Sunday, September 22, 2013

Even More French

The day after we went to Liège, we continued on our French-speaking way (we didn't plan it that way) and went for a day trip to Lille, France. Lille is, interestingly, in what is considered "French Flanders." So it's like the area of Belgium we live in, except they speak French. There's some history there involving Louis XIV claiming it for France and ultimately taking it away from Flanders, which the citizens were none too thrilled with at the time. But they got over it, started speaking French, and now, 350 or so years later, they seem pretty fluent in it.

Lille looks like a completely charming mash-up of French and
Flemish ideas.
We went without a plan, or any idea what was of interest to see. Well, actually our plan was "be in France, and see what Lille is all about," so we wandered around and soaked up the atmosphere. First, we checked out the Grand Place, which is where the buildings above were.

The Column of the Goddess, aka the Memorial of
the Siege of 1792.
The Column of the Goddess is a memorial of the Siege of 1792, during the French Revolution. The city was bombarded by Austrian cannonballs but didn't  give in. Apparently at least one of the building façades still has cannonballs embedded in it. Interesting side note: she is wearing what is called a "mural crown," which according to the ever-helpful Wikipedia represents a town or city, and so marks the statue as a sort of patron of the city.

Since we had arrived at about lunchtime, our next order of business was to find a place to eat. We stumbled upon a crepes place, and that sounded like a good idea to all of us. I didn't get photos of our savory crepes because we devoured them much too fast, but when it was time for dessert crepes I had a bit more presence of mind.

Cassonade, or Lille sugar.
Behind mine is Morgan's, which has ice cream lurking under it.
The wind thoroughly foiled the waiter's attempts to set Emily's on fire.
I mean, the alcohol on this one. He wasn't trying to incinerate her crepe.
I had no idea what "Lille sugar" was, but it seemed like the appropriate thing to order. I have since learned that the French are very serious about their sugar. It turns out it's a moist, fine version of brown sugar. I thought it tasted a little different than American brown sugar, though I don't know that I can describe exactly how. Suffice it to say, it was delicious. Morgan's crepe had a chestnut sauce, and Emily's had Grand Marnier that refused to be set on fire and I forget what the sauce was. The point of all this is, the crepes were delicious and I would take the train to Lille again just to have them.

While we were out walking, it started raining. We weren't sure if that was going to put an end to our exploration or not, but we quickly realized that everyone around us was taking temporary shelter under store awnings, so we followed suit. If the locals thought it was something that could just be waited out, we figured we'd trust them. In about 10 minutes, the rain passed over us and everyone went on about their business. It was a fun little shared moment with everyone.

And of course, there was a church. There are always churches. This one was Saint-Maurice. which Wikipedia tells me was started in the 14th century but not completed until the 19th. We had a good (if probably blasphemous) laugh over finding a statue of St. Expeditus. "Must be the patron saint of UPS drivers," I said. (Note: as it turns out, he's apparently the saint to ask for help keeping you from procrastinating, and he's also the patron saint of hackers. Hm.)

Lille has the world's slowest church-builders.
We also saw the (outside of the) Palais des Beaux-Arts. I just read that it's the largest French museum outside of Paris. I guess that when I go back to Lille for more crepes, I should check that museum out, too.

It's bigger on the inside, I think.
We had coffee, did some people-watching, and let the cacophony of French conversations all around just wash over us. It was a casual, relaxing day, and a nice way to get a feel for this particular corner of France. And with the end of our day in Lille, the end of Emily's time in Europe was also fast approaching. We had just one more stop to make - Brussels. But for the blog, there'll be an additional stop: I'm going to do a post summing up the days we spent in Gent, which were interspersed among these other trips I've been writing about. For the time being, I'll leave you with a last photo from Lille. (You know you can always click on a photo to see a larger version of it, right?)

And since it's probably bad form to end a blog post on a parenthetical statement, I'll also add that somewhere at the end of all the blathering about these visits, I'll post links to where you can see more photos from each place, because there definitely are more photos!

There is a lot going on here, and I understand
almost none of it.

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