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Old June 4th, 2012, 05:30 AM   #241
600West218
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Next it was on to the would be capital of Europe, Brussels. Brussels is one of those places that you want to visit if for no other reason than year hear its name all the time in the news so you want to see what it is like.

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Coming into Brussels there was the usual quantity of overhead cables. It never ceased to amaze me how many there are and how much work must go into maintaining that and keeping it all organized.

I had to meet a friend at a metro station at a certain time and I therefore had to figure out very quickly how to use the metro ticket system. Fortunately, once you figure out the little wheel thingy it is pretty easy.

The metro itself was pretty nice, though it looked suspiciously like the French one, which probably means the French had something to do with building it.

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The overhead sign showing the location of all the trains on their routes was nice.

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The newer trains were completely walkthrough just as they were in Paris.

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Walking around with my friend I just took some quick shots here and there.

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Walking towards the EU section. BTW, you can see the weather sucked, but more on that later.

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This is why I think Europe is a continent, not a country and probably always will be.

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The European Commission building.

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I think they were protesting a factory closing.

After hanging out with my friend a bit I headed back to see the Army Museum. I only had about 3 hours to spend there but it was three hours well spent. It is an excellent museum.

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German helmets from WW1.

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A really strange German artillery piece from WW1.

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One problem though was that all the signs were in French and Flemish, next to nothing was in English. Nevertheless, the collection of artifacts was superb.

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Although it is dimly lit in this photo you can see this is a British tank from WW1

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A French WW1 tank

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Early mobile artillery

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The aircraft hanger was chock full of interesting things. That is a Soviet Mi-24 attack helicopter of Afghan war fame. It is the first time I have ever seen one. It is a big beast.

Also in that picture are a German range finder (tan) and perhaps the most famous gun of WW2, the German 88 millimeter gun mainly used as an anti-aircraft gun.

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A Soviet Mig 23

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I also think this is the first time I ever saw a 88 mm gun in person.

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The weakest section of the museum was their armored section.
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On an upper level they had an entire part of WW2. Note the replica Atlantic Wall bunker across the way. Don’t know why they went to the trouble given that you can take a hour and a half ride and see the real thing.

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A V-1

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Bogged down in the mud.

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All in all it was a really good museum and I would highly recommend it.

I then decided to go to the top of the arch and I was very lucky in that although it was there closing time they let me to up.

However, in another way I was not so lucky.

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See the white streaks in the picture. Anyone want to guess what they are?

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Can you figure out now what it was?

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Yes, it was hail. And it drove me back inside in probably under a minute.

Fortunately it did stop hailing by the time I got out of the museum so I was able to walk peaceably towards the EU area and take more pictures.

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Back to where the bureaucrats work.

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Not sure what this is going to be but the core of the building sure looks interesting.

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The Belgian national bird again.

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I then tried to make my way towards the historic center of Brussels, in particular to the Grang Place.....
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Old June 4th, 2012, 06:22 AM   #242
manrush
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I am enjoying your photojourney so far. Looking forward to more.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 06:25 AM   #243
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Day 1 in Brussels continued....

I had only a vague idea how to get to the Grand Place and had to ask for directions a few times.

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Along the way I ran into an arcade.

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Belgians do like their chocolates.

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Heading down another narrow street looking for the Grand Place.

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And here it is, cloudy and wet but indeed looking grand.

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I believe everything on this plaza was built slightly before or slightly after 1700.

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Note on the right the buildings undergoing renovation and how the scaffolding is covered by a screen with their image on it.

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I really liked these buildings in particular. They seemed the most authentic.

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The detail is just stunning.

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The statues on this building are amazing. Anyone know who they are of?

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Next I started heading down towards the stock exchange building.

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Those metal balconies make them look a bit like Hausman buildings.

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Now, these actually do look like Hausman buildings

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Next it was back through the Grand Place to make my way over to the EU Parliment area.

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Note the infant angels with the scales.

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An interesting looking statue.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 07:04 AM   #244
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Final part of day 1 in Brussels.

Heading back to the EU area I first came across some rather dull buildings that looked more like something you’d see in the Soviet Union than in Belgium

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Finally, I got back to some decent Belgian architecture.

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This I believe was a music museum. No time to go inside unfortunately.

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The courthouse in the distance.

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The royal palace, which is apparently just used as a daytime office for the king these days.

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The gate reminds me of Versaille

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A rather artistic advertisement. Note it is bilingual. Using two languages all the time has to make things significantly more expensive.

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Finally back to the EU area. Only this time I am around the parliment

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How metro stations are identified in Brussels.

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For a moment I thought this woman was engaged in the thankless task of trying to prop up the Euro. Then I realized the “e” is just for Europe.

