Back from Lille!
We arrived in Lille at around 5:30 PM and took taxis to the hotel. The hotel was very nice and looked out onto Grand Place, where the famous big Ferris wheel of the Lille Christmas market was located. I mean, this thing was so close to our window that, were there a fire in the hotel, a good leap would have taken us into one of the gondolas.
We found a restaurant near the hotel that served local cuisine, so Bobby enjoyed moules et frites (mussels and fries) while I had a goat's cheese tart. It's France! Do we need to say that the food was wonderful?
Sharon and Kirsty were worn out from the travel day and so went back to the room, but Bobby and I had itchy feet by this time and so set off exploring right away. I think we covered half of the central part of the city that night; we scoped out places to visit for the next day and restaurants. Then we sat on the fountain to rest our feet and people-watch and had our first turn (of three!!) on the big Ferris wheel.
This was the biggest Ferris wheel I have ever ridden. A distant second is the Ferris wheel in Ocean City. When the Lille wheel started going up, we reached a point where we could see the top of our four-story hotel and we weren't even halfway up yet, and I realized how big the thing was. I had one of those fluttery precarious feelings that comes from feeling vulnerable in a high place. As a thrill ride aficionado, I don't get that much anymore. (I got over it fast--but for a moment, it was there!)
The next morning, we headed to a bakery around the corner from the hotel for breakfast. Bobby accidentally mispronounced his deux pain au chocolate, and we ended up with twelve! (None lasted long enough to come home, so it was a fortunate error.) Right next to our hotel was one of Europe's biggest bookstores, so we headed there next. Most of the books were in French, of course, which did not stop me from mooning over certain sections for lengthy periods of time. Bobby bought me an illumination book (in French!), and he and Kirsty both picked up a copy of Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas (in English). We then split up because Bobby's and my interests in European cities involves a lot of "geeking over stones," i.e. visiting endless numbers of old churches, castles, and buildings.
The architecture of the city is just beautiful.
The opera house.
The clock tower that overlooks Grand Place (and that you get pretty much eye-to-eye with on the Ferris wheel).
Detail from one of the buildings on Grand Place.
Bobby and I headed first to Le Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse, which is an art museum in a medieval-era hospital, thus combining two of our favorite things (art museum + medieval site). The museum was set up quite nicely with information about how each room was used in the hospital and a nice selection of art of particular significance to the city.
The museum courtyard.
The herb garden, which I admired because I grow many of these herbs and know that they are not easily tamed into those neat little blocks.
I was fond of this cute little baby holding a skull.
Next, we headed around to some of the churches and cathedrals in the area. For a pair of agnostic heathens, we spend a helluvalot of time in churches when we travel. First was the Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Treille.
This is one of the side entrances, but I actually like it better than the front entrance (which is very modern. Bleh.)
Next was L'église Sainte-Catherine, which is the city's oldest church. Parts date from the 13th century, I think? (The page is in French, which is not my best language for reading.)
It was closed, so we could not go inside, but we snooped around the outside a bit.
Finally was the Église Saint-Maurice.
Bobby and I took a brief respite in our room before heading out for an excellent supper at a creperie. Then was our first night at the Christmas market.
I am not generally one for things Christmas-y. Bobby and I have our traditions that come from going-on 18 years together, but the holiday in general tends to combine commercialism and saccharinity in a way that feels shallow and that I don't find appealing. But I loved the Lille Christmas market. There were beautiful, handmade crafts and ... hot wine. Actually, pretty much any alcohol you can imagine, served in a warmed form. Gods, I love Europe ...
A mime, because that is not stereotypical at all.
Bobby and I ended up purchasing quite a few handmade blown-glass ornaments for people back home (and ourselves!) and a ginormous bag of chocolate. Bobby also got me a lovely necklace with red glass and spiral patterns (that sounds kind of dumb but when I have occasion to wear it, then I'll post a picture; it's lovely).
Afterward, we took our second turn on the Ferris wheel. Sharon and Kirsty watched for us from their room and waved to us from the window.
Me and the creepy-ass snowman that watches over the line for the Ferris wheel.
On the Ferris wheel.
The next day, Bobby and I grabbed breakfast at Lille's best-known bakery, Paul. Paul has been around since the late 1800s. (1889, if I remember what I read on the napkin correctly!) And could we go to France without a picture of break and pastry?
Then we walked to the north part of town to the Palais de Beaux Arts.
We were lucky enough to catch a traveling illumination exhibit that set the work of artist Jan Fabre beside the more traditional medieval illuminations. When I first saw that the two were combined, I was kind of like o.O but the concept really worked to highlight the combination of the "sacred and profane" that appears in both forms of art. We spent a long time in the exhibit; I read every tag--which took a while since they were all in French! The selection of illuminations also spanned the Middle Ages nicely, so the evolution of styles could be seen. It was one of the best museum exhibits I've seen.
We spent pretty much the whole day in the museum and managed to see everything. We were very footsore by the day's end!
We had all intentions of eating in the Christmas market that night, but when we went down in the early evening, the place was packed, and not only could we find nothing vegetarian for me but my misanthropy kicks in when in crowds, and so Bobby and I ended up eating in a restaurant near the hotel. We then played a ridiculous game of trying to find Sharon and Kirsty; we were faster at dinner than they expected, and so they weren't at our meeting place when we were done, and our paths crossed at some point before we finally found them in an outside dining area for a McDonald's. By now, the market was calmed down a lot, so we went back to pick up a few final items and take a last turn. It started to rain, so we took our cups of warm wine back into the outdoor dining area for the McDonald's, which was under cover; we found an old coffee cup to stick in front of Sharon to pretend like we were customers. Then we got on the Ferris wheel a third and final time with Sharon and Kirsty. When we stopped at the top? The wind was fierce.
We were all silly after all of this and so went back to our room and stayed up till the very late hour of 10:30 PM, at which point the person in the room next to us banged on the wall because we were apparently being too loud too late on a Saturday night. (Since drunk people were loudly singing Christmas carols on the Ferris wheel until 1 AM, I can only imagine them banging on the window and shaking their fist at the Ferris wheel.)
Bobby and I went back to Paul this morning for breakfast and took a final turn around the Grand Place. Then we took a hike hauling all of our luggage and purchases to the train station and were off to home. I will leave this post with some street view pictures of Lille.
The view from our room of Grand Place at evening time.
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!