By the evening of day two I’m pretty confident of my bearings in Lille, so I take another stroll around the main square and then back towards Rue Messana to see if there’s any more cabaret on at Le Sherwood. Sadly, I’m disappointed. Nothing gets going in Lille until late evening, and at about 6.30pm the whole area is pretty dead.
So far I’ve been making good use of the Metro to get around town, but my 24 hour pass has run out – and I feel like exploring a bit more on foot. The result is a two hour circuit as I quickly lose the bearings I’ve just found and wander aimlessly around the city’s back streets. My policy as a tourist is try not to look like a tourist, and definitely don’t look as if you’re lost. So often in these situations I tend to walk confidently on the outside, whilst on the inside I have no idea where I am at all.
Fortunately, the Christmas lights indicate where the main roads are, so I eventually end up back at the station, and a short walk from Place due Theatre and one of the best cafe bars in town.
The Moulin D’Or dates back to Lille’s time as a major textiles town, and it retains a classic French charm. One thing I don’t really get is why the French light up their cafes so brightly. A dimmer switch would add so much more atmosphere.
Cafes, of course, are for socialising and catching up on gossip, and the two girls to my left have perfected this down to an art form. At least one of them has. She has a squeaky voice, constantly talking and only drawing breath to let out a highly annoying squeak/giggle combo. As soon as her friend tries to get a word in edgeways, it’s immediately blocked by more gossip. The excitement in Girl Number One’s voice suggests a steamy tale of sex – possibly involving an affair. But since my French is mainly limited to greetings, numbers and basic food, it might as well be about the office’s latest stationery delivery.
Back towards the Station, and a quick final peek at the Grand Place. They really do know how to do lights here.
There’s time for a drink in Les Trois Brasseuers where I’m able to squeeze in a stool at the bar. The surrounding conversation sounds lively enough, until a Very Drunk Man decides to dominate proceedings. And for once, it’s not me.
He shouts at the bar tender to bring him more beer. “Demain,” comes the reply – tomorrow. But the customer, it seems, is always right. He turns to a group by the window and makes some sort of statement about not being able to get served. And then he turns to me.
I have no idea what he’s saying, and try to protest that I’m a stupid Englishman. He understands that bit, but continues to have a one way conversation. This one sounds decidedly more about stationery deliveries than sex.
Eventually, in the ear that isn’t burning, I recognise two English voices, and deftly slide my stool towards them. “Hello, you don’t know me. But could you please rescue me from this buffoon?”. Fortunately the two guys oblige. One’s from Newcastle, working for a huge engineering firm, and the other is Australian – on a working holiday but with his visa about to run out. He’s filling the remainder of the time with his French girlfriend.
It’s a good end to the evening, and the local beer goes down well. What’s more, the drunk man leaves, much to the relief of staff and punters alike.