I wrote this story two months ago, to post tonight in celebration of my favourite Christmas tradition. Then IS attacked Paris and the organisers of the event in Lyon realised that they could not go ahead, between sadness about what happened and the possibility of being a target themselves. This year's event has been cancelled except for one night's scaled down vigil for the Paris victims. This story, which is not set in any particular year, celebrates how it SHOULD be and will be next year and in years to come. Terrorism won't rob this world of light and colour and joy.

Marion stood at the door of the TARDIS and looked at the illuminated city a few hundred feet below. Beside her, Rika breathed in deeply and glanced once before stepping back. She was used to TARDIS travel, and heights as a rule didn’t worry her, but she really didn’t like to look down through empty air in that way.

“My dear, you are missing out on a wonderful experience,” her husband, Remonte de Lœngbærrow, told her.

“It’s fantastic,” Marion said. “Kristoph has brought me to the Fête des Lumières in Lyon nearly every year since we've been together, but I’ve never seen it from this angle before. It really is lovely to see the whole city lit up at once. That’s the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon over there, and the Place des Terreaux where the Hôtel de Ville de Lyon and the Musée des Beaux-Arts are always splendidly illuminated with animated tableaux. And there's the Saône and Rhône rivers - those dark ribbons winding through the middle of it all."

Rika tried again to look, but she just couldn't appreciate it the way Marion did. Even when Remonte held her by the shoulders and Kristoph assured her there WAS a gravity field extending out several metres from the TARDIS door she would not step much closer to the threshold.

She certainly wouldn’t do what Marion did, next. She actually stepped over the threshold onto the invisible gravity field. It felt strange to be standing on empty air, even more so when she knelt and then laid face down over the bright city of Lyon in the midst of its famous winter festival of lights.

Once, she would have been as nervous as Rika about doing something so amazingly out of the bounds of normality. She was still a little scared of heights, but she trusted Kristoph and she trusted his TARDIS.

She trusted absolutely that nobody in the city below could see her, even if they decided to point a telescope through the greatest light pollution outside of Las Vegas. All the same, just in case, she was wearing slacks!

“I don’t think I can persuade Rika to join you, Marion,” Remonte called from the TARDIS door. Marion stood and walked back inside smiling joyfully.

“Let’s go and see the sights from ground level,” Kristoph suggested. “I think Rika will appreciate them better that way.”

“The detail is more impressive up close,” Marion admitted. “But it was fantastic looking at the lights all at once in that way… and I am so grateful for the ability to do that. Even if I married a helicopter pilot it wouldn’t be QUITE the same.”

Kristoph smiled at her indulgently and programmed the TARDIS to land in Lyon city centre.

He chose Parc de Tête d’Or with its botanical garden, zoo and beautiful serpentine lake which was the mustering point for one of the many guided tours through the Fête des Lumières. All four visitors emerged from the disguised space and time ship wearing warm, hooded, lapin-lined coats and shoes bought at the Delta Epsilon Retail Space Station which had special air-infused inners that guaranteed blister free and cool feet for up to fifty kilometres of walking. Thus prepared, the Gallifreyan Brothers De Lœngbærrow and their wives joined the ordinary Human festival promenaders who were prepared for the evening without futuristic footwear despite the fact that this route through the illuminated city streets was a nine kilometres long and was going to take as much as five hours to complete.

“I have walked as far in my younger days,” Rika admitted. “Not so much lately with horse-drawn carriages taking me everywhere around the capital of Ventura.”

“I probably have walked that much,” Marion admitted. “A shopping afternoon in the streets of Liverpool probably covers a good eight kilometres. I’ve never really measured it. Of course, that includes plenty of cafe stops.”

“There will be café stops,” Kristoph promised as their guide for the evening led them away from the relatively muted lights of the ‘Winter Garden’ with the trees and frosted grass of the park lit up in icy blue light. The group passed through the elegant wrought iron gate called the Porte des Enfants du Rhône and crossed a busy dual carriageway, the Avenue de Grande Bretagne which was too much an artery of the city to shut down even for the Lumières. A stairway on the other side brought them to the Rhône quays, a wooded area between the Avenue and the river Rhône where the bare, winter trees of December were lit up with illuminated glass balloons like huge glowing fruits.

It was a peaceful walk, here, and the couples among the group, including two who had travelled much further than any to be there, held hands and talked quietly while admiring the colourful and animated lights played across the buildings on the other side of the river.

They emerged from that quiet place to cross the Rhône on the wide Pont de Lattre de Tassigny which afforded a very lovely view of the Lumières along either side of the river.

“Where are we going?” Rika asked when they had crossed the bridge. They seemed to be corralled here by walls either side of the roadway.

“The Croix-Rousse non-motorized traffic tunnel,” Marion immediately replied with a wide smile. “It’s a bit of a messy title, but at this time of year something very special, even for me, growing up near the Mersey Tunnel.”

The tunnel wasn’t dark, nor was it lit by ordinary street lighting. The walls were reflecting a blue-green light that rippled and moved giving the effect of being in a glass tube underwater. Animated fish of all colours swam in the ‘water’ and so did a group of little characters dressed in white.

“They’re called ‘Les Anooki’,” Marion explained. “They’re a sort of mascot, and they pop up all the time in the Lumières. Last year they were at the theatre.”

Rika laughed in joy at the sight of the fish and the Anooki swimming around and above her. It was possible to completely forget that they were in a dry tunnel with concrete walls. It really felt like walking in a cartoon ocean.

The tunnel was a little more than a kilometre long, stretching under the hill called Croix Rousse. They emerged into the night air not far from the River Saône and boarded a mini bus to drive through the wider motorised Croix Rousse tunnel back towards the Rhône. It was a brief respite from the walk, aimed at keeping the footfall smoothly running in the one direction through the illuminated pedestrian tunnel.

The walk began again in earnest with a promenade down the Rue Royale, which, after being in a real tunnel, was lit above and around in arcs that formed a multi-coloured ‘virtual’ tunnel. The feeling of being enclosed, yet still enjoying the fresh night air was surprisingly pleasant.

The Place Louis Pradel and the adjoining Place de la Comédie were host to the next ‘installation’. An outdoor café under a canopy provided a resting place while they views the show projected onto the long arcaded side edifice of the Opéra Nouvel. The hemispherical roof, reminiscent, to Marion, if nobody else, of the Manchester GMEX, and the row of louvred windows below were transformed into a cartoon waterfall that would rival Niagara if it were real. Les Anooki put in an appearance here, too, riding the fall in barrels and navigating the ‘water’ below in little coracle shaped fishing boats. Every so often they would catch a rainbow-coloured fish. Sometimes the fish would get away. Some of the escapees swam against the tide and gravity and disappeared over the top of the roof. One of Les Anookis hooked a giant fish that almost ate the boat and the Anooki before swimming away among the brightly lit ground level arcades.

Hot chocolate and pastries reinforced the spirit for another promenade, this time down the wide Rue de la République, a fashionable shopping and dining street by day, and by night, at least during the weekend of les Fêtes, to an avenue of electric trees whose winter branches and trunks rippled with light.

The Place de la Bourse was, not surprisingly, home to Palais de la Bourse. Bourse was, of course, the French term for commerce or trade, hence La Bourse, the French Stock Exchange. In cities like Lyon the name denoted the Chamber of Commerce. Lyon’s Palais de la Bourse was built in the mid-nineteenth century but in a highly decorative style of Louis XIII – the Louis BEFORE the one with the Musketeers, Marion reminded herself as she looked up at the Palais’s most striking feature – a clock surrounded by classical figures.

The theme of the installation played across the Palais de la Bourse was that of clocks. Famous clocks including the one commonly known as Big Ben, though that properly referred to the bell that tolled the hours, The Grand Central Terminal Clock of New York, Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower in Mecca, and the Prague Astronomical Clock were projected onto the face of the Palais while all sorts of timepieces – sundials, water clocks, grandfather clock, alarm clocks of every size and shape ticked and whirred around them. The most remarkable thing was that all of the projected clocks told the same time – the correct time – in sync with the real Palais clock.

“We should have this installation played across the front of the Citadel on Gallifrey,” Kristoph remarked with a wide smile.

“What could be more appropriate to the government building of the Time Lords?” Rika asked.

“Even Gold Usher could not be offended by its symbolism,” Marion agreed.

“Only its frivolity,” Remonte answered her, and they all laughed at a joke that had crossed many millions of light years with the four of therm.

A few minutes walk westwards along the Rue de la Fromagerie where the light show celebrated the old trade of that street – cheese-making – brought the promenaders to Place Saint-Nizier and the tastefully and reverently lit Gothic façade of Église Saint-Nizier de Lyon, named for Saint Nicetius – or Nizier – a Sixth century bishop of Lyon. The guide led his group into the church where candles in coloured glass jars were arrayed all along the aisles and in the niches where the statues of saints quietly stood. It was a lovely, quiet change from the modern, computer-generated Lumières. The statue of the Virgin Mary, was surrounded by blue candles, reminding Marion that this huge festival coincided with the Feast of the Assumption. The Lumières had drifted somewhat from a religious celebration. That was something to be deplored in one way, yet in another, obvious way, the fame of the Fête des Lumières brought tourism and money where it was always needed. Besides, the churches and cathedrals were always tastefully treated by the light show. The Anookis were certainly not allowed to play around Église Saint Nizier or any other place of worship.

At Place des Terreaux, one of Lyon’s larger public open space the sophistication of the Lumières display was stepped up several notches, but so were the numbers of people enjoying them. There was nowhere to sit, here. The pubic benches had been taken by those who got there first and staked a claim to them.

Rika was astonished by the press of people around her. She had lived most of her life in rural Gallifrey where twenty people were a crowd. This one numbered at least fifty thousand and she clung tightly to Remonte’s hand, willing him not to let go.

Marion understood what she was feeling. Once she would have fled a scene like this in panic. But that was when she would have been on her own in that great crowd. Now she had Kristoph’s hand to hold as they mingled with the multitude enjoying the sounds, the smells, and most of all the sights of the Fête. She accepted a warm patisserie in a paper wrap to eat as she gazed up at the double facades of the Hôtel de Ville and the Musée des Beaux-Arts where the show was exceeding expectations from past years.

One of Marion’s favourite tableaux had been two years ago when the two buildings had been lit to appear like theatre prosceniums with red velvet drapes across that slowly opened to reveal a renaissance masque in progress – all this created with no more than coloured lights against the walls of the buildings.

This year the theme was television. The two beautiful old buildings looked like huge wide screens with the ident screens for France’s national TV stations fading into white noise while two of the Anooki climbed up ladders, apparently cleaning the ‘screen’. Presently the idents cleared and scenes from what looked like a soap opera with Anookis as the main characters played out. The vast audience laughed in amusement to see their antics.

The ‘show’ lasted some twenty minutes before the promenade through the city continued, through narrow residential streets lit with traditional candles on the outer windowsills and wide dual carriageways with lights strung across from one side to the other. Every public plaza had a specially themed show to watch. Every fountain was illuminated in magical and imaginative ways. Crossing and recrossing the dozens of bridges over the Saône and the Rhône where the dark water bearing a mere reflection of the Lumières was a respite from the light and colour and the milling crowds.

Hot food and drinks were for sale everywhere to renew the flagging body, hungrily held between gloved hands as they were devoured.

The Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon with its magnificent apse facing the banks of the Saône was beautiful from up close and from across the river where the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière towered above it. The two great cathedrals together easily made one of Marion’s favourite sights of the whole tour. On a previous visit to Lyon she and Kristoph had joined a rosary vigil walking up the wooden hill to the Basilica, leaving the noisy, commercial side of the Fête des Lumières below in the city, but there were other things to see this time. The Place des Célestins and Place des Jacobins both had their own installations to enjoy when they turned back from the Saône. So did Place de la République.

“We really SHOULD have festivals like this on Gallifrey,” Marion commented as the party made their way from there down the Rue de la République where something described as a ‘light ballet’ lit the sky. “With the technology we have in the Capitol it should be possible to create something even more magnificent than ordinary humans can do.”

“We have the technology,” Kristoph remarked. “But not the imagination. That’s why I enjoy Earth so much.”

“I always thought there were other reasons for that, brother,” Remonte commented with a sly smile. Kristoph hugged Marion close to him and admitted that the planet had many points in its favour.

Rue de la République brought them to the finale of their evening. Place Bellecour was proudly known by all Lyon citizens as the third largest open space in any French city. It was the permanent home of an equestrian statue of Louis XIV – the one WITH the Musketeers, as Marion noted to herself - and the temporary home every winter of an ice rink and a Ferris wheel. The facades of the eighteenth century buildings surrounding the Place, now occupied by twenty-first century tenants such as the HSBC Bank and Pizza Pino, were transformed by the Lumières into a snowscape at night through which horse drawn sleighs were driven by Les Anookis in festive costumes.

Rika overcame her nervousness about both crowds and heights enough to go on the Ferris Wheel twice. It was tall enough at its zenith to be above the roofs of even the tallest building in the Place and especially when the wheel was stationary to allow other riders on it was remarkable to look up into the crisp, velvet, starry sky which looked reassuringly quiet and still above the tumult.

“To think we were hanging there in orbit a few hours ago,” Marion said. “When I was looking down at all this.”

That view from above, though all-encompassing, couldn’t even begin to touch on the wonders they had seen from the ground. And even after so many hours they had only taken one of a dozen possible routes around the city. There was much that they had not seen. Even so, it had been a full experience and one to treasure in the memory.

“We have to skate,” Rika insisted when they were done with the Ferris Wheel. “That is the one thing I don’t feel nervous about. I used to skate when I was young, and I have done so every winter on Ventura.”

“Do you feel up to it, Marion?” Kristoph asked anxiously. “It has been a long evening.”

“I think I could take a couple of turns around the rink with you at my side,” Marion assured him. And she did. Despite the illness that had drained her body and wearied her spirit not so many months ago this visit to Lyon had not tired her any more than eight kilometres of walking in excited crowds should have tired her. She put on hired skates and Kristoph, briefly thinking about how Gold Usher would shudder at even a former Lord High President doing anything so frivolous, joined her on the ice for a slow perambulation while the lights and colour of the Fête des Lumières continued around them and Rika called out an invitation to the Yuluus Festival on Ventura as reciprocation for this evening. Kristoph accepted willingly before Marion had a chance to wonder what a Yuluus Festival was.