Okay, I admit it, I wasn't able to do much Christmas stuff before Christmas, for a multitude of reasons. But on December 26th, I was finally able to take a train to Lille to finally have my own Christmas moment.
This sort of event starts by looking at the departure board at Gare du Nord.
Due to "weather conditions" just about all of the trains were delayed about 10 minutes. My train was no exception, but I finally got aboard and was on my way to Lille.
58 minutes later, I had arrived at the Lille-Europe station (on the main line to London).
I checked in to my nearby hotel, but quickly came out again to experience the streets of Lille. I quickly entered the pedestrian zone in the center of Old Lille.
Ooooh, there was a little Christmas train for the kids.
It didn't take long for my nose to find the Christmas market.
Frankly, these prefab identical chalets everywhere at every Christmas market are a pain in the ass, but I accept them because really, what can you expect for temporary markets that last about a month at best?
Some of the stuff for sale is interesting and some of it a bit less.
In any case, the crowds were still out on December 26th.
The Lille Christmas market has not forgotten our Canadian friends.
Santons are perhaps the most typical Christmas market item in France. They were created in Provence and represent every imaginable visitor or animal that could be found in a Christmas crêche scene. Some people collect hundreds of them.
Frankly, though, not too many people are interested in preparing a crêche scene, as evidenced by the numerous Maghrebi, Asian or African French visitors to the market, besides the 90% of non-practicing ethnic French nominal Christians. But these figures are always fun under a tree or on the mantle of the fireplace. I personally don't own any, but I might start buying some one of these days.
Other ethnic items are also popular. Orthodox Christmas isn't for another two weeks, so Russian dolls or icons were totally appropriate for a post-Christmas Christmas market visit.
Don't care for the old traditional things? Not a problem!
Yaaaaay ~~ this was really fun. Interesting to see some of the same overly cutesy stuff that might be found in a similar fair in the US, but other items were really desirable. Weren't you tempted by the retro toy vehicles? The Russian things are quite appealing.
I totally love your thumbnail rush from Paris to Lille ~~ great innovation.
Hey, Lille's station is a giant "L" -- perfect.
Question: do all little European kids now get their major gifts and celebration on Christmas instead of on Three Kings day? Since that was traditional in large parts of Europe, doesn't that mean that the Christmas season is still going on?
Most French kids get their gifts at Christmas, and the lucky ones in French Flanders, Lorraine and Alsace also get gifts for St. Nicolas on December 6th, like the kids in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.
Meanwhile, it was pretty cold, but there were ways for people to warm up.
Lille is a really lovely city to visit at this time of year.
Should I have a nice warm dinner or eat sugary crap?
You know of course that my choice was obviously a nice warm dinner. I headed straight to Aux Moules and had an excellent meal.
I'll try to return next year, but someone has told me that I absolutely must go to Brussels for Christmas. Apparently, the Grand' Place is stunning beyond belief and I can readily believe this. But I want to go to Strasbourg again, too.
Please, Santa, can I have 3 Christmases next year?
I've never had white mulled wine, but as Alsatian whites are better than their reds, it might be worth a try. That is the kind of thing I'd never drink in any other context, but remember having a glass at a chilly outdoor festival and I actually enjoyed it, but wouldn't have two.
Yes, people always want maple syrup. Ha, fake Amerindian stuff.
A thematic collection of santons representing a specific set of trades or something could be interesting. Here, the Italian church Nostra Signora della Difesa (which I can see from my kitchen window) has a yearly crêche and I remember a cat sleeping in the manger before baby Jesus showed up. The cat must have thought it entirely fitting that people set up a warm, dry place for it, heated by the lighting.
Well, those chalets are nothing but prefab shacks, but what do you expect?
I do actually prefer the uniformity of the chalets. If everybody created their own, there would be some over-the-top spectacular ones and some really pathetic hovels. The current system creates a sort of equality which should probably be one of the official holiday values anyway.
Then I went to the Tri Postal and returned to the Lille-Flandres station right next to it. (Note to anybody visiting Lille: the Tri Postal is between the Lille-Europe and the Lille-Flandres stations, which are just 400 meters apart, so there is never any problem to go there, even if your time is short.)
People were waiting for their train platforms to be listed.
My train was five minutes late ("meteorological conditions"), which is not very important for such a short trip.
We pulled out of the station....
... and less than one hour later, I was back in Paris.