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Late Doors

Lille

Enjoyed last year's Eurostar trip to Belgium so much we did the same thing this year to Lille. The full trip from front door, taxi to station three trains to hotel took five hours with none of the utter grief and arse ache flying gives you.

Not been to this part of France before but the terrain and weather looked very  British with cloud, flat agricultural farm land peppered with stone dwellings and red brick new builds.  

Our hotel was near the euro star station and a ten minute walk into the center. First impressions weren't that good either. Clearly modern and someone's idea of urban utilitarian the place was already getting shabby in the badly designed spaces and walkways. A huge shopping center dominated the area with escalators running up around its perimeter. The rear, although alongside a main throughway looked like it could be dodgy at night across from piss drenched brick and concrete coves but was in fact ok and not as bad as it looked. The main drag was at the end of this road and hosted our hotel and a huge casino. It all looked  insipid despite the attractive night time lighting. Hotel was grand with friendly welcoming and helpful staff  albeit with a tad too much inclination to get you into the seventh layer of hell called the casino. Jesus fucking Christ i hate those places. A facade of glamour for the greedy stupid and desperate.



Into the town center and things got much more agreeable. It was Saturday tea time and the place was in full swing. It certainly isn't a classic tourist town but not short of charm, splendour or attraction. A slow burner of a place with great bars, eateries and museums. The place took a lot of damage during the two world wars but has rebuilt sympathetically and kept what it could of the old structures. It all works and is the antithesis of the dry grey hotel-casino-euro terminal area.









Two main squares provide the focus of the town and the old town pans south. A neo gothic cathedral with a modern refurbed facade dominates that part of town and is a great place to sit in the cafes around it with a Leffe or two. It isn't cheap. A 33cl draught beer costs about 5.50 and a pint about 7 quid in the smarter cafes in the more attractive areas. Restaurants and cafes are about our prices though and with it being France are great quality.



Further afield a fabulous park and canal embrace the outskirts whilst the metro system takes you into the suburbs including Roubaix, legendary finishing point of the cycling classic Paris- Roubaix race. We had a good look around most of the town center and Roubaix, particularly on Monday in fantastic sunshine.

Sunday was wet so we spent most of the afternoon in the amazing museum. A renovated art deco swimming baths the likes of which have been brutally levelled in most places. Some Great paintings, fabrics, sculptures and other artefacts but the best exhibit was the place itself. We had a similar baths in Hudders, Ramsden St baths which along with the old market and shambles area was levelled in the " modernisation" programs of the sixties. What a disaster that was.



Had a day out on the train to Arras. Quite a famous town, a "dads army" town. It was one of those places covered by arrows in the dads army opening scenes. First the British who got beaten back by the Germans before the allies liberated it in '44.  The battle of Arras was where the Germans were held sufficiently long enough for Dunkirk to turn from a complete fuckupfest disaster to a so called victory and damage limitation. Plenty of subtle reminders and exhibits around the place as well especially about the Welsh Reg. who were last out and first back in. Dunno about anyone else but visits like this get me quite emotional when seeing and reading about the times while actually in the place. Tales of extreme bravery, duty, sacrifice and cruelty   make you  thankful for what we have and indebted to the people who made it possible. The black and white grainy photos showing the buildings that are still here and the people who aren't are particularly poignant.

I have noticed like other places all over Europe that there are increasing numbers of wanderers. I don't really know what to call them without invoking some disdainful connotations, have we a word for people like this?.. Some look happy, most don't but none were a threat to anyone. Anyway, wherever i go these days be it Huddersfield, Leeds London or anywhere their numbers are increasing and Lille was no exception. Guess i shouldn't project my ideas of what a person should be onto them but it does make me sad. I was going to give a sandwich to one lad sat on the floor in town but a lass beat me to it. He took it and laughed before getting up to give it to a waiter outside a restaurant and staggered on to god knows where.

On the whole the town seemed like a quite affluent place with a slight undercurrent of unease. On a few occasions i felt hustled. The waiters were encouraging you to have large beers and the most expensive kind. A waitress tried it on in a north African restaurant with an old trick of hiding some of the change under a serviette in the hope you wouldn't see it and leave it. Service charges were added to everything but not stated and you just felt like you had to have your wits about you at all times. Same as everywhere i suppose as T B Walker said years ago times are so tough and the hustle is really on.

None of that spoilt anything, we had a great time and enjoyed the place.

See this lad in the Argy shirt? nowt unusual with that you might think except when you know that the World cup final is on featuring his own team at this very time while he is fucking about ballroom dancing


Forest

Very dramatic pictures. Ace
Plastic Man

Re: Lille

Late Doors wrote:
See this lad in the Argy shirt?]


And did you see that lass he's dancing with...

A great travelogue as usual, Sir!
Frazier Cranium

That Argentina shirt wearer might actually be Scottish and not a supporter of the team, just a truly waggish and witty supporter of Maradona's team beating us in 1986.  Loads of them at T in the Park each time, sad feckers.

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