At the end of our week with the grandchildren, we drove to Lille to return them to their parents who happened to be there. Jos, our son-in-law, was playing in an Opera and invited us to attend. We had never been to Lille, so we appreciated the excuse for this new adventure.
Lille is the fourth largest urban area in France after Paris, Lyon and Marseilles and is just on the border with Belgium, so-called “French Flanders.” Its architecture is very much influenced by that, reminding us more of Ghent than of other French cities we have visited.
We took this photo of Zinnie next to two posters, one of the show her father is in and the other of an art exhibit at a nearby museum which we also visited. The city is full of charming cafés and shops. We stayed in the old town and did quite a lot of walking. We enjoyed both eating and window shopping.
One especially nice feature of Lille for me was their daily open-air book fair, selling old and new, paper and hardback books in the portico of a beautiful building off the Grand Place, the heart of old town.
We took a train ride to Roubaix (the terminus of a famous French bike race Paris-Roubaix, known as The Hell of the North due to the cobblestone roads of Roubaix) where we visited the Piscine Museum, built in a repurposed art-deco indoor swimming pool. It was absolutely spectacular, one of the loveliest museums I have ever visited. The pool has been preserved, although reduced in width. It is surrounded by the original tiled dressing rooms and shower stalls, stripped of the hardware. Some of them are glassed off and used as display cases for the pottery collection which surrounds the pool and some lead to other galleries where there are paintings and drawings. We spent most of our time around the pool area.
The pottery collection was very effectively displayed around the pool which had the ceramic Belle Epoch decorations of the original building still intact.
Picasso, Matisse and Chagall all created whimsical pottery pieces and the Piscine has a nice collection, next to many other contemporary ceramic artists.
The main event of the weekend, was attending Trois Contes (Three Stories) at the gorgeous Lille Opera house. It is a contemporary work commissioned from Gérard Pesson, an award-winning French composer. Jos was asked to narrate the third section and to play a non-singing role in the second section.
The Lille Opera house, built in the early twentieth century is an icon of the city. It is quite grand. Emily, the children, Rick and I shared our own box in the second loge.
The first act was a retelling of the Princess and the Pea, with several variations.
The second act was a luscious enactment of a story called Proust’s Overcoat about a man who collected Marcel Proust artifacts after his death. The scenery was incredible.
The third act, with Jos as narrator, retold the Edgar Allan Poe story The Devil in the Belfry. It was quite magical. To see a short preview, you can go here.
The whole weekend was a very pleasant interlude.