Let’s face it, most people of my age didn’t do O Level French or German at school because they actually enjoyed it. Not where I come from anyway. The primary purpose of “learning” a language at school was to get a cheap holiday abroad via that essential rite of passage – the Foreign Exchange Trip.
And despite being somewhat better travelled these days, I’ve never actually returned to France since I was at school. Maybe it’s the memory of Fabrice, my exchange partner, arriving at my Very Catholic House in the early 1980s and insisting on stashing some rather seedy publications under my bed. Or perhaps it’s the lingering taste of some terrible table wine served at every mealtime that put me off for life.
Oh hang on, I quite like booze. It must have been the porn.
Anyway, my Voyage De Noel has a twofold purpose. Firstly, I’ve never been on Eurostar, and each time I go to London I find myself peering longingly towards the adjacent platform at St Pancras station, where the sleek continental trains line up. There’s still something magical about being at a UK railway station that has the word “International” in its title
Secondly, the travel supplements at this time of the year are full of rave reviews about festive markets. If you’re not from Nottingham, I could wax lyrical about my own city’s Winter Wonderland. But I’m conscious that this blog has a lot of local readers, so I won’t lie. It’s a bit shite.
So, what could be better than a couple of days off work and a trip to Northern France, taking in Lille and it’s famous Christmas Market? Joyeux Noel, indeed. I’m also planning to visit a couple of the city’s relatively new arrivals. Microbreweries. Yes, I know that if I want general rudeness, some cheap tat and strong beer, I can just go to Bulwell. What’s more, they effectively speak a different language and if you want, you can trade on Euros. Or Zlotys, most probably.
Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that Bulwell isn’t Lille. So that’s where I’m going.