OUR TRIP TO FRANCE
September 27th, Day 4
We woke up later than planned. Seems I'd left the phone clock on English time and hadn't advanced it to Romance Daylight Time (yes, it is labelled the Romance Daylight Time). We rushed through the morning activities again and made haste to the train station. Once there we discovered that we were early. Unlike aircraft, trains don't bother turning up till a few minutes before they are due to depart. Like airlines you often don't find out what terminal it is till just before you leave. But we managed to find our train easily, boarded and settled down for the trip.
An hour later we emerged from the train to be standing in Gare du Flandres, one of Lille's major train stations. The French town of Lille wasn't always French, several times in history the place has been English or other countries. It is the second largest city in France and a place I expected to be teeming with English tourists given it is a short Eurotrain trip across the Chunnel to get here. The 'e' on the end isn't pronounced, you say 'lil', not 'lilly' like Edyta and I insisted at the beginning. Seems you can find a lot more places when you know how to pronounce them.
We took the local Metro to the stop nearest our hotel. Once again we were faced with the prospect of moving through the streets to an unknown destination but the directions I'd been given this time were better and the map was easier to read. All we first had to do was move through a street that smelled of urine (no prizes for guessing how that would occur here). At least the map was a little easier to follow, walk past a busy roundabout, over a bridge over a major road and down another busy road and we are there - not as nice as the surroundings in the last place but comfortable enough.
However we were hungry at this time and left to find somewhere to eat. The only place nearby was a caf?. This is your more traditional French caf?, in that there were a few tables set aside in a small space for food. The rest of the area was set aside for the bar to buy your drinks at. There was a smoking section and a very near the smoking section. And there were no English speakers. But that was okay, the lady serving us was nice enough and we got by fine with pointing at menus on the window. We ended up getting the same meal each which we never do but we were fine with it this time, after all we didn't really know what we had ordered anyway. Everyone was having a good laugh by the time we were leaving but it was a fun meal (still no tip though).
King Louis big monument
Afterwards we went into Lille proper. The old part of town is very old. There are main squares around and buildings of several hundred years of age all stacked in next to each other. Some looked really nice but then the building wedged between them and another could look dilapedated. We walked over to the museum which was meant to be the second best after the Louvre. It was however closed, seems Tuesday is the day off. So Edyta and I decided to head off to Citadelle, a big fort the town is famous for.
We found a shopping mall and then got lost. We kept seeing towers above the buildings that I assumed may be a keep on the Citadelle. We tried to navigate to them through the streets and ended up at churches or parks (one church seemed to have an art display of beach sand in it). We also ended up at a town hall, a massive tower that I hoped to climb but it wasn't open to the public. From there we found our bearings and discovered we were on the other side of town to the Citadelle. We decided to loop back past some museums but these were also closed on Tuesday. I did discover a statue of Joan of Arc and another big Arc to commenerate one of the King's Louis taking the city back from the English.
We were back in the shopping district by tea time. We found a food court place with a buffet menu (or as best we could understand it). We had our serving of main and then heaped on the buffet helpings. We weren't sure how much we were meant to take, but then we aren't sure of when we'll eat next either.
Joan de Arc's small monument
Following tea was a journey around more of the medieval town and into areas with cobblestone streets and tiny parks and bigger squares. We came across the Cafe Oz as we were going to turn around. I'd read about the bar on the internet but it turned out to just be a pub that sold cocktails with "Australian" names. I don't hang out in pubs back home so I saw no reason to hang out in a pub pretending to be one back home. Edyta and I left to go back to the hotel and got a little lost. We crossed through some ruins and then past a massive church that looked very old except for the front which had been replaced with a very modern entrance. We resolved to return here the following day to find out what it was.