Where a market is held...

Where a market is held…

If I had the misfortune of spending time in Le Havre, considered by many to be the ugliest city in Normandy (I do have to admit that it is nice that the city has a tramway system. Although that doesn’t mean that the city is any more aesthetically beautiful), it’s only appropriate that I ended my stay in France in one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been in.

Lille is a large city in northern France near the Belgian border that is famous for, among other things, its Flemish-style architecture (which resembles that of Belgium more than France) and… I’m not sure what else. There are beers and cheeses native to the region, but I’m not sure if Lille is famous for that. As the north of France is rather industrial, that region has been considered the butt of jokes but I’ve heard nothing but good things about Lille.

Gare Lille Flandres - my arrival place in Lille

Gare Lille Flandres – my arrival place in Lille

So I took the train to Lille (via Amiens) to see Axelle (one of my best friends when I was living in Rouen) and her partner, Fabrice. I had never met Fabrice before but I had spent a lot of time with him modifying his resume in the past. Axelle and Fabrice live in the city centre, a relatively short walk from the Gare Lille Flandres (Lille has two major railway stations). They moved into their apartment relatively recently, and… they have some work to do, to say the least. But I’m sure it will look like a wonderful place.

La Voix du Nord is a big newspaper based in a Lille. We spent some time shopping in FNAC.

La Voix du Nord is a big newspaper based in a Lille. We spent some time shopping in FNAC.

After arriving in Lille, I spent quite a bit of time relaxing with Fabrice and Axelle over some food and hot chocolate. I don’t want to go into some of the things that were said but I did talk about some of the issues my father is facing. In addition, Axelle, Fabrice and I talked about Asperger’s Syndrome. I may have Asperger’s Syndrome – or symptoms of it – so Axelle told me that I should take a test to find out what degree of Asperger’s I may have.

This guy sounded good...

This guy sounded good…

These street performers also sounded good...

These street performers also sounded good…

After the midday meal and hot chocolate, we spent a lot of time shopping and window shopping. Any large French city is great for shopping but oddly enough in Lille, but there are high-end shops in the seemingly “older” parts of town (the ones with cobblestone streets) that sell products like expensive clothes. I wanted to get a souvenir from France (It is kind of hard for me to get decent souvenirs from France because I’ve spent a lot of time there) but nothing too expensive.

I forgot the name of this market but it's a great place for inexpensive shopping

I forgot the name of this market but it’s a great place for inexpensive shopping

Fortunately, in the big market in the city centre (I can’t believe I forgot its name), there were inexpensive items such as books, posters, stamps, DVDs, coins and… money 🙂 Foreign currency was available and better yet, old French money. I found an old, 10-franc banknote that was printed in 1945. It’s a bit crumpled but I finally have an old French banknote, and it only cost €3. Now that I think of it, I should have bought another old banknote. That will obviously have to wait for the next time.

A bit  cumpled, but an old French banknote

A bit cumpled, but an old French banknote

The other side of the old French banknote

The other side of the old French banknote

As it was my last night in France, I was (obviously) hoping it would be fun. And the good news was… fun would be on the menu. Except I didn’t know exactly what it would detail. After we all took late afternoon/early evening naps, we went to a location I don’t remember despite Axelle and Fabrice telling me. Anyway, we were headed someone outside of Lille – maybe 25-30 minutes from their place – for a party 🙂

I didn't munch on this...

I didn’t munch on this…

I don’t know whose house we were in, but one of the first people I met – Philippe – is a co-worker of Fabrice. However, they had never met before because their workplace is so large. A decent number of people showed up, and it was really awesome to down beer as I had pretty much lived off le chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) during this French stay.

I'm not sure what Olivia and Cecile are looking at...

I’m not sure what Olivia and Cecile are looking at…

A local beer... biloute also means

A local beer… biloute also means “penis”

And some of those beers were local ones. I can’t say I’ve tried a lot of French beers. When I was living in Eu, I would usually drink Kronenbourg (which despite its non-French sounding name, is actually from Alsace) at the Bar du Co. So much so that Bertrand handed me a Kronenbourg tee-shirt. As for the beers I had on Saturday, I don’t know too much about them. I don’t discriminate when trying new beers, and two of them were… well, one of them is pictured above. And the other one is named Ch’ti.

In good hands...

In good hands…

Maybe you don’t know but several years ago, there was a popular French movie named Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the movie but I’ve heard it is so hilarious as… well, you have to click on the link to get an idea about it. But it is interesting that a lot of the slang used in the movie is unknown to people in other regions of the country. If I’m not mistaken, the film was even subtitled in French cinemas.

(Speaking of movies, I find it’s weird very few French people seem to know L’Argent de Poche, a French film I first watched in middle school that was directed by the legendary François Truffaut. Philippe and Fabrice seemed to have never heard of L’Argent de Poche and the former told me that he grew up with Hollywood films)

Fabrice and Axelle

Fabrice and Axelle

Anyway, the party was a lot of fun. Of course, good beer helps but there was also good music and pizza – in addition to fun people to talk to (Some of whom could hold down a conversation in English. Or maybe their English is much better after drinking beer). It felt so great to party with people my age…

Unfortunately, all good parties have to end. Axelle, Fabrice and I left at about one a.m., and they took me to my bus departure spot.

But a party isn’t a bad way to end a vacation 🙂


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