Lille is a beautifully confusing city.
The whole reason of the trip may not have exactly been achieved.
We couldn’t find the football stadium.
We had reached a row of shops, near – well I don’t know what it was near – and outside an American diner something amazing happened, which motivated for all of about two minutes and 17 seconds. There was around 50 men and women gathered around a bonfire on the pavement, with a 20 piece brass band playing. They were swaying, dancing and bobbing to their tunes; we got a disapproving look as we walked past rather than join in. But we had a football match to attend.
After walking pointless miles throughout Saturday it struck 9pm and we had had enough.
We were no closer to Stade Pierre-Mauroy than at the train station, almost six miles away, we were in some rough Lille suburbs and we didn’t want to get lost any later, so we headed back.
During the attempted walk to the 55,000 capacity stadium, my mum and dad were texting me from home where they were actually watching the game.
‘What a nasty tackle from Danic! He deserved that yellow card.’
Yes mum I’m sure he did.
I phoned home, deflated and down, the connection was not brilliant, even worse. I could hear her but she couldn’t hear me, it was nice to hear a comforting voices though.
It was 10 o’clock and now we couldn’t find the hostel, Gastama. We walked in one direction, wrong, back we headed to McDonalds for free wifi. Another direction. Wrong. Back to McDonalds. There was only one other road and it was probably still going to be wrong. After a four mile walk to the hostel we arrived at 11:30pm and we were treated by a terrible joke by a French man with a wicked moustache.
‘Je suis Anglais et je ne parle pas Francais’ (‘I am English and I don’t speak French’ – something like that) we said to him.
‘I am French and I speak French’ he replied, laughing like a mad man.
We looked confused laughing politely, he then reassured us ‘it was only a joke.’ He took our money, the price was the biggest joke.
I got the wifi code and then showered, drying myself with a jumper. It was the nicest shower I have ever had. After a lie down we went for beer.
After a 13 hour sleep in Lille we checked out three hours late, the woman didn’t care, neither did we.
I was craving fruit. We found an open Carrefour and bought an apple, an orange, a lemon, a persimmon and a bottle of wine.
10:00pm – My laptop was loading up my photojournalism essay whilst sitting in the waiting room. I spent two hours on it just that night, it still isn’t complete. Beyonce was on the radio, but we could hear something much better, without saving the work, I packed up and we went out to the atrium where a young French man was playing piano and singing. He was amazing. He sang everything from the Beatles to John Legend to Eminem (over a Louis Armstrong track).
He finished and walked of, hastily. We went the out the other way, I needed to brush my teeth and I was not going to pay 70 cents to use the toilet’s sink.
Five minutes later the young French man walked outside, Mehdi, where we were sat, he came over to us, we exchanged the niceties: ‘you were amazing’, ‘we don’t speak French’ etc. I understand why he walked off hastily, ‘Come over here, the police don’t like the smell of this’ and he drew a ‘cigarette’.
We were chatting for an hour and a half. About the time that he went to Liverpool to watch Lille v Liverpool, walking down streets in Liverpool wearing any other football top other than Liverpool’s is a risky business, but singing their opposition’s song whilst waving their opposition’s scarf with a different top on is new level risky. But that is what he did. He never actually got to the stadium, this was a relief. He did, however, go back to a gang of Liverpool fans house to watch the game and drink a lot of beer. More than what we could do, but he spoke fluent English, we couldn’t even speak pidgin French.
We exchanged Twitter usernames and added each other on Facebook, and invited him to England some time.
‘If God allows me’
We got back into our lecture an hour late, I think we could be let off considering our bus turned up 20 minutes late in Lille at 1:15am the same day.
I know that this piece should have been uploaded before the previous. But, I hope that it has been worth the wait. I have many more stories to share.