Lille – Capital of the North


Lille has the fourth-largest metropolitan area behind Paris, Lyon and Marseille, with an urban population over one million. It lies very close to the Franco-Belgian border, and it attracts students to it’s many universities from all over Europe. The atmosphere of Lille is the furthest I’ve encountered  from a typical French city so far and that’s no bad thing! It felt a little more like Amsterdam in it’s ambiance, it’s shops, architecture and demography; throw in a tram and a canal and you’re good to go. But of course no one wants another Amsterdam, every great city is great because there shouldn’t be another like it. It’s the same for Lille, and while I didn’t spend enough time there to really get a feel for the place I would venture to say it’s one of my favourite places that I’ve visited so far in France. What can I say I’m a sucker for a big, bustling city. It didn’t feel as safe as other places I’ve visited but that’s one of the disadvantages of a big city anywhere in the world.

The light was just stunning on La Mairie around sunset, I don’t know if it’s the colour of the stone in France or the light but it’s really spectacular at dusk (visit the Pantheon in Paris at sunset after a sunny day and you will understand). Continue reading

Genuine Pâques Fear

So Pâques means Easter in French. As an Irish lady I know all about Easter in terms of the Roman Catholic religion – Jesus on the cross, Lent, no fish on Friday (already a vegetarian mofos – I am the best Catholic-that-isn’t-a-Catholic in the room; Christian victory is mine!) the Resurrection, the purple robe and so on. Of course, Pâques in the commercial sense is not so different from an Irish Easter with chocolate eggs being the order of the day. I want to refrain from saying Pâques because I have to cut and paste it due to the little hat (circonflexe) over the “a” – not having a French clavier (keyboard) is starting to really get on my nerves – so from here on it shall be French Easter.

Why am I afraid?

Because I am going up into the Ardennes again for family lunch following a family dinner – on the same day! I shall have to be rolled home. Added to this will be chocolate, chocolate chocolate. Every time we make the trip, I feel like when I return I have gained five pounds. Not good. Tomorrow I’m going to fast a bit, like a pilgrim before Thanksgiving. Irish culture centres around alcohol, French culture centres around food. Both are equally bad for my ass to be honest. Still find I am struggling a bit against the host country.Even today in the patisserie/chocolatier centre of the world, I bought a little mass-produced, preservative-laden golden Lindt bunny. And it felt so good.

Stubborn is as stubborn does.

Sunshine with the promise of wine and castles

So here in Reims we have been revelling in 20-25 degree weather… in March. Sometimes it’s very nice to live on the continent 😉 That being said, I often find it odd at the weekends when the weather is fine, I wonder if I will always harbour a not-so-secret desire to drive to the beach. I wonder where is everyone going to go there’s no beach! We are about three hours from the coast – bizarre. Regardless of the lack of water at the weekend, I had a lovely one, chilling out in the park on Saturday, lamenting the time-change when we returned at 4am not 3am Saturday night, finishing by drinking coffee out on the street on Sunday with the French family. Nice and relaxing (even the trip to Carrefour didn’t seem to stress me out as much as it usually does due to the very good decision to go during lunchtime avoiding the crowds).

In France, on the outskirts of every city are enormous shopping parks, much like the UK and Ireland but they seem to be on a bigger scale here. So Carrefour (the world’s second-largest supermarket chain) is disgracefully busy on a Saturday, there’s just too many people clambering around like ants so I don’t let myself push the trolley as I don’t trust my temper and impatience in not ramming into an old lady or small child. Horror. I really must go with my camera next weekend and take photographs. I’ve been thinking to do it for a while but haven’t yet got around to it. The sheer amount of wine shelves, an entire aisle devoted to yoghurt, an enormous section dedicated to bread – it’s spectacular at first..and a little overwhelming when entirely in French. But I am slowly adjusting to visits to the French supermarket.

I’ll leave you with a new addition to the flat (that sounded very suspicious) a little gift of a plant on Sunday which brings our plant tally to two, however, I have yet to name this one. But the other is Fred. Now I have Frank the laptop and Fred the plant, coinciding with my love of the word “fuck” Gosh I worry for my obsession with F.  I’m off to the Loire Valley for two days, wine and castles – the perfect mix!

this is where I’m living at the moment…it does the job..