On my recent trip home to Europe, I spent several days in London (as you’ve seen from previous posts), staying with longtime dear friends and every afternoon visiting my 93 year-old aunt. Then my friends and I left for a few days in France.
Leave central London by rail on the Eurostar, and in less time than it takes some people in the Washington area to drive to work every day, you can be on French soil. Waterloo Station to Lille-Europe Gare (seen here) takes 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Lille is in northern France near the border with Belgium and was formerly a major textile manufacturing center. It’s now an important part of the European TGV (train à grande vitesse) network. Lille’s best-known native son is probably the late French president, Charles de Gaulle.
The city has much of interest, including an art museum that is widely reputed to be second in France only to the Louvre, and the first driverless metro system in the world, which was also the longest until the opening of the Vancouver Sky Train in 2002.
When you leave Lille-Europe Gare, one of the first things you see is this sculpture. The serpentine stems and predatory blossoms made me uneasy. The flowers had, for me, the repulsive fascination of Venus Flytrap plants, and the purple tulip on the left reminded me of Audrey Jr., the impossible-to-stop plant in Little Shop of Horrors.
The sculpture is called Tulips of Shangri-la and is the work of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Anyone who knows the artist would recognize the work, if only from the trademark polka dots. I haven’t consciously heard of her and didn’t recognize it, but I think I may have seen other examples of her work because there was something familiar about it. I’ve since learned that she has suffered hallucinations and suicidal tendencies since childhood and now, after many years in New York, she chooses to live in a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo and work from her nearby studio.