Last weekend the Curse and I took ourselves off to Lille for a couple of nights for a belated celebration of a special birthday. The destination was intended to be a surprise for him, but I'm crap at keeping secrets and had already let the cat out of the bag some weeks ago. Heck he always did tell me that he didn't really like surprises...
It's only about 90 minutes on the train from Kings Cross, which makes it handy for short trip and the city is small, compact and easy to walk around. It's a lovely combo of arts and crafts, cake shops and Belgian beer and we found the people to be extremely friendly and welcoming.
We packed a lot into the weekend, including quite a bit of hanging out in the bar of our very sumptuous hotel.
Right opposite the hotel, tucked behind the shabby 1960s shopping centre, we found the town hall with its glorious bell tower. Apparently bell towers are something of a tradition in northern France and are seen as a symbol of independence. Luckily this one was built in the 1920s and had a lift; it was also fabulously lit at night.
Out the front of the town hall is a monument celebrating the opening of the building and featuring fine, upstanding country folk carved in a Soviet-esque style.
More towers in the main square, which is an imposing space surrounded by fine buildings and many bars.
Meert bakery; home of the famous Gaufres (wafers) which are sandwiched together with various flavoured pastes and sold in boxes. The bakery sells a huge array of dainty sandwiches, biscuits and cakes, as well as old-fashioned-looking sweets in a traditional sweet shop next door. There's a tearoom at the back too.
On the same street I found a fabulous craft shop with walls that had shelves from top to bottom with dozens of jars of buttons on one side, and a huge array of yarn skeins on the other; turns out it's a French craft shop chain!
We rounded the weekend off with a trip to the former textile town of Roubaix - accessible by metro - where we paid a visit to the museum which is housed in a former art deco swimming pool. Incredibly beautiful and peaceful, the museum has a permanent collection of sculptures and paintings, including quite a lot of local artists, and also has historical artefacts relating to the textile industry for which Roubaix used to be known.
They have a lot of sample books, some of which are open on display behind glass, the rest you can see by appointment. Many of these samples came from the early part of the 20th century which I was very surprised by, I thought a lot of them looked far too modern!
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