Lille and the Art of Zen Travelling

Palais Rihour, Lille

When I travelled to New York in 2009, I went to great lengths to plan every single moment of my trip.  Of course, I was travelling alone with only my own experiences to think of, and I had no idea of when next I would venture across the pond.  I had to experience every moment to the full.

Our experiences in Britain and Europe have been quite different.  We tend to drive to random locations or pick up vague recommendations of places to visit.  Sure, it’s nowhere near as well planned but it’s a lot more magical and rather like a treasure hunt. 

That is why I had no idea of what the next four days held in store for me when I packed my suitcase last Saturday morning, but I stubbornly packed my beachwear in the entirely mistaken belief that I was heading for a beach holiday.  Let’s just agree that the weather in France was the opposite of beach weather and we soon found ourselves on an altogether different type of holiday than originally intended.

But therein lies the charm.  On Sunday morning, we took a drive up along the coastal roads from Sangatte to Dunkerque and discovered that nothing in France is open between 12pm and 2pm and certainly not on a Sunday.  Not wanting to wait around for two hours on a wet and rainy Sunday (we had arrived at 11.35am), we then took to the road again and headed for the historic city of Lille.

Palais Rihour, Lille, France

Despite the unseasonably cold and wet weather, we opted to take a self-guided walking tour through Old Lille.  We began our journey at the Palais Rihour, which is all that remains of the 15th century palace that was built for the Duke of Burgundy. The coat of arms for the dukes of Burgundy is just visible in the top left photo.

My photos didn’t come out as well as planned (I blame the gale force winds and the challenge of juggling a camera and umbrella in one hand while trying to control my hair with the other) but in my next post I’ll take you on a tour through the Grand Place and then on into the heart of Old Lille.

Rue de Palais Rihour

By the way, the title of this post refers to a little known art I picked up in South Africa known as Zen driving. Essentially, it involves following the next car that looks like it knows where it’s going when you’re lost. I often use this tactic when I’m out walking in London too and we certainly used it around the little villages in France when the satellite navigation lost the plot.  In time, this technique has evolved into something more.  Nowadays I am happy simply to head out in any direction and explore any area, just to see what I can see. 

When was the last time you wandered aimlessly, or do you prefer to plan every minute and make sure you live each moment to the full?

8 comments on "Lille and the Art of Zen Travelling"
  1. I have never travelled alone, except of business travels but if I were, I would probably also have eveything planned:)

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  2. What a great tip that Zen traveling! I must try it next time I get out of town :)
    Beach or not, sounds like you had a great time anyways ;)

  3. Great way to travel, at least some of the time. For me, a lot of the fun of traveling involves the planning process, but it's good to be open to changes in plan when necessary!

    BTW, Emm, for some reason comments aren't showing up in my blogs, but I do get emails with your comments and appreciate them!

  4. Well, for somebody that was juggling windblown hair and cold temps, I'd say you captured the true essence of the palace of Burgundy. Was your bathing suit underneath your layers of clothing just in case? lol

  5. @ Ola: I must say, travelling alone was scary but I learned so much about myself in that time!

    @ Ivanhoe: It is a lot of fun and I have only landed up in additional trouble once!!

    @ Kathy: yes! There is definitely a time and a place for zen travelling! Thank you for picking up that Blogger was putting my comments into spam again. It is so irritating when they do that.

    @ Lauren: Hee hee. No, I certainly didn't even unpack my costume - how sad. But thanks for the comment about the photographs!

  6. Zen traveling sounds more like an adventure and not knowing where you might end up. From the looks of your pictures, it doesn't seem it led you astray. Sorry your vacation was wet like mine, but we enjoyed it nevertheless. I think we need a helmet camera so we don't have to juggle it with the umbrella and it keeps our hands free. :)

  7. @ AVCr8teur: Heh. I'll have to think about standing still and actually using a tripod in future. It might work out better!

    @ Tina: thanks!


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