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A walk around Lille

Lille, France

Today we went to Lille. We caught the train at Bailleul station; BR take note – parking was free for the day, the train was on time at Bailleul and at Lille, although not exactly cheap, comfortable and clean. A double decker, it was a good vantage point on the upper deck for seeing the countryside. We were issued with our 'Billet a composter' – but this is not some cunning recycling scheme; it just means you have to have the ticket punch validated before you get on the train. On arrival at Lille, we made for the Metro and bought a day ticket as this is what the guide book suggests.
The metro is excellent, along the lines of the Docklands light Railway but Lille is quite a compact city and unless you are going beyond the centre, I don't think it is needed at all. Having got off the metro outside the tourist office we discovered that we had only travelled a couple of hundred metres! The tourist office had a useful booklet in English with suggested walking tours round the centre. We booked the city bus tour to get an overview but our trip would not be 'till mid-afternoon so we started on one of the walking tours, taking us through the old and historic centre. Lille has had an eventful 1000 years since foundation in 1066, presumably in celebration of the leaving from Normandy of a certain Duke. It developed as a centre of business between Flanders and the fairs in Champagne. Originally owned by the Dukes of Flanders, economically it was linked with England and the Holy Roman Empire and French kings took a fancy to it. Some carefully arranged political marriages didn't prevent King Philippe August of France engineering control early in the 13th C. However, a marriage of a daughter of Flanders to a Burgundian meant that Lille, along with Brussels and Dijon became part of the Burgundian state in 1363. Another marriage took Burgundy under Habsburg control and subsequently, Spanish in the 1600's. However, a marriage into the Spanish family by Louis XIV in 1663, gave him the opportunity to lay claim to the low countries; he reinforced the claim by laying seige to Lille which resisted for all of 9 days.
Now French, Austria had a crack at it in 1792 but gave up after leaving a few cannonballs embedded in the stonework. During both 1st and 2nd Wws, Lille was overrun by the German Army.

Our walk round the town started appropriately enough at the tourist office which is in what is left of the Palais Rihour built in the 15th C for the Duke of Burgundy, much of this burned down in 1916.

The Place du General de Gaulle (born in Lille in 1890) is a huge square ringed with elegant buildings, the eye being drawn quickly to the Vieille Bourse as a particularly ornamented building. The building was only restored to its former splendour in 1995 and does look good. Walking though the building, the interior courtyard is filled with 2nd hand booksellers and such but you can see where the marketers would have had their stalls as the walls are labelled – chemicals, mechnical engineering etc.. On through the old bourse and you come to the place du Theatre with the Theatre itself very in-your-face and surmounted with a huge bas-relief of Apollo and muses. The nearby Chambre de Commerce has a 76 metre high belfry. At the end of the 17th C, Lille managed to acquire a set of town planners who insisted on some homogeneity and required that any facade proposed to be submitted to them for approval. This has had the effect of suppressing individuality and led to unusual uniformity of the buildings from this time around the square. Some of the houses here still have the cannonballs embedded in the walls from the battle of 1792. Shame they didn't present the town planners for target practice. I noticed a number of roofs with rooflights and with dormer windows both of which spoiled the line of the roof but undoubtedly enhanced both the accommodation and interest of the building. Just as well there weren't any British planners then! From here we made our way down Rue de la Grande Chaussee with elegant buildings to the strangely named Rue des Chats Bossus. Apparently this is named after an old tanner's sign but this does not really explain why the cats are humpbacked. Perhaps some things are best left unsaid. In said street, there is an unusual restaurant called l'Huitiere. Heavily decorated in mosaic tiles in an art deco style, it looked splendid. It was closed during the holiday season, so presumably doesn't much care for tourists. Proceeding up the Rue de monnaie, where there used to be a mint, we saw the impressive building originally a Hospital (1692) and now a museum. Further up the road we went down Rue au Peterinck which has a real feel of taking you back in time, it is lined by small houses once used by weavers. They had workshops on the 1st floor and traded from the ground floor. Near the end of this is the cathedral of Notre Dame de la Treille. The guide book describes its 'fine harmonious facade dating to 1999' – I can only say that there must be times when town planners go to sleep on the job. About the only word I can agree apart from the date is 'facade'.

Having worked up an appetite, we decided to take a beak from cultural activities and feed the inner person. We found a nice restaurant offering moules frites and placed our order.

Shortly after we were presented with the most enormous bowls of mussels and a lovely bowl of chips. With our upbringing we scoffed the lot and felt very full for some time after. Back to the tourist office for our 3pm bus tour. Well, it was interesting and we did see some things we hadn't seen on our walk but I'm afraid that there wasn't much that we couldn't have covered if we had continued walking for another 40 minutes. We wanted to get some tourist mementos but in all the touring we did, hadn't seen anything other than the small shop in the tourist Info Office. We had a little and abortive search before going back to the station for our trip back to Bailleul. The train came in and we climbed aboard. It was incredibly hot inside and it didn't get any better when we left (on time) or at any point on the trip. We were relieved to get off and cool down in the car on the way back to the site.

While we were in Lille we managed to see something that would be of particular interest to Freddie and Alfie, so we were pleased to be able to record them. We also saw several Fireman Sam wagons but by the time we were able to record it, they had gone. Sorry about that!

permalink written by  rickandsuejohnson on August 17, 2011 from Lille, France
from the travel blog: Paying our respects
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Very good article. Thank you for sharing. Good luck!!

permalink written by  pandorabraceletcharms on August 18, 2011

Most of the surf here comes from groundswells and the optimum swell angle is from the south.

permalink written by  labatterie on August 23, 2011

Hey I really enjoyed your nice text and pictures from Lille. I totally agree that Lille is such a pretty city!
If you're interested, you can check my article about Lille here


permalink written by  Nicole Beck on August 15, 2012

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