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More mosaic tourism...

... This time we're off to Lille. Last week I had a couple of hours to spare there between trains. A quick online surf and I headed off to the rue des Chats Bossus - 'street of the hunchback cats'. What had happened to those unfortunate cats? No one I asked had any idea. My destination was a local landmark building, the mosaic-covered Huîtrière, or oyster bar.

No.3 announces itself with a large sign and with decorative flourishes of every kind, including a striking pair of bulbous, fish-eyed, stained-glass windows at first-floor level. L'Huîtrière opened in 1928 and was Lille's finest oyster bar and fishmonger for decades, holding a Michelin star by the time it closed in 2015. The building, designed by architect Gaston Trannoy, is covered inside and out with mosaic and stained-glass panels. These are my favourite kind of mosaic; ones that are integral to a building's structure, and give it an aesthetic voice. And this is a voice you can't ignore; stylishly done, the panels celebrate all things aquatic and are topped off by a large lobster stoically roasting on a silver platter, all framed in Art-Deco style embellishments. The building's oyster-bar days are long gone and it is now a very chic Louis Vuitton shop. The security guards on the door looked particularly forbidding but when I asked if I could look at the mosaics inside they melted into smiles and were delighted to show off their beautiful premises.

A landmark building in Lille covered in the finest mosaics

The famous l'Huitriere building and its mosaics

View of fish-themed mosaics on a Lille building

Fish and grape themed mosaics on the Huitriere building in Lille

Tiled advertisement for the wares once sold at L'Huitriere in Lille

A hungry-looking mosaic fish on the Huitriere building in Lille

More piscine mosaic on the Huitriere building in Lille
A fine mosaic panel by Gentil & Bourdet on the Huitriere building in Lille
Another fishy mosaic panel on the Huitriere building in Lille
Roast lobster mosaic on the Huitriere landmark building in Lille

These exterior mosaics are by the French firm of Gentil Bourdet; Alphonse Gentil (1872-1933) and François Eugène Bourdet (1874-1952). The pair worked across northern France and also, intriguingly, in Mexico.

The interior of the shop features lots of stained glass and several dramatic panels in smalti showing fishing scenes. I've left the handbags and sunglasses in, just in case you might enjoy looking at them.

Mosaic in smalti of fishing boats at the Huitriere building in Lille

Pulling in the nets - a mosaic at l'Huitriere in Lille

1940s mosaic in smalti at the Huitriere in Lille

Catch of the day in smalti mosaic at the Huitriere in Lille

scallop-encrusted mosaic pillar at the Huitriere in Lille

smalti mosaic panels in the historic Louis Vuitton building in Lille

Handbags and gladrags with smalti mosaic panel in the Louis Vuitton shop in Lille


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