Outing to Lille, France.
Lille –European City of Culture 2004
A visit was made by members of the ‘Continuing French’ U3A group to Lille, through the excellent organization of Margot Bishop, on the 10, 11 and 12th September.
The city was previously a Flemish capital and the architecture reflects this influence. There is a very good art gallery and lots of interesting buildings and squares in the city.
It was arranged that we caught the Eurostar train at Ashford, departure 9.30.a.m. Some of us were up at 5:30 a.m. to avoid (hopefully) rush-hour traffic on the M25/M20. For the uninitiated car parking at Ashford is expensive! The train connections were made on time both ways and we admired a posh TVG double-decker train at one point.
Lille is the birth place of Charles-De-Gaulle and our visit coincided with the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Lille by the British (primarily), Canadians and Poles on the 12th September 1944.
A parade formed up in the center of Lille behind a French military band together with old combatants with their flags and marched 3 kilometres to the Hotel-de-Ville (Town Hall). The streets were closed to traffic and a very large crowd had gathered with a lot of English people present with everyone waving French and British flags.
In the Town Hall, children’s choirs sang the two national anthems and the Lady Mayor Martine Aubrey gave a half hour speech in French, which of course was fully understood by the French speaking group of the U3A! Then followed band solos from the Coldstream Guards in scarlet uniforms and busbies alternating with the French Military Band.
A champagne reception for the bands and all the visitors took place in the palatial Town Hall.
The Hotel Novotel was comfortable with a good self service breakfast.
We dined out as a group on the first evening at a restaurant called Hotch Pot behind our hotel (Hotel Novotel). Our French hostess explained the menu in French but Sylvia was on hand to make sure we ordered what we really wanted.
Some of us went to the market on Sunday which was vast with a huge range of goods on display. We found that it was necessary to book early for the highly rated restaurants as we were turned away from several on Saturday evening. The only disappointment for some was the fact that there were no special concerts on that weekend considering we were in the European City of Culture which had a fine Opera House.
Grateful thanks must go to Margot Bishop and Sylvia Carpenter for the excellent organization, everything went like clockwork and the same number of people arrived back at Ashford as set off from Ashford!
Submitted by Tony Cuthbert and Neil Goodhead.
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Last revised 12th February 2010