Today we got up around 9.30am to check out. On Sunday’s there is free street parking so I moved the car and we then went down the end of our street to the local supermarket for cheese and ham (and cheese knife). Opposite the supermarket there was a bakery which had a queue out the front door. They had beautiful pastries and eclairs in the window so we bought a baguette, two butter croissants and two chocolate croissants which were still warm.
We walked to a nearby park that had basketball courts, table tennis tables and manicured gardens all surrounding a water fountain. We separated our baguette and put on some goats cheese or Saint Albray (similar to Camembert) with Jamón Serrano ham. We ate both croissants and rolled down the hill back to the car.
We opted to avoid toll roads and most highways on our journey to Lille even though it would double our time from 2 hours to 3 hours 45 minutes. We drove through some beautiful towns that were completely lined with two storey houses with little planter boxes of flowers and windows with different coloured shutters and they had paddocks behind them with wind turbines. Every town we went through was completely closed including petrol stations and bakeries.
We stopped to switch drivers and have some lunch at Mazancourt - a small town of three or so houses, a closed pub, an apple orchard and a town next door called Misery. I would have grabbed a beautiful red apple if there wasn’t an electric fence 10 feet high.
At this stage I was now driving and enjoying the rolling hills. It was 90km/hr between towns and 50km/hr within each town (from each township’s welcome signpost to a signpost at the end with the towns name and a diagonal red line through it). We came to a town called Péronne that was by far the biggest we had come across and it had bunting flags along the Main Street in the designs of the French and Australian flags. I didn’t know the reason for it but as per previous towns, everything was closed so I couldn’t ask. As we were leaving the town borders there was a small signpost pointing to the left of the road with ‘Australian Memorial’ and I quickly halted our journey for a sticky beak. As I found out, Péronne was a heavily fortified German battlefront during the Battle of Somme in 1914 and was ‘impregnable’ to French artiliary. It later became occupied by the German in March 1918 despite French and British artiliaries and was eventually liberated by the Australians on the 31st August 1918. The Australian army was led by Lieutenant General John Monash and due to their deficiency in numbers, the Australian soldiers were told to ‘yell like a lot of bush rangers’ to which the Germans felt threatened and were driven away from the area. The road this memorial is located on is called Avenue des Australiens.
We joined back up onto the highway before finally reaching Lille and our hotel. We checked in before making our way to the other hotel that Jip is staying at during the conference and checked in there too. We drove through the centre of Lille along cobblestone streets and beautiful buildings. Unfortunately it had started raining and we were unable to see more of the city. We stopped at the Porte de Paris, a 29 metre high arch built in 1685 and erected in celebration of Louis XIV victories and admired the Bellfroi de Lille, an iconic bell tower.
We drove into the heart of town and parked the car. In the middle of the Grand Place, they had salsa dancing classes and lots of restaurants with people sitting back and enjoying the music. We each got a beer and enjoyed the atmosphere.
Back at the hotel, we parked the car underneath for €6 and walked to a restaurant. Majority of eateries in Lille were closed but this particular street had many options open. We went for classical French and had pâté with cheese for entree and Jip had the beef stew for main meal whereas I had the Veal Scallopini. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal but we were exhausted and ended up sleeping at 10pm.
Things I have learnt in France:
- impatient drivers
- shy people when trying to communicate because they dislike speaking English
- Weather similar to Melbourne. We really have seen four seasons in one day
- don’t visit anything on Sunday’s but… parking is free.
As per previous blogs and counts, I now have a cheese count. So far this journey, I have tried 8 different cheeses.