JD and I made the trek to Northern France last weekend to the city of Lille for their annual Braderie. It’s a festival that dates back to the 12th century and involves merchants selling off goods at the end of summer to make room for new stock. These days, it has evolved into a truly mind boggling sidewalk sale of new, used, and antique goods for kilometer upon kilometer throughout the city.
Having arrived early on Friday, we stopped for a much needed refreshment at the 3 Brasseurs – it reminded me of being in Canada where this brewpub has a number of outposts. Seen here is my cherry beer, it went down very easily.
Next, we began a preliminary scout of the markets. The official Braderie doesn’t start until 2pm on Saturday, but lots of vendors begin their setup the day before, like this stall full of antique sleds!
Lille is a beautiful old city and is very pedestrian friendly. It’s also full of surprises, like the beautiful Porte de Paris and (above) and its gardens (below) which celebrates the military victories of Louis XIV.
Although the real excitement would begin on Saturday, the crowds were gathering.
Here, Lille centre prepares for the bargain-hunting, mojito slurping masses.
After a few hours of walking, we were in need of a drink and some dinner. Pictured here is a Monaco – a mix of beer, grenadine, and 7up or Sprite. Don’t ask me how this beery Shirley Temple came into being. All I know is that it’s delicious. And refreshing.
Voila, les moules! A huge part of the Braderie is eating moules frites, mussels with french fries. Restaurants actually compete as to who will have the biggest pile of mussel shells outside the end of their establishment at the end of Braderie. That’s some stinky bragging rights.
All manner of restaurants offer moules during the Braderie – we saw signs advertising red curry mussles, thai basil mussels, mussels with local maroille cheese, and on and on.
On Saturday, we began our day with the breakfast of champions – donuts in a bag and black coffee! We ate them sitting on a curb, watching the other early morning shoppers go by. The streets were filled with people selling coffee, crepes aux Nutella, and other baked goods. Bargaining is hungry business. Housewheres were just everywhere!
All manner of dishes and every possible shape and size of wine and liqueur glass you can imagine were on offer. Some stalls were themed – like this 60s and 70s stall.
Or this Antique gun and sword stall for that duel you’ve been preparing for. Entire rooms of beautiful antique furniture and rugs made us wish we had a car with a giant trunk.
One of our best buys of the weekend – smoked garlic! Also known as ail fumé d’arleux, this garlic is cold smoked to preserve it and can last up to a year. The garlic has a gorgeous smokey smell and the flavour is actually more intense that your average cloves because of the cold smoking process. It is now one of Europe’s regionally protected food products. Along with about 1100 other things… We ended up buying about 4kg worth of garlic, which is now hanging in our kitchen. Mmmm.
One of the many impromptu refreshment stands throughout the city.
Next, we stumbled on a beautiful set of copper pots (lined with stainless steel). I have been searching for such a set for a long time – copper is wonderful for conducting heat and so a joy to cook with. The conversation went a little like this:
Me: Look at these nice copper pots
JD: Wow, ask how much they are.
Me: He said 25 euro for the set.
JD: GIVE HIM THE MONEY NOW!!!
And we did!
We also picked up 6 beautiful and super sharp steak knives, made in France. My knife love is getting a bit scary, I have to admit. At this point, we needed a pastry break and hit up L’aziza patisserie on rue d’Arras. They’re a middle eastern bakery and their pastries did not disappoint. So much cinnamon, honey, and orange flower goodness.
As we explored the Braderie, we found that so many different parts of the city had their own mini-festivals happening. Here, there was an eco-friendly series of vendors with concerts and craft beers.
JD sampled some craft beer for the good of the people. “Think of the children!” he cried.
On both Saturday and Sunday, we made a visit to L’Ambassade du rhum, as they were mixing some absolutely killer mojitos. I don’t know why the mojito has become so wildly popular in Europe, but they were everywhere. We met some lovely Lillois (people from Lille) on Saturday afternoon and had a fine time with them late into Saturday evening. People from the north of France are known to be especially warm and hospitable, and these new friends were no exception. They took us on a fun tour of Lille/Braderie nightlife with many shouts of Alons-y, les Canadiens! Needless to say, we needed a restorative mojito on Sunday….
Fresh mint and its curative properties.
slightly inebriated tour of Saturday night, we’d passed a field full of music and delicious ethnic food tents. As if by some Sunday hangover miracle, we stumbled upon the same field the following day and merrily tucked into some Ghanian food! Smoked chicken with peanut sauce, beignets, plantains, and hot sauce. Not pictured: JD’s side dish of red beans. It was totally delicious and that hot sauce was HOT.
Our last foodie buy of the weekend, three tins of terrine from Comtesse du Barry. I once bought a sleeve of these in the Paris airport on a whim. Turns out, they’re an amazing addition to backcountry camping as they’re light, need no refrigeration, and make a lovely, restorative, and, let’s be honest, fancy lunch for the middle of the woods.
On Sunday, our last night, we ventured out in our neighbourhood to Saveurs de L’Inde and we were not disappointed. The above include mint chutney, spicy pickle, and tandori sauce for papadums.
The appetizer course was a sample of (R to L): pakora, tandoori chicken, and cheese naan. Not only was this the best pakora I’d ever eaten, the cheese naan was a revelation. It will haunt my dreams.
Our main course was chicken curry with 5 Indian spices plus basmati rice, which we washed down with a lovely Indian rosé. At this point, we had walked for so many hours that we both had tender feet. We decided to call it an early night before heading back to Lux on Monday morning.
One last pain aux chocolat and croissant before leaving France – but we are definitely going back next year! Merci les Lillois, and see you for mojitos in 2016!