Lyon 4ème, Marché de la Croix Rousse
Years ago, when I did my initial exploring of the neighborhoods, I found myself particularly in love with the lore of La Croix Rousse. The area was not urbanized until rather late in Lyon's history, during the first half of the 1800s. Originating as private church property, after the Revolution, green rolling orchards, vineyards and walled monestary vegetable gardens were transformed into a concentrated public urban center for the newly industrialized burgeoning silk production in Lyon. Over a period of 50 years the construction of homes and workshops for 28,000 master craftsmen, workers, and their families was completed. The silk working industry, which had been segmented and dispersed throughout the city for centuries, centralized to form a community.
This enclave of master surface pattern artists, thread workers, technicians specializing in loom maintenance, the weavers themselves, came to live and work together in a rather contained community. With new technology invented by a Lyonnais named Jacquard, Lyon produced silk was the official supplier to Napoleon's public palace works and to the courts. This dense community of interdependent like-minded craftsmen and their eventual organization to look out for each other, fight for their rights, ability to unionize under difficult conditions and live a co-op centered lifestyle, not only gave birth to one of the most progressive social movements in Europe at the time, but would also institutionalize a unique style of cuisine - one that made an important statement - and leave a lasting mark on Lyon's gastronomic identity.
In a genre of dishes unique to Lyon, ones that had their own histories with the people but came to be staples in the workers canteens, the cuisine embodied an allegiance to the working class by remaining simple, rustic and firmly based in the local economy. This style of charcuterie production and cooking would eventually co-exist and intermingle with La Cuisine Bourgeois, which had its own parallel establishment in Lyon. The dense new urban working class community and their tastes made it easy for the establishment to embrace a conduit, a special environment where the upper crust could enjoy, even if precariously, the earthly delights of the best of both worlds. This marriage would eventually be served forth pat and parcel by Les Mères Lyonnaises; their offering added a layer of dimension to the gastronomic landscape quite unique to this city. One that would open doors, if only in principle, for a flowering of ideas that was destined, through events here in Lyon, to change the face of French cuisine forever.
View on the way up the hill to the Marché de la Croix Rousse.
The first time I went up to La Croix Rousse on the bus number 18, as we climbed the hill to reach the plateau that is the center of activity there, I glanced over to the left, and was astounded. I saw the most beautiful, mysterious, sublime cityscape unfold south of Croix Rousse Hill. Its panoramic splendor unfolded with each turn of the bus along the line of the towering cliff side road above the Saone. I glanced around the bus, grandmothers minding their business, people facing forward, waiting for their stop. I wondered - does anyone else see what I see?! Having made the climb now on foot and by bus many times, I can tell you that it is especially gorgeous in the morning when humidity makes the silhouettes of the black cathedrals pop out and it's all a gauzy curtain of sublime historical mystique. It is really impossible to take it in in one glance, you have walk down to the little park at the end of the boulevard after going to the market at La Croix Rousse. If you can find the time, find yourself a park bench, and try and wrap your mind around it.
The Marché de la Croix Rousse is the largest market in Lyon on its heavy traffic days. Although the market does set up every day except Monday, Tuesdays and Saturdays are really the best day to visit this market. It is positively enormous, with 122 official food vendors and many more setting up in the periphery. The market has a distinct flavor, one that represents Lyon's proud working class heritage with a vivacious zest for life.
The vendors cry louder at la Croix Rousse. The merchandise moves faster, quickly moving pre-weighed pans of fruits and vegetables, enough to serve large families. Butchers, charcutiers, bakers, producers, dry goods sellers, international products, and re-sellers galore. They line up for nearly half a mile along the avenue, spanning a good three quarters of the Croix Rousse plateau. I have witnessed some pretty striking things at this market. One vendor brings one whole pig on weekends and carves it, offering the cuts for sale as the come off the animal. On Tuesdays, the opposite side of the street sells manufactured items: mostly imported clothing, sundries, sewing supplies, some crafts, etc.
The clientèle of this market is diverse as its offerings. You're likely as not to see the Pinder circus trucks circulate through the area, adding to the spectacle with their canned music coming from a loudspeaker and trailers of sculptured circus animals, stylized to catch the attention of the children. Thursdays, an area near the Metro end of the market is devoted solely to organic vendors. The town crier is present on Saturdays, reading spicy proclamations from the people, something you don't want to miss, especially if you speak French.
A friend of ours who lives nearby tells me he likes to hit the market on Saturday mornings, and then sidle up to one of the seafood places over along near the east end to enjoy a dozen oysters when they are in season, with a pot of local wine. Indeed by the time you've worked your way through this market, it can be nearly lunchtime.
Marché de la Croix Rousse
Location: Boulevard de la Croix Rousse, 69004
Days: Every day except Monday (manufactured items on Tuesdays)
No. of Vendors: 122
(a note: I will be updating this post with more photos of this market in the next few days so please stop back again! - L)