation of soup for three  or four days. From time to time we were searched.

Arrested by the Gestapo on July 22, 1943, the same evening I found myself in a cell  on the first floor of Fort Montluc. I have no memory of my arrival. No doubt the interrogation was tough, so I might not have been entirely conscious.  The cell I occupied for a month and a half had two bedsteads  separated by a short space and, at ground level, to the right of the entrance door an opening, closed by a small iron door, for the toilet. There was one advantage:  by climbing onto one of the bedsteads we could look through the skylight and  see, beyond the surrounding wall, the rue du Dauphiné and the gate of a factory. From Montluc, the antechamber of the unknown (1942-1944).

André Pedron

Here I am in prison…  Four whitewashed walls, absolutely bare, the concrete floor.  Opposite the door, at a height inaccessible to a man, a small window with seven bars.  In the corner, on the left, a small iron door;  I open it:  it is a cupboard, occupied by a bucket which will serve as a toilet.  Finally, under the window,  a bench whose total thickness does not exceed three centimeters.  Then, based on the length of my shoes, I measured the cell:  2 meters 10 by 1 meter 80. I estimated the height at around 3 meters, which  is about 12 cubic meters, just enough for one man.  There will be up to seven of us living in this cubbyhole.  In Montluc, the Anteroom of the Unknown (1942-1944).

Francis Gagneraud was a pharmacist. Demobilized from the French Navy in August 1940 he joined the ranks  of the Resistance.  On December 10, 1943, Gagneraud was arrested on Quai Perrache. Interned in the “Jewish barracks.,” he obtained pharmaceuticals gathered by his wife.  In the small room that he was able to annex he posted the words “Infirmary” on the door, with a red cross.  For six months, assisted by medical student André Roux, he treated many prisoners.  For the sickest, he managed to negotiate improvements in internment conditions and to

Francis Gagneraud was released on August 16, 1944.

Alban Grateau, in the summer of 1944:

The Germans who guarded us were more  gentle with us and one of them said to us: “Tonight, everyone leaves.”  Indeed, the rumor of our release circulated from cell to cell and throughout the premises where we were locked up.  The women sang La Marseillaise and La Madelon, no one intervened to silence them, hope was born.  Finally, we suddenly heard a broken voice speaking to us in the courtyard. It was General Chevallier and here are, verbatim, words he addressed to us:

 “My children, the Germans have left, they left me the keys. But for reasons that I cannot tell you,  we won’t open the doors until tomorrow morning.”

Barely had these words been spoken when broke down the solid doors, opening other doors for our comrades. Imagine this sudden release of seven hundred martyrs, the majority of whom had been  tortured and who all expected to die in firing squads.

Charles Déchelette writes:

 It was crazy enthusiasm: everyone was laughing, kissing, singing. We were all the more happy to live given that the enemy had left Lyon. It was then that young people who were very hungry – and  for good reason! – blew down the doors of the food stores. In the blink of an eye, everything was distributed.

The Montluc Prison website

In the Mouth of the Lyon

Flying north takes me easterly over the water first to Palma de Mallora before winging in the correct direction, an hour later settling lower over the lush landscape of France west of Geneva.

Over the Rhone

The Rhone Express, perhaps better named the Rhone Decaffeinated, crawls though intersections after brusque rushes past farms, dropping me off at Gare -Dieu (don’t ask me why they need a dash in there when they need it instead on on the train). The landlord let me in, gave me a few incomprehensible instructions and one or two otherwise and off I went. It’s wine and cheese time and I’m on my own in the big city.

None can compare to a Rustique Camembert. Take my word for it, I’ve tried the expensive shops, paid much more and come back disappointed. (Note to my Valencia readers- you can get one at the Mercado Central in the center where they have the belens at Xmas time). I looked for one in the small epicerie a minute from our turn of the century front door. They not only had it but another of my favorites as well, a monk cheese with a washed skin that gives it an almost crunch texture. It’s called Chausse de Moines

wine and cheese in Lyon mod
Wine and Cheese, water color and ink

Mon dieu! I’d forgotten the bread. Another minute wasted as I shuffled down the street to the artisanal bakery. My moment was saved.

