Leaving Normandy for a spell in Paris we managed to get timings haywire and so had rather a wait at Valognes to board a train for the three hour run into Gare St Lazare. Settling into the tranquility of the Tuttle apartment we find all is in apple pie order. Thank you Claire and Ty. I had felt a real surge of pleasure as we stepped off the train – we are in Paris, one of the most desirable destinations in the world. And we have friends who live here! We go out for an early supper then go back to cards or our books and to plan our itineraries. Excited.
The following morning we board a train from le Gare du Nord for a day trip to Lille. Despite our friend Georgy’s reservations, amounting more or less to ‘what would there be there to interest us’ visiting Lille is part of a mission to see more of France and at least to see some of the principal towns and cities.
Well, we made for Vieux Lille, enjoying old buildings along the way including the wonderful old Bourse. I shopped here and there finding a great shop to buy the indelible white marker pens I need for my fancy slate plant markers. We walked past mouth-watering Patisserie vitrines and wine shops. Some nice clothes shops too. I found La Case de Cousin Paul which sells light garlands which you can have made up in colours of your choice. A great idea for the balustrade at The Old Workshop. I bought gifts in bookshops to tuck away and best of all a coup de Coeur chapeau melon rouge, proposed by Nick and I will have to find the conviction to wear!
After lunch and a look in the Cathedral we walked across to la Citadelle, a Vauban construction and walked round the ramparts. You need to see some aerial shots to appreciate the magnificence of the design and construction. As we walked the ramparts we spotted herons perched on the apices of the stellar-shaped walls. At least two, motionless for so long we wondered if they CCTVs perhaps? They stood at the apical corners of the stellar-shaped walls, staring down into the moat that we thought they were decoys shielding cameras! Then just when you thought they must indeed be artificial, a slight turn of the head convinced otherwise.
There are a small free zoo and lots of kiddy roundabouts in the adjacent grounds. The innards of La Citadelle are home to the national Rapid Response corps attached to NATO. We walked back into Lille, stopping at a very English salon de the for a pot of tea and it was too late to reach a suitable museum before closing. However we did find that the inner courtyard of the Old Bourse was open and hosting a small flea market where I bought a french translation of Sarah Waters first novel Caresser le Velours with a rather beguiling cover, which is really why I bought it, and to lend! Frightfully good lesbian author who has been Booker nominated. So we sat and drank wine and nibbled shared apero and read our novels in the main square, and then we found a rather good restaurant with a colourful cast. We were greeted by the dandy owner, he of a high pitched chuckle and a generously rounded shadow; a curious diminutive maître d, with a crayon or two missing from his pencil box and who might have been otherwise employed in a circus; an attractive butch blonde sommelier; and two pretty young things as waitresses. We ate well, I loved the rognons de veau Sauce Robert and even though he orders it whenever he sees it Nick on a menu Nick could not resist the 7 hour-cooked gigot. As we were on a set menu, cheese was de rigueur and cafe gourmand could not be shunned. We had 20 minutes to ask for the bill and get our train, necessitating a brisk walk. A great day and we walked our socks off, which was just as well given our calorie intake.