Merci Marie – According to a card given to me by an African missionary on the steps of the Cathédrale Saint-Jean, Mary has saved Lyon from many things. Scurvy in 1638, the Plague in 1643, cholera in 1832, invasion by the Prussians in 1870…
Notre Dame de Fourvière, the basilica erected to the Virgin Mary
In 1852, the Fête des Lumières became a popular festival when a statue of the Virgin Mary was erected next to the Basilica, overlooking the city. It is said to be the third biggest public celebration after the Carnival in Rio and the Oktoberfest in Munich. Four million people watch the shows which run for four nights.
Re-enactment of how Lyon was saved from the plague.
This year the illuminations were not just the in centre of Lyon but in far flung locations. It is impossible to visit all the sites in one evening so we had to pick and choose. It is good we met up with our friend and guide, Marie Antoinette, as the choice of shows and venues was mindnumbing.
The Hôtel de Ville
You couldn’t fail to be impressed by the lights, fireworks and flames. We joined thousands of people the city centre to see Lost Paradise at the Hôtel de Ville, Le Prince des Lumières at the Place des Terreaux and Pierrot le Feu at the Place Bellecour. Then a colourful son et lumière on the banks of the Rhône below the Fourvière. It was a metro ride to the Aliens in Place Guichard and we managed to get out to the Chinese Corner in the Parc de la Tête d’Or. From one of the bridges which span the Rhône we marvelled at the lavish display of fireworks.
The Chinese corner in the Parc de la Tête d'Or
We were equally impressed by the logistics of the Fete des Lumieres. Shepherding millions of visitors in the city centre is no easy task. It helped that all transport in Lyon is free during the festival so we were able to hop on and off the metro, trams and buses.
The main streets into the squares were one way. We flowed into the Place des Terreaux in a river of people, and after the show we were swept inexorably onwards to the Place Bellecour.
It was all very confusing. The metro stations were one way too. People in and people out and never the twain shall meet. Sometimes we had to queue on the pavement to get into a station as only one trainload of people was allowed down to the platform at a time. An army of friendly security men were posted at every entrance and barrier and they couldn’t have been more helpful in explaining how to get here or there. They added to the evening’s enjoyment as, with their help, we were never lost for long.
Looking at the catalogue I realise that there was a lot more we didn’t see but it was becoming very late and very cold. At minus 7° a thick frost had formed. Time to get back to the coach waiting for us near the Confluence. Our driver Sandrine whisked us effortlessly back up the motorway to Cluny. With Voyages Clunisois it was a very easy trip to Lyon.