If you're no stranger to my blog, you probably remember that last year, I made the decision to move to France. It had been something that I wanted to do at some point in my life, and I eventually made a it a priority to go, never wanting it to become a regret of something I never made happen.
The craziest thing is that I had given myself a deadline of moving to France in January, 2018, but for the longest time, I had no idea where exactly I would go. The summer before I left, I gave my work termination notice for the end of the year. I applied for a job that included residence in France and things looked promising, until it suddenly fell through. I continued to look into options of renting from friends of friends and searching for work, while time kept ticking