A small group of us visited Mouvaux on the weekend of 15-18 September with the specific intention of taking advantage of the Lille Heritage weekend. This is organised in much the same way as ours the week earlier when places of interest that normally charge for entry are open free.
We were sent beforehand a vast list of possibilities so Valerie filtered through these to set up a programme. After arriving on Friday and an evening kindly provided by our hosts, we started on Saturday by walking through Lille to reach Museé de l’Hospice Comtesse. (She was a Jeanne de Constantinople who inherited land in the 13c in Flanders which enabled her to found this famous hospice and welcome house). Most of the group were taken on a comprehensive guided tour whilst I enjoyed a Flemish beer in a nearby café. On our way back to the Grande Place we visited the magnificent Cathedral noted for its vast translucent marble west window.
After lunch we visited La Bourse which has 24 four-storey houses round a central square courtyard. It is famous for its array of bookstalls but as a bonus on our visit we were treated to an incomprehensible play being carried out in the middle of the courtyard involving three musketeers. In the evening the whole group and our hosts were entertained at the home of Didier and Nancy Seguin to a memorable and delicious buffet meal with copious amounts of delicious food and fine wines.
On Sunday we admired the splendid variety of paintings, sculptures and tapestries in the Palais des Beaux Arts followed by lunch in our favourite restaurant, Les Trois Brasseurs. In the afternoon after waiting in a long queue stretching right round the square saw us visiting the Opéra de lé Hospice Comtessera with its spectacular interior. I got separated from the others and was lucky to see and hear a performance by a fine South African Choir singing and dancing in their main hall. We went on to visit the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie, which was built in 1906 in a neo-Flemish style with a central trading area (now superseded by remote computers) containing very elaborate ceilings and paintings.
On Monday we were taken to the most extraordinary modern villa built by a millionaire with no expense spared and now restored, maintained and protected by the Local Authority. I found it all most extraordinary – lavish woods, exquisite marble walls, elaborate built-in cupboards, parquet flooring hand built piece by piece, elaborate lighting and decoration. The whole place has been lovingly and carefully restored so I found it surprising that the whole magnificent project had been arranged and financed by the State.
After a cordial lunch we boarded the Eurostar for our journey home once again so grateful for the kind hospitality we had received.