Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Red pandas and the church of pigeon poop.

Day 169 30.12.12 Lille

Citadel in Lille, FranceWe opt for a long lie in and lazy morning after yesterday’s exertions.  We grab an early lunch and get ready to go out.  Almost immediately as we open the door to leave the van it starts throwing it down with rain.  The sky turns very dark and we get settled back in the van as we’re clearly not going anywhere in a hurry!  After a while of reading the rain stops for long enough that we decide to check out the nearby Citadel.  It gets us out and should it start raining again we’re not too far from Van Diesel’s shelter.  The Citadel is a military building but a pretty one with star shaped defences and a large moat. 

Little houses carved into a tree branch in a park, Lille.Around the corner we find a mini fairground although it’s closed and so a little creepy.  There’s a nice park area which includes a massive tree branch that has been impressively carved with many faces and some little houses.  A very cool addition.  Onwards we find the city’s zoo although it’s closed until February unfortunately.  On the plus side we can see some red pandas through the gate chilling out on a high podium in their enclosure.  I’m a big fan of red pandas but whenever we visit a zoo they’re always inside sleeping indoors and I’m always disappointed, so spotting a chubby young red panda strolling about makes my day (I should at this point clarify that I am alone in this rather sad reaction and Chris couldn’t really care less about red pandas).

Church of Sacre Couer in Lille, FranceAfterwards we head into town to see the fine arts museum.  En route we spot a huge church, Sacre Couer and head inside.  The high ceiling and stone columns make for a spooky Mines of Moria look.  The constant cooing of pigeons in the roof makes it a little creepier still.  The church has some fine touches including some exquisitely pretty stained glass windows.  In its heyday this church must have been incredible.  Now whilst still retaining much of its beauty there are a fair few windows that have been replaced with plain glass instead of stained, some scuffed paintwork and a lot of pigeon poop!  A shame really but it’s not hard to look past it to see what this church must have been in its past. 

Fine arts museum in Lille, France
The fine arts museum turns out to be a somewhat hefty 6.50 euros each for what looks like mainly temporary exhibitions.  Despite this the queue to get in looks like it takes a good half an hour at least and we decide to give it a miss.  We spend a little longer pottering about town soaking up the atmosphere and making sure we’ve seen absolutely everywhere as tomorrow we hit the road again.  We had intended to stay until NYE in the hope of some fireworks but the tourist office said that aside from some special menus in the restaurants and a few club nights, the city doesn’t have a lot of celebrations for the New Year.  Lille has been a fantastic city and we’ve really enjoyed our visit.  It’s been a real surprise to find ourselves so bowled over but we’ve been wowed by the architecture and drawn in by the bohemian atmosphere.  It’s a city with a vibrant personality and a lot of individuality and we’re definitely big fans.    

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