Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Day trip to Lille 2018

During the second week of our holiday in England, Heather & John took us on a day trip for Ivor's 60th birthday. We went to Lille, France, by Eurostar train. This was my first visit to France, and also my first trip on a high-speed train. The thought of going through a tunnel under the sea is somehow more alarming than going through a tunnel under a mountain, for some reason, but during the journey I didn't think about it.

We walked through the old city to the tourist information office to book a bus tour of the city for that afternoon. Then we had lunch. I enjoyed a traditional vegetable stew accompanied by quinoa and salad.

Column of the Goddess, a symbol of the city's resistance to occupation

After lunch we walked along the canal to the citadel. It is currently used by the French rapid reaction force, so we were unable to go inside, but it was originally designed by Vauban and is known as the Queen of Citadels.

Gateway to the citadel

On our way back to the old city we saw the Cathedral, with its modern façade.

We passed a dog café, but didn't go inside.

In the old city, we saw the Chamber of Commerce and then walked around a used book fair held in the Bourse. This included books and old illustrations, some of them removed from old books and magazines to be sold as artwork.

Chamber of Commerce

Book fair at the Bourse

The bus tour around Lille was interesting, but it was difficult to take good photographs from the bus. The guide gave explanations, and there were also video screens with narration in several languages and passengers could choose which language to hear on their earphones. This tour allowed us to see more of the city and to get some perspective on its history and architectural diversity. I was able to get a reasonable picture of the statue of Joan of Arc, but not of the house where Charles de Gaulle was born.

Statue of Joan of Arc

Our day ended with dinner and shopping at the Euralille shopping mall near the station. 

L-shaped building near Euralille
I enjoyed this taste of a new country. Each city is unique, and while many tourists would visit Paris on their first visit to France, Lille had its own character and was worth visiting. I expect I will visit other places in France some time in the future.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Holiday in England - part 2/2

The second week of our holiday was spent in the south east, mainly in Ivor's home county, Kent. I will write a separate account of our day trip to Lille, France.

We visited Maidstone, where we enjoyed the river and the old buildings.

The next day we went up to London. First we visited the Guildhall, where we saw the remains of a Roman amphitheatre, the Great Hall, and St. Lawrence Jewry Church.

After lunch, we wanted a peaceful place to relax. We went to Bunhill Fields cemetery, where we saw the tombstones of Daniel Defoe, William Blake, and others. We sat on a bench and watched people on their lunch break, and also spotted some squirrels. We don't get squirrels in Israel, so I enjoy seeing them in England.

Next, we visited Shoreditch, a part of London that is becoming gentrified and hipster. We saw evidence of this, and also of the resistance to this trend in the local graffiti. We visited the Brick Lane Bookshop, which had a good selection of political and radical books. I overheard someone say "Oh yes, Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment"! We passed by several hipster-type establishments, including the famous Cereal Killer café and places selling vinyl records and rainbow bagels (or "beigels"!).

Our reason for visiting this part of London was Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium. This is a cat café, housing several cats, and decorated with a Through the Looking Glass theme. We went into the basement, where we were able to interact with the cats. We were served afternoon tea, with sandwiches and cakes. I had the vegan/dairy-free option, and there was too much food to finish. Unlike in some cat cafés, most of the cats are not available for adoption but are permanent residents. This was an enjoyable experience, and  I was pleased to see that all the guests were respectful of the cats.

The next day we had another animal-related visit, this time to Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats. We were able to feed the goats cornflakes and dry pasta.

Later we visited Tenterden, another picturesque town. I was pleased to find a Tiny Free Library and to see a bee in the fuchsias.

Another place we visited in Kent was Stoneacre House, a lovely 15th century home and garden.

Rye in East Sussex is a lovely coastal town. We visited the Ypres Tower, with its impressive views, walked along Mermaid Street, and visited Lamb House, home of Henry James.

The morning before our return home, we had a walk in Hawley Wood for a welcome final dose of English green.

We also visited the Old Windsor branch of the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, but photography was forbidden. This was my second visit to this place, and I was once again impressed with the facility. This was a lovely conclusion to a very enjoyable holiday.