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Fueled with breakfast (oh, the pastries and French bread) from Le FIAP, we ride the metro downtown to the Hôtel des Invalides, the massive, amazing army museum that houses Napoleon’s tomb in a red quartzite tomb in the Église du Dome, as well as fascinating WWI and II exhibits. The museum is a surprise. A revelation. So big. So beautiful. So much to see. The imposing baroque ensemble, which contains the Musée de l’Armee, originally housed invalid soldiers wounded in Louis XIV’s numerous wars. So much history. It’s a perfect primer to the Western Front, where we’re headed this afternoon.
When you travel, every landscape is a new, and I’m keen to drink in the green countryside as we cruise two hours north to Lille, French Flanders capital, for a date with Akine Babinet, the passionate, caring guide we meet at Palais Rihour for a visit of the old town and city center. Before she leaves us with two kisses to each check, she shows us Lille’s famous pastry shop, Meert (we load up with divine chocolate, legendary ice cream and a six-pack box of their vanilla gaufres-their best-selling waffles), and taste the light-as-air deliciousness of Aux Merveilleux pastries, as well as window shop at Paul’s Boulangerie, and Philippe Olivier cheeses.
Lille is the battlefield of Europe, badly destroyed in the Great War. Today, a century later, beauty is evident everywhere, and I linger at favorite spots, reflecting by the statute of Ste. Therese of the Little Flower inside the beautiful Notre Dame de la Treille.
Home to two universities and over 100,000 students, Lille is a dining city. We finally settle in for supper al fresco at Basilic Café. So close to Belgium, this is a beer region and over dinner I pair my lasagna with the “biere” of the moment, a Mort Subite – it does not disappoint.
Our first stop of the day was the Hotel des Invalides. We saw Napoleon’s tomb and the exhibits on ancient armour and the two world wars. All of them were really nice. The soldier’s uniforms sure have changed a lot since 1914. Later we went to Lille. We had a guided tour. We learned all about Lille and its history and history with the war. I love the street names here. Here are some gems, translated literally: Bread road, Money street, Onion Place and Two sword road. While here we got ice cream from Méert, an old famous store. I had raspberry sorbet. It was really good and really tasted like raspberries. It’s cool to think maybe Roddie may have tried some Méert Ice Cream too, as long as the war didn’t get in the way.