Wednesday, 11 April 2018
A day out in Lille
Of burgers, shopping, exploring town and all things Bleu (not a typo by the way, as will become clear from the post ;)).
Bert's skeptic face at the news is totally legit I feel. The news is pretty depressing lately :(.
On the 30th, Bert had the day off from work, and we got up early to grab the 9am train to Berchem, which was our first train on our way to Lille in France. Originally we had planned to go earlier in the month, but because I got pneumonia in February and wasn't at all well in the beginning of March we had to pospone.
I wanted to see Bleu at the Natural History Museum, and it was only on 'till early April (it's not on anymore as I post this) so we were cutting it pretty close. Getting there wasn't much of a problem at all, the trains were even shockingl on time, so that was cool. You might think that a train on time is not a special event, but if you regularly take a train in Belgium, you know that timeliness is the exeption rather than the rule. In fact, the conductor of that train to Berchem made it a point to emphasise the train was perfectly on time at every single stop. 'Nuff said. (I now feel it was a sign for the NMBS horror still to come that day...)
When we arrived in Lille we first popped into the Euralille mall, so we could get Burger King for lunch. Bert suspected it was a ploy on my side to go to Primark, but there was really NO WAY I was going to lug shopping around town for the entire day. I just really wanted a burger. Of course, Lille is FULL of burger joints, so we probably should have held off and go to a gourmet burger joint instead. Or the sushi place in the mall. Oh well, next time :).
I did quickly pop into M.A.C when we were in the mall, because I wanted to ask if they were part of the French Back to M.A.C program, which they are. Which is great to know because now I know where I can return my ellegible products. Having had lunch, we went on our way to the museum.
I had absolutely NO clue where it was, but I did know where the office for tourism was, so we went there to get free maps. There's two you can take: a normal map, and then a condensed one of the city center. It's the latter that got us there, without much of a problem I add.
On the way we popped into some shops we found interesting, such as a geek store, but we didn't buy anything.
I did take a bunch of analog photos on the way there, but the film hasn't come back from the HEMA lab yet, so I'll make a separate post of those later and put the link to it in this post also.
I really liked the Lille Natural History Museum. Bert remarked it made him think of Dracula's museum hangout in Penny Dreadful, and I would have to agree with him.
The place is tiny, so they have stuffed literally every available space with taxidermy, fossils, skeletons, the odd random mummy and piece of art and a few cases with live animals. Mostly bugs. I was seriously tempted to ask them if I could buy a baby praying mantis from them, as they had tons of them, but I figured that it wasn't practical to take it home at all. I shouldn't have a pet that only lives for a year anyway, I will cry too much when it dies so it's not a bright idea.
The exhibit was also super tiny, but I really enjoyed Bleu. The premise was the colour blue, and they not only had taxidermy and mounted insects that were blue, but also blue in fashion history and art. I particularly enjoyed seeing how they made the main colours of blue in paint. Those little displays were very cool. Bert wasn't overly keen on the museum because it was so small, but I really enjoyed it. I did point out that he would have enjoyed the alternative option, the Palais des Beaux Arts even less.
We walked back to the city center via an alternative route, because it wasn't like we would get lost with the map. And that was cool so I could take more photos. No longer analog though, because I had used up my 12 shots.
Once we got back into the center, we popped into FNAC. They were selling instax mini film with comic frames, which are my faves. They were a little bit more expensive than the special frames you get at HEMA, but still cheaper than buying it off ebay so I treated myself to a pack.
We also popped into Furet du Nord, so I could buy some Sudoku for my dad. After that, it was time to hit the mall.
First we went to HEMA, where I got a bunch of speech bubble stickers and a few other bits and bobs. The speech bubble stickers were 75 cents there, and they're 90 cents in Belgium. Its not a big difference but on the whole I saved a couple of € by doing my HEMA shopping there instead of here in town. Go figure.
The geek shops had some pretty cool things, but nothing I wanted to spend money on. Or that was in my budget. I'd love to have an Eye of Agamoto replica though, or Poe Dameron's helmet!
We did go to Primark, where I only bought some basics and a pair of swim shorts for for Bert because they had no interesting geek things at all. I kinda regret not taking a photo of the Disney coin purses though, but oh well.
The trip to Sephora was the fastest one to date. I wanted to swatch the Too Faced Chocolate Gold palette, but the display was empty so we left pretty much as soon as we got in.
The supermarket we only went to so I could buy Crocopik! for my dad. Because he does love his Crocopik!
At that point, we had done everything we wanted to do, so I went to Starbucks because I just HAD to have a matcha latte. I got the biggest size, which may have been a bit overkill, but whatever. It tasted just like like warm and liquid Café Tasse white chocolate with matcha, so I wholeheartedly approved.
We got back to the station about 20 minutes before our train. And that's pretty much when the misery started and the NMBS once again was a bucketload of FAIL of EPIC proportions...
First, our train was listed as on time, awesome. At that point we were just waiting for the platform to be announced.
I also filled in our railpass because I didn't want to get in trouble for filling it on the train. Which you're not allowed. Seeing we had a ticket valid to Mouscron and our railpass would be taking us the rest of the way, I don't feel like we should get in trouble for filling it before reaching that station, but it's a gray area, rules wise, and if a conductor wants to be an ass about it, there would be nothing we could do about it, so it wasn't a risk I was willing to take.
Bert took my outfit shot, it was all fine.
Then suddenly the train had a 5 minute delay. Not the end of the world.
The 5 minute delay became a 20 minute delay.
The 20 minute delay became an “indefinite” delay.
No further explanation what so ever.
So I went to the ticket and info office to try to find out what was going on. I really had to wrangle info out of the lady there. I also pointed out that if all trains to Antwerp were cancelled, I didn't feel like repurchasing tickets to go Tournai or Namur. Luckily, we wouldn't have to, and our railpass would also still be fine even though it had Mouscron as starting station of the trip. She told me to just sort it out with the conductor and it wouldn't be an issue. I was VERY sceptic about that, because the NMBS has been known to be terribly difficult about such situations, and even fine travellers over things like these, even though they're just trying to get home and have been told specifically it's fine.
So yeah, less than pleased.
They should just give you paperwork to prove you're allowed to be on that train in the station, or new tickets. But no, that would be too much service.
One thing I will give the NMBS.
If a train stops going, they will sort out replacement busses.
In France, you're just stuck and left to sort it out yourself and hope for the best. That aside, I was told that I would be better off going home via Tournai.
So Bert and I went into Subway because we were FREEZING (it was so cold in the station with the wind blowing through) to get some drinks and wait for our train.
We could see the big sign with all the trains from there just fine, and at least we were warm.
Suddenly, it listed the train to Antwerp with a 40 minute delay, claiming it would go 10 minutes later. With a track listed, so we went there. We asked if the train would legit go to Antwerp and were told yes.
And now the plot thickens...
The conductor stops by to check tickets when the train had left the station, and tells us that the final stop of the train is... COURTRAI and we'll have to wait for the next train, nearly an hour later, to get to Antwerp...
So basically, if they had just been honest with us (and I can happily hold this against the NMBS because it was an international NMBS train) in Lille, we could have gone back inside Subway with our drinks, no one would have minded, and wait for the next train to Antwerp in the WARMTH and NOT have been stuck in Courtrai in the FREEZING cold and rain for over 40 minutes!
FUCK YOU AND YOUR SHIT SERVICE NMBS!
No apologies, no compensation, nothing, only SHIT service.
I didn't give the conductor a hard time, it's not her fault the company she works for is fail on a stick and has ZERO customer service.
In the end, we got home with an hour delay, we were super cold and it took ages to get warm when we were home.
Frankly, this entire NMBS misery has completely put me off going to Lille, or anywhere abroad, again to be honest.
Well going there by train that is.
Because if something goes wrong, the potential for being terribly stuck is just too big.
You simply can't trust on the NMBS to clean up their mess if you're stuck in another country, even though you're traveling by NMBS train.
So yeah, thanks to the NMBS our otherwise really nice day came to a very unpleasant end.
All my Lille photos, including those of previous trips, are here
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