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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Lille day 2 - Wonderful historic city

Today I will conclude our misadventure in Lille.         

The view from my hotel room.
Next morning, sky was blue and it was already warm at 7:30 when I woke up. What's a contrast to the day before! In a simple hotel room like this, there is nothing to do but to get up and to go down for a breakfast. I booked my breakfast last night. It was a buffet. Boy! There were everything you could want for a continental breakfast there. There were about six different types of bread including brioches, wholemeal, white, baguettes, sliced tin bread, rolls, with a toaster. Butter, honey and several different fruits of jams (I chose apricots). There were orange juice, apple juice, tea and coffee. Yogurt of different flavours. President cheese and two kinds of cereals. French people usually have light breakfast. There were a dozen people having breakfast when I went there. Every single one was French. They had a small amount of bread and had Café au lait. I, instead, ate everything to my heart's content. Yogurt and cheese were particularly nice to start our second day with many hours of walking. 5 euro was well spent on the breakfast!
Waiting for the bus to come. That's the tower I mentioned.
I checked out, and walked into this new world. When sky is blue, everything looks chirpy and cheerful. Even the empty office building seems a bit positive! I walked to the bust stop, and took some photos.

Re-painted white patches at the presumably emergency staircase.

So many flats, but nobody was seen. René Magritte-esque place!

It looks pretty from inside the Metro station against blue sky!

At the metro station, I saw people. They were apparently commuting or going to school. They looked busy and purposeful. I joined them. I had a glimpse of the white high apartments, which looked spooky last night. They were pretty against blue sky. But they still looked spooky. Why didn't they build houses instead of high rises? There are obviously plenty land around here. I was thinking about it when I got in the train.

I arrived 30 minutes earlier than the arrival of the train coming from Ashford. There were lots of engineers working on cables under the floor. I saw so many different coloured cables running. They were for the electric notice board for arrival.

Mike found me and spread his arms wide. I was so glad to see him again. We went back to our usual cafe, Paul. Mike had breakfast(there were no freshly baked pastries again!), and I ordered espresso. We caught up with each other's story.

Post office
Last night, Mike's train didn't stop at Ebbelsfleet, so he had to go to St Pancras. There was, he told me angrily, a passport control. We were repeatedly told that there were not passport controls at either Ashford or London station, I, therefore, were not allowed to travel to UK. At St Pancras, he ran to the ticket office and bought a single ticket to Canterbury. Boy, it cost more than off-peak return tickets I usually buy. (If you buy single tickets or a full price tickets in UK including Eurostar, be warned, they are excessively expensive. the Eurostar return ticket Mike bought the evening before was three times more than the return tickets I initially booked in advance!)  Then he had to run to catch the train to Ashford.

Opera House. I love the lamp post! It reminds me of La Opera at Paris!
At home about 10 o'clock at night, he rang our lovely dog walker, Theresa; luckily she could walk our dog next day. He looked after parrots, a chicken and dogs (luckily Pearl, the leaky one, was crossing her legs and didn't have an accident in the evening), found my old passport, read an email sent from my hotel, took shower and went to sleep. But like me, he couldn't sleep much because he was worried that he could miss the train next morning. He got up about 5, and drove to the station, and caught the same train we took 24 hours earlier and now he is having a breakfast in front of me. I knew he would be more tired than I was. 
A lampshade shop

Delicious looking quiches
We decided we would take easy, just strolling the old beautiful town and sitting at cafes. But first thing I had to do was to buy changing in a hyper-store. After changing, we were off to beautiful old square. This place looks always attractive. Colourful Flanders buildings are a treat to eyes, but against blue sky they looked really stunning. We walked around familiar streets, checking the window displays of lovely boutiques (which are plenty in Lille).

A flower shop
We walked enough and made ourselves hungry. We had already decided to go to our old haunt, Coq Hardi. When I visit a new place, I usually follow bank clerks at lunch time. They usually lead me a restaurant with a good value! That's how I found this place. So, since the first visit, we always have lunch here. Even when I came alone, I had lunch here. I am a bit conservative with food, and if I find something I like I will stick with it. Mike is even more conservative than I am.

Our favourite, Coq Hardi. Handsome building!
The view form our table. Looking at the theatre direction.
Local beer. My empty glass.
Look at the sky! Suddenly summer came. Every eater was eating under the sky. We joined them. My favourite is beef stewed in beer and a glass of local beer. Mike having allergy to beef, he had same stew with a chicken. Incredible amount of meat was served. I became very full after that.
Old Exchange
Mike wanted to visit a porcelain shop which sells white porcelain at a good price. I used to buy tiny dishes for my flock of finches. We went there, it was closed for lunch. So we went a cafe called Méo,where we bought our colourful tea caddies before. Barista was very friendly. We also had lovely macaroons, too. We sat in the other side of square of the restaurant, just enjoyed watching people walked passed. It's so peaceful. It really struck me that people in Lille have been friendly and kind. Metro staff, bus drivers, passer-by, shop keepers, everyone was genuinely friendly, and they speak English so well. What a change! When I went to Paris alone for the first time 26 years ago, I couldn't buy a metro ticket because I had to ask for it in French at a counter. I couldn't pronounce the name of the my destination. A woman at the counter was arrogant and irritable. At that time, there was an air that those who didn't speak French were under class in France. Nowadays young people speak English very well and they are more open to the outside world. I try my rudimentary French anytime I visit France, but nowadays, they chose to speak in English to tourists. Mike was taught French at school,like all kids in England, but he seems to repeat 'Ok' quite often, lol, and when he needs to communicate, he usually speaks in English.

