Sunday, June 03, 2018

La Condition Publique: The highlight of Roubaix

It's been a couple of weeks since we came back from our week in Belgium now and I've been up to my neck in work, so I have failed dismally to keep up my promise of a third post within the week. In fact it's a week since I posted the last one and life has moved on as it does.

The last two weeks have been positively tropical. After freezing our thingies off on the boat with night temperatures of down to five or six degrees and the days only making it to twelve or thirteen degrees, we arrived home on the warmest day of the trip and the week following, it soared to nearly thirty degrees...Murphy was having fun again.

Entrance to La Condition Publique

Anyway, before I lose all track of what we did after the Vulnerable Vandal episode, I thought I must write here about La Condition Publique, a wonderful and very special exhibition space in the heart of Roubaix.

We went there the day after Koos expelled our millenial mobster from the boat. Camille, the charming lady from the canal authorities, told us about it when we said we wanted to explore Roubaix. We'd actually wanted to go to the better known Piscine, the art museum, but it was closed (isn't everything in France?). La Condition Publique, however, was open every day, said Camille, and well worth a visit.

Well, she was right. It was.

La Condition Publique proved to be an enormous old building that used to be a quality control centre for wool and textiles, the industry that made Lille and its environs wealthy in former times. The building provided space for the laboratories and testing facilities that ensured the quality of the product was maintained. It began in the early twentieth century and continued until the seventies when the demise of the textile industry made it redundant.

The interior hallway of the building

In recent years, however, it has been revived for a different purpose. It is now an Arts and sustainable lifestyle centre. It houses exhibitions for artists and a huge hall where different types of living and building are displayed. We wandered round all the rooms in a kind of amazement. It was quite outstanding and the innovation we saw as regards building techniques with straw, wood and other renewable resources was pretty inspiring. I'm afraid I didn't take any photos of these, but it was a fabulous exhibition.

an exhibition in waiting

Art exhibition in the centre

There is also a restaurant, where we had a lovely lunch, and a theatre that puts on regular performances. But what crowned it for us (literally and figuratively) was the campsite on the roof. Erected on a rooftop garden where they also grow vegetables, this permanent camping area is quite delightful. It wasn't quite open for business, probably because it was a bit cold, but I could well imagine it will be very popular with young (and maybe not so young) travellers who want something a bit alternative.

Permanent tents on the campsite

Wall art

Permanent tents

Stacked up sleeping cubicles

What you get. I think it's amazing.

The roof top veggie garden...still in development

We were almost glad the Piscine was closed as we'd probably not have found this place, and it really was quite a highlight in the trip. The following morning, it was time to start the return journey, so after a peaceful night, untroubled by vandals, millenials or even gendarmes, we set off back along the Canal de Roubaix in bright but chilly sunshine. By that evening, we were back in Oudenaarde. On Friday evening we were in Ghent where we spent the night in a marina in order to await the arrival of family who were coming to spend the day with us there.

Sunshine on the Schelde where we took a quick stop

A special and very recognisable passenger boat
unique to Ghent

Art in the dark

Party-goers having rather chilly fun on solar-powered
floating pontoons, which are available for hire

Mooring up for lunch in Ghent

A special visitor

The final morning - warm sunshine at last

We had a lovely time meandering round the waterways of Ghent with my daughters and one of my sons-in-law despite some rather dreary and cold weather. But Ghent is always beautiful and rewarding. We spent a second night in the marina on a buy one, get the second free basis since we are members of the Belgian water sports association and then on Sunday, with glorious sunshine on our backs, we headed back to our mooring in Sas.

In hindsight, it was the coldest we'd ever been on board, but what a fabulous week it was. We didn't do anything we'd planned to do: no old lifts, no new lifts, no Piscine in Roubaix, but we had a marvellous week away on the water.

Have a great week allemaal!  Next time, I'll bring us up to date again.


  1. So inspiring. I don't mind going back to Roubaix soon - even if it's not by boat.

    1. Yes, there’s much morethere than meets the first!

  2. A wonderful week Val, despite the cold. Love the Ghent mooring!

    1. Thank you, Carol. It already seems an age ago. I’ve been so busy since. I’m all out of sync with your blog too!

  3. What a wonderful post Val, always so interesting and entertaining and you always have original and delightful expressions, such as ‘millen Mobster’. It’s always uplifting to see old buildings reinvented and restored, first time I’ve seen a rooftop campsite xx

    1. Bless you, Angela! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I have never seen a rooftop campsite either. It was such a special place!

  4. What at astonishing place!

    1. It was, Jo and very well worth the visit. I loved it!

  5. You are a treasure, Val. You know how to adventure and enjoy it and share it with others...even if it doesn't go according to plan. So glad y'all had a great time. Sorry about the's been a bit warm here finally! (steph(

    1. Thank you, Steph! I hope it warms up for you soon!

  6. Hi Val - those tents would be amazing to have a zizz in ... and that single 3C looked to be fun too ... great for all and sundry ... loved the tour you've given us - and so glad you had a happy time - take care ... cheers Hilary

  7. A fascinating account, Val. Thanks for sharing! But 5 degrees?? I'm surprised you survived! ;-)

    1. It was touch and go, Roger. We have no heating on the Hennie H. It’s a real summer holiday boat ;)


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