The jewel of Northern France

France Lille, Paris, France   May 19, 2013    By

After spending a long, boring weekend in Mons I decided to mix it up and drive to France for the weekend. There’s a city, Lille, only a 45 minute drive from my house. I booked a cheap room and headed down on Friday afternoon. My car, nicknamed ‘Blue Thunder’ by a friend at work (a sarcastic nickname after he heard I maxed out at 60 mph on the German autobahn), made the drive easy, it’s just one freeway the whole way down. After I got to the city, I realized I had no idea where to park. Thank god for my GPS, I don’t know how anyone drives in Europe without one. I programmed in to look for a parking garage, and found one within a 5 minute walk to my hotel. The room was tiny, but that’s what you get for 40 euros a night.

The hotel was right in Old Town Lille, so everything was nearby. The first night I just wandered around, though I did have sushi which was just okay due to my vegetarian diet…if you don’t eat fish you might as well skip on the sushi. Cucumbers and avocado wrapped in rice and seaweed is just boring. The next day I spent a couple hours at the free zoo only about a 10 minute walk from my hotel. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a free zoo before, it was small of course, but the animals generally had a lot of space and it was a nice time. I also shot a great video of a tapir chasing a peacock!

The Grand Place in Lille was much nicer than the one in Mons, no surprise, yet both have a McDonalds, which is strange. One of the coolest things here is right outside the Grand Place they have the Lille Opera House, and they show opera on a big screen right outside.

The shopping here was incredible, even better than Brussels. I found myself dropping 110 euros on a couple soccer jerseys, one for the local Lille team and then a Juventus jersey. The nightlife was ok, it’s a college town so the streets were packed all day and night. I was surprised at the number of people, it was way more crowded than Brussels though Lille is less known.

grand placestreets of lille

I stumbled across an animal rights rally in the park next to my hotel, and got to see a lot of dogs. The entertainment there was interesting, girls dancing on a stripper pole…I guess this is how they recruit college-aged guys to PETA.

Overall I liked Lille more than Mons or Brussels. Maybe I’m biased, since it’s such a quick, easy drive from my house, and I think it’s cool I can get to France so quick and easy for a weekend. Even the French I’ve spoken with talk down about Northern France, due to its largely industrial look…but everyone agrees Lille is the exception. I missed out on the museums this time, but I know I’ll be back so I’ll see them eventually. Lille has my recommendation, I’ll be back!




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