Lille: A Lovely and Very Liveable City

Windows onto the Square — Place du Général de Gaulle, Lille, France

Windows onto the Square, Place du Général de Gaulle © 2012 Mufidah Kassalias

It’s over a month since we arrived in France, landing in a drizzly, overcast Dunkerque around midday on 12 June. After spending a few hours in the town we drove south east to Lille, the main city of Lille Métropole, the fourth largest metropolitan area in France (after Paris, Lyon and Marseilles). Approximately a quarter of the population of Lille Métropole live in Lille itself, which is a lovely and very liveable city in the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France that borders on Belgium.

We stayed in Lille for only six days, but in that short time we saw much of the city, getting to know our way around quite well using the Metro as well as our feet. One of our favourite spots for sipping coffee and watching the world go by was Place du Général de Gaulle, known locally as Grand Place. And during one of the many rain showers we took up residence inside the Notting Hill Coffee shop (not very French but they did make good lattès!), where we sat in a couple of window seats watching the raindrops bouncing hard as the people crossed the square as quickly as possible, umbrellas up, shoulders hunched.

Vieux Lille

Vieux Lille © 2012 Mufidah Kassalias

A short walk north west of the Grand Place and you find yourself in Vieux Lille, the old town, with its narrow streets and cobblestones, fashionable cafés and restaurants, artisan boulangeries and pâtisseries aplenty. I think my head was turned more often by the beckoning delights of strawberry tarts and suchlike than it was by the beautiful buildings. Perhaps that’s why I took so few photographs?

Roughly south of the old town is the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, an impressive building that houses the largest museum collection outside of Paris. Although we didn’t get around to visiting the museum (aside from going in to use the loo once or twice) we spent a few lunchtimes sitting on the grass outside, tucking into simple French fare of Comté cheese, olives and baguette, accompanied by a slug or two of Bordeaux. Given the mix of sunshine and showers the skies were constantly changing, and on one occasion we also saw an alien hot air balloon fly across the sky and over the museum.

Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille

Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille © 2012 Mufidah Kassalias

After a couple of days we began to notice a curious phenomenon — six coloured spots randomly placed on various pavements. As we were taking pictures of them a Lille woman, who must have assumed we knew the significance of what we were photographing, stopped to ask us if we knew what they were. Unfortunately, we never did find out and so they remain a mystery.

Coloured Spots on the Pavement, Lille

Coloured Spots on the Pavement © 2012 Mufidah Kassalias

One of the best things we did in Lille was to visit the Marché de Wazemmes in the Place de la Nouvelle Aventure. A buzzing and vibrant market, it takes up the entire square plus the surrounding side streets and is both a visual and gastronomic feast. We have Apolline, our lovely CouchSurfing host, to thank for taking us there with her family on Sunday morning; as well as introducing us to a delicious Moroccan food stall that was attached to a restaurant, which meant we could buy our food inexpensively at the stall and eat at a table outside the restaurant. And for desert we shared a box of even more delicious pastries that Apolline’s mother had bought from a busy Moroccan pâtisserie in the square. Whenever we return to Lille, which we’d both very much like to do, I’d like to spend more time walking around and getting to know the Wazemmes area — and, of course, sampling yet more pâtisserie delights!

14 responses

  1. Pretty pictures and a story that makes it interesting and tasty read your post. I had lost the previous post, but everything is a wonderful place of dreams and I’m glad.
    Adiós.

  2. I would LOVE to know why those spots were painted on the pavements.. such a pity you didn’t find out :(
    I like this bit “artisan boulangeries and pâtisseries” I think I’d get side-tracked too Mufidah ;)

  3. Charming….as Carlos mentioned above, the villages and countryside of france have a special appeal among those who haven’t seen it yet..your trip report is adding to that !

    I am bookmarking this and will also bug you later when we plan the France/Europe trip :)

    • I think most places one hasn’t been have a special appeal. For me, although I’ve been to parts of the US, there are many places I haven’t been, in particular some of the paces that you and other WordPress bloggers either live or have visited. The incredible rocks that you have photographed and posted spring to mind.

      Happy to hear you’re enjoying the posts — and I’m sure you guys will enjoy France and Europe, whenever you manage to arrange your trip :-)