I decided to visit Lille on a whim, to meet a dear friend and her 5 month old baby who were traveling via Eurostar from London. What better place for a rendezvous, a city I knew little about, and a place often referred to for it’s history and art. Only one hour by train yet worlds away.
Upon arrival, I forgot that I was in France. The locals of Lille are a friendly people, and the architecture of the old city reminded me much of Brussels, regal and replete with color. I was free of the gray hues of Paris and reveled in this change of scene. Much time was spent exploring these charming cobbled streets, which even a stroller could manage.
Though Lille is the only city in France where beer versus wine is the drink of choice, we skipped both and headed for tea and waffles at Charles de Gaulle’s favorite spot, Meert. This tearoom-sweets-shop which served kings and generals since 1761 is a must! I even took a few gaufres to go…
Somehow lunch followed dessert. It is next door to Lille, in the town of Croix, where the famous boulangerie and patisserie Paul first opened it’s doors, just over 120 years ago. Still a hotspot!
The rain prolonged our explorations of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, housing impressive collections of 19th century art. Well worth a rainy afternoon, this being the largest museum outside of Paris.
The following day the sun joined us, leading the way to the charming Rue de Gand where many an estaminet, a traditional Flemish eatery, was found. It was here where we enjoyed our best meal, in the company of the friendly French. 36 hours very well spent, in a city that pleasantly surprised.