Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Sentimental Journey to The Bois-Blancs

It was a scruffy part of Lille, designated to be pulled down and be replaced by an Olympic Village. After the Games it was to become the Knowledge Centre of the North of France.
Luckily the Olympics went to Athens and and the isle of Les Bois-Blancs could doze off again.
Once a year in September, European countries celebrate their monuments. The Bois-Blancs had no monuments to offer, 'so' once a year since 1996 a varying group of Dutch historic barges sailed off to the this neighbourhood to provide them with monuments. Through the years I was one of the very faithful participants, because this was my brainchild.

Dutch barges moored at the Quai de l'Ouest in 2004.

Back then, they'd all but given up hope, and several houses were boarded up. Since 1996 however, this part of town regained self-confidence. People gave new attention to their houses, and gradually the island stopped being an area better avoided at night.

After the event in 2004 - as usual the third weekend in September - we decided that it was time to stop. The novelty had worn off, it was getting harder to mobilise the necessary forces.

After my tour along the railway I went to see how 'my' neighbourhood was doing. It seems we stopped just in time. It has been done up beyond repair. No more scruffiness to be found, gone are the small irregularities in the asphalt, no more dust or muddy patches on the pavement.
It has become a shopping area without shops.

The old canal
(the new and larger canal is on the east side of the island).

The footbridge, a great vantage point.

The little square-that's-not-square seen from the footbridge.

So goodbye Bois-Blancs, I'll miss you next weekend, and I know you'll miss us too, but I promise I'll come back now and then - see how you are doing, like I did this time.


jodie said...

My word... what a change to that lovely old scruffy place. This seems to be the norm in Belgium, doesn't it... taking scruffy old places with tons of charm and turning them into yuppy havens... oh well, I guess that's progress for ya'

I'm taking my camera on a tour of my bicycle route today so it should produce some interesting things.

Koos F said...

pssst Jo, I should have told you, Lille is in France.
To be honest I think they've overdone it but as a humanoid who doesn't live there I want to keep things the way they were.

Looking forward to see your pics !

Anne-Marie said...

Koos, what prompted the barge owners to sail to them in the first place? It's a sweet idea, and I'm just curious to find out how it started.

Lovely pics.

Koos F said...

Hi Anne-Marie

They wanted to do 'something with boats' on monuments day.
The Dutch Consulate there had a message placed in one of our professional skippers' newspapers (there are 3 of those newspapers!) asking for participants. I was the only one who replied. On leaving after the festival I promised the next time there would be twelve of us.

What is so special: it takes just under a week to get there and a week to get back, so the motivation must be strong.

Lille hands out special medals for monuments conservation achievements. I was awarded one in 1998 (proud).

Any more questions please don't hesitate to ask.

Dale said...

Dear Koos

It must be like a bittersweet fairwell to the island of the white woods.

At least you know that what you set out to do in the years past has come to fruition.

My favourite photo is of the not square square...


Koos F said...

Thanks Dale,
The square, which isn't even called a square but simply Rue Gavarni, is special to me as well.
The picture is exceptional in that I overcame my shyness and pointed tha camera at people (one of whom actually recognised me).
A few years ago I tried to nudge nudge wink wink the city officials into calling the square Place Fernhout, but that didn't work.
Like in Belgium, they prefer official, written proposals.

Dale said...

You're famous too, Koos!!

VallyP said...

As one who saw Bois Blancsas it used to be, I'm also saddened by its 'improvement'. It looks a bit clinical now without the stones and grass on the verge. Maybe they'll forget it for a couple of years and it will benefit from a bit of healthy neglect! Lovely pictures of this still and peaceful stretch of water, Koosje. I wouldn't mind slipping the Vereeniging between those beig sleeping hulks for a spell too!

Lannio said...


I must say your blogs are great, but drive me crazy. I've gotta figure out somehow how to load videos. It makes things much more beautiful. Oh well, at least I'm related to someone "famous" (or is that infamous?)


Dale said...

Koos, I have les bois blanc right here at home!

E.L. Wisty said...

Fantastic pictures (as in the previous posts). As I'm so attached to water I especially liked the one of the old canal: perfectly calm mirror surface, not even the slightest breath of wind rippling the water.


gypsy noir said...

superb pics as always from the number one tour delux guide...

Alecia said...

Nice photos Koos! Love the pics of your barge at Val's too. I have some on my blog from the Attic Jam - thanks for the post.

Dale said...

Hi Koos

I'm on the computer at work and was able to watch the loop.

Fabulous photos!
They give me the distinct impression of being at sea level...

Water water everywhere!


bookworm said...

Hi Koos,
is your barke ready to go into water again? Hope it for you. I'm a lazy blogger in this day's because I sit down every evening with my both kids and looking about school things.
Wish a good week.