I had two goals for my time in Lyon – to see if the food scene was as good as rumored and to see the Fête des Lumières. The first time I visited, I stayed in a completely different area, but this time, I wanted to stay right in the middle of things. It was a good choice because I could take a small break during the VERY long walk through all of the lights, plus I didn’t really see many public restrooms (and the crowds were so massive, I’m sure the line would have been hell). The hotel was a great choice – comfortable, with a nice pool (however, the hot tub was not working and was quite cold).
My first stop on Saturday was to a restaurant serving Spanish tapas. It was a decent choice if you like meat, cheese and bread!
I was originally expecting something like the US, with extravagant Christmas lights, but the lights of Lyon were much different! It was a collection of different beautiful light displays, artistic displays, with music or other sound at times. Some of the installations were even lovely to see during the day.
I would recommend buying a 24 hour pass for the metro, if you’ll use it at all, because the lines in the evening for the discount pass (3 euro vs. 5.60 euro) were insane! I used the metro during the day as well, so it was a good choice for me.
Before I went to see the lights, I indulged in a new Christmas tradition of mine – to see a European Christmas market. Last year, I went to Paris. This year, I went to see the market in Lyon! It was, well, insanely crowded. It was virtually impossible to move, except to follow the flow of people, which made it difficult to even approach a stall if you were interested in what they were selling.
After making my way out of the crowds, I headed for more of them to see the lights. When I arrived at the first location, I was a little puzzled at first, until I noticed the signs saying to take a picture with flash. The art was only visible in the photos!
A lot of the lights to be seen were on buildings. There was a fixed display and some that rotated.
While others were animations that repeated on a regular schedule.
The last photo is of the Hôtel de Ville during the day, below is the Hôtel de Ville during the day. I’ve never seen light displays like this and it was remarkable the way that they worked with the dimensions and layout of the buildings to turn them into something else entirely. Since I enjoyed it so much, I’ve been told that I need to head into Le Mans at night in the summer, as there is a similar display there!
Other than the various building displays, there were other incredible displays – a beautiful stroll through flowers and plants, a fountain made into a “music box” and several light & music displays that made for better video than photos.
I really didn’t like the massive crowds, particularly when things happened, like me standing on a completely empty bench to get a good view, then others following my lead . . . including a girl who literally tried to physically PUSH me out of my spot so she could crowd on when I was standing on the very edge already. Despite that, it was certainly worth seeing at least once. I’m not certain if I would go back, unless it was to accompany someone who hadn’t seen it before . . . or if I could arrive to see the lights on Thursday or Friday. There certainly weren’t the same crowds when I arrived on Friday night as there were on Saturday.
The city’s reputation for food is certainly well-deserved though. Many restaurants had a special menu for the weekend and many were also fully booked. I had made reservations ahead of time using “The Fork,” which I’ve found very helpful in locating good restaurants in the major cities. The ability to manage the reservation fully online (and in English, depending on whether you use “The Fork” or “La Fourchette”) is also very helpful and convenient.
I hadn’t formed much of an opinion of Lyon during my first visit, but I enjoyed this longer stay. Even though it was bitterly cold on Saturday night, at least it waited until Sunday to rain! The walk through the city before my train was still enjoyable though and I came across the usual abundance of churches. I did find it interesting that the back of one of the churches had been turned into shops. I suppose that France being a very secular country, the accompanying low rates of church attendance probably means that funds are limited. Renting out space for shops is a rather logical thing to do, under the circumstances; however, it appears that they were converted quite some time ago.
I look forward to returning to the city and spending more time to travel around and see everything that Lyon has to offer.