London, St Pancras - Lille
11 Nov 2010
|Thursday November the 11th, Armistice Day, no coincidence that I planned this trip to WW1 battlefields in Northern France or as they say Pas-De-Nord (which means north country or region). Originally had booked the Eurostar to Brussels as this would be a more central location to pick which areas of the Western Front I wanted to tour, however with the Eurostar stopping in Lille this would be the ideal city to start my tour from.
I was booked on the 0730 train from St Pancras (Kingscross) which did not stop at Lille, and went direct to Brussels, if I waited for the 0830 Eurostar then I could have got off at Lille. I asked the conductor/ticket inspector to transfer to the later time, but in a strict by the book British system were unable to bend the rules here (I should have just shut up and got on the next train). As it turned out no one inspected the tickets, but then again I would have run the risk of not getting a seat on the 0830 and other further complications involved at the other end, so best to stick with the original plan, the lesson learned here is that you can try to look to change plans as much as you can, and they should be flexible, as oportunities present along the way, you should be able to change tact as the situation may allow, to up the deal - which I could have avoided the extra train fare from Brussels to Lille, although I would have lost an hour waiting at St Pancras. You make plans, have an intent but always be open, never too set in concrete, which you can change.
Armistice Day - what does that mean, well back in 1918 Fighting in World War One ceased with the signing of an armistice between Germany and the Allies at 11am.
The original idea was to get to one of the memorials on the Somme for 11am, however this plan got thrown out the window as I got stuck on the train to Brussels, never mind, the thought was there and anyway the weather was not ideal with heavy rain continuous throughout the day.
Got to Brussels and wasted three hours here, first to get cash (Euros) out had to walk all the way into city centre for that, then weighed up the option of hiring a car or getting a train pass for five days - both were very expensive. The middle option was more logical, get a train back to Lille for 20.20 Euros big deal!
Don't like Brussels much, dirty seedy place and have been here before five years ago toured around the city, failed to impress. Onto Lille via Ath change at Tournai, with only a minute between trains as delayed leaving Brussells.
Arrive in Lille around three in the afternoon. Walk from the station to Place du General de Gaulle (also called the Grand Place).
Lille may be France's most underrated major city, it was long an industrial centre, its economy based on declining technologies, but with the help of government investment transformed into a confident cultural hub. An attractive old town with a strong Flemish influence architecture.
Go visit the tourist office to ask about accommodation and prices, got a reservation booking for the hostel as this was the cheapest option. Got a map to, maender through the shopping strips (Lille is big on shopping) find Paris de Rue corner of Malpart, with the fancy Hospice Gantois on the corner (out of my league) find the hostel its an old former hospital building, grey and drab, but will do nicely.
At the hostel, sit and wait as reception dealing with backpackers checking in, sitting in a cool lounge setting, finally ge to my turn, nice blonde/reddish hair girl (reminded me of Oksana) had to buy a hostel international card, all up came to 25.40 Euro - this is a bargain and fits with my budget. In my room, named Athens (all the other rooms named after famous ciites in Europe) handy way to remember your room number, meet up with Cameron, a young Aussie, been in Germany Bavaria Ottobeuren, plays guitar, chippy from Tenterfield Qld. some other Morroccan guy practising English with Cam.
Hang out with Cam, grab a bite to eat in town, a low case French joint, serving basic food chicken half roast and chips, couple of Amstel beers.