Saturday, June 27, 2009
A Li'l Bit of Lille
We were off to France for a few days. Houston gave a talk at the university in Lille, in the north of France. It really is just a hop, skip and a jump from London. In fact it cost us more to get from Cambridge to London than it did to get from London to Lille, a mere 1 1/2 hour Eurostar train ride. My first time through the Chunnel. We got off at this lovely train station in Lille.
My sherpa, Houston directing the way.
We stayed in the old section of downtown, a beautiful city settled around 640. But on our way, we saw some fun sculptures. In one of the leaves on the right, 2 children are playing.
There is an offbeat, whimsical sense to this city (the 4th largest city in France). I saw these gnomes in many places, all uniformly giving me the finger. They were either doing that or peeing.
There was lots of graffiti in the town, in fact, I think they encourage it.
And the BIGGEST surprise of all were the dozen giant baby statues downtown. They stood maybe 25' tall, solid black with varying types of wings, scales, dinosaur-like appendages on diapered baby figures.
When I rounded the corner and saw all these babies against the backdrop of the very ancient buildings, I stopped dead in my tracks, put my luggage down and just laughed. I gotta hand it to them. I don't think this would happen in DC!
We were put up in this fabulous hotel. It's a combination of 2 old buildings, a new building and joined by a central atrium.
The walkway to our room.
Towards dinnertime, we really did look for a French restaurant, but found only Brazilian, Ethiopian, Italian, and ended up at a Moroccan restaurant. Yummy.
Our hotel was right on a canal waterway. This is the scene across the canal from our hotel.
The following day, I was left to my own devices and just meandered around the bustling city center. It doesn't look bustling yet, but I learned that I happened upon the biggest sales event of the year. It lasts an entire month and nearly everything is on sale. It was so crowded, lines to try on clothes, lines to pay, but it was fun even though I had a language problem. I swear, I am so bad at learning any language. When one of my items didn't come up as on sale, even tho I knew it was, I just sucked it up and paid the full price. Doh! That will teach me to be stupid. But everyone was nice and no one seemed in a hurry.
I don't know how my friend, Piver, snuck over to paint this wall, but it looks just like something she'd do.
I went into one store that had a mix of yarn, ribbon, feathers, beads, craft supplies and buttons, buttons, buttons. All in a tiny space of about 200 sq. ft.
I love buttons, amassing a large stash myself. But nothing compared to this. Old, new, vintage, bakelite, metal, shiny, dull, sparkly, prints, patterns, plain, and every imaginable color. WOW!
And the ribbons were delightful too.
I tend to look up a lot, looking at the architecture of the buildings. Your eyes get overwhelmed with what the shops want you to see with their stuffed windows, colorful wares and big sale signs. But look up and it's arched windows, curved cornices, gables galore and sometimes a painted advertisement.
But looking at the French bread is pretty peaceful.
or into walkways
I saw quite a few flower shops. They differ from ours (except for the smell. They all seem to smell alike, the deep wet, earthy smell with a high note of fragrance) in that they have unusual arrangements.
like this ambrosial display of not-fully-opened roses, sedum and something else I can't identify. I loved the color combo too.
The alternating kinds of thyme and sedum made for a nice patchwork of sorts.
Decorative chilis, sedum and white flowers
and at the end of the day, these were my sore feet, having walked and walked miles over the cobbled walkways and streets of Lille.