Saturday, 23 December 2017
Christmas in Lille
Last Thursday, on the 21st, we decided to take two trains and wander off to Lille in France for the day.
It's actually fairly easy to go to Lille, and pretty affordable too if you already have a Railpass (which we do). So we made sure to be on the 10am train to Antwerp Berchem, where we had a 20 minute lay-over. In which time I went to get the tickets from Moescron to Lille and Bert grabbed sandwiches at Panos.
I also got a copy of British Vogue at the newsstand because I had forgotten my kindle. Urgh, such a WASTE of money! I'm going to take it into class next semester so people can rip photos out of it as painting documentation, at least it serves some good that way. But yeah, I will spare you all my ranting about British Vogue and stay on topic!
The train was one of those trains that gets split at a certain station, in this case in Kortrijk. We were a little unsure, having never done this particular trip before, which part of the train we should be in, so we wandered down the train to ask the conductor. Who sent us back from where we came from. Which turned out to be the WRONG part of the train. You'd think that NMBS personel would be competent enough to know which part of the train they're working goes where, but no, apparently not. Luckily, there the train stopped at Kortrijk for 5 minutes, so we had plenty of time to get to the right part of the train, which did go to Lille Flanders.
Lille Flanders station is right next to Lille Europe which is both underneath the Euralille mall and the TGV stop. So just like Euralille it's a 5 to 10 minute walk to the center of Old Lille (Vieux Lille – old town), depending on how fast you walk.
We were considering popping into the ferris wheel for a moment, but because the weather was rather dreary, we decided against it. It wasn't cold at all, just very dreary and rather dark with rather omnious skies.
I picked up my click and collect order at Sephora, we picked up presents for my parents at Furet du Nord (next doors to Sephora) where the kind guy manning the till I was at explained how to get to the Christmas market (right and then another right) and I got rid of my cardigan (as in, I took it off and put it in my backpack). Because it was FAR too hot for wool and I didn't want to boil myself into a raging fever and plague.
I really do like Furet du Nord, especially the one in Lille, which is HUGE. We spent quite a bit of time looking around the geek sections and I discovered that the special edition Moleskine notebooks are much cheaper in France than in Belgium. The A5 Harry Potter ones were, in fact, €10 cheaper and the A6 ones were about half the price what you would pay here. I didn't get one though, because I like the cheap three pack ones from HEMA.
I did get myself another copy of Jules Verne's 20000 Leagues under the Sea (in French, obviously) for my collection.
And I noticed this really cool version of the 3rd Harry Potter book. I wasn't about to pay €50 for it, so I took a photo to look it up later instead. Glad I did, because now I know that the first 2 books are also available in this edition AND that they are all under €30 on Book Depository! They also had the book from the British Libary exhibit, (also at €50 which I knew was much cheaper at Book Depository because it's on my wishlist) which was cool because now I could leaf through the display copy and actually see if it was worth spending near €30 on (it is, but I've not bought it yet). I like how Furet has some of these cool English books around, even in their children's and youth department.
The Christmas market was actually super small. They had sort of fenced it in on the square, with an entrance and exit next to each other and no other way in or out. There was also security checking bags when we got in, and Bert was saying I'd hold up the queue with the giant Kanken backpack, but they didn't even check it because once again: brown kanken on brown bag is inconspicuous enough not to be noticed. You'd be surprised how often that happens, even with the Kanken Big. But yeah, easy :).
Take me back to Tokyo please, Santa. When are we leaving?
This stand was awesome, because they only sold chocolate. But not just chocolate, oh no. Chocolate tools and cogs and such. It was a steampunk's dream. But sadly I am a steampunk with a limited budget so I'm sticking to my usual cheap but delicious organic chocolate from Coleruyt :).
We spent some time looking around the stalls and taking photos. Bert got some mulled wine and a sugary bretzel and when we had seen it all, we called it a day. We did find the hot cheeses my friend Dan had showed me on instagram a few weeks ago. Which was basically a cardboard little box, the type they often serve fries/chips in but filled with cheese which would then be heated up. Bert did consider one, but he was full so decided overeating was a bad plan.
So we went for a walk through old town instead, because Bert had never been there before.
Because it was a nearly 3 hour trip back home, we thought it would be best not to stay out too late. So after our walk we went to Monop (my favourite supermarket) where I stocked up on some things you can't get over here. Ok yeah, I bought more Croko Pik! Candy.
When Charlotte and I went to Lille late October, the town was super relaxed. Sure, there were security guards in the large stores, like you see in any and all large stores, but we didn't see either police or military in the street. This time 'round, there was plenty of law enforcement (both police and military) and they were really amping up security in general. I don't know about you guys, but I always feel MORE unsafe in situations like that, then when there is no blue or green in sight.
Of course we went into Euralille, because I wanted to go to some shops. There were security stations set up along the main entrance courtyard, where they were checking everyone's bags at a table. But I hadn't even opened my bag or the guy looked at us and just waved us through. I kinda wonder what it took to have your bag checked... I know we don't look like we're up to something bad at all, but still. Why bother with that kind of security if you're only creating a false sense of security anyway?
First stop was Nocibé, because I wanted more flotteur (crease blending) brushes. Which they did NOT have in stock. I was pretty shocked (and to be honest, a little peeved).
Neither of the geek shops had anything cool either (two next to each other and still no cool stuff, what is the world coming to?!)
I wanted to look in Primark to see if they had the Star Wars tacky Christmas sweater with Darth Vader's face and the quote “this is my jolly face” or some such. They didn't have that, but they did have an Adventure Time logo t-shirt in the menswear section. It was marked as €7, but when I went to pay for it, it turned out to be only €4. Huzzah!
So Bert at least has another Adventure Time t-shirt. He already had a baby blue logo one, but having a spare never hurt anyone.
By the time we came out, it was too late to still catch the train of that hour (which was going 2 minutes later), so we went to have a drink at Café Columbus instead (I was pretty disappointed I didn't get a Christmas cup!) and then had a look at the Too Faced counter in Sephora. Initially I had wandered passed Sephora, but with quite a bit of time to spare, I figured we might as well as neither of us was very interested in other stores.
The mall wasn't super busy, but it was crowded enough to put us right off exploring the place. We still had 30 minutes left to get the train when we were getting ready to leave for the station and I saw that Santa was in his little meet and greet area. I wanted to get a photo with Santa but then I noticed you had to pay at least €10 to meet Santa (and get a printed photo). Bert and I were very surprised by that, because over here you can just bring your own camera and meet Santa (or Sinterklaas). You only pay if you want a printed photo (obviously). Of course, today I saw Mykie's latest video and she spent $75 to meet Santa in LA, so I suddenly feel like €10 was mega reasonable.
I kinda wish we had stopped for outfit shots and such, because there were tons of super cool spots set up, in both the mall and at the Christmas market for Christmas photo taking. Oh well, next year! I was kinda disappointed by the size of the Lille Christmas market, but I had a really fun afternoon, so I don't really care that it was so small. I'm not sure I would go back for next year's though. There's plenty of bigger Christmas markets in Belgium that are a lot less far away I can check out. I think I prefer Lille in spring or autumn, on a random afternoon without any crowds around :).
And here's a picture of the Christmas lights surrounding the grand clock at Antwerp Central station, where we switched trains to go home. It's just a shoddy cellphone photo, but I still like how it came out.
Happy holidays everyone!
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