While in London I wanted to pick up a book that I could carry around to read during my down times. So I popped in the wonderful flagship store of Foyle’s on Charing Cross Road to browse around. I ended up looking at classic British mystery writers. After Agatha Christie there is none better at a classic British mystery than the late P.D. James. After browsing a bunch of her titles, I settled on a relatively new anthology of some of her previously unpublished short stories, Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales.

About Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales by P.D. James:

“It’s not always a question of ‘whodunit?’ Sometimes there’s more mystery in the why or how. And although we usually know the unhealthy fates of both victim and perpetrator, what of those clever few who plan and carry out the perfect crime? The ones who aren’t brought down even though they’re found out? And what about those who do the finding out who witness a murder or who identify the murderer but keep the information to themselves? These are some of the mysteries that we follow through those six stories as we are drawn into the thinking, the memories, the emotional machinations, the rationalizations, the dreams and desires behind murderous cause and effect.”

Sleep No More ended up being the perfect book find for my trip – short, engrossing stories I could read in intermittent intervals and be totally entertained by a master at the top of her craft.

Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales by P.D. James is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers everywhere.

Just a 90 minute train ride from London (and an hour from Paris), is the northern French city of Lille, a charming little city that offers everything you want from a French city, without the crowds of Paris.

As I mentioned, I suggested Lille as a meeting place for me and my sister and niece as my London vacation coincided with their Paris vacation. And I am glad I did – we fell in love with this gem of a city north of Paris near the Belgian border.

I arrived via Eurostar and my sister and niece arrived on a domestic train from Paris. I arrived first at Gare Lille Europe and met them at the other train station, Gare Lille Flandres, just a short walk away, right in the heart of this charming French city with medieval roots and due to its proximity, a Flemish flare.

About Lille:

“The legend says that Lille was founded in 640 by Lydéric and Phinaert giants. But we find the first trace of Lille in writing of 1066. Lille was in turn under Flemish, Burgundian, Spanish before becoming French in 1667 during the conquest of the city by Louis XIV. With a population of almost 220,000 inhabitants, thanks to the recent addition of the town of Lomme, Lille claims its place as the tenth largest city and fourth largest metropolis (1.9 million inhabitants including 700,000 over the Belgian border) in France. With 36 % of the population aged under 25, Lille is a vibrant, young and dynamic city. In 2004, Lille was European Capital of Culture and obtained the title of ‘City of Art and History’. The city has hence underlined its status as an excellent destination for culture and tourism. The Euralille centre, with its TGV (High Speed Train) station, Congress venue (Lille Grand Palais), offices, hotels and a casino, confirms the position of the Lille area on the European map of tourism and trade events.”

Throughout Lille, charming plazas with the requisite cafes give way to charming cobblestone lanes with local shops as well as upscale shops and restaurants with all the major labels – French and otherwise. Mix in world class museums and ancient churches and other historic sites – and Lille is the perfect getaway from your European getaway.

Visit the official Lille department of tourism site here.

The fine folks at Jimmy Dean have a great selection of recipes using their products, and many great ones for your holiday meals – like this recipe I found for Sausage Cornbread Stuffing.

About the recipe for Sausage Cornbread Stuffing from Jimmy Dean:

“Wow your family with a unique twist on a simple holiday classic. Combine Jimmy Dean Sage Pork Sausage with cornbread, celery and a blend of seasonings for a new tasty go-to stuffing recipe.”

Find the recipe for Sausage Cornbread Stuffing from Jimmy Dean here.

See all the recipes from Jimmy Dean here.

The fine folks at LovePop out-do themselves with their spectacular Thanksgiving Turkey Pop-Up Card:

“The front of this perfect pop up Thanksgiving Turkey card displays a handsome turkey with intricately detailed laser-cut plumage. Open the rich chocolate brown card to reveal a dapper three-dimensional turkey. Inspiration for the Thanksgiving Turkey Pop-Up Card: Pumpkin pie, football on the telly, and elastic waistbands are essential ingredients for an enjoyable Thanksgiving. The inspiration for this card is the anticipation of Thanksgiving, the only holiday where we aren’t judged for that third helping of Nana’s special whipped mashed potatoes on our plate.”

Find the Thanksgiving Turkey Pop-Up Card from LovePop here.

As it would happen, my sister and niece were in Paris the same time I was in London and I suggested we meet up for respective side trips in Lille, a French city about an hour north of Paris near the Belgian border.

For me that meant a trip on the Eurostar – the train that connects London with Continental Europe via the channel tunnel – and I was thrilled.

Eurostar trains originate at London’s St. Pancras station and the trip to Lille is about 90 minutes. Trains also run from London to Brussels and Paris and beyond.

St. Pancras is a huge train station which was recently redone and it is cool in the way that European train stations are cool. The Eurostar terminal is much like an airport – complete with passport controls and security – all of which work seamlessly.

My 6:40 a.m. train was on time and the train carriage was comfortable. The passage through the “Chunnel” was oddly unspectacular – which was good I guess as it is just another tunnel. Before I knew it we were in Calais and traveling across the French countryside.

The Eurostar arrives at Gare Lille Europe, the newer of Lille’s two stations, the other, Gare Lille Flandres, where many domestic trains arrive (including my sister and niece’s train from Paris) is just a short walk away across a plaza or through an enclosed shopping center.

So this post is all about the train to Lille – more about Lille in the coming days. However, I would recommend a visit to this under the radar gem and recommend the train (Eurostar or otherwise) to get you there.

Learn more about Eurostar here.

Learn more about visiting Lille here.

I found Lille to be the perfect charming French city. Seriously, we found delights around every corner. We joked that the city pays actors to walk around playing roles to add to the charm. We even saw a man stumbling down the street sipping from wine bottles in each hand. And then there was this – the sun came out and illuminated Grand’ Place in all its glory and then the old man on the bike…

On my side trip to Lille, France – I fell in love with this small gem of a city and its picturesque streets and plazas – like this photo I took looking across Lille’s Grand’ Place (Place du General de Gaulle) after the rain stopped.’

More highlights from my charcuterie tour of London.

FF: Cheezelo

To visit Central London’s Cheezelo is to have a tour of all of Europe – as they offer scores of cheeses from all over. But not just cheese, Cheezelo also offers a great line of cured meats to complete your charcuterie needs.

About Cheezelo:

“Cheezelo offers all cheese lovers high quality cheese products, from renowned accredited and medallists cheeses, to freshly prepared ready to eat cheese platters delivered to your door. With more than 70 various cheeses from Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, there is surely what you are looking for! We also have a wide range of savouries, charcuterie & deli food products for individuals or businesses.”

Cheezelo is located at 46 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JB, just a short walk from King’s Cross Station.

FF: Appetite London

Meanwhile, the fine folks over at Appetite London in the East Village district, offer fresh meats and a great line of cheeses and charcuterie for dine in or take out.

About Appetite London:

“We combine Butchery with the finest artisan foods to bring you the best choice of all: fresh cuts of free range rare breed meat straight ‘from the farm to the fork’, side by side with the highest-quality of English & Continental cheese, Charcuterie and Delicatessen.”

Appetite London is located at 9 West Park Walk, East Village, E20 1DH, London.

The other day I posted about London’s Lord Mayor’s Show – the centuries-old annual celebration of the Lord Mayor which takes place every November with a ton of pomp and whimsy. I just love this photo I snapped while attending this year’s event this past weekend that shows how wacky it gets. Watch for a full gallery of my Lord Mayor’s Show photos coming soon.

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