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One interesting thing was that not only did countries have missions to the EU but individual states did too - in this case the German state of Bavaria.

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And a pretty big one too!

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A memorial to the famous Soviet dissident.

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NorthRhine-Westphalia has a mission to the EU too!

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A pretty upscale avenue on the way to the court building. But the lousy weather kept people inside.

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There were trams all over the place, though I never rode one. For some some reason I find riding trams more intimidating - the routes aren’t as easy to follow and who even knows how you get the tickets.

There was a HUGE tram barn not far from the Midi station with its doors wide open. Unfortunately I missed my chances to go into it and get some pictures.

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I was told by my hosts in Brussels that that scaffolding has been there as long as they can remember.

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As we were up on a hill this elevator tower was a good idea. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to work.

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Innovative balconies on the apartments.

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Once I got to the bottom of the hill I zig zagged in the general direction of where I thought the Midi station would be.

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This is one way to make yourself heard.

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Old and new.

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This is a very rare sight - a fully abandoned building. Looks like a candidate for renovation.

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That is one way to keep buildings from collapsing.

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And with this I made it back to Midi station, picked up my bag, and got a ride to my hosts home.

It was a long and tiring day with LOTS of walking. But tomorrow would be the biggest day of my trip.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 09:58 AM   #245
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Bad luck for the weather (!) but nice photos even if you were pressed by the time .
The 2 main other things that you missed in Brussels are its cathedral and the Atomium, and you would have liked to walk around Art Nouveau and Art Deco districts. (The Art Nouveau style, from 1893 to WW1, is a speciality of Brussels, it appeared with the industrialization. It used the new materials easily available at that time, metal and glass, and it was influenced by natural forms. You saw one of its best examples in Brussels, the MIM Old's England museum. The Art Deco is its direct extension, from WW1 to WW2, and is a much more geometric style. The biggest Art Deco building that you saw is probably the Central Station along which you certainly passed considering your pictures. But actually all Art Nouveau & Art Deco districts are outside the City Centre because they accompanied the city's extension.). There is also a canal which goes all the way through Brussels from north to south, actually this canal was build (1832) to link Charleroi, and the boat lifts area that you saw, to Antwerp; the ABC canal (Antwerp-Brussels-Charleroi).
And now Charleroi
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Old June 4th, 2012, 10:43 AM   #246
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How metro stations are identified in Brussels.
That's actually a train station and not a metro station. Metro stations are identified by the rectangular sign with the white M on the blue background.
Also, the good thing about having bad weather is that it makes your trip more authentic I guess
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Old June 4th, 2012, 11:29 AM   #247
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Great thread !
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Old June 4th, 2012, 11:42 AM   #248
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Brussels looks to be a real treasure trove with some fascinating and exquisite buildings.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 12:56 PM   #249
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Of course, it is impossible to fully explore and discover all the towns on your trip on short a short time. In Brussels, you focused heavily on the European quarter, which is my least favorite part of the whole city. Though it's good that you visited the military museum.
I am sure that next time someone from the forum will show you all the hidden gems in Brussels!
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Old June 4th, 2012, 01:04 PM   #250
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To bad you didn't see the Atomium:

This is like what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. It's build in 1958 for the World Fair of that year.

Also the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg is a bit of a miss:

It's one of the largest churches in the world and the largest art deco building in the world.

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A rather artistic advertisement. Note it is bilingual. Using two languages all the time has to make things significantly more expensive.
Yes. But if they omit the Dutch or the French text the Flemish or the French speaking Belgians will be angry which is bad for the reputation of the company. Also it's not required. It's there one chose to use bilingual advertisements. Only governmental institutions, traffic signs and street names have to be bilingual.

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The metro itself was pretty nice, though it looked suspiciously like the French one, which probably means the French had something to do with building it.
I guess all metro systems are quite alike. I don't think the French have anything to do with it. Especially since the Brussels metro is older than the one in Lille.

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I was told by my hosts in Brussels that that scaffolding has been there as long as they can remember.
That's a bit of a sad story. When they were restoring the cupola they thought they could save money by building a scaffolding structure covering the entire building that afterwards could be used to restore the building itself. But the required budget for restoring the building was not granted immediately. That's why the building is covered in scaffolding since at least 20 years. Even the scaffolding have to be renovated by now.

That buildings is also a great cost to maintain since the ENORMOUS size of it, it's even the largest building constructed in the 19th century. The Department of Justice is also planing to move the Law Courts to a new buildings since the Palace of Justice has literally dozens of entrances which made it difficult to secure. They planning to transform the building into a museum.

