It’s the that time of the year , after Christmas and the week leading up to New Year’s Eve, wondering about the year gone by and gearing up for another year. I must admit, I love the build up leading in to Christmas and the holiday season. There is an orderly, almost sort of regulated amusements, taking you in to gaiety and merriment. The lights on the Streets get switched on , the stores are decked up, the shopping lists being made and gifts being ordered, setting up the tree at home, taking out your Christmas jumpers and hats and leading on to the maddening frenzy and then the quiet after Christmas. Last year we waltzed in to Christmas, this year not so much. This year I have stammered and stuttered in to the festivities with our little bouts of Flu and other urgent medical emergencies, which are part and parcel of human existence. This year also has been a learning that accidentally dropping a mug of coffee on yourself, causes very bad burns and scalds your skin.
This year to get in to a bit of festive spirit, I decided we need go on a petite getaway ,to a Christmas market. Lille , a city in France, which we often pass by on train to reach other destinations. Since this time we wanted somewhere closer and easily accessible to visit from London, perhaps by train and Lille with its proximity to Brugge fitted the bill perfectly. Over a weekend we could visit two Christmas market. Since we had unused Interrail Passes, all I had to do was reserve seats on Eurostar to Lille and pack the bags.
I find travelling by Interrail very convenient and easy way to travel around in Europe plus the interrail includes Eurostar trains also. Lille is a city in Northern France, close to Belgium border, has a Flemish influence and its old town, Vieux Lille has a charm, and in the holiday season, it dazzles.
Lille’s inhabitants referred as Lilloise, are known for their friendliness and we were treated by the Lilloise amiability, when we hailed the taxi from Lille Europe train station to the Hotel. I had to explain in my poorly spoken French the address, which I finally managed by pointing at my phone s google map and the post code. In spite of not knowing English, while driving , the driver managed to point to us the areas of interest , like the Beaux Arts, the Vieux Lille and Marches De Noel.
The next day we took the TGV from Lille Europe to Brussels and from there a connecting train to Brugge. It takes around one and half hours to reach Brugge. To keep me amused on the train , the cubicle had a Harry Potter Game on the tables, which made me a fan of TGV trains. Brugge is a quaint city in Belgium which also has a heavy Flanders influence. The city has a quaint allure on any day, with its Medieval architecture,canals and cobbled streets on and during Christmas the whole town shimmers and radiates. Town is decked in lights and baubles, aroma of hot chocolate and waffles wafting in the streets, making the town feel even more magically alluring.
It was nearly lunch time, we decided to have some lunch before going wandering around the magical streets of Brugge. Being vegetarians, we often gravitate towards Mediterranean, Italian or Indian food joints. We took a taxi from Brugge Station to a restaurant called Pitta Haus. The city centre from station is not very far and walkable, approximately 15 to 20 minutes walk, but we were too hungry so we decided to take a taxi.The streets were extremely crowded and there were many streets which has been closed for traffic, our driver managed to drop us right on the door steps of Pitta Haus and informing us the restaurant has a Bangladeshi chef and the curry is great and has ample choices for vegetarians. And he was indeed proven right,the food was warm and delicious. I had a Dal Soup which is served with pooris( Lentil soup and fried bread) and my husband had Aloo curry ( Potato curry) served with Pooris. There is a tray with five dips on all tables. The dips bring the taste buds and food alive.
We have visited Brugge a couple of times earlier, and the city as I mentioned has a bewitching charm, but during winters and Christmas it’s charm takes new heights. The whole town dazzles in twinkling lights, market square has a little Christmas market, there is an ice rink in the Grote Square, blaring Christmas songs on speakers,Chocolatiers and chocolate makers are bustling with activities, there are parades on street , streets packed with people buzzing around with a cup of Hot chocolate in Hand or a mulled wine, Streets are filled with an array of aromas- Chocolate, cinnamon, sugar and herbs, and it smells like Christmas everywhere. It’s is a confluence of different elements, an alchemy.
We were so busy drinking in the atmosphere and our hot chocolate, we missed our train to Brussels. We walked to the station from city centre and went to information centre at Brugge station ,to check out for the next train to Brussels to get back to Lille. We did check on the Inter-rail app which said the next train to Lille was in two hours. The lovely lady at counter said there was a train in 15 minutes to a place called Kortrijk and if we wait for half an hour in Kortrijk there was a train to Lille Flanders Station. We rushed to the platform and got in the train to Kortrijk. Upon getting down at Kortrijk, the lights from the streets were enticing, I looked at my husband, and said we can have a quick wander around and be back in time to catch our train. We walked towards the lights which was towards the old town, there was a little Christmas market. We wandered around in the market and had some Churros with Nutella, sprinkled with sugar. And then walked back to the station to go to Lille Flanders.
Upon reaching the Lille Flanders, we wandered around the Vieux Lille and Marche De Noel before returning back to our Hotel. Lille s Christmas market is situated in Place Rihour, with the Lille Wheel, in the backdrop. I looked at the tall decked up Christmas tree with dazzling lights and star on its top. It was standing tall in the shining backdrop. To me all Christmas Trees, look like a beacon of light and hope, even the small one peeping out of the windows of home with fairy lights, spreading light and hope , in the heart of home.
Wherever you may be, you look at the light and it guides you back to home , warmth and hope.
With that thought I wish you all a very Happy New year, full of light and hope!!!