We're in search of food. Which is often the case. I've this terrible eating habit. I eat every single day. Without fail.
The best thing about having Dolores as a travelling companion is that it reduces the planning and preparation work I have to do. Less work for me is always a good thing. She's very much the organised type. She's taken out a guide book to Lille from the library. It has some handy hints. Including where the estaminets are.
An estaminet is a type of traditional boozer found in this region. They've a reputation for a cosy old-fashioned atmosphere, good local food and lots of beer.
"Do you fancy eating in an estaminet, Ronald?"
"You can twist my arm."
There are a few estaminets clustered around Avenue du Peuple Belge. Getting there from the citadel is a piece of piss - just follow the Rue Négrier. Which we do. It's an unusual street, with some old houses so large that they're small palaces. That's the sort of thing you sometimes see in France. It's a sign of how loaded they were a couple of centuries back.
I was surprised by the look of Avenue du Peuple Belge on the map. It seems far too wide for a street in the old part of town. A hint was given by the change in the street name ro Rue du Pont Neuf (New Bridge Street). Sure enough, it became a bridge crossing over Avenue du Peuple Belge. Obviously it was some sort of filled in waterway.
I tried looking up the history of it on the web. But all I could find out was that Avenue du Peuple Belge had a problem with the nuisance caused by street prostitution in 2011.
The guide book marked our destination estaminet, Le Petit Barbue d'Anvers, as being of the corner of Pont Neuf and Avenue du Peuple Belge. Annoyingly, it didn't give a precise street address. We weren't even sure which of the two streets it was on. After a while of fruitlessly wandering around, we gave up and headed for Rue de Gand which is home to two estaminets.
We had more luck here. I'd had enough of walking and we rushed into the first estaminet we passed, L'Estaminet 't Rijsel. Now there's an odd name, mixing French and Dutch. Risel being the Dutch name for Lille. It's everything I've hoped for.
I've been in a few pubs over the years. And I can recognise the difference between old junk bought in a job lot and thrown around apparently randomly and a pub where suff has been just hung on walls an put on shelves over decades. This is the real deal. I spend a stupid amount of time looking at this crap.
It's only noon, but it's about half full. Everyone is speaking French, which is another good sign. We get ourselves half litres while we work out what we want to eat. Ch'ti Blonde for Dolores, their Tripel for me. I always opt fore the option with more alcoholic goodness. Here are our beers:
The menu is a school exercsie book. Pretty funky. The food, once again, is pure Belgian. I go for a Carbonade Famande, which is a type of beer casserole. It's rather nice.
As I'm nibbling at my food, something strikes me. Every single customer is drinking beer. And not the same beer, but all sorts of different ones. That wouldn't be so surprising if they were 20-something hipsters, but they aren't. Most are older than me.
Almost forgot. They also have hops hanging from the ceiling:
On the way back to our hotel, I drag Dolores into a giant FNAC. She's had enough walking for today and sits down while I go off and rummage through the books. Almost immediately, I find this: "Le Guide des Brasseurs et Bieres de France" by Robert Dutin. What a handy book. It lists all the breweries in France, which now number a surprising 590.Last time I counted - maybe 5 years ago - there were about half that.
I also pick up a book about WW I.Nice to get a French perspective on the conflict. I've already got one in German.
When I'm all booked up, we go back to our hotel for a rest. I need it. God knows how far we've walked today.
L'Estaminet 't Rijsel
25 Rue de Gand,
Tel: +33 3 20 15 01 59
20, rue Saint-Nicolas,
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