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Heading back to the EU area I first came across some rather dull buildings that looked more like something you’d see in the Soviet Union than in Belgium

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That's the Royal Library of Belgium. It's a typical building from the 50s. A bit comparable with the headquarters of the United Nations in New York.
I quite like it to be honest. It's sober but refined. That's also what makes Brussels a very diverse city: you can find buildings from every time. Not just old buildings like in Bruges.

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Old June 4th, 2012, 01:29 PM   #251
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I think the Atomnium is highly overrated but a peek inside the courthouse main hall and stairs would surely have been worth the time
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Old June 4th, 2012, 01:35 PM   #252
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I think they were protesting a factory closing.
Note the French flag and the red flags with CGT written on them (CGT is France's biggest trade union). These are French protesters, but completely bypassing their own national government and protesting at the European level.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 01:36 PM   #253
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Art

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A rather artistic advertisement. Note it is bilingual. Using two languages all the time has to make things significantly more expensive.
I think it's an artwork from belgian artist Jean-Luc Moerman. Some years ago they made a retrospective about him at Charleroi Modern Art Museum (BPS22), it was quite good:

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Btw, I think the little seashore village you visited in Northern France was Audresselles.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 01:43 PM   #254
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I think the Atomnium is highly overrated but a peek inside the courthouse main hall and stairs would surely have been worth the time

In comparison with the Eifel tower it is not very interesting. I don't think the design and technique from the atomium was as revolutionary in 1958 as the eifel tower was in the late 1800s. The atomium is also not visible all over town.
Still, I think that it's a remarkable building and it is the symbol for a defining period for brussels and Belgium. The expo 1958 might not be very famous to foreigners, but in Belgium it almost has a mythical status. It symbolises the end of the old centralized state and the colonial period and the beginning of the fordist time and later post-industrial time: a time of progress, but also a time of division and decline.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 02:00 PM   #255
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I think the Atomnium is highly overrated but a peek inside the courthouse main hall and stairs would surely have been worth the time
I don't think it's overrated. It's a unique structure and a great monument for Brussels and Belgium. It's a typical example of a sculpture from the 50s.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 02:23 PM   #256
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In comparison with the Eifel tower it is not very interesting. I don't think the design and technique from the atomium was as revolutionary in 1958 as the eifel tower was in the late 1800s.
The Eiffel tower as statement inside a historic town was certainly revolutionary. But the technique itself wasn't. It's just a big steel tower in the most simple shape you could design. It's the height that's impressive.

The Atomium is a symbol for progress and has the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.

To bad for the supporting structures. Originally it was suppose to look like this which would have been more impressive:

So the central column would bear the entire construction. The architect Waterkeyn assured that it would be stable. But the contractors did not trust it and demanded additional supporting structures for security reasons.

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The atomium is also not visible all over town.
It's about 100 meters tall, that's not small. It's visible at lot's of places in Brussels.


But off course the Eiffel Tower is way more famous than the Atomium is.

Last edited by De Klauw; June 4th, 2012 at 02:45 PM.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 02:55 PM   #257
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That's actually a train station and not a metro station. Metro stations are identified by the rectangular sign with the white M on the blue background.
Also, the good thing about having bad weather is that it makes your trip more authentic I guess
You're right. Good catch. I might have been confused because I often got out at central station which was both a metro station and a train station
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Old June 4th, 2012, 02:59 PM   #258
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Of course, it is impossible to fully explore and discover all the towns on your trip on short a short time. In Brussels, you focused heavily on the European quarter, which is my least favorite part of the whole city. Though it's good that you visited the military museum.
I am sure that next time someone from the forum will show you all the hidden gems in Brussels!
I actually wasn't finished with Brussels and I did see the Atonium.

The main thing I think I didn't see were the neighborhoods. It seemed to be a very diverse city with a lot of ethnic groups. But I didn't get to see their areas. I was very pressed for time in Brussels.

One downer to Brussels was I was clearly back on the tourist track. The whole central area is taken over by obvious tourist shops selling small statues of the child urinating. In this sense Brussels was a bit like Paris or New York.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 03:28 PM   #259
600West218
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Originally Posted by openlyJane View Post
Brussels looks to be a real treasure trove with some fascinating and exquisite buildings.
Indeed it is. It seems very cosmopolitan while stilling being a livable size.

There were huge groups from all different countries there attending various conferences. And I seemed to even see some royal family types from either Indonesia or Malyasia there.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 03:31 PM   #260
Nijal
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Hello! It is coming a bit late, but I would like to add some comments to your interesting visit of Lille, and add some photos if you don't mind.

