Avignon and Nimes, Marseille and Monte-Carlo, the mural in the old booking hall gives a taste of the stations served by the lines from Gare de Lyon, heading south.
The original 1900 fresco, painted by Jean-Baptiste Olive, is in the shade, awaiting restoration as the former ticket office is converted into shops.
The 1980 extension to the mural, painted in a more stylised, picture book style, is better lit. The bright shop fronts below compete for attention so I’ve cropped them out of the picture.
The original mural reads from left to right, starting with Lyon and ending by the Mediterranean with Menton. The extension follows the same north to south pattern, so the towns pictured are less well known destinations between Paris and Lyon. At Auxerre, Vezelay, Autun and Tournus castles, abbeys and Roman ruins stand proud above woods, meadows and vineyards.
The station’s Hall 1 is an impressive structure but the vast roof, thick with supporting ironwork, is dark and shows its weight. These platforms are mostly used by local and regional trains so Hall 1 is busy with commuters at either end of the day.
By contrast Hall 2 is light and airy. The original roof dating from 1927, has the graceful shape of an upturned boat. This elegant form is echoed in the new extension, completed in 2013.
Most of the long distance TGV trains now use these platforms so, for thousands of people each day, this is the gateway to the south of France and the Mediterranean. First stop Lyon, where the light is brighter and the real south begins.
(Click on any image for a closer view)