Travel Report: Lille, France.
July 2008. Once upon a time the French city of Lille was just a hop, skip and a jump away from my apartment in Brussels. So one weekend I spontaneously boarded a train and eighty minutes later I was there! These travel reports that pre-date my blogging days can be tough, because many of these trips were done totally on the fly with little to no plan. Lille is the perfect example: I didn’t really do any of the sights at all, but rather spent my day and a half wandering around the city aimlessly admiring all the gorgeous architecture. A good chunk of Lille’s cool buildings are crammed into this massive main square, Place de General du Gaulle, also known as The Grand Place. The square dates back to The Middle Ages when it was Lille’s main market area. The statue in the middle stands in tribute to the city’s resistance during the 1792 siege by The Hapsburgs.
July 2008. The Grand Place’s most impressive facade is its seventeenth century Old Stock Exchange (Vieille Bourse), which will have you getting your camera out before you’ve even finished taking it all in. Comprised of twenty-four identical houses, visitors can climb the ornate bell tower to check out the statue of Mercury (god of commerce), while a wander through the inner courtyard offers up keenly contested chess matches, a couple of souvenir shops and daily tango performances to honour Lille’s seventeen century Spanish heritage.
July 2008. Time your visit here for a Sunday afternoon and you can leaf your way through the city’s famous Second Hand Book Market, a delightfully sleepy affair where visitors can duck under the covered walkway and browse the stalls at leisure.
July 2008. Do note that the titles on offer at Lille’s Second Hand Book Market are largely French language, but dig around a bit and you could unearth some gems in an array of unexpected languages! An English copy of The Count of Monte Cristo, a Swedish translation of Great Expectations, you never quite know what’ll be up for grabs. There are also a few stalls selling intriguing old black and white photographs. The market is open Tuesday to Sunday between 13:00-19:00.
July 2008. There are several handsome squares peppered around Lille and another beauty is Republic Square (Place de la Republique) with its pretty fountains. This square is home to Lille’s Museum of Fine Arts (Palais des Beaux Arts), which dates back to 1892. The Museum has exhibitions on French archaeology, coins and sculptures as well as a section on Flemish sacred art. For more info on entrance tickets, opening times and the latest exhibitions, head for their official website.
July 2008. Lille’s wonderful architecture is literally everywhere, from its Art Deco cafes and restaurants to Art Nouveau stores and boutiques. The above shot is of a super fancy jewellery shop called A la Cloche D’or, which translates as At The Bell. If your idea of a good afternoon is looking at one thousand Euro necklaces, then this is your place.
July 2008. Lille’s main train station, dating back to 1842, is located just five hundred meters from the city’s other rail hub, Lille Europe. This one is the most charismatic of the two buildings, with its expansive concourse, bubbling fountains and sculptures throughout. There’s a cafe inside but I would advise giving the six Euro cardboard sandwiches the wide berth they deserve!
July 2008. If you only have one night in town, look no further than Rue De Lille for some top-notch Lille-style chow. With some seriously fine dining on offer dinner here can get expensive, especially if you go for the oysters, lobsters, foie gras, caviar and smoked salmon approach. Fear not though, there are a few simple French bistros that won’t split your wallet in two, as well as Moroccan restaurants, steakhouses and more!
July 2008. Wondering where to stay in Lille? I can thoroughly recommend the excellent Hotel Brueghel, a 3-star boutique joint right in the centre of town just a few hundred metres from The Grand Place. A 1930s style pervades the entire place, from its Neo-Flemish furniture and classic paintings, to the very cool Art Deco elevator that atmospherically clunks its way up and down the floors.
Hotel Brueghel definitely isn’t a budget option, but keep your eyes peeled and you can grab good discounted deals through the likes of Booking.com Their website is pretty basic, but still worth a look.
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