I woke up in the hostel here in Lille and almost instantly left to start my day. I had a cup of coffee and as I sat there near the exit door I watched the owner give a live radio show interview about the football match, Wales vs Belgium, this day here in Lille. He was very excited to have his home country here now visiting. By the way Wales won over Belgium and broke many records, for the first time in history. The radio techs were interesting to watch, so much equipment for such a small thing–microphones and sound boards. Next to them on the wall was a soccer game running with the sound off. I had a short talk with the lady behind the counter and said “Merci” until next time. (Really, I have had my share of hostels and felt finished, even though they have all been very nice to me.)
I walked outdoors into the drizzling rain…and began again.
Because of my sore foot I am feeling like I need to find a place to sit down, collect my thoughts, write and organize myself. I found an inviting cafe, “Paul.” There I ordered a croissant and espresso and watched the crazy soccer happenings outside the glass window that separates the world of my inner self from the frenetic athletes and fans rousting about on the the outside.
I was feeling somewhat turned around. Not knowing how to get out of this place, I fetched my trusty compass and found North. It seems that when I know where North is, I am pretty self-sufficient. Then I can easily find my way, to where I need to be. My guide to true north…if only life was that easy.
I walked south and there it was through the raindrops–the ever-faithful train station, the one thing you can count on just about anyplace in Europe. I am now feeling like I am in the right place, at the right time. I purchased my ticket to the next small town…to see what I could find.
Sports fans were everywhere, brash, colorful, and very loud, along with a lot of media people.
After waiting a bit, it was time to carry on. A kind engineer directed me to the right track and my train was waiting for me. What a comforting sight! Just as I stepped on board the doors closed and the train started to move. After a short distance I got off–I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t walking, even though my ankle is killing me and it’s pouring down rain.
But maybe I should just take the day off and rest my ankle. Because I really do like to walk and heaven forbid if I were not able to do that. Walking is my therapy and my spiritual practice.
My first stop in any town is someplace to find a map. I need to get a bearing on where I am…and to figure out what is the most important thing (or things) that I should see in this location.
In this little village of “Lens” (about 30-thousand people) I found myself in a shop and a young on lady handed me a local map free of charge. How kind that was, to give a stranger something that important, as a stranger in town.
When I returned to the street, confident with my new free map, I found myself in what felt like a sleepy little town. (All these tiny European villages have a church and/or a cathedral right smack dab in the center of town.) So if you can find the church, you know you are downtown and you can get a fair estimate of the size of the place.
It was lightly raining (of course) and I felt tired. I just wanted to find the nearest coffee café.
No such luck…Lens turns out to have something of an empty downtown. Maybe it’s the weather, wet, gray and unpredictable. After about thirty minutes I decided to just make my way to the Art museum in this quiet place, thinking that maybe that’s where the action is. (Of course I would think that, being an artist, but not everyone else feels the same way.) So I turned around and followed the signs to “Louvre –Lens.” Yes, that’s right–it’s the sister museum to the famous Louvre in Paris, which I can’t wait to see this coming week.
My foot was hurting pretty bad, and I was thinking that I was going to just give up (you know when those tears start to fall and you’re feeling sorry for yourself). I just wanted to be somewhere around others, and was about to give up when I found the sign for the museum. My heart lifted.
I was still wet, tired, and feeling lost (not a great feeling when I search for happiness in everything). First I found a path that just didn’t seem right (you know, the back door) so I walked further down the sidewalk and sure enough, I found the entrance and then proceeded through security.
The art in the Lens-Louvre Museum was incredible–this was one of my favorites.
The Louvre in Lens is a very beautiful modern structure composed of glass and steel. Part of it is built underground. It was slightly incongruous, a real change of pace from the age of everything else around here. The design itself was simple yet very elegant, a blend of high tech and nature. Just my style… The museum was built with the help of the Japanese on the site of a former coal mine.
Once inside the museum they subject you to a serious security search, just like going through TSA at the airport. By the way, it truly surprised the security guards when I told them what I was doing…just out walking to Paris. They had me surrender my Swiss Army Knife (that Eric bought me in Switzerland), but they promised I could have it back when I left the museum. All the people at the Lens-Louvre museum were very kind, even the security folks . I was especially impressed with the young lady in the coatroom where I needed to store my backpack, which I was more than happy to give up, at least for a short time. She laughed at the weight and was a bit surprised at my story. She said she loves to meet exciting fun people…which was not how I had feeling earlier about an hour ago.
It is very Zen to carry your life on your back and truly learn the meaning of simplicity. At times I felt I was carrying too much anyway and probably could have thinned out the load even further.
The young lady in the coatroom was such a delight! We had a great educational talk on the history of Lens and the beauty of this museum, the sister museum to the more famous Louvre in Paris on the Seine. (Due to recent flooding, the docents at the Louvre and also at the Musee D’Orsay have been moving paintings and artwork from the first floor to the second.) The wonderful young lady was from an island not far from Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, east of Africa. She was a beautiful soul and a sweet delight.
I then made my way upstairs, to first sit down and eat before I viewed the magnificence of this place.
The eating area felt like the only thing that divided you from the outside were these incredible glass walls/windows. I found a Caesar salad and an espresso, served with beautiful fresh whole-wheat bread and Dijon mustard. Perfect. I rested my poor sore ankle on the chair next to me and dug in to totally enjoy the feast prepared before me.
Afterwards I visited the main hall of artwork along with schoolchildren and just loved it.
I walked back to the train station when a very nice woman picked me up and gave me a ride there. I thanked her and bought a ticket to Arras.
I am now in a beautiful Holiday Inn Express hotel room here in Arras, a refreshing change of pace from all the hostels where I have been staying, as lovely as they have been. It may not sound like much, but this wonderful hotel is just a stone’s throw from the train station here in Arras, France and I am pretty darn happy to be here.
It’s been rainy all day. I got so wet walking that the sanctuary of being inside an actual clean hotel with fresh sheets, clean towels, and a hot tub of water has me feeling like a queen. I told myself not to give up today. My ankle is very swollen and hurts like the dickens. Tonight I will take a hot shower in hopes that the swelling goes down…and best of all, I will sleep on a real bed tonight.
I am near Amiens, France. This is one of the many places in France and Belgium where World War I was fought. There is a lot of history here.