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Published: August 7th 2007
We had a great weekend in Lille. We travelled by Eurostar (a high speed train which links London to Europe) on Friday morning, through the Chunnel, and saw some of the French country side. We arrived at about lunch time (local time). Even though the journey took only about 1 1/2 hours, as soon as we stepped off the train we knew we were in a foreign country, and we were greeted by signs for 'Les Simpsons, Les Film' (The Simpsons - The Film). Everything was sign posted in French, but when we left the train station we easily found our hotel as it was only about 200 metres down the road.
We dropped off our luggage, and spent the afternoon wandering around the streets of Lille and attempting not to get run down by European drivers! We went into the central shopping area, and then walked to the Citadel for a look around. We weren't able to go inside the Citadel (French army base), so instead walked to the Palais de Beaux-Arts museum where we sat outside and enjoyed the sun beside a fountain. We were starting to get really hungry by this time, so decided to attempt to
order some lunch at a sandwich bar (where luckily we were directed to a girl who spoke some English). We looked around the outside of the town hall and the Porte de Paris monument, before heading to our hotel. Our hotel had a good view of a park, where we saw military guys patrolling a couple of times.
After checking in, we went and had some dinner at a nice restaurant in the main square of Lille. I had asked the waiter if he spoke English, and he did speak a little, but something was obviously lost in translation because my beef with white wine marinade turned out to be a crock pot full of mussels (and I don't eat seafood)! The waiter was very good about it however and took the meal back and switched it for their local beef delicacy, which was excellent. It was really nice sitting in the sunshine looking out over the town square with some good wine. The French seem to take their dogs everywhere, even more so than in London, and there were a number at the eateries.
On Saturday we had a breakfast of French treats at our hotel before
heading into the main Lille shopping centre, which was conveniently located next door to our hotel! It was really fun looking at the fashions and hearing everyone around us speaking French. We saw more military guys patrolling the mall with machine guns! After looking around, we headed to a restaurant for lunch, where Brandt ordered snails and chips! I wasn't quite so brave...
We spent Saturday evening relaxing in the park across the street from our hotel. We sat in the sun and enjoyed some French champagne. After finishing the wine we wandered back into town. On the way be could hear a bunch of birds chirping - quietly at first but growing louder and louder - until we turned a corner and came face to face with hundreds of birds perched on and flying all around a construction crane. It was quite an extraordinary sight and several people had stopped to stare for a while. We continued on into the city to check out the night life, but after an hour or so the night turned gloomy all of a sudden. The sky broke out into fierce thunder and lightning and it felt like a storm was going
to break out so we went home instead and watched some French TV (even the subtitles were in French)!
On Sunday morning we found all the shops were closed, so we headed back to the art museum, and spent a couple of hours looking around the collections. Apparently it is the second biggest general art exhibition in France after the Lourve. Even though we couldn't understand most of what was written on the information panels, we could usually get the general idea if we tried hard enough. There was a neat collection of sculptures including impressive likenesses of Napoleon and Spartacus. There were also fifteen large (about 5m by 5m) relief maps of French towns as they looked in the 18th Century which was fascinating. All of the towns had extensive fortifications, with moats and walls built in star formations. The last exhibit was a large collection of paintings. We walked around the streets, and later got some lunch before heading back to the Eurostar to end our weekend. We didn't want to come home!
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