First of all, in your Day 3 your were wondering what was the monument next to the opera. In fact, it is the "Nouvelle bourse" (New trade center) built in the 1920s in front of the "Vieille bourse" (Old trade center, which was built in the 1600s). It is in a so-called "Neo-flemish" style (characteristic of Lille). Nowadays the trade center does not exist any more, it is the "Chambre de commerce" (Chamber of Commerce).


Then, in your Day 2 in Lille, you visited an old quarter which is called the "Vieux Lille" (Old Lille). It is the very historical center of Lille (located in the north of it), and the only part of the city which includes some examples of classic Flemish architecture (as you have seen in Gand/Gent). Today it is a trendy and upscale area, but in the 70s it was a very popular district in decay and promised to demolition.

Here below are examples of how it was before and the evolution:

In the 70s and in the 2000s (Place aux Oignons):



1975:



Today:




1975:



Today:




A few kilometers southbound, there was also another historic districh which was called "Saint-Sauveur" (Holy Savior). It was not a classical flemish quarter, but a popular manufacturer district from the 17th and 18th century. Because Lille, as many other cities of the region (as Gent or Brussels), was a manufacturing textile city well before the beginning the industrial revolution. Well this district was known for its insalubrity throughout the ages. In the 19th century, the famous French writer Victor Hugo (the one who wrote "Notre-Dame de Paris", Disney made a cartoon about that) made a famoux poem:

"Caves de Lille ! on meurt sous vos plafonds de pierre !
J’ai vu, vu de ces yeux pleurant sous ma paupière,
Râler l’aïeul flétri,
La fille aux yeux hagards de ses cheveux vêtue,
Et l’enfant spectre au sein de la mère statue ! O Dante Alighieri"

which can be translated into:

"Cellars of Lille! People are dying under your ceiling of stone!
I have seen with my eyes crying under my eyelid,
Moan the withered forebear,
The tired-eyes girl hair-dressed,
And the spectrum child to the breast of the statue mother!"

This quarter was also known because it was there that was composed the famous revolutionnary communist song: "L'internationale".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27internationale

But this quarter was completely bulldozered in the 70s, it only remains some few monuments from the 17th-18th century. Now it is soulless administrative district. Fortunately the "Vieux Lille" escaped to the destruction (see previous photos).

Then, you could have remarked in Lille this symbol:



It is the "fleur de Lys". It is present on almost every historical monument in Lille. Look at your photos, it is everywhere. In fact, it is the symbol of the municipality of Lille. Why? Well, I am not sure but I think it is because the Fleur de Lys was the symbol of the French monarchy, and when the French king Louis XIV conquered Lille in the late 17th century (before it was spanish), the symbol of the French monarchy became the symbol of Lille to symbolize the attachement of the city to its new conqueror. On the "Vieille bourse" (the old trade center, which is also the oldest remaining monument of the city), there is no Fleur de Lys because it was built before the French invasion.

Another word: in your Day 1, you appreciated some red-brick elegant big houses. Those big houses are called in northern France "Maisons de Maître" (Master houses): they are all red-bricked and were built in the late 19th-early 20th for the great entrepreneurs of the textile industry which was dominating the city. Besides, before arriving to Lille you saw some red-brick terraced houses. Those kind of houses are called "1930", even if they are oldest or newest; for example my family has this kind of house built in 1869, but it is still called a "1930". There were theorically dedicating to engineers or foremen if they had three storreys, and to simple workmen if they had one or two storreys.

Lille is at the center of an agglomeration of more than 1 million inhabitants (not as big and dense as Brussels, but almost). The two other big cities of the conurbation are Tourcoing and Roubaix. Contrary to Lille, they don't have an important pre-industrial revolution patrimony. But they are typical 19th century industrial revolutions booming cities, espacially Roubaix. In that sense, this city is unique in France. It is a complete 100,000 inhabitants red-brick city with a quite important industrial patrimony such as those reconverted factories:





As said previously, the city has terribly suffered from the collapse of the textile industry in the 70s-80s. It is now the poorest city in whole France, and the contrast is terrible with the rich Flanders just next to the frontier (especially the aera around Courtrai / Kortrijk sometimes referred as the "Flemish Texas"). But now the city is recovering from its injuries, and if you come back in the region, don't miss its industrial testimony from the 19th-early 20th century.

I am looking forward discovering your trip in Charleroi, a very unknown city!


P.S: In the past, Lille was full of little canals a bit like Bruges or Gand/Gent. But the water was stagnant and with the industrialization it began to sink and became very unhealthy. They were progressively filled in during the 20th century.

Before:



Now:



In fact, the name of the city "Lille" comes from the old French" L'Isle" which meant "the island".

Last edited by Nijal; June 4th, 2012 at 04:07 PM.
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