Braderie de Lille

If your idea of hell is a pan pipe band on every corner then Lille’s annual La Braderie is not the place for you. I am tolerant to a point only briefly overcome by a most evil concoction. The James Blunt / Pan Pipe fusion… Oh sweet lord I can’t get it out of my head. If you can get through it then a weekend of moules & frites, beer and junk/antique shopping is ahead of you.

Yes that’s right. This post is about shopping. For dead people’s stuff. It’s one of many a guilty secret. I’ll baulk at the thought of Selfridges but present me with flea markets, junk shops or antique warehouses and I’m happy to wander, breathing in the must and dust hoping to find that mid century coffee grinder that I need in my life.

Ok before I lose the beery crowd I do have something for you. I know how you are obsessive. You like to collect. Beer mats, glasses and the like. Well this is your Mecca. Whether it’s branded ashtrays, pastis & whisky jugs, champagne buckets, beer mats, glasses, branded chalkboards, pumps and even the odd external sign then it’s all here. It took all my willpower not to pick up items for fear of starting a collection.


Refreshments are taken regularly from cafe’s and bars with a choice of sitting in or finding a makeshift bar setup for the weekend. A word to the wise would be to keep the majority of the alcohol for the evening as you may find yourself with that collection of 70s French Women’s Weekly you always dreamed of.


As trade tails off for the evening the bars an bistros fill, the moule shells are piled in the street for collection, such is the sheer volume and the bad schoolboy French gets it’s airing. I have an E in GCSE French in case you want a hint at how bad I am. The stereotype of sophisticated French society isn’t applicable in the places we visit with more Le Coq Sportif and Lacoste per square foot than in Croydon, Liverpool and Leicester combined. As the shells pile, glasses are constantly replenished, with only a brief torrent of rain, thunder & lightening to dampen spirits. In fact far from at as we race into the nearest bar and settle in until the rain stops. The perfect excuse!

Braderie de Lille

2010: The ones that got away

While posting yesterday about plans and thoughts for 2011 I realised that there were a few posts that got away from me in 2010. Fellow bloggers will doubtless have a heap of drafts that for whatever reason don’t reach you pushing publish. For me it’s often that I just can’t quite do justice to a situation or simply that time passes and I have new posts in mind. I then months later kick myself for not persevering. So to save me any further self flagellation here’s a selection of 2010 highlights that for whatever reason got away.

Rosebud, 11 bis rue Delambre, Paris… We all have our view of Parisien waitrs whether from experience or stereotype. A quick round of Dirty Martini’s and Whisky Sours looked as if to reinforce the stereotype, until the nose came out! With the skill of a circus clown the nose went on. A round to be remembered and a bar which we will visit again and again.

Berlin was the scene of a Supperclub farewell to Meister, before heading off for Oz. Basically four days of lots of beer and meat with Captain English as our guide of the best of East and West. There was the odd Karaoke debut, which the written word just doesn’t do justice too, and I’m assured the video evidence will not see the light of day (or YouTube). My rendition of The Gambler, Meisters take on Wild Thing, English’s Edwin Collins are all safely held by Silvio (under threat of legal action). We may have to return to the Punk bar, the name of which was annihaliated by the whisky, for another performance. If just to hear Silvio sing Kylie again.

Schleusenkrug, Tiergarten, Berlin: If there is a better place to quench a thirst than a Berlin beer garden then I don’t know it. After hours of criss-crossing Berlin on a Fat Tire bike the Schleusenkrug offered everything you could want: beer and pretzel.

Just a few of those that got away…

2010: The ones that got away

Christmas Kriek

So we’ve all been there. It’s midweek, its wet and cold and almost everything that could go wrong, has, and that which hasn’t will doubtless be kicking you in the arse in the next few days. Christmas week should not be like this!

Perhaps sensing the cartoon rain (or perhaps snow) cloud that has been hanging over my head all week Lou hatched a very simple but effective plan involving Belgian beer and savoury snacks. 

Before even opening the front door the smell of pastry and a good amount of cheese is wafting down the stairwell, and combatting the cloud. I will say at this point that there are many skills that I admire in the people in my life but the ability to read my mood and feed me accordingly is a skill that Lou has acquired above all others. I’m generally a grouch but more so when not sufficiently fed and watered. She has been known to counter my mood by saying “shut it, eat this “… seconds later the picture is different. 

As I open the door the waft is now an enveloping blanket of cheese. At this point, without even knowing what’s cooking any thoughts of stress have disappeared.  The source of this mood altering smell, Gougères; a sort of mini cheese puff made with choux pastry and stuffed with cheese. Hailing from Burgundy these French favourites are commonly served with a glass of bubbles. I’m not adverse to the odd glass of Champers but we don’t have any in the fridge. What we do have lurking in the deep recesses is some Lindemans Kriek. I’m not a big one for cherry beers (dare I say i’ve always considered it a drink for the ladies) but the sweetness and acidity of the Kriek is an ideal substitition for the Champagne and an ideal companion to the Gruyere laden pastry.

With the Gougères polished off, and the Kriek run dry, all is right with the world and Christmas week is back on track  So in the spirit of Christmas and this Anglo-Franco-Belgian post… Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël,  Zalig Kerstfeest.

Christmas Kriek