My French Adventure: La Braderie De Lille (part 1)

On the train at Salisbury, just before getting delayed.

On Friday 5 September, Mum and I took off for the continent via train to escape from the normality of everyday life and unwind a little bit. And, more importantly, we were off to discover the delights of La Braderie De Lille. Oh, and did I mention that we ate a lot of moules frites! You can check out my food diaries for #SugarFreeSeptember for more on that. But by the end we were well and truly ‘moule’d out!

Moules Mariniere
Moules with cheese
So many shells. And that’s just one street cafe!

So we set off Friday morning to catch the train to London. Unfortunately it was a somewhat delayed train, leading to a rush through the London underground in order to catch the Eurostar. It was mostly definitely a rushed journey and not something I plan to do again soon. Note to self: plan in extra time for delays. But once we were on the Eurostar, we both relaxed and I fetched fruit, tea and mocha from  the Waitrose-sponsored bar. 80 minutes later, we were disembarking at Lille-Europe. I was amazed at how quickly the train went from England to France. It was genuinely quicker than Wiltshire to London, without the delays!

Catching up with Dad on the Eurostar.

Having arrived in Lille, Mum and I proceeded to find our hotel. This involved being lost disorientated  for at least half an hour before finally choosing the correct route and discovering the hotel was only 5-10 minutes from the station. We did feel a little foolish after that. However, we received a great welcome at the Art Deco Euralille and built up a great relationship with the staff on reception through our broken Franglais. Our room was small but more than sufficient for the two of us, with the most amazing shower ever. So good for ridding me of annoying itches on my back. The view was great but mostly definitely a city one. Overlooking the tram lines, it took in a whole mixture of modern and traditional architecture.

We spent the evening in the hotel, recovering from the hectic trip up, before heading out to la ville-centre to find somewhere to eat. On this first night we were eager to try the local take on moules frites and plunge ourselves into the local cuisine. On the first night we chose La Houblonniere in the centre of Lille, a little street cafe that had gone into overdrive for the annual market. The cafe was a type found throughout Lille, and I assume France, but is completely different to the food establishments typically found in Britain. Not to mention the amount of alcohol flowing without the amount of drunkeness. It totally blew Mum away after her experiences as a street pastor.

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel. A bit of telly (the only English was a channel about Chinese culture) and quick wash before attempting to sleep in an incredibly hot room. Probably my only complaint about Art Deco was how hot the room was.

The next day was exploration day! That, for me, was what the whole weekend was all about. Exploring a brand new place and seeing what happens on the day. Mum was a little more nervous as she prefers to be prepared for the unexpected but she still enjoyed herself. We spent five hours wandering around the market, getting court in the crowds of the half-marathon that was also happening, being sweet-talked by traders and dreaming about mergez sausages. These are the most amazing spiced sausages that the French have brought up from Morocco. Unfortunately when I asked for one at La Brassiere De Zoo they misheard me and gave me chicken nuggets. Not happy! And everywhere else served them with bread, which I’m currently avoiding.

The paths were lined with stall after stall, making it a bit of a treasure hunt and heaven for anyone after a bargain. But it wasn’t just home, clothes, shoes and bags on offer. There was also dried sausages, cheeses, fresh pastries and nougat. So many varieties of nougat! Oh why was I going sugar free? I so wanted to cave but somehow I walked past each stall without buying a single piece. I’m crying inside just thinking about all that nougat.

After lunch we wound our way back to the hotel where we proceeded to collapse and re-copperate from the crowds. Four hours later, after some napping and some blog planning, we headed out for dinner. Yep, you guessed it, we had moules frites again. Le Basilic Cafe was probably the nearest to ‘British’ style dining that we had whilst in Lille but it was so nice to eat inside, away from the crowds that were still about. Afterwards we wandered the streets a bit more and ended up in Missmaps, the most incredible shop. They took any photo of any location and turned it into a cardboard ‘canvas’ to hang on your wall. They could also add simple maps of the town or city in question and even graphic word art to the ‘canvas’. After Mum had fallen in love with one of the Lille ‘canvases’, we wandered a bit more before deciding we were too disorientated and heading back to the hotel. My map reading definitely improved over the weekend. Half an hour later we were back at the hotel and watching more Chinese documentaries.

And I’ve now probably written enough to cover at least 2 pages of A4 so I’ll leave it there for now. Check back tomorrow for the rest of my French adventure.

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