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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Les Aventures de Madame Beaubien: Place Bellecour

Patty and I went to Place Bellecour earlier this week. She had to go to Decitre, a tremendous bookstore on the southwest side of the square, so I accompanied her. So glad I went because Place Bellecour is unbelievable.

Place Bellecour is a large square in the center of Lyon about 30 minutes on foot from our school.

The square is huge!! It measures 62,000 square meters (15 acres) and is one of the largest open squares in Europe and the third largest in France next to Place de la Concorde in Paris (86,400 square meters) and Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux (126,000 square meters). It has no greenery and is the typical slightly gravelly reddish hard surface you find in French cities.

In the middle of the square is an equestrian statue of king Louis XIV, the "Sun King" by François-Frédéric Lemot (1825). Interesting that Louis is dressed like a Roman emperor.

The square is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Romans used Bellcour for military and commercial activities. In the late 12th century, the archbishop of Lyon put in a vineyard called Bella curtis (Beau jardin in French). In 1604 Henry IV forced the Lyon City Council to transform what was a pasture into a public square, but complications with his hiers didn't allow this to happen. In 1708, Louis XIV became the owner of the square and in 1715 it became known as the Place Royale. Later it was name Place Louis-le-Grand and a bronze statue of the king was erected. Buildings around the square were built. During the French Revolution, a altar was erected on the square on July 14, 1790. The square then became known as the Place de la Fédération. A guillotine was installed in 1792 and the royal statue of Louis destroyed in 1793. The square acquired another new name, Place de l'Égalité. On June 21, 1800, Napoleon I laid the foundation stone for new buildings and the square was again renamed Place Bonaparte and later, Place Napoléon. In 1825 a new statue of Louis XIV was erected. The square was named Place Bellecour during the French Third Republic (1870-1940).     

The architecture surrounding the square is very beautiful. It looks like this one section that I captured in the photo. 

Lyon is an excellent example of urban planning. In the old city, its grid-style streets and  buildings are old, some going back to the Renaissance (like in La Croix Rousse), but there is also a lot of restoration and retrofitting going on for modern things like the Internet as well as new construction.


A pedestrian shopping mall abuts the square. It's filled with people and has anything and everything you could want.

In one corner of the square is the Institute of Paul Bocuse, a famous chef's school. Before I left for France I just happened to see a program about Bocuse on Anthony Bourdain's show, "Parts Unknown."

Anthony Bourdain likened Bocuse to Muhammed Ali. Here's a tidbit from the program.

Bocuse (1926-) is a famous French chef based in Lyon who is famous for the high quality of his restaurants and his innovative approaches to cuisine. A student of Eugénie Brazier, he is one of the most prominent chefs associated with the nouvelle cuisine, which is less opulent and calorific than the traditional cuisine classique, and stresses the importance of fresh ingredients of the highest quality. Paul Bocuse claimed that Henri Gault first used the term, nouvelle cuisine, to describe food prepared by Bocuse and other top chefs for the maiden flight of the Concorde airliner in 1969. 

Near Place Bellcour is the Saône-et-Loire river where there are many traditional French-style restaurants.

The Saône-et-Loire is a tributary of the River Rhône that joins it at Lyon (called La Confluence) and thus is connected to the Mediterranean.

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