View of the Square. Our Coq Hardi is the second building from the left.
Irresistible looking Macaroons at Méo

View of the square.

We peeked Gallerie Lafayette and Printemps. we enjoyed looking at tableware. Then we returned to the porcelain shop, and bought one salad bowl. Sadly, because of the weight, we only bought one. But Mike kept saying that we should have bought at least two afterwards. It was only 5 euro at a special offer.
5 Euro. A real bargain!

Surprise! Mike found Le Pain Quotidien on the same street as the porcelain shop was! But there was no almond croissants (my most favourite) there : (

We peeked inside the remain of an old palace, which is upstairs of Office de Tourisme. Stained glasses were beautiful.

This little building has more characters than large neighbors.

This building reminds me of Disney film of 'The little house'.
We visited The Église Saint-Maurice. From front it looks Gothic.
Its stained glasses are beautiful. I am not religious, but I can't help feeling serene and pious in the church like this.
But side and rear shows different faces. It must be extended in different times. According to Wikipedia, its construction began in the 14th century, and only completed in 19th century. It took amazingly 500 years to build it. What a history!
I felt as if I time-tripped to the Middle age.

To avoid any confusion and another trouble, we went back to the station one hour before the departure time. We asked Eurostar staff to put our seats together. At the UK border controls, a female officer asked me why I held a ticket for the day before, (I explained) she said that the rule had changed they don't transfer visa to a new passport any longer, so I have to carry two passports, old and new one when I travel. Something is not right with this new rule.

The trains was delayed by 30 minutes. It was unusual in our experience. There were several security people aboard checking tickets. Then there was announcement. They want to check unclaimed luggage in coach 17. So people in coach 17 were asked to return to their carriage. Bomb alerts? I whispered Mike. I turned back to a lady who was in the train from Brussels. She said that she traveled before in the same train, and they always do security checks. Really? By the time we arrived at Calais, there was announcement saying that all luggage was accounted for. All security got off the train there.

So we arrived at Ashford (Yes, there was a passport control!) an hour later. When we got home Topaz and Pearl seemed ecstatic to see me again! They were jumping up and going around me like a merry-go-round. You know, I felt so good to be at home again. I slept very well on that night.



  1. こんなに大きな歴史的建造物が




  2. 石やレンガだと火事の被害が少ないからでしょうね?ここも世界大戦中、爆撃を受けて、所々、新しい建物がありました。写真にはありませんが大聖堂もコンクリート製でした。


    社会人になって2度目の大学院です。最初のは社会人類学、今度は美術。笑 私も学生の時は、響さんと同じでしたよ。今はわくわくしています。笑 大きめの作品を作りたいので、大きな窯が必要ですし。我家の窯はミニですからねぇ。仕事と掛け持ちですが、通学もバスで5分。後悔がない様に思いっきり楽しんできます。

  3. Hi Midori! What a wonderful trip! Your photos are so interesting and beautiful (I love the lampshade shop). It is amazing to me how little time it takes for you to travel to France. It is a half a world away for me :(
    If I am ever in Paris, I will be sure and lunch at Coq Hardi!
    I am glad your trip was a success, in spite of the passport issue.
    PS Did you really have a flock of finches? :)

  4. Eurostar, which runs at very high speed and goes under the English channel, has changed our lives at this corner of England. It used to be a ferry trip! I think we will have direct trains to Germany in future, too. It is, for us, much more convenient and quicker than flying.

    We have had a flock of 22 owl finches(a.k.a. Bicheno finches). Most babies were hatched here. I had to hand-feed some of them after parents abandoned them. We now only have the last one, Mochaccino with us. He was abandoned just a couple of days before the hatching day. So, I kept the egg warm for a day or so, and prised it open with a pair of tiny pincers! They used to fly free in a room, and females used to lay eggs in swag at window decoration! You can see a couple of them on us here:-
    and here

  5. You actually had a nice blue sky in Lille ? You don't know how lucky you were. I lived in Lille for years and years. It is nice to see Lille again through your beautiful photographs. It is a less touristic place than South France, but people are sooo much nicer. Easy to make friends while having a drink in a "Cafe".

  6. Hi glaudius! I am glad to know that you enjoyed the photos of lovely Lille. I agree. People I talked to in Lille were so friendly and kind. Suddenly, summer came on that day. The day before was chilly, and I had all my winter clothes on. It was so nice to see the city against blue sky. Everything looked much much better.