You probably think I do nothing but jet around the world. That's not quite true. Admittedly, I do get about a bit. Last weekend it was Lille. Just me and Dolores. Hooray. No bloody kids hanging onto our ankles, dragging us back, slowing us down, making life not worth living.
Not such a long journey, this time. Just to the top corner of France, to Lille. We were prompted to visit the city by the introduction of a new direct Thalys service from Amsterdam. It only takes 2.5 hours, which isn't bad for a journey of 300 km.
The journey was as comfortable as it was short. We went first class. We usually do when taking the Thalys. There just isn't enough room for people with legs as long as ours in second. We'd got a fairly good deal on the ticket plus you get free food and drink. Oh yes, and you can drop by the First Class Lounge at Amsterdam Centraal for a for drink before setting off.
We were staying in the frankly hideous shopping centre next to Lille Flandres station. Convenient if ugly. Our room was pretty nice, even if it did have a view mostly of ducting. Once our gear was dumped, we nipped out to the ginourmous Carrefour in the shopping centre (I told you it was convenient) to stock up on food and drink.
Next on the agenda was a meal. Being honest, consuming lots of nice food and drink was about our only plan. It was already after 8 pm and we needed to get a move on. This being France, I wasn't too concerned about finding somewhere to eat. Or about finding somewhere decent.
After a bit of random wandering around the centre we settled on a random restaurant. It looked pretty popular, which is always a good sign. Looking at the menu posted outside, we saw there was a three-course fixed menu for €11.80.
"The robbing bastards." was my comment.
Being of an extravagant nature, I opted for the more expensive local menu at an eye-watering €23. (Bit cheeky having food twice the price of Dolores's.) In Lille local basically means Belgian when it comes to food. Waterzooi and that sort of thing. I'm quite happy to put up with that. The majority of our fellow diners seemed to have opted for the classic mussels and chips.
We sat outside on a covered terrace. After a while we noticed something strange. There were ashtrays on the tables. No-one seemed to be smoking, but the ashtrays were there. after a while someone did light up. It felt weird. I realise I'm virtually never in the presence of people smoking any more. It just looks wrong. Surprisingly few fags were smoked considering the crowd.
There's another way Lille resembles Belgium: the range of beers available. This not particularly beer-orientated restaurant offered plenty of different beers. Can't remember exactly how many or which ones. I wasn't taking notes. Look, I was on a pleasant break with Dolores. I may be a selfish twat, but not quite enough of one to start obsessively scribbling down the name of every beer on the menu at such a moment.
Ah, the joys of computerised bills! I can see now I had two Jenlain Ambrée and Dolores a Chti Blonde.
She wasn't very keen on mine. It was OK. In a half-litrey sort of way. I can remember a time when Jenlain was about as good as French beer got. They've come a long way in the last 30 years. But more of that next time.
The cheese croquettes I plumped for as a starter weren't quite as I expected, with some sort of small fruit at their centre. They'd never do that in Holland. I won't bore you with a detailed account of our food. I've kept you from your work long enough. Get back toiling before your boss creeps up behind you.
More to follow. I may even mage to crack a few jokes. Though don't count on it.
€52.10. That was the bill. Like I said earlier, the robbing bastards.
Brasserie La Chicorée
15 Place Rihour,
Tel: +33 3 20 54 81 52
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