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Children spent two years alone

FIVE CHILDREN, abandoned by their father, lived alone in a house near Lille in northern France for two years. The children, who were aged between 8 and 15 when their father left, said nothing to the authorities nor to their mother in Portugal, because they feared being placed in care and separated.

48 hours in Lille

Just a channel-hop from Dover is a city rich with Flemish architecture, cobbled streets, old masters and mouthwatering `moules-frites'.

Drink: The Dunkirk spirit

Genevas, genevers or jenevers. Whatever you call them, flavourful continental gins are well worth crossing the Channel for. Illustration by Frazer Hudson

Offers: Win A First-Class Trip To See The Goya Exhibition In Lille, France

Rail Europe, the Royal Academy of Arts and The Independent have joined forces to offer a unique

Exhibitions; Goya: un regard libre Lille Palais des Beaux-Arts

No Goya painting can fail to be exciting. So I recommend a visit to Lille and its Palais des Beaux-Arts, just a couple of hours by rail from Waterloo. Its new survey of the Spanish master strikes to the heart. I'm sorry that the show isn't coming across the channel.

Travel Christmas Shopping: France's finest stocking fillers

Take a day trip to Lille and stock up on ripe local cheeses, pepites de chocolat and plenty of wine for the festive season.

Travel: The representatives of Belgium are engaged in a custody battle over Brussels

"MY MOTHER will be celebrating her 65th birthday on 16 December", writes Tracey Smith, of Hertfordshire. "We both wish to do something special to commemorate the day." Mother and daughter hatched several plans for treats by train. The British end of the Orient Express was first on the list, but the company could offer only a lunch-time trip to nowhere, lasting three hours.
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