Bienvenu en France!

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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.

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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.


6 Responses to Bienvenu en France!

  1. MLL says:

    On aurait pu se rencontrer…I live 15/20 km south Lille.
    I’m glad you talk about it on your blog and I hope you had a great time. The “gens du nord” have the reputation of being kind, warm (? I mean “chaleureux”). And there are lots of interesting things to see in the North of France. If you want you could have a look at that website :
    And have you already heard about the “Louvre-Lens” ? (
    Dernière chose : Un très grand merci pour votre email et toutes les informations que vous m’avez données, elles nous seront très utiles pour organiser notre journée à Londres, merci infiniment.
    A bientôt.

  2. Marie McC says:

    Wow, what a roller coaster post! Starts out up and exciting about the trip and seeing new and bizarre things, ends up down in a psycho ward. What a ride! Interesting, even though ultimately tragic.

  3. Passante says:

    mll — thank you for the links which gave me interesting information. De rien (pour le mel). Je suis contente que vous avez trouvé utile les renseignements.

    Marie — You’re right, I guess I did rather change moods in the post. But those flowers are such a weird thing to see first in Lille.

  4. Elisabeth says:

    Great first post about Lille. The photo of the Lille-Europe train station is cool, although I like the old train station better. I did not take the Eurostar to go to London this past May, the cost was a bit too high for me. Of course, it took me an entire day to reach my destination.

    Believe it or not, I managed to miss those flowers, because I did not walk around that area, I guess. The story about Yayoi Kusama was quite amazing, I totally agree. Her website is pretty cool too.

    Hope you keep on posting about Lille for a bit!

    And Mll – thanks for the link to from a Ch’ti to another!

  5. transall says:


    Découverte de Lille très intéressante… et les “gens du nord” sont sympathiques !!!

    Sauf erreur de ma part, il me semble bien qu’une nouvelle LGV (Ligne à Grande Vitesse) est en cours d’achévement sur le sol britanique, qui devrait encore réduire les temps de trajet en EuroStar lors de sa prochaine mise en service (si ce n’est déjà fait).

    L’évolution du réseau à grande vitesse est impressionnante, notamment en ce qui concerne ses prolongements internationaux. Sur un plan purement français, l’un des projets qui m’intéresse le plus concerne la liaison Paris/Bordeaux qui se fait actuellement en 3 H et devrait tomber à 2 H vers 2012… de quoi hésiter entre prendre l’avion et le train pour se rendre dans les Landes.

    Ces dernières années, j’ai eu quelques collègues de bureau qui vivaient à Lille et prenaient chaque matin le T.G.V. pour venir travailler sur Paris. La notion de distance n’existe pratiquement plus et ils mettaient quasiment le même temps que certains habitants de banlieue pour se rendre au travail.


    Didier (photo blog)

  6. shelly says:

    i love those decorations!

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