Thursday, 17 November 2016


15th - 16th Oct 2016
Grande Place or Place Charles de Gaulle. Centre of Lille
Only a 35 minute train journey from Brussels to the French border town of Lille for a very brief visit. It was a sunny day and the place looked rather attractive. I took a wander through the town to the tourist information centre passing through the Grande Place (or Place Charles de Gaulle). The Column of the Goddess features at it's centre. As you may know, General Charles de Gaulle was born in Lille.
I must say, these Continental European Tourist Info Offices are a cut above anything we have to offer in UK. They are spacious and smart and the attention you get is very polite, welcoming and informative. I was looking for some cheap accommodation and the charming lady behind the desk suggested a few places, highlighting the 2 star Hotel Premier Classe. She gave me gave me loads of maps and pamphlets and did indeed make me feel very welcome. 

I set off towards the hotel passing the impressive looking St Maurice Cathedral (left). It was back towards and conveniently close to the main Gare Lille Europe. Not far from the ex-'Fan Zone' where crowds gathered to watch some of the Euro footer matches last summer....not sure if it was the site of any Brit v Russian skirmishes.
The Hotel Premier Classe looked cheerful, was relatively cheap (50 Euros) and suited my purpose admirably. There was a spare room and the lady at the desk had a good sense of humour, especially after I regaled her with my horrific Bugs in Brussels story.  OK, they were nearly full up and my room was a floor above where the lift finished, up a little narrow staircase. It was, to say the least, 'compact' but had wifi and 'en-suite' even if a bit of a struggle to fit into the shower/loo space. The receptionist had (jokingly) assured me that "our bugs don't climb up that far".

The town is certainly picturesque with impressive architecture and expensively tasteful shops, hotels and caf├ęs. The only thing that was  noticeably unattractive was the significant number of beggars and young men of middle-eastern appearance who try to confront people with requests for money. Not sure if I feel sorry for them, but they are irritating.

Lille is near what was the front line on the north-western sector in WW1 and close to the battlefields of Ypres. Map (left) gives a basic layout. Tours to the battlefields are organised from here and are probably well worth doing....definitely worth considering but no time on this occasion. 
Right: These soldiers were marching through the town during least I don't think it was anything to do with Euro 2016 football.........
After a good lunch in one of the many splendid restaurants, the afternoon was spent on a cultural tour of the Palais des Beaux Arts (left). I'm not really into 'art', as you may have gathered from previous 'philistine' missives, but this place is one of the biggest art galleries in France and houses many famous works, so I thought I would give it a go.  Actually I had met up with some friends for lunch and they were keen that I should join them, for some unknown reason. It features all sorts of geographical and historic displays and sculptures together with paintings both ancient and modern.

I was rather taken by this chap (or maybe woman?) who was on display. Possibly someone left behind from the Euro 2016 football tournament...stuffed and mounted?

I saw lots of paintings by famous artists but I won't bore you with loads of photos. Left: This strange short-sighted lady seemed more interested in the paint on the wall than by the painting above it.

Right: A little gathering of art connoisseurs relaxing by the pond outside the gallery.

Left: The interior forecourt of the Gare Flanders, presumably Lille's domestic railway station. It was most impressive inside with lots of decent shops and restaurants.

Right: ....and nearby the main Gare Lille Europe where the EuroStar trains, amongst others, arrive and depart. I left here on a EuroStar for London.

So, nothing very exciting to report from Lille and thankfully no further bed bugs.

That was the end of my Baltics journey and very educational and enjoyable it was too (apart from Brussels). Now back to the grot, chaos and dismal weather in autumnal UK. Where next? I am formulating my 'Chrexit' plans.

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