(A bit like London buses – you wait ages for a post to come along, and suddenly three appear all at once – the third on its way soon).
Finally something (slightly) more conventionally adventurous, though I have to be honest and admit not very (adventurous that is).
This time we went to Lille for a long weekend. We’d never been there before, and with Eurostar from London the travel couldn’t have been easier (or cheaper) – just £29 each each way from London. About the same as it cost us to get to London and back.
While Lille itself was grey, cold and even snowy while we were there, we were blessed with colour all around us.
We found a flat to rent close enough to the centre to be able to walk wherever we wanted to go. There were churches to admire, galleries to visit, shops to ogle, people to watch.
The gallery in Lille is the Palais des Beaux Arts, an astonishing collection of paintings, antiquities, and extraordinary 17C and 18C relief maps that I can’t begin to describe. Get a sense of the collection by clicking on the link above – I promise you won’t be disappointed. And all housed in a gorgeous late 19C building (currently undergoing a bit of renovation and addition, so sadly the cafe was closed until April 2017. Tant pis, we found somewhere else for our coffee).
There were many paintings of women, including one of Berthe Morisot, but sadly I didn’t see a single painting by a woman (not even one by Berthe Morisot). I wonder, did I miss them? or did those who put the collection together miss them? (There was one I missed – a glorious piece by Sonia Delaunay. Damn. Next time….).
Still, the next gallery more than made up for that.
In nearby Roubaix, La Piscine Musee d’Art et d’Industrie is I think the wackiest, most gorgeous gallery/museum I’ve ever been to.
Imagine, if you can, a gallery and museum all centred upon a former 1932 Art Nouveau public swimming pool. As you walk around the sound is mostly of trickling water from a spout into the remaining pool. And then every now and again a loud soundtrack plays of all the echoey noises of an indoor swimming pool full of people enjoying themselves.
The art and craft on display ranged from the wonderful to the faintly ridiculous (a bunch of kittens cavorting in and on a chest of drawers anyone? You’re welcome).
But there was more than enough there to delight, some to amuse, and a WW1 exhibition to give us all pause for thought.
There were many many women artists exhibited alongside the men. I find myself noticing this more and more often these days, and being increasingly irritated by their (our) lack, which feels lazy.
There were several paintings showing the work involved in the textile industry which gave the town its former glory, and like many towns in the north of England, now its decline.
There was still time left for a day-trip by train to Bruges.
Throughout the (short) time we were there we walked and walked and walked. And that walking exploration was for me the main pleasure (well that and the daily eclairs – who can deny the pleasure of a good French eclair au cafe? certainly not us).
And here for those waiting for decent photos, some gorgeous images from Lille, Roubaix and Bruges by Malcolm:
Lille – Notre Dame Cathedral. The first time we visited was on a bleak, dull day. When we went back on a sunny day, the place was transformed and the extraordinary end wall glowed as the sun shone through it.
Lille – former oyster and seafood shop (now a branch of Paul bakery) – I fell in love with this building. Sadly when we returned for a coffee on our last morning it was the one day of the week it closes. Should have gone in when we first saw it. Lesson learned.
Lille – Palais des Beaux Arts – wonderful building, wonderful collection of art.
Roubaix – Musee de la Piscine – just a fabulous, exuberant place. What vision the local people who conceived this project and made it happen had. From a museum/gallery that had been closed and a swimming pool that had been closed to this.
Bruges – a few snippets – we had mixed feelings about Bruges. Loved the old (some reconstructed) buildings and the quiet streets and canals; not so keen on the big tourist spots full of people and the inevitable shops selling tourist tat. Below is a flavour of what we loved.