A mere day later then came the Missus. Our Lady of Perpetual Motion. She of the Map. Known by many names, off we went. Not that my days of wine and cheese were over. It’s a land of wine to go with the cheese. For 4-5 € there’s a good one even in the supermarket. There’s a Merlot (gasp go the winos), rond et fruite from the Pays d’ Oc, further south, while here you can get Beaujolais, including of course its famous Nouveau, and a tiny bit further the wines of Burgundy appear. I found a Petite Chapelle from Burgandy at the Super U. Not much fruit left but lots of complex flavor nonetheless and enough legs to qualify as a Rockette.

It’s going to be a rough few weeks.

Perouges, one of the most picturesque villages of France

On a small hill sits Perouges, a tiny medieval fortress-like stone-walled village. Founded some 1000 years ago, possibly by Gauls returning from a visit to Perugia, Italy, it’s streets are rough stone, difficult to walk on. The walls and buildings are stone, as well as just about everything else, a perfect example of what we refer to when we say, “They don’t build ’em like they used to.” I’ll say.

The town was on the border between France and the Duchy of Burgandy, which was not annexed until 1477, thus the need for its defensive walls.

Once housing a few hundred, now just 90 people live there as it converted into a tourist destination. It is about 40 minutes from Lyon by train (reduced prices on Sundays), and . You have to walk into town up a short but steep hill to get there. We came via the route that leads you to the main gate.

From a plaque in the church (translated and edited): Built around 1440 (time of Joan of Arc), Sante Marie- Madeleine is Gothic in style although the walls and narrow openings are Romanesque. This came about as a result of the church being built as part of the defensive wall of the city, found on three of its sides. It is thus a fortress church, (of which there are few- ed). There is a nave and two aisles. The sanctuary is not quite in the alignment of the nave, which gives the church a leaning character. This is due to the configuration of the fortifications, perhaps giving it a spiritual meaning by seeing the bowed head of Christ on the cross. A series of floor elevations: past the door main, we climb six steps to reach the entrance to the nave. At the end of it, we access to the choir by two steps, then into the sanctuary (ed) by three other steps, which produces a permanent ascent, from entry to sanctuary, and illustrates the spiritual path of Christian. The church gives the impression of great homogeneity. The nave is made up of seven spans. It is supported by large octagonal pillars (five of each side) Vaults and edges offer many decorative elements, particularly at the base of the edges (lamp bases) where we find plant decorations, animals and even small characters, a few grotesque ones, including devil figures.

There are signs of human habitation since circa 2500 BC, leaving behind the pottery they made, I imagine. The present humans specialize in making galettes, a sweet or savory flat bread. It is made with flour and butter, and in at least one recipe I have seen, they put in a bit of vinegar for the savory type. We ordered a tomato sauce, mozzarella and oregano version. It’s a pizza, other than the crust is softer, probably harder to make a crusty bottom given the butter. They are also into tulips, somehow connected with looking for a cancer cure.

A savory galette

In the Saone in Lyon

Il Barbe is an island in the Saone River. It’s springtime and the river flow is up, overflowing some of the riverside sidewalks.

On the island was the home of a 5th century abbey. It was dismantled during the French revolution. Today there are beautiful stone houses and a magnificent church. See watercolor painting below.

Old houses on Ile Barbe, Lyon
church tower
Church on Ile Barbe

There’s been a bridge to the island since the 17th century. There’s a modern one in place now.

Houses on ile barbe, water color
Houses on Ile Barbe, Lyon, France. This area is private so we had no access. Looks really neat. Photos above show it from the river side

We got there on a local bus. You can get weekly tickets for €22 via the app, which I learned about as we were standing in line to get the paper version, which is €5 more. Once installed and you buy the tickets with your credit card, you simply click on your phone to activate the screen light (you do not have to unlock) and hold it over the scan pad at the metro entrance or inside the bus.