This weekend saw another trip up to what has quickly become one of my favourite cities in France: Lyon. I stayed with Emma in her apartment/studio (minus crazy a crazy land lady) and was also reunited once again with Lucy who had flown up from Barcelona – yes, these two lovely ladies did feature heavily in my last Lyon trip! We were all there to enjoy the famous Fête des Lumières (Festival of lights) – FACT CHECK: the festival is celebrated around the 8th of December each year in Lyon and expresses gratitude towards the Virgin Mary (or Marie, in French). The tradition is that every Lyonnaise house lines its windows with candles and lots of famous buildings are lit up in different colours or with light shows.
On Friday night I arrived in a freezing cold Lyon, where it had snowed earlier in the day, feeling very inadequately dressed with just one pair of socks on. Of course, there was a metro strike (the French do love to make a point on all the busiest weekends of the year!), so upon realising that my suitcase would not fit into the basket of a Vélo’V bike (the Lyonnais equivalent of the Vélib) we decided to walk back to Emma’s apartment. It was nice to be in a city where it was actually busy in the evening! After a dash to Carrefour for soup and wine, we wrapped back up and headed into the city centre, this time on the bikes to meet Emma’s friends in Vieux Lyon. On the way we made a couple of stops to admire some of the light shows and to grab some mulled wines (or vin chaud) from some French Scouts (it was very strange..). Lucy and I also indulged in some amazing crepes with so much nutella and chantilly cream that as I was walking I managed to splatter it all down myself… we then, with our faces and clothes covered in food, met up with Emma’s lovely American and Canadian friends and headed to a bar for more wine.
Fast forward a few hours and at 2.30am, we found ourselves realising that Macdonalds would be closing in half an hour, so we dashed off to find some bikes in our slightly inebriated states. After racing several other drunk people to the last remaining bikes near the river, we set off back towards Villeurbanne along the dark, and thankfully empty, roads of Lyon. This was a slightly bizarre experience, jumping all the redlights, sometimes cycling the wrong way down the street and even cycling along a French dual carriageway…Needless to say, we made it back safely.
The next morning, after mince pies for breakfast (seriously, the best thing I’ve eaten in France!) we cycled into the city centre again via Parc Tête d’Or. After an amazing lunch of Poutine at Frite Alors (and Emma nearly making me cry – “What do you want to do with your life and how are you going achieve it?”) we hopped on the bikes again and headed to the Christmas markets. Here we rediscovered the best hot chocolates ever that Emma and Lucy had had the day before: a wooden spoon with a lump of chocolate on the end that you stir into hot milk. Literally heaven in a cup. I recommend the Hot Chocolate Lait Beurre Caramel Salé.
We then decided to head into Vieux Lyon again, so that we could take the funicular up to the Fourvière (the big church on top of the hill) and watch the sunset over lit-up Lyon. However, upon arriving at the funicular, we discovered that hundreds of people had had the same idea, so there was a huge queue, and also no spaces to leave the bikes! In the end, Emma found a space 2km away and ended up having to run back to meet us! We changed our plans and decided to walk up instead, which had a really nice atmosphere as loads of other people were doing it! We got some gorgeous views from the top, especially from underneath the big lit-up ‘MERCI MARIE’ sign that you could see from across the city. (NB. The Fourvière was also lit up in different colours, so from across the river it looked amazing!).
After another visit to a conveniently located mulled wine stall, we set off back down the hill and into the city centre in search of food. However, the huge crowds and closed roads changed these plans and we ended up getting stuck in huge queues to see the light show in Place des Terreaux. This didn’t turn out to be a bad thing as the show was brilliant (see the pictures below) – I was insanely jealous of the people that lived in the square! We then headed off again in search of dinner, and ended up at a really cute little Basque tapas bar, where we got Emma to try her first mussel! After another quick crepe, we jumped onto the bikes again, exhausted and full, for an evening of SNL and Bridget Jones…
The next day I was leaving, so Lucy and I bought breakfast for us from the patisserie across the road to eat in bed. We then headed over to Part Dieu so that I could get my train (which ended up being 30 minutes late as so many people were getting on and off it, then I missed my connections arghh!).
It was such a good weekend and finally got me into the Christmas spirit! Thank you girls, we WILL be returning for another Lyon weekend next year!