Lille, France


La Place aux Oignons, image by Velvet.

The Column of the Goddess, La Place du Général de Gaulle, image by Velvet.

The Paris Gate, image by Velvet.

It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve developed any interest in visiting Paris. When I imagined visiting France in the past, I always thought first of the lesser-known cities instead of the cliché. My 8th grade Spanish teacher also told us Paris smells like urine, which really put me off visiting there. And besides, it’s too expected that someone visiting or writing about France would pick Paris. Why not be a little different and choose a city like Lille?

Kit Green of my Atlantic City books is descended from Lille people on her hated mother’s side. When a pogrom swept through her belovèd father’s birth city of Chornobyl in December 1902, when he was just a newborn, the family fled to their distant relatives in Lille. Most of them stayed behind in France and eventually moved around to other cities, but Kit’s infant father, his orphaned distant cousin (whom he later unhappily married), and his parents came to America, went from the Greenblatts to the Greens, and hid their true origins.

In the Summer of 1988, in my handwritten magnum opus Cinnimin, Kit’s 14-year-old daughter Raspberry Ann has her bat mitzvah in Lille. A number of other people in the family, including some of Cinni’s children and grandchildren, also go on the trip around France. The secret about the family’s Jewish origins came out in 1972, and Kit’s father, her favourite brother Saul and his family, and a number of her children reclaimed their birthright. Kit’s favourite sister Lovella, who discovered the secret years ago, had already married a Jewish man and been raising Jewish children.

The belfry of the chamber of commerce, image by Benh LIEU SONG.

Lille was founded in 640 CE, according to the legend by Lydéric and Phineart. However, modern archaeological evidence suggests that the city was inhabited as early as 2000 BCE. Today, the city has a lot of shops and restaurants in the Carrefour Hypermarket of the Euralille. The city also maintains the building where the WWII Resistance newspaper La Voix du Nord was printed. The newspaper survives as a daily, obviously with a much different focus.

There are many antiques shops, flower stalls, and secondhand bookstores in the courtyard of the Old Stock Exchange. In Vieux Lille, past the New Stock Exchange, you’ll find narrow 17th century cobbled streets and more antiques shops.

The Gille de le Boë House, image by Velvet.

Lille is home to the Museum of the Hospice Comtesse, founded in 1237 by Jane of Constantinople, Countess of Flanders. The museum is home to a lot of Dutch and Flemish artwork, gold and silver plates, Lille earthenware, and Delftware. Close to the museum is the Cathédral Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille, which was completed in honour of the new millennium.

The Musée des Beaux Arts was built between 1889-92, and second in size only to the Louvre. Its artwork runs the gamut of styles, from Picasso to Rubens, and also has many Spanish paintings, sculptures, drawings, Medieval and Renaissance exhibits, ceramics, and old relief maps.

The Natural History and Geological Museum, a 19th century building, contains taxidermic exhibits, fossils, minerals, rocks, live fish and insects, and an ethnographic wing including a mummy.

The Jewish community of Lille actually increased after WWII, and today still has a viable community of several thousand people.

Tournai Gate.

Source material: (still have my printouts from 2002!)

15 thoughts on “Lille, France

  1. I’ve visited a few different places in France – got a bus from Calais across France to Germany, but later went back to France from the south – Italy. So I did see a bit, but as I was travelling with my dad we really didn’t stay very long in most places. 🙂


  2. Lille has a great history! Thanks for sharing. I’ve only been to the “tourist” clichéd places since the one time I went to Paris it was with a promotional trip which I went on for nearly free. We visited Paris for three days and Versailles for one, and then it was back on the plane for home.


  3. Nice to meet you Carrie Anne. Found you via Alex’s blog. I can’t believe your teacher said Paris smells like Urine. Bet they have no idea how that influenced your perception of Paris for so long, lol. Well, I’ve always wanted to see it since college because of my Art History studies.

    Nice to meet you and hope you have a great week 🙂


  4. Lille looks to be a beautiful city. Hate that about the smell of urine in Paris. Bourbon Street in New Orleans late at night also smells of urine … and other things. Yuck! Thanks for cyber tour of a lovely city.


  5. Lovely images. I’ve never been to Lille, but this makes me want to go. The buildings are beautiful! Over the many visits I’ve had to Paris, the only place that smelled like urine was some of the public toilets! Thanks so much for sharing. Came over from Alex’s blog…and participating in the #atozchallenge2014… Lisa@


  6. Pingback: Happy birthday, Jaap (and A to Z Reflections Post) « Welcome to My Magick Theatre

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