Lille as the first French city I visited was unforgettable in a specific way because my teenage dream about France was, kind of, totally busted.
Lille was quite a weird entrance to France. That was because we went from Belgium and Lille was the closest French city by train. Sadly it didn’t impress us a lot, but that’s probably due to the weather and the fact that we only stayed for one day. Also, by the time we arrived at Lille, we were already a bit tired of intensive intellectual provocations, especially artistic ones, so we wished to walk around and be able to see the city (if the weather was nice).
We weren’t able to find a host in Lille so we spent our first 2 hours looking for a youth hostel. It made me feel a bit insecure and nervous about not having a place to stay after arrival but apparently my mind was opened so much wider that I no longer cared. At some point of searching I was even thinking it would be fine to sleep over in the train station. Anyhow, that was the first time I stayed neither in a hotel nor with a local host. We felt grateful because breakfast was included, we had our own shower and mostly, our own beds. We both passed the age of being passionate about girly sleepovers and sleeping on the same bed with a friend means we somehow have to sacrifice our personal habits of “taking a sleep”. For instance I usually sleep later than Aukse and I make turns, which can be quite disturbing. So we were glad we took a break in the middle of our trip.
Even though we were a bit tired of art museums because we have seen many great ones in Belgium AND in a short period of time, we entered the Art Museum of Lille and found out that it was actually a charm. It has a large collection and they were organizing a Donald Duck version of classic paintings at that time, so we were slightly amused by this.
That was a short description of the museum visit because really the main point wasn’t about museums anymore, not in Lille. 10 minutes away from the museum we found a park, and there were city bike stations nearby. We decided we will rent a bike and ride it around the park. I haven’t been riding a bike for more than 10 years and the first moment I picked it up again it was surprising smooth. Haha. That’s because I am smart. Anyways, we had a really fun ride in the park because I almost lost control turning around corners, and Aukse was laughing really hard behind me. She said I rode my bike like it was a F1 racing car. She and a local dog-walking man was also amazed by my excellent skills passing a tiny bridge, which normal people would’ve hopped off the bike and push it over … Somehow I felt really excited and couldn’t care less about my safety and how others looked at me, so I did it. That was crazy, but we had a good laugh.
We had dinner in a pizza place and ended our day. On my bed I was probably too tired to reflect on the day, but I wouldn’t forget how shocked I was stepping out of the train station and entering France for the first time. I have dreamt about going to France since around 13, but when I really got there I am already 19. Of course I didn’t dream about how romantic French lovers were, but I did imagine all French women being independent, sassy, worry-free; and men being well-groomed, wearing clothing that fits, maybe also with a pair of glasses and a cup of coffee that wasn’t from Starbucks. What I have seen more in Lille, were tourists, and couples with a baby trolley and a bigger child. Babies and children are cute and I love them too, but this somehow reminded me that at one point, a grown up has to sacrifice his/her personal life if he/she wants a family. I feel honestly terrible having to sacrifice my sleep for an early day in a foreign city so “I won’t miss out the city and waste the money coming here”. I clearly know I don’t want to be a grown up that soon.
But it was a blessing to be in France when it was me who brought myself to this country. If it was my parents who paid for me to visit France when I was crazy about it, I would never realize that France is the same as any other country and there will be social problems the government needs to deal with. I had a more realistic picture of Europe and I am happy about that. Plus as we were still kids, we had great fun in the park in Lille, so it wasn’t too bad !
P.s. there isn’t yet a cover photo for this post, but there will be one after I am back in HK