Inside the Hôtel de Ville (December 2017).


Following the first night of the fête des Lumières last weekend, I had a lazy morning in the Airbnb (it was incredibly comfy, that’s why) before I headed out around 11:00 to Part-Dieu to pick up another girl who would be staying at the Airbnb. We met up around 11:40 and we headed over to the flat where she could drop her belongings off.

Around 12:30, the lectrice, the new girl, and I decided to get lunch at a cafe that the lectrice wanted to check out, so we headed out to the heart of the city, since the place was situated near Place des Jacobins. The cafe was already packed when we arrived, but we managed to snag a table where we enjoyed our food. I got a quiche with carrot cake and chai latte, which weren’t bad, but not very memorable. Inside was cozy, though, since it was raining outside again.

Even though it was pouring when we left the cafe, we decided to cross the Saône to see the Cathédrale Saint-Jean. We headed over and sought refuge inside the cathedral from the atrocious weather until it cleared up somewhat, before heading out again to wander Vieux Lyon on rue du Boeuf. We headed back towards Part-Dieu afterwards, since I needed to get my friend, another Airbnb guest for the night, from there. We received him at the station and did some grocery shopping at the Carrefour inside the large commercial mall across the street for apéro that night before returning to the Airbnb. We had apéro soon enough, and in the meantime I received three other Airbnb guests who came directly to the Airbnb in the evening– together, we had a good time hanging out until we left at 20:30 for the fête des Lumières. Mind you, though, I wasn’t feeling too well that night, since I’d consumed too much at the apéro– it wasn’t very pleasant, but all the same, I braved through the second night of the festival.

If I’d thought that the rain from the first night was bad, then the second night proved to be worse with a combination of rain AND snow! I brought my umbrella this time around, but with the crowds of people (which were even worse than previously), it was impractical to open it up, so we got wet anyway. This time, I went with five of the people from the Airbnb, so it was a bit difficult to stay together amidst the throngs of festival-goers– all the same, we returned to Place Bellecour and Place des Jacobins (since the other Airbnb guests hadn’t seen them) before heading to the Rhône where we saw the light installation from the quai and the Fourvière. 

Views from the Rhône.

We then crossed the bridge over to Cathédrale Saint-Jean where the crowds to see the light installation were INSANE, perhaps even worse than the crowds at Hôtel de Ville the night before. Once again, we were crushed with other people, and it took us a good 40 minutes to get into the square to see the show. Despite the utter madness, the show at the Cathédrale Saint-Jean was my favorite out of all the light shows I saw that weekend. Everything about it was pure aesthetic, from the flashing, colorful tiles to the bell-chiming acoustics: it was simple, but spell-binding…even the snow-rain combination while watching didn’t bother me!

Cathédrale Saint-Jean.

After the light show ended, we were herded like cows once again towards the exit. At that point, we were tired and wanted to return to the Airbnb: I also had to meet two other girls who were arriving at 22:30 to let them into the apartment. The metro was packed as usual, but we returned around midnight once more to let everyone in. Granted, the second night wasn’t as successful, since I’d only seen two new installations and was feeling rather sick, but otherwise, there was always the third (and final) night to bounce back.

Saturday rolled around, and I hung out with some of the Airbnb-goers during the daytime. Thankfully, weather cleared up tremendously as we headed out in the morning to visit les Halles where I bought souvenirs for my family. We tried to get into several bouchons lyonnais for lunch, but they were all booked for the weekend– of course, I should’ve known, since it was the fête des Lumières, but I would still liked to have tried some good ol’ cuisine lyonnaise. We ended up settling on a Japanese restaurant (run by Chinese people, go figure) which was just a-okay, being the Asian food snob that I am. We did, however, stop by a cupcake shop on our way back to the flat, where we got some cupcakes to go– they turned out to be one of the most amazing cupcakes I’ve ever had, perhaps even better than the ones I get back home in the States!

I ended up splitting off from the others, since I had to get the last girl for the Airbnb from Part-Dieu. Gave the keys to one of the Airbnb-goers since they wanted to return earlier, and then I went to the train station around 14:40. The last girl arrived, and we headed over to the Airbnb where she dropped her belongings off and went out to explore Lyon on her own. I stayed in the Airbnb with the others for the rest of the afternoon, since we were exhausted from the previous night and need to take a break before heading out once more that night. We had another apéro that night, and the other girls came back to join, so it was practically a full house. It was a good time, as we all chatted amiably before we headed out to see the fête des Lumières for the final night.

The third night turned out to be the most productive in terms of seeing more light installations than the last two nights combined. It really helped that we had an actual game plan, as we started at Hôtel de Ville (for the others to see, since I’d already seen it two nights prior) before heading inside to see the lights in there. We passed by an exhibition at Place Louis Pradel before turning around to cross the Saône to the 5ème arrondissement where we saw the light show at Gare Saint-Paul. Winded our way through Temple du Change and then we mounted the hill up to the Théâtres romains where we finished off with the light exhibitions there. Lots of people, but still a worthy show to have checked out with scintillating lights and even fire(!) added to the mix.

Place Louis Pradel.
Gare Saint Paul.
At the Minimes.
Théâtres romains.

We ended our night at the Théâtres romains, as we took the funiculaire down to the metro and from there took it back to our Airbnb, arriving back just a bit past midnight. Turned out that we were the first to return, as we were utterly spent and promptly turned in for the night. Many of the Airbnb-goers left the following morning while I stayed until the afternoon to wait for the host’s roommate to return to give back the keys. I took the train back to my city, arriving back around 17:00 and subsequently ending my weekend in Lyon.

Overall, it’d been an intense, but fulfilling three nights at the fête des Lumières this year. Although I was literally a zombie at the end of it, I’m glad to have seen so much more than the previous year, along with spending time with amazing friends– old and new– while doing so. I definitely plan on returning the following year, so we’ll see how it goes! Magical and unforgettable, the fête des Lumières certainly isn’t an event to miss while in France.


— Rebecca


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