My love Katie Feyh and I spent a couple of weeks over the winter break in Europe, splitting our time between London (where Samantha Hutchinson-Cloud, our lovely and wonderful teenager, was performing with her high school marching band in the London New Year’s day parade) and Lyon, France. (Katie has been conducting her dissertation research into the practices of Russian hip-hop in Moscow since September, and this trip was a reunion. Katie’s blog, if you want to know more, is at firstname.lastname@example.org .)
Here, in the interest of saving dozens of retellings of our adventures, is a brief summary of our trip with some pictures and links to informative sites. European cities–by virtue of being old and also by virture of witnessing a tremendous range of political struggle–have much longer and deeper political histories and spaces than those in the U.S.
In London, we ran into Samantha and her bandmates from Anderson High School in Austin, Texas as they entered the Westminster Central Hall, where they performed along with several other bands for a large crowd, including a number of mayors and other dignitaries. Our British friend Basher joined us for this and other adventures in the city.
(click to see photo)
The New Year’s Day Parade was fun and even quaint–not a corporate sponsor in sight, as Samantha’s dad pointed out to me. I think we figured out that because the U.K. does not have high school marching bands, they have to import them from the U.S. for such a big parade. The bands were all terrific, but I have to say that the Anderson High School Band was the best.
For footage, go to http://www.keyetv.com/topstories/local_story_001104334.html. Here’s Samantha!
Samantha got a whirlwind tour of the major attractions in London, and departed on January 3rd for home. Katie and I also saw the sights–including the Tower of London, site of much ruling class backstabbing–before moving on to Lyon for a week.
Katie and I located the sections devoted to Marx and other Marxists who followed in Marx’s footsteps–literally and figuratively:
The British museum also boasted an excellent exhibit of ancient Egyptian artifacts, including the Rosetta Stone, key to the hieroglyphs. I have photos–but better ones, and history, are at http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/compass/ixbin/goto?id=OBJ67 and http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/menu.html.
We visited Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery. It turns out a number of modern-day socialists (including the British Trot Paul Foot, p1000083.jpg, whom I had met) are buried near him. Without engaging in any religious or mystical sentimentality–or a cult of personality–it was good to see the memorial as a tribute to Marx’s revolutionary and inspiring influence on us today.
These sexy ladies of Lyon surround a memorial to four leaders of the Jacobin Club, which constituted the left wing of the French Revolution of 1789. Remembered primarily and ideologically in official history as the executioners of the Terror, the Jacobins (whose numbers included Jeal-Paul Marat, Jacques Hébert, and
Robespierre), the Jacobins in power completed the overthrow of the Ancien Régime and successfully defended the Revolution from military defeat. Today to be called a Jacobin is to be labeled a revolutionary. Hence we were thrilled to discover that our hotel was on the Place des Jacobins in Lyon.
Lyon is very pretty and damn old. It boasts a cathedral dedicated to St. John the Baptist dating from the 13th century, complete with an elaborate astronomical clock that defies description. Situated in “Old Lyon,” It also features some of the oldest stained glass windows in existence. (More info at http://www.dboc.net/lyon/oc_st_jean_en.php.) Overlooking the city is an enormous basilica called Fourviere, which is not that old, dating from the 1870s. It’s pretty but it makes one wonder at the massive resources dedicated to mystical claptrap. The church does offer nice views overlooking the city. Lyon also has a great art museum.
Much older than even the gothic cathedrals are the ruins of a Roman (think Julius Ceasar) ampitheater dating from 43 B.C.E. in the middle of Old Lyon. One can stumble across this ancient site, open to the public, walking downhill from Fourviere. It is truly mind blowing to think that these walls, steps, and engraved columns were crafted and trod upon by the contemporaries of Marcus Antonius and Cicero.
Of course, another empire invaded and occupied France much more recently.
For me the most exciting discovery in Lyon was that Lyon was a hub of resistance in France against the Nazis and the Vichy government from 1940-44. Hundreds of mostly young men and women died organizing against fascism and collaboration. In addition to numerous memorials around the city marking places where they died, there is a museum dedicated to the history of the resistance and the holocaust. Unlike most other holocaust museums, this one emphasizes fighting back and not just victimization. However, the book listing all of the names of people deported from France to concentration camps is very chilling. Before visiting the museum (due to my woefully inadequate primary education in world history), I had not known the full extent to which the Vichy government headed by General Pétain collaborated (fully) with the Nazis and undertook independent deportation and propaganda campaigns.
The museum did not allow pictures inside, but one of the most interesting exhibits had to do with the ways in which the movement published and distributed underground resistance newspapers. You can find out more about the museum at http://www.lyon.fr/vdl/sections/en/culture/musees/centre_histoire_resistance_1/.
They say the food in Lyon is great. But the history and politics there were much more to my taste. As was the company.
Maybe Katie and Samantha will post their stories and photos or links thereto. And anyone else who cares to comment is welcome.