Tuesday, 1 January 2013

To France via Nazareth

Day 167 28.12.12 Ghent to Lille
Grand place main square in Lille, France at Christmas
Nazareth in Belgium?!
Lille Christmas market, one of the largest in EuropeWe were up early and after a trip to the supermarket which has opened sooner than anticipated we were on the road to our last stop in Belgium of Kortrijk.  En route we pass signs for Nazareth, including a rest stop there.  Apparently Joseph and Mary where looking in the wrong place as there’s lots of room at this inn and even an adjoining restaurant!

The rain refuses to stop and when we arrive in Kortrijk there is nowhere to park.  Our initial stop was a bust, residential areas all demand permits and the municipal car park looks dodgy to say the least.  Since its still pouring it down with rain anyway we decide to stock up on Belgian treats at the supermarket (I appear to have developed a penchant/addiction to sugar waffles) and then fill up the tank with cheap Belgium diesel and head over the border to Lille.  Belgium has been unbelievably pretty, even more so than I could’ve imagined and I came with high hopes.  It’s a perfect place to spend Christmas, it’s romantic and festive enough to warm any heart even if you’re a big bah humbug like me!  We’ve enjoyed the free motorways, beautiful architecture and yummy sugar waffles but the weather has been less than pleasant! 

Christmas lights in Lille, France
We arrive at our spot in Lille, an open air car park beside the river and close to town.  I’d forgotten how campervan friendly France is, every city has a free spot to park that is almost always convenient, quiet and pretty.  We enjoy a late lunch and shortly afterwards the rain stops so we can head into town.  It’s a short walk across the river to the old town, and minutes later we’re in the centre of Lille.  The main square is a festive extravaganza, there’s a Ferris wheel, a huge Christmas tree, twinkly lights, extravagant decorations and even Santa himself.  The window displays are just as wonderful as Bruges.  The money, enthusiasm, imagination and design flair that goes into these things must be immense. 

Even on a grey day like today, the colourful buildings of Lille stand out and amaze.  The architecture is very flamboyant with lots of detailing around the windows.  Barely a building goes by that isn’t worthy of a ‘wow’!  There are Christmas lights and decorations everywhere as well as one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe.  The ‘snow’ covered huts have huge painted signs sat atop, there are Christmas trees in lots of different colours and it smells great. We even manage to stumble across a free Manga exhibition which although pretty small is an interesting find.

Lille shop with bonus French man carrying baguettes.
We enter the most attractive building in town to find a phenomenal courtyard.  There are huge stone carvings on the wall which are awe inspiring.  The courtyard itself is currently hosting a book market full of interesting little gems and some striking old books with leather bound covers trimmed in gold.  We couldn’t read any of them but they’d look just beautiful on a bookcase!  After tearing ourselves away we enjoyed strolling around the town just taking in all the amazing architecture, lovely Christmas decorations and festive window displays.  We even walked past one chocolate shop that came straight out of a fairytale.  There were rows upon rows of handmade chocolates in every flavour you could imagine, the staff all were dressed in bow ties and waistcoats, standing behind high glass counters in an art deco shop with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.  Just heavenly! 

As the day drew darker we headed back to the van.  The weather has continued to suck but we’re glad to be back in France.  Its more camper friendly, we speak at least a little of the language and it’s just so beautiful! 

No comments:

Post a Comment