No, not that candle stick from beauty and the beast...
13.12.2009 -2 °C
As I walk down the cobblestone street by the Rhone river, blue lights flash peacefully at me from the water. They float there and bob against the flow of the current, silently glistening a calm blue in alternating interludes. The glowing lights are not the most intricate display of lights I’ve seen. They are in no real formation and their task is simple. Yet as I walk linked arm and arm with my friends, singing random English songs and laughing as we stop to teach each other dances, the lights provide a soothing yet wondrous background to a lovely evening. They are beautiful in their own simplistic way and the combination of the atmosphere they provide plus the enjoyable company gives me that happy- to- be-alive, storybook type feeling which I adore.
This is my introduction to the Fete Des Lumieres; walking down the banks of the Rhone River to have a drink with some other language assistants on a slightly chilly December evening. The Fete des Lumieres is a city wide festival of lights which takes place every year in Lyon, France. Each arrondisment (or neighboorhood I guess we would say in English) is decorated with assorted light displays. Some neighborhoods have rows of colorful flowers lining the streets, while others have huge light shows displayed on ancient churches. There is a little green Michelin man hanging from the “mini Eiffel Tower” on the hill and the Ferris wheel in the Place de Bellecoeur can be seen from any high point in town. Thousands of people wander through the streets with maps of Lyon in their cold chapped hands, trying to find the attractions in each area. My friends and I spent hours wandering around Lyon trying to discover all of the attractions, and I must say we did a pretty good job. If I walked over 10 miles that night alone, I would not be surprised one bit.
As you walk around looking at the glowing purple cathedral high upon the hill and listening to random bands as they start playing in the street, you are greeted by the overwhelming smell of fresh made food from the stands lining the street. Each stand offers basically the same wonderful choices: crêpes made right before your eyes, Gauffres (basically waffles covered with nutella or jam), vin chaud (amazing spiced hot wine) and kebab (kind of like chicken shawma or spiced chicken inside of a piece of pita bread with fries on top). The feeling is almost magical as you walk around in this setting, with lights over your head, a cup of hot wine in your hands and friends at your side. We wandered around for a while and then headed back to Isabelle’s place for the night. Paty’s (one of my roomies) friend Isabella was incredibly nice and let Sivlia and I stay at her place for the weekend so we could fully appreciate the fete. We made the long journey back to her apartment on foot as to avoid the crazy jam packed metro. (The city of Lyon courteously makes transportation free for the Fete des Lumieres, however the metro workers were on strike that day. So take thousands of people wanting to use the metro and subtract the normal amount of metro times by 5 and that equals a very packed, uncomfortable free metro ride. No thank you, I’d much rather soak up the atmosphere of the lights a bit longer and walk back to the apartment. )
Another amazing part of the weekend was the Christmas market. Christmas markets seem to be fairly common in Europe however I have yet to see many of them in the U.S. The Christmas market consists of a bunch of wooden stands full of wonderful delights which are for sale. You can get rid of all of those heavy euros in your pocket by purchasing little wooden toys, jars of homemade fois gras or jam, vibrant Mediterranean looking ceramic plates or some warm food and drink to keep the winter chill at bay. Familiar Christmas songs filled the air as we walked from stall to stall looking at the different items for purchase. The crowds of people did indeed become a bit irritating but with the music, food, laugher and warm atmosphere our irritation faded before the last line of “Jingle Bells” rang out from the loud speakers. (or maybe it wasn’t the atmosphere that erased our irritation as much as the warm wine….)
I left Lyon on Sunday afternoon feeling in the Christmas spirit and ready for the holidays to begin. In other words I got back to Roanne, cranked up Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You” and started to remember why I love this season.