Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 16, 2011 -- Lille, France

Yesterday turned out to be a nice day: sunny in the morning, threatening clouds around noon, and partly cloudy in the afternoon. Most of the day it was warm enough to walk around in a short-sleeved T-shirt. I saw several of the centuries-old constructions in and near Lille's Old City. It was also a French religious holiday, the celebration of Mary's supposed ascent into Heaven, so it was very quiet in the city.

I have read that Lille changed hands several times. Its name comes the Latin insul or L'Isla, which means "the island," because it was built on a bit of dry land in the middle of a marsh. The original inhabitants were Celts, then Germanic peoples, and finally the Vikings invaded the region that was later to be known as Flanders. The Normans and Hungarians had their turns conquering the region also.  Next came the Portuguese. During their occupation, Countess Jeanne (or Joan) of Flanders, the wife Lille's ruler Fernand of Portugal, founded L' hospice de la Comptesse (Countess's Hospital), which is still standing in the old part of the city. Here's a picture of it.

Next Lille became part of the Duchy of Burgundy, then it passed onto the Hapsburgs and became part of Spanish Netherlands until it was conquered by the French king Louis XIV in 1667. That wasn't the end. It became part of Holland again and then became part of France again under the Treaty of Utrecht.

Just around the corner from the youth hostel is the Porte de Paris or Paris City Gate, ordered constructed by Louis XIV and was constructed between 1685 and 1692 as part of the city's fortifications. It replaced an even older Porte des Malades (malades is French for sick people), which had been bombarded when Louis Xiv conquered the city and returned it to French hands. (I have no idea why the original gate was called the Sick People's Gate.) Here are two pictures of the gate, the first one taken from outside and the second from the city side. As you can see, the gate is much more elaborate on the side that faced outward away from the city.

Finally, here's one of several pictures that I snapped in the old city.

There are four other guys in my room at the youth hostel. Three are young English lads from Nottingham who are returning home today. The fourth guy arrived after midnight the night before last and was still asleep when I left the hostel yesterday morning to go sightseeing, so I didn't get a chance to meet him yesterday. Now he's gone. I believe the three English guys are also leaving today.

I had some very interesting conversations yesterday evening and this morning at breakfast with a German, an Englishman, and a Spaniard. One of the good things about traveling alone and sleeping in youth hostels is the great variety of people on meets from all over the world.

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