FRANCE & SPAIN
Thursday 4 June
Up at 4.45am, just as well, as reception failed their 5am call. Booked out, District from Bayswater to Edgeware Road, Circle to St Pancras, Eurostar to Lille. No dramas only lugging cases up and down stairs in the absence of lifts is not great on the knees and Lilly insists on doing her share.
We find the hotel, try some bumbling French on the very friendly and understanding receptionist (quickly realizing her English will get us all by) book in, get a map and spend most of the day walking around this intriguing and beautiful city.
Lille has a population of about 230,000, with a recorded history going back about a thousand years. The Grand Place and many of the squares are teeming with cafes and people drinking and eating. Are there any French left doing anything else?
The Column of the Goddess in the centre of Grand Place is the popular name given by the citizens to the Memorial of the Siege surrounded by a fountain since around 1990. It commemorates a siege by the Austrian army of 20,000 men in 1792. Apparently this was part of the French revolutionary wars and has no great significance.
We spend 2 or 3 hours in the Palais Beaux-Arts Lille which is ranked only behind the Louvre in France for its collection of art and compares favourably with the National Gallery in London. In the huge upstairs rooms, which are like caverns themselves we find paintings by Rubens, Chardin, David, Monet, Veronese, El Greco and Ribera. Lilly is taken with the home room of sculptures particularly the muscular nudes either on horseback or just posing.
Later I get confused with the map – am I disoriented by where the sun is? I google it:
“It is very commonplace for pilots, sailors and walkers on my courses to report an uneasy feeling on venturing from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern or vice versa. It is almost equally common for these same people to report that their other half does not experience this sensation. My informal analysis of this is that those who regularly navigate for any reason have a more active subconscious alignment system based on external clues, like the sun. Their system is imperfectly reset when they change hemisphere as the sun’s direction has ‘flipped’ during the middle of the day and since it was a subconscious process it causes unease (a sensation that borders on nausea in the worst cases). Where a wife or husband does not experience this, my guess is that wayfinding is less important to them, and their system is not significantly active and therefore little or no reset is necessary.”
That explains it perfectly. I am always switched on to navigating my way around. In London and now again in Lille I am having real problems with map interpretation. Map and reality are all about face. It’s where the sun is I am sure. Lilly, not usually switched on at all to geography, had to help this evening as we made our way to Vieux Lille. At least Lilly is at home in Lille.
Vieux Lille is an old part of the city with narrow cobbled alleys and bars and restaurants aplenty. It also contains the city’s museum, the Cathedrale Notre Dame de la Treille and the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle. We saw the cathedral at the end of the street but had run out of time for anything else.
A restaurant that I read about was fully booked so we trudged back to main part of the city for starters, a steak and a beer (me) and mixed grill and water (Lilly). No change from equivalent A$80. Lilly will not want to eat out again as it was pretty ordinary. I tell her only if we are prepared to pay double that, will we dine tres bon in France.