Just this past weekend, I spent time in Lyon, one of the largest cities in France located in the Rhône-Alpes region which, of course, is not too far from the Alps. I was there for the Festival of Lights (“fêtes des Lumières”), which is what the city is famous for each year in December, drawing around three million people to the area for three or four nights of light shows all over the city.
Now, I’d been to Lyon before back in January (you can read about them in part 1 and part 2 here), but just to explore the city and not for the Festival of Lights. I’d actually wanted to go to the festival that past year and had even booked tickets to go, but unfortunately the Paris attacks happened that November, which caused the festival to be cancelled; I ended up not going in December and was pretty bummed about the whole thing. But I was able to make it this year, and that’s all I needed!
Any case, I left Friday evening with three other teaching assistants from my region, taking the bus from Rouen to Paris and arriving around 21h00. Had about three hours to kill before we had to catch the night bus to Lyon, so we wandered around the city, both on foot and via metro (under special circumstances, we didn’t have to pay for tickets to take the latter that night!). Saw the Eiffel Tower lit up, and even though I’ve seen the iconic monument millions of times, it still gives off that magical, romantic feeling that I can’t help but feel something for…even if I’m a cynic!
We caught the night bus around midnight, spending the next five and a half hours riding over to Lyon. Arrived there around 5h20 (super early) and hung out at the train station where the bus had dropped us off, waiting until the sun rose. Got some Starbucks at the station, then around 7h30 proceeded to head out to explore the city a bit before meeting up with our Airbnb host, who would be giving us the keys to her flat where we would be staying at for that one night.
First stop was at les Halles de Lyon- Paul Bocasse, which is an indoor market that sells artisan products like cheese, bread, meats, seafood, desserts, and so forth; there are also little restaurants for taste-testing wines and spirits. Wandered around there briefly before heading back out to get over to the heart of the city.
Next, we crossed one of the many bridges in Lyon (the city is located along the Saône river) to get to the center; we arrived at the Place des Jacobins, named after the eponymous religious group back from the 13th century. The square is famous for its fountain and is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site; our Airbnb was also situated very near there, too.
Since we had about two hours to kill before we needed to go meet our Airbnb host, we hit the hot spots of Lyon that morning: besides les Halles de Lyon and Place des Jacobins, we headed over to the Lyon Cathedral (cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste), crossing yet another bridge and passing the palais de Justice as well. There was a large tourist group in front of the cathedral when we arrived, but otherwise, we got in some good photos of the place, both inside and outside.
Afterwards, we made the rather-tiring trek up the hill to see the Fourvière, a basilica that is one of Lyon’s iconic monuments, overlooking the city from the top. Again, not the easiest walk, but it was manageable; along the way, we stopped for this lovely view of the city.
Eventually, we made it to the basilica, still towering and majestic as the last time that I’d visited. There was Mass happening, but it was just ending when we entered. Explored both the nave and underground in there, admiring its colorful, yet also devout depictions of the Virgin Mary and religious stories.
We went outside afterwards to check out the views of the city again, located behind the basilica itself. Although it was a bit overcast that day, it still was quite lovely, giving off a mysterious atmosphere to it.
Finished up the Fourvière and proceeded to descend the hill back down to the city center, since it was about time to meet with the Airbnb host. Passed by the Roman ruins, which I’ve heard has hot springs, too. Any case, we arrived in front of the Airbnb, where another teaching assistant with whom I’d been in contact to split the place already was there. The Airbnb host rang us up, let us into the flat, gave us a quick tour of the place, and handed over the keys before leaving. It was a spacious flat, perfect for six people (and there were six of us) and it was very conveniently located in the city center. We spent the rest of the morning relaxing a bit since we’d been out and about for a day and a half straight. Talked with the other teaching assistant who was in the Grenoble region, getting to know each other better until the other teaching assistant (also from Grenoble) arrived and we let her in.
Once everyone was there, we decided to go get a late lunch. I’d recommended going to Brasserie Georges since I ate there last time and enjoyed it. It was across town, so we headed over there around 13h00, walking along the quay and admiring how the sun struck the houses along the river, casting a warm, golden glow.
We got a bit lost trying to find the restaurant, but eventually we found it, but it was packed. Like, seriously mobbed with tourists during the busy weekend. There was no way we were going to get a seat in there any time soon, so we ended up heading back to the city center and popping into the next restaurant that had room for six of us. We settled on one near the Christmas markets; service was incredibly slow, but the food was good: I ordered a three-course meal for 23 euros, plus a glass of Côtes du Rhône wine for about 3 euros- not a bad deal, especially when I was super stuffed in the end! From the smooth terrine to the tender, juicy duck to the praline tart, it was surprisingly delicious for an otherwise generic, touristy joint!
We finished lunch around 16h00 (super late!) and decided to head back to the Airbnb to rest up before the festival that night. We passed by Place Bellecour, the main square for all things happening, taking a couple of photos before walking over to the river to see the sunset, which was quite nice as well.
We returned to our Airbnb where I took a 90-minute nap to recover from the lack of sleep that I’d gotten on the bus the night before, as well as to sleep off the incredibly-heavy lunch. Woke up with indigestion, which wasn’t pleasant at all, but after a while of wandering around the festival that night, it disappeared.
One of the teaching assistants staying with us in the Airbnb had some old college friends who were also in town to see the festival, so they came by and all together, we headed out to finally check out the famous lights around 20h15 that night. Unfortunately, we spent half of our time wandering and getting lost trying to follow the route laid out for us by the brochure, and we ended up splitting off into smaller groups later. But all the same, the light exhibitions that I ended up seeing were quite impressive, with some of them displayed on the walls of famous buildings like the hôtel de Ville and the train station. They were colorful, to say the least!
The temperature was dropping rapidly as the night wore on; I wasn’t cold when we first headed out, but by 23h00, I was freezing my ass off! We stayed until things were shutting down at midnight, then headed back to the Airbnb to turn in for the night. Had a relatively good night’s sleep before waking up the next morning to catch the 11h00 bus back to Paris, then back to Normandy.
…and that was it for last weekend in Lyon! Granted, it was super brief and even though visiting the actual festival of Lights didn’t go as *efficiently* planned, I’m happy enough that I even got to see it this time around, considering that I couldn’t last year. The light shows were pretty good, I have to admit, and now I can say that I’ve crossed that off my bucket list!
That’s it for now! Enjoy your day, lovely bloggers. 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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