Since my last post, I was on the winning team for the quiz at the pub for the second time, discovered a bar that actually plays good music, and I spent Friday night randomly playing Rock Band at someone’s apartment (turns out, I’m awful at every instrument). Oh yes, and I taught Christmas at school. I think I’ve sang “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” so many times that it has lost all meaning. The same goes for the word “Thursday,” which I’ve repeated at least 100 times for each of my classes. The “th” noise is the hardest for the French to learn, and we’ve been reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” which involves the days of the week. I love the way the kids react to the last page of the book where the caterpillar turns into a butterfly. The reaction to the two-dimensional drawing is like I’ve opened up a high-definition LED screen. I also managed to sneak in some Sooner football. One of my classes always starts with a “What’s new in the United States?” cultural section and this week we did football. So, I showed one of the intro videos from 2006, my senior year at OU. The children were either awed or terrified by the dramatic music and statements of “There’s only 1!” One kid dared to ask why I was showing things only of Oklahoma football, and I said it was because we’re the best. Well, prove me wrong Florida, prove me wrong. (Please, don’t.)
On Saturday, assistant friends Liza and Lindsey came to visit Valence and we spent the day walking around town to the shops. I got the most decadent hot chocolate with coconut milk topped with chantilly. On Sunday, I caught the train to Lyon with Marie a German assistant, Lisa an au pair from England, Hanna an au pair from Sweden, and Lindsey (the same who visited on Saturday) an assistant from Alabama. It think I got a taste of what it would be like to live in Dehli, because Lyon was absolutely packed. Everyone was there for the same reason we were: La Fête des Lumières!
La Fête des Lumières is a weekend long celebration in Lyon where all the main squares have over-the-top light spectacles and the Lyonnais put lights in their windows. It started when Lyon was hit with the plague in 1643 and the major figures of the town made a pledge to pay tribute to the Virgin Mary each year if the city was saved. December 8. 1643 was the day Lyon was consecrated to the Virgin Mary. Today, the Fête des Lumières is more of a Christmas light show than anything else, but on December 8 they still have a light procession up to la Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière and the majority of the people in the town light candles for their windows.
Parts of the festival were absolutely packed and there didn’t seem to be much coordination between the sporadically placed Gendarmerie. The worst was when we were trying to get to the Place de Terreaux and they had for some reason blocked off all the entrances to it and said it was full. We left before the riotting could start. Well, maybe it never started, but some people were definitely pushing it in that direction. Instead of trying to force our way through more packed squares reminiscent of the Ratatat concert, we climbed the hill to la Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière.
It’s not an easy climb to la Basilique, and since I was involved we got lost at one point, but we made it up the ridiculous amount of stairs and were rewarded with this view of the city. Did I mention I was put in charge of the map? Horrible idea! There are some things that photography cannot capture, and the city covered in lights was one of those things. Hopefully this picture can give you an idea and you can imagine the ferris wheel turning, the blue lights moving, and all the reflections of the river. At least the stairs made my heart pump some warm blood to the tips of my fingers and I was actually warm for a little while.
Above is a picture of La Basilique, bathed in blue light, next to the words Merci Marie (referencing the origins of the Fête des Lumières ). After stopping inside to warm up, we climbed back down the endless steps to the river.
At the bottom of the steps we saw the most beautiful part of la Fête des Lumières, this projection on a cathedral. According to the festival information, it’s possible cathedrals may have been painted and these projections were an attempt to imagine what that would have looked like. I have no idea how long it must have taken to precisely line up each color on each statue or how many projectors this takes. Really amazing.
The last train back to Valence was at 9:25 pm. When we got to the station, we found out our train had been changed into three buses. And instead of taking one hour to get back, it took two. Oh, France…
I bought a ticket to see Of Montreal in Paris on January 31, so I’m already excited about that. I’ve been trying to get together Christmas gifts and cards, but I’m behind. Forgive me if things are late?