Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Lyon, part one: Bonne Année! Turning On Teh Lights To A New Year

Lyon, France (Lyon, France)
New Years 2016
From a rather spur-of-the-moment decision, we took the train to Lyon on 31 December to welcome 2016 in the Capital of Lights. We quickly found out that the legendary fireworks display that takes place every year was cancelled, as large gatherings had been temporarily banned in France following the Paris attacks. Though disappointed by the news, we understood the reasons behind it and set out to make the most of our time in Lyon regardless of whether or not there were fireworks.
Stocking up for that night, we braced ourselves and entered the only supermarket nearby the flat - Lidl. Though I'm not a fan, we did find cheap bubbly and various snack foods for our dinner such as olives and hummus. 
If anything, the numerous light displays more than made up for the lack of fireworks (which I find to be jarringly loud and grow bored of quickly). In the Place Bellecour, Europe's largest pedestrian square, we watched a ferris wheel go round and round lit up in changing hues. 

Without an end destination in mind, we wandered aimlessly, finding pretty displays all over the centre.

The Théâtre des Célestins had a whole party of bulbs lighting up its face, cycling the colours of the rainbow all the way from red through to purple and back again. Napoléon Bonaparte attended a show here in 1802, and it's one of the few theatres in France that's been used continually for over 200 years.

Down one street we saw a long series of Chinese lanterns hanging above pedestrians, and a little further along there were exotic light fruits dangling from trees. Yannick and Fabienne had the genius idea to acquire some more interesting cheese from a nearby Monoprix supermarket, and I warned them that it would be chaos. Surprise, surprise! The entire place was packed with shoppers finding those last few items they needed for New Years Eve celebrations. I should have waited for them outside.

Back in our little flat we watched the most recent James Bond film, Spectre, and munched away at nibbles until the countdown began. Three, two, one, HAPPY NEW YEAR. Right, time for bed. Like proper adults we brushed our teeth and went to sleep right after midnight.

On New Years Day we went exploring Vieux Lyon. The streets were antiquated and cobbled, and we found many secret passageways to Renaissance apartment courtyards tucked away from the road. These are called 'traboules' and were built to allow residents easy access to the nearby river directly from their apartments rather than having to follow the roads. Each had a well that would be used by the apartment's residents, though they aren't in use anymore. These traboules were useful during Lyon's occupation during World War II, and meant that the German forces didn't assume full control over the old town.

We noticed that several streets had statues representative of their names - the Rue du Bœuf, for example, featured a sculpture of a cow jutting out from the side of a building. This street in particular provided excellent Renaissance sightings, as all the buildings along it are from the 16th and 17th-centuries.

My favourite was a courtyard which the Tour Rose towers over. It wasn't just the tower that made this courtyard special, but also the stone arched doorways dotted around the place and a sprawl of green ivy that offset the dark pink paint.

Part of our wanderings took us past the Église Saint Georges, which was closed (along with almost everything else in the city) as it was a public holiday. Europeans take holidays very seriously. We began to realise just how seriously they take them when every eatery we tried to sup at for lunch was shut for the day, week, month or even the season. Eventually managing to find a nice-looking bouchon, we entered and warmed ourselves by the wood fire next to our table. A 'bouchon' is a restaurant specialising in Lyonnais cuisine, meaning that almost every menu item is heavily laden with meat and fat. I had just become vegan a couple of days before, so I found it fairly difficult to find anything I could possibly eat. Luckily the onion soup seemed safe, so I asked for it without cheese. The waiter was taken aback, but wrote down my order. I was amused to find that once the soup had been brought out to me, there was a small pile of cheese on the side of the plate - just in case I changed my mind. It was definitely poor timing to turn vegan in France, and even worse in Lyon!
That evening we relaxed in our flat and cooked a tasty meal of pasta with charred capsicum in a lemon wine sauce to ward off the cold creeping in. After Lyon, Yannick and I would be flying to the UK, which I knew would be even colder! I tried not to think about that.

Today's post was almost called: Happy New....Bedtime, ZZzzz