Monday, August 26, 2019

A Lille Gem

Town Hall Belfry
 Almost a decade back, I took a train ride on Eurostar from London to Paris, just to experience the thrill of going through the English Channel on a train. It was an exhilarating experience to go through the Chunnel( Channel Tunnel) at a speed of 160km/hr and is still fresh on my mind. I vividly remember having seen Calais and Lille where the train stopped briefly, in France. They appeared to be small towns in the middle of nowhere. What a coincidence to arrive in Lille almost a decade later and this time it was for a stay of four days to explore places around. The journey on EU Rail trains passing through Belgium was very eventful as I had two interchanges at Antwerp and Courtrai. It was almost 6.30 PM when I arrived at the sprawling Lille Flanders station right in the middle of the city. As I stepped out of the station, I was taken aback by the number of people and beautiful buildings that surrounded me. The streets were festooned with huge colourful cutouts and images. A sprawling Carrefour store and Shopping Mall was just across the street. With a bit of effort, we managed to locate our accommodation which was just a 15 min walk from the station.
Vieille Bourse

The next day we went to explore Dunkirk. The details can be read on my blog post(  ).

After the return from Dunkirk, the next day was exclusively earmarked for exploring the Lille Gem:) There are several things that make this fourth largest city in France, a special. A world heritage site, the town hall Belfry dominates the skyline. It is a towering 104 m high and was built in 1932. It has an observation tower built atop which offers a splendid view of the city and the Flanders region on a clear day.
Church of St Etienne

A short walk leads us to the Church of St Etienne that was built-in 1732 in Baroque style. The site features 12 medallions representing 12 apostles, an organ, confessionals and a square bell tower. It is a lovely structure.
The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is the main square of the city and is the birthplace(the Year 1890) of the legendary General De Gaulle an erstwhile president of France. Till 11thcentury it was the corn market and is the hub of the city now. Thee are many well-preserved buildings in the vicinity that includes Vieillei Bourse an Old Stock Exchange built-in 1653. It comprises 24 identical houses surrounding an arched courtyard that now house second-hand book stores and shops of florists. Le Furet Du Nord is the largest bookstore in Europe, just the opposite. Further, three female statues stand crowning the Voix du La Nord newspaper building around the square. Built-in 1932, the statues represent the three northern provinces of Artois, Flanders and Hainault. Next to this is the Grand’Garde, a building that housed soldiers in the 16th century and is currently used as a theatre. At the centre of the square is a statue of 
The Goddess of Lille

The Goddess that commemorates Lille’s victory during the Austrian canon ball siege of 1792. She holds the fuse that fired the canons in her right hand and her left-hand points to the inscription on the pedestal that says “The courageous refusal of Mayor Andr√© of Lille to surrender the town.”
Mouthwatering treats- The Meert
The square is now used for various congregations and staging protests. There are a number of cafes around this. A prominent one which has long queues most of the time is Meert. the famous patisserie. It was founded in 1677 and has been serving the mouth-watering sensational pastries and pies to this day. A place highly recommended for satiating the taste buds and ignoring diet advice!
The Lille Cathedral
The Lille Cathedral is the largest Roman Catholic church in the heart of the city. I was constructed in 1854 but could be restored to present shape only in 1999 having faced the destruction in WW1 and WW2. 
The beautiful interior of the Notre Dame de la Trellis
The statue of the Virgin Mary is protected by an iron trellis. Hence the place is also called as Notre Dame de la Trellis. The facade is made out of tall 110 marble sheets and was designed by Peter Rice who had also designed the Sydney Opera.
Palais des Beaux-Arts
We then headed to Palais des Beaux-Arts, a grand museum of fine arts. It was established in 1801 under the helm-manship of Napoleon Bonaparte. Some prized artists whose works are displayed here are Rubens, Van Dyck, Goya, Amaury Duval and Monet.
Birth of Venus by Amaury Duval (1862)at the Museum

Parc Henri Matisse is a public garden spread over an area of 8 hectares. It comprises of four distinct spaces and four different themes. This garden was designed to be in s state of constant evolution with the changes in season.

The interesting culture and the sights are very endearing and leave the footprints in the memory for posteriority. The most amazing thing that I discovered after exploring Lille was the rich variety it has to offer to a casual visitor who went with an expectation of a quiet visit to a place relatively unknown- A true gem indeed.

PS: All pictures in the blog are mine. Will explore a new place in my next blog

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