Three million extra people from all over France in the center of Lille? Result: Cramped!! La Braderie is a huge festival and market throughout the central streets of the city. The festival lasted for two days, with Saturday the 6th being the first day. Our group trooped into our Metro station, and saw the start of the madness 12 stops away from the hustle and bustle of the main events! When we arrived at our desired stop, it was mental. There were too many people for the streets to cope with, so we spent most of the day stopped, like sardines, with everyone pushing in all directions to try and somehow get out of the crowds; it proved to be the same for the whole weekend!
Despite all the people, and the slow-moving crowds, we managed to see so many of the streets of the Braderie. Mini-concerts, dancers, street-performers, and waffle and crepe stands on every corner! And everything that ever seemed to exist was being sold! Just the standard clothes, jewellery, books, children’s games, toiletries, pots and pans, mirrors etc. were but it extended to couches, canoes, creepy china dolls, taxidermy, typewriters and so much more. I had never seen anything like it! In front of the Palais des Beaux Arts, slightly detached from the stalls of the markets, we found a resting place at the fountains. It was so nice to have some space to recuperate and pysch ourselves up for some more of the festival!
The first day of us roaming the streets was too hot and stuffy for us to stop and have a look at each stall but on the Sunday, with less people, it was much more achievable. I bought just one item- a French children’s storybook; to act as a momento of the Braderie and to help me improve my French. Yes, my French is so bad I need a children’s book! Hahah. And now, I’m so glad I bought it- everytime I open the pages I’ll remember wandering through the streets of Lille and being a part of the success that brings so many people here for the annual two-day festival!
In true Braderie tradition, we had to have the Moules-Frites (or mussels and chips to you and me)! I’d say around 90% of the people I saw eating outside restaurants were having them! My first experience, in a restaurant named Aux Moules, went down pretty well too! Although it was so obvious to the French it was our first time- me and three of my Brazillian friends were fascinated by them, asking just about every question under the sun about them! “Do we eat this one?” “Whats this bit?” “Why are the ones we shouldn’t eat the closed ones?” etc… I will definitely be introducing my friends and family back home to Moules-Frites when they come and visit, and I can pass on my knowledge as the French did to us!
So with all that, and a crazy night out with what felt like all the 3 million people in Lille, my first experience of Lille’s festivals, spreading across the whole city, was an amazing one!