long night in Lyon

There are some things that you don’t want to say you lived in France but didn’t get to see. Like Paris. Then there are things that you didn’t know you needed to get to see until you got here. Like the yearly light show in Lyon. Now we’ve seen them both. And now I know why you’ve only ever heard of one outside of France.

As a celebration of some statue built hundreds of years ago, every year the city of Lyon lights up buildings and fountains and whatever else you can shine a light on. Ever since we’ve gotten here, people have told us we really need to go.

The official website for this event has woefully little information. It basically says “come to Lyon… it’s really cool!” And assumes you know any pertinent details like times, where to go, etc. Given the void of useful information, we decided to take the train to avoid beginning our evening hassling with full parking garages and, I could only imagine, streets closed to traffic.

We got to the train station just after 4 and got tickets for the 4:45 train. We boarded and sat down to eat our fancy dinner of Subway sandwiches. (Yes, there is a Subway sandwich shop here in Grenoble. Not exactly like at home. Actually, better. I’d never set foot in a Subway at home.) Soon all the seats filled up. Then the aisles. Then the areas around the doors. Until it looked like a subway train in Tokyo at rush hour. All that was missing was the guy who shoves people farther into the train. Since it’s a local train, it stopped half a dozen or more times on the trip. Each time the train stopped, no one got up. But more people got on.

Bill had managed to find more information about the light festival than I had, and he’d even remembered to bring it with him on the train. My original intent had been to read it while we rode, but I didn’t. We’d made the trip with another family and the two men had picked a path to take to see the most stuff, so I trusted them.

As soon as we got to Lyon, we headed for the bathroom. It was far too crowded on the train to drag Kaitlyn to the bathroom there, so I’d waited. We got to the bathroom entrance and the attendant told us the ladies side was closed for ten minutes for cleaning. I asked her, in French, if there’s another bathroom. She repeated “ten minutes.” I repeated my question. Then she said in English “ten minutes.” That was the first thing that annoyed me. I understood what she was saying; I didn’t need her to translate it. I needed her to actually answer my question. Then I pointed at the girls and said “but the children…” and she said “I understand.” That was the second thing that annoyed me; it annoyed me so much I raised my voice likely to that horrible screeching sound it makes when I’m upset which is likely aggravated by trying to argue in French. I yelled at her that no, she doesn’t understand. That Kaitlyn had to go immediately and that the men’s side was open. At that point Bill walked up and offered to take Kaitlyn in, which the woman accepted. Mind you, during all this arguing, a woman walked out of the men’s room. But that attendant wouldn’t let any of us go in. The worst of it is, I let that annoying woman set the tone for my evening.

Once we’d finished there, we hit the streets to find the lights. There’s a cathedral in old town Lyon that Bill really wanted to see, so we headed over there. Now, imagine our entire train crammed with people all pouring into the streets of Lyon to see the lights… added with all the other train loads of people.. and the full parking decks worth of people…. and it turns out that old town’s streets are narrow… to say the least. After we saw the cathedral (which was neat) we tried to walk to the next light display (they are spaced about two blocks apart). Us and about a zillion other people. All in this one tiny road. I understood how it could happen that a Walmart greeter would get crushed by a mob of shoppers and simply hoped we wouldn’t meet the same fate ourselves… because with so many people it could be hours before anyone would even notice. Bill had Kaitlyn up on his shoulders otherwise she’d have certainly been crushed. Finally we were literally spit out of the mass and into an even narrower alley but with far fewer people, so we just headed back toward the newer part of the city.

After stopping for french fries from a street vendor, then a few pictures, then a glass of warm orange juice (gross), it was time to get back to the train station. And all we’d seen was one fountain and the cathedral and our near deaths. The walk to the metro stop took us past two more buildings decked out with lights.. and appeared to have been the path we should have focused on for the evening. We tried to do too much with three little girls in tow. Not a good idea. I mean, you’d go to a city all lit up and think it would be something for kids. But, like most everything here, it isn’t. Besides, the path to the metro station took us right past the Starbucks. And by then it was so late I wasn’t going to gået yelled at for delaying us even more by stopping for a chai tea latte.

As soon as the metro doors opened at the train station, Kaitlyn announced she had to pee and took off running. So I went after her, assuming the others were at my heels. Turns out, Kaitlyn and I were a lot faster than I realized. We hit the train station and I didn’t realize we came in the opposite side of where we’d gone out so I had no idea where the bathroom was. Once I found it, I was really annoyed to find out that the same attendant was on duty and that she’d closed the men’s side but was letting men use the women’s side. AARRGH! I was too exhausted by then to even try to argue about it; arguing wouldn’t have changed anything anyway.

We should have missed the train but it was still sitting on the tracks so we hopped on… and this time we were the poor people stuck at the doorway without seats. The whole evening was such a disappointment and the whole getting to the train was such a cluster, I just burst into tears. We ended up slipping into two seats across the aisle from each other in the back of the car, so I could cry sort of privately. Kaitlyn sat on the steps with our friends and their girls… until I collected myself then collected her. She came back to our seats and laid down and fell fast asleep.

If we’re here next year, I’ll stay home rather than go to see the lights. Or go to Paris… the city of lights.

One Response to “long night in Lyon”

  1. D.A.D. says:

    When we spoke that morning, you indeed sounded cheery. Shame the day went downhill. French restrooms do seem to have a frustration all their own, with attendents always in the wrong one cleaning, or people in general in the wrong ones. In Japan they simply have the cleaning person go in, no notice, regardless of who’s there doing what. Just a thing that’s obviously different in socities that’s really hard to swallow.

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