Short of wine and full of itchy feet, we last month decided to book a 24 (ish) hour trip away to France. Blissfully unaware of any impending football tournaments and knowing that the main purpose of this trip was to solve afore mentioned issues (as well as celebrate a Birthday/anniversary) we picked Lille as our destination for the night. A mere 2 1/2 hour drive away from London by car and billed as being one of France’s most underrated cities; what could there possibly be not to love?
Well Euro 2016, for one thing. By an incredible stroke of luck, our naive planning meant that we actually managed to miss the game days in the city which happened either side of our stay. After unfavourable media coverage and a drinking ban the day before our arrival we weren’t entirely sure what to expect in Lille. Luckily all seemed calm and despite my Mum’s plea to “stay in and get room service” (cute) we encountered no issues.
Other than rain. So. Much. Rain. I have in fact probably never seen so much rain in a 24 hour period as I did from Friday-Saturday. Obviously I had come prepared for the forecasted showers with sandals and white shorts and even though the weather was definitely not in our favour, suitable street exploration was achieved. As well as necessary cocktail consumption. And clothes shopping. All in the name of staying dry.
We stayed at the super conveniently located and beautifully decorated Best Western Why Hotel. Although initially sceptical about staying in a Best Western it was soon clear to see why it rates so highly among visitors to Lille.
A huge room with an incredible bathroom and a free (I repeat: free) minibar all get my seal of approval. Located right in the city centre, everything we needed was within easy walking distance.
Everything including the world’s best bagels. In need of a snack upon arrival, Tom ventured to Be Yourself which I had found online to be situated a mere few steps away from the hotel. He returned with bagels so good we did something we never do and went back and ordered them again the next day. Smoked salmon with melting cheese, vegetables and pickles all packed into a perfectly toasted bagel of joy. As if that wasn’t good enough, they also do incredible freshly baked cookies crammed full of part melted chocolate bars.
Be still, my heart.
Lille itself is small enough to explore by foot although a metro is also available. We took in the streets largely from under an umbrella although a couple of respites in the downpours over our time there did allow for an enjoyable walk around the old town and all its beautiful shops. Méert and Maison Georges Larnicol were good for admiring chocolates and macarons. Pimkie and Jules were great for European high street clothing. Stop by Le Dandy for an atmospheric and expertly made cocktail. Market days seemed to be predominantly Sunday but we did find a cute produce based affair happening Saturday morning in Place Sébastopol.
We didn’t book anywhere for dinner on the Friday so inevitably got turned away from a couple of our noted options that were already full by the time we hopefully showed up. We did however eventually find ourselves down a fairy lit alley at the charmingly rustic and French Les Companions De La Grappe with steaming hot camembert and provencal pie so all was not lost.
What Lille lacked in sun it made up for in charm and I’d definitely recommend it for a short stop over in Northern France.
We were soon Calais bound to buy enough wine for the next year (or three months according to Tom), more cheese than is probably ever deemed acceptable and stock up on my beloved Lambrusco and Grapefruit Radler which are nigh on impossible to find this side of the Channel. The smoothest of journeys on Le Shuttle and we were once again back on the left side of the road and soon home in London.
A Lil(le) adventure to mark six years of adventure with mon meilleur ami. Here’s to the next six and beyond.