From Lille with love

My main memory of France is a teenage spat with a French exchange, with the result that I quickly learnt the truth behind “gestures speak louder than words” – my thirteen year-old animosity and anger eclipsing my scant knowledge of French. Nevertheless, I welcomed a two-day visit to Lille last weekend, and the R&R value of a mini-break “sans l’ordinateur”.

The Eurostar from Kings Cross to Lille is staggeringly fast. It takes around one hour and twenty minutes, making it the trans-country equivalent of travelling East to West across the UK capital, during a particularly bad morning commute. For some reason my mum had added Lille to her list of things to warn me about (alongside haggis and drinking on an empty stomach), reckoning that the city lacked the Renaissance beauty or “je ne sais quoi” chic of its French urban counterparts. Thankfully she was wrong. Although lacking in your typical touristic hotspots (my SLR camera was glaringly conspicious, juxtaposed with my English chinos..), Lille has a comfortable and unassuming charm that denies places like Paris; and unusually too Lille residents love the English.

The cobbled streets, permanent Christmas lights decking every main street and extensive range of Belgian beer easily accessible meant that my two nights there felt more like four. Time moved more slowly, and even my stumbling and poor attempts to speak French/point at items on a menu, fitted in with this chilled way of life and were greeted with smiles. Unashamedly, I went wholly French-cuisine crazy – ordering steak, “frites”, “l’Orangina” and Lille’s famous “La Gaufre” (a pancake/waffle topped with a sweet filling) as much as my stomach could muster. The unfortunate downsides being that one weekend’s ‘holiday’ has made me want more, that and I cannot stop eating…

Lille's central square

One of Lille's combled streets

One of Lille's shopping streets - great for Vintage clothing

Lille's interesting mix of buildings

An unusual mask above a shop in Lille


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