Saturday September 3rd, 2011

What a night! WHAT A NIGHT! It’s 1am, I’m sleepy and I’m tired, but I can’t go to bed until I tell you about it. The phrases are running in my head, my fingers are too slow for the words. But I’ll try to tell you the essentials now; maybe keep the rest till tomorrow.

Let me star with the beginning. It was a very nice day: first it was a warm weather with clear blue sky, and temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius! I have never seen this since I came here. All the ladies were in strap shirts and sandals. You feel summer is really here.

I worked till 4pm, and then we did some shopping for the new apartment and started moving our things to it. The rest should go in tomorrow; hopefully we’ll have our first night in bed then.

So far everything is perfect.

This week end is the “Braderie de Lille”. It’s a big festival they make in Lille during the whole week end as a celebration of the end of the vacations, and as a celebration of the beginning of the mussels season (which is kind of the specialty of the region). So on the first week end of the month of September, each year, they plan a big festival, with clearance sale, street concerts, animation for the kids, etc… and in addition to this, all the restaurants serve mussel along with their regular menu. So you can go to “Hippopotamus” for example, which is a typical French restaurant that serves meat or whatever, it will add mussels to the menu only for this week end.

I have known about this festival a long time ago, and Francois and I decided to go there. I even told them at work: I can work during the week end, but on the night of Saturday September 3rd, I’m busy 🙂

So after we finished what we were doing, it was time to go to Lille. And since we thought that all the parking spots will be full, we decided to go by tramway. While sitting there, waiting for it to arrive, we read on the small TV screen that due to a storm coming, the “Braderie” will be closed at 10pm. It was 9pm, but we decided to go there anyway. We thought what could go wrong? It’ really hot, it’s not going to rain; it will just be a few thunders, they won’t harm us.

So we go to Lille, we got there around 9h30. It was full of people! I have never seen it this way. Concerts everywhere, people from all around the country and even from outside. It was really something to see. We started moving around, people did not seem to care that a storm was coming, but the stands were all closed. The municipality gave the order of closing by 10pm so by the time we got there everything was closed. The only places still open were the restaurants. And they all planed for the rush of visitors this week end, so they all had extra plastic chairs and tables to make sure they can fit the biggest number of people possible.

People in Lille next to the Lille Flandre station

People in "La Grande Place"

Stands starting to close

People sitting in restaurants

Since there was nothing much to see, we decide to sit in a restaurant and have our meal of mussels. So we ordered 2 meals, and beers. The place we sit in even changed their tables to bigger ones, and their chairs to benches, and they were seating all the people next to each other. The only disappointment was that on the websites I read about the Braderie on, they mentioned that the restaurants all put the empty mussels outside to show how many got consumed and to make the competition tougher. I would have wanted to see that, but it wasn’t the case. I don’t know if they do it after people leave or at the end of the week end.

First Mussels meal this season

While sitting there enjoying our first meal of mussels since we got here, it started. First a few drops and then HEAVY rain! The subway entrance was straight in front of the restaurant, so we were looking at people running to get into there to hide! Even some of them were entering to hide under our restaurant’s tents, and the owner was shouting “those who are not consuming anything they should not stay!” but who cares? People want to hide from the rain because it was coming down really hard. The waiters in the restaurant started to be scared that the tent is going to fall under the weight of the water, so they were hitting on it to take the water out. And it started going down from everywhere, on the mussels, on the fries, everywhere!

Rain starting

People running to get to the subway

Water getting into the restaurant

Waiter holding the tent to avoid it from falling under the rain's weight

More and more people wanna go into the subway

It didn’t look like it was going to stop any time soon, so we decided to run to the subway when it seems that there the rush there was slower…wrong decision! Look at the amount of people in there! The escalator were all shut, people were coming in and going out from all places! It was a complete disaster. It was also raining so much that at some places there was water coming into the station!

Amount of people in the subway station

All these wanna get into the subway to leave Lille and its crazy weather

Rain got inside the station

And here our real adventure will start, along with our true live experience with French people.

Because of the crisis (if you can call a few drops of rain a crisis), all the subway and transportation personnel was in place tonight. It’s good, because people were really in panic mode; everybody wanted to go back home asap.

But the funny thing is that people were complaining about it! Because there were a lot of people trying to get into the subways, the security guys were letting people into the station by batch. So they would let like 100 in, and then they would prevent everybody else from going in until these went into the train. So one lady starts complaining, I was going to kill her!!! “oh! They are controlling now! This is all they know how to do, control and be on strike!” and then she mingles Sarkozy in it, I don’t know in which manner. You idiot! They are making sure everybody will get into the subway in the most civilized way given the situation! Ever since I came here I’ve been keep myself from saying this, but after tonight I won’t: FRENCH PEOPLE LIKE TO NAG!!! They will nag about anything, even if it doesn’t mean anything!

You would know what would have happened if we were in the same situation in Lebanon (there will never be such a situation but let’s pretend for a second). Well first of all there wouldn’t be any security guy making sure the subways are filled in a civilized manner; and even if there was one, people would have just rushed over him, over each other, and taken the next subway coming! You have to be thankful when you have some order put it place! Not just complain about it!

Because of the rush, the subway got crazy I think (or it was programmed to do this, I don’t know). It left the Station Lille Flandre, went to two more, and then came back to Lille Flandre! It was really a mess!

Eventually we decided to leave the subway and take the tram home, maybe since this has a driver it will get driven in the right way and we will eventually get home.

By the time our adventure was done it was 1am when we arrived home. I can’t say we regretted going to the Braderie, but it was an interesting experience. You can imagine the different types of people you would see in the subway and tram given the number of people stuffed in there each time: the French, the Algerian, the British who came only for the week end and regretted being here, the drunk, the blond enjoying her small adventure on Saturday night, etc… I will stop here the list can be long. I’m glad none of us is claustrophobic; we would have had to stay in Lille for the night maybe.

One thing is sure: next time I go to the Braderie, I’ll go early and I’ll go in my car or by foot 😛

See you tomorrow!

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