July 31, 2018
The visual extravaganza of yesterday in Kortrijk culminates with a last ride through the centre of town, under the bridge that crosses the river, rich in its own design considerations. The sky is puncuated with dramatic clouds, which threaten the possibility of rain, but in the end hold back, the day thankfully remaining dry and bereft of any downpour.
Westward along the Leie River, fecund agricultural plots alternate with dense forest, the landscape running towards the French border in increasing verdant and less industrial in nature. The border roughly traces the course of the river from Halluin to Houplines, before heading north again, while I turn south again at Deûlémont, heading south towards the confluence of commuter towns forming a crescent immediately to the north of Lille.
Wervik is an unassuming small community located in this stretch on the Leie river just inside Belgium, its Gothic cathedral soaring over the quiet streets that comprise the town. And yet the town dates back to Gallo-Roman times, then later being torn back and forth from the clutches of one European power and another, landing in the hands of the French in 1668, annexed by Spain in 1678. incorporated in France with the Treaty of Nijmegen, divided in half by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, incorporated into Netherlands with the Congress of Vienna in 1815, then finally joining Belgium with the Belgian Revolution in 1830.
Firmly ensconced in the sprawl of wheat fields along the Franco-Belgian border, Comines is graced by charming Flemish brick architecture and the tantalizingly exotic neo-Byzantine church that dominates the town centre of the French half lying to the south of the border.
To the north of Lille lies the bedroom commmunity of Quesnoy-sur-Deûle, lying alongside the Deûle, which runs eastward toward the larger city before arcing northward and joining the Leie along the Belgian border. The town also lies amongst a patchwork of golden wheatfields, its centre focused on the Gothic church and Flemish Renaissance municipal hall, never mind the presence of well-stocked and affordable bars, a hallmark of France and virtually non-existant in Belgium.
Further to the south I get completely lost in the urban sprawl that surrounds Lille. I had under no circumstances wanted to approach too close to Lille, rather, veer at some point to the east towards Roubaix and Tourcoing, however, my lack of detailed maps of the area results in spending unnecessary hours plying the backroads weaving through the communities between Lille and Tourcoing before finally landing in the dramatic central square of Roubaix, dominated by the stunning intricately adorned facade of the early Art Deco Hôtel de Ville.