Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Never judge a French book by its cover

Day 168 29.12.12 Lille

Grand Place main square in Lille, France

Upside down house in Lille, FranceThe overnight rain has cleared and it’s a sunny day in Lille.  It’s great to see bright blue sky and it really lifts the spirits after a few grey days.  The sun gets us up early and we head into town looking forward to getting some blue sky in my many pictures!  Everywhere looks much nicer on this crisp winter morning, the colours are brighter and detail sharper.  The good weather has unfortunately meant that a lot of unsavoury types have ventured outside.  Lille has a lot of homeless people and beggars as well as general dodgy looking types.  Quite a few are rather forceful and even rude in their requests for money or cigarettes or whatever food/drink you may be holding at the time.  It’s a real downside to this otherwise wonderful city.

Christmas time in Lille, France with big wheel and Christmas treeLille on the whole however is a city we’ve both quickly become big admirers of.  We spent the morning just wandering the main shopping streets which vary from swanky boutiques and high end brands to quirky arty shops and comic book cafes.  There’s a real bohemian feel to some parts of the town and we’ve whiled away a good few hours pottering around lots of unique shops selling great artwork alongside all manner of funky bits and bobs.  It’s nice that in a city this size, smaller businesses can make their mark, in fact there is one shop in the old quarter that seems to only sell light fittings inside balls of yarn.  It’s a bright and colourful shop and always really busy, the lights/yarn market in Lille is clearly booming. 

Le lion in Lille, FranceOn our wanderings we stumble across an upside down house!  It’s part of an exhibition of weird and wonderful things going on at the moment and has a huge queue to go inside.  Yet more wandering leads us to the incredibly beautiful…..fish market.   No really, it’s a gorgeous building with a huge mosaic on the side featuring differing varieties of sea-food.  Sadly my picture didn’t really do it justice but honestly it’s lovely! 

We returned to the van for lunch and afterwards Chris decided to have a shave (bear with me there’s a reason for mentioning that).  At this point a scrawny, very scruffy looking young French guy approached the van and knocked on the window.  Assuming it was a beggar or possibly robber (tut tut never judge a book by its cover Alison) I worriedly urged Chris to open the window.  Shirtless with his large tattoo showing, Chris wrenches the window open and rather abruptly asks the visitor what he wants.  Taken aback he answers that he lives permanently in the camper next door and wished to introduce himself in case we needed to pop by for a cup of sugar (awww).  We backtrack and try to immediately seem as friendly as possible (ooops!).  It turns out he’s off to Brussels for a few days and hoped we’d keep an eye on his van while he’s away, we say we will while we’re around and once again try to backtrack from our initial impoliteness.  After the break in we’re super suspicious if someone so much as looks at the van but still we feel a little bad!

Chamber of Commerce belfry clock tower in Lille, FranceAfter the mix-up we head back into town for more exploring.  It’s such a great city for just strolling around, taking in the architecture and Christmas decorations/window displays.  It’s a great time of year to be here as Lille clearly takes Christmas very seriously.  A lot of money and enthusiasm goes into decking the town out in full festive attire and it really does look great.  We take a side street we hadn’t seen before and end up on a busy high street we’d somehow missed before.  At the end we come across the fine arts museum which is housed in a fairytale-like building.  It’s a bit late in the day to check it out there and then but we make a note to return tomorrow.

It’s been a busy but very rewarding day.  We’re still discovering new parts of this fascinating city and so far so very good.

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