glorious weather, a weekend in Lille

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After weeks and weeks of gloom, we’ve been enjoying glorious weather for the past week: cold in the morning, warmer throughout the day, and dry with brilliant sunshine. Friday after work I took the train up to Lille. The kids are on school vacation for two weeks.

The French word, “luge“, means sledding or toboganning. Despite the absence of snow, the city of Lille constructed this sled run for kids. My 6 year-old companion (soon to be 7) and I spent Saturday and Sunday at the Gare Saint Sauveur, a former train station (freight) converted into an exhibition center and recreational space. I’ve been taking the kids there for over a decade.

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Inside there’s lots more to do: a giant chess game …

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Le trampoline …

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Le karting …

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I have no idea what this is called, in French or in English …

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Halfway across and treading on a single rope (like an acrobat) while holding onto another rope above, Soso stopped and said with a little trembling voice, “Tata, j’ai peur,” (Auntie, I’m afraid). What could I do, climb up and pluck him off the rope? With the help of a monitor while reassuring him that he couldn’t fall because he was attached by his safety belt, we talked him through it.

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Le curling and le mini-golf …

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All entirely free and paid for from the coffers (and taxpayers) of the city of Lille. Traditionally socialist, this northern city has had the same mayor since 2001. Martine Aubry is her name and the people of Lille are fond of her. Her father, Jacques Delors, was Minister of Finance under President François Mitterrand and also President of the European Commission.

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Socialist mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry

She’s a no-nonsense woman and extremely efficient. Lille is a well-organized city and ideal for families. There are lots of activities for children and adults alike. After all his sporting activities, Soso announced that he was hungry and wanting lunch. So off we went to the on-site bistro, one of my favorite lunch spots, for a tasty, inexpensive meal. This is butternut squash risotto (delicious!). Soso had fish and chips.

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Sunday was an equally beautiful day. Too nice to stay indoors. So off we went again, first to the park which was packed with kids, babies, parents and some grandparents.

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boy on a bike (Soso)

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After Ireland, France has the highest birth-rates in Europe. France’s family allowances for all (exempt from income tax) – what we used to call “baby bonuses” in Canada – are a contributing factor to this baby boom. Women are awarded a “birth bonus” for giving birth. The 2019 amount, for each baby born, is 941,67 euros. There are also September back-to-school allowances (example: 401,46 euros for a child from 15 to 18 years old), a moving allowance and other subsidies (chart below.)

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Spring comes early here; the miniature daisies (marguerites) and crocuses (crocus) are out.

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Next weekend I’m off to Amsterdam.

Here’s the French Social Security Family Benefits chart, in French, English and other languages.

https://www.cleiss.fr/docs/regimes/regime_france6_prestations-familiales.html

https://www.cleiss.fr/docs/regimes/regime_france/an_a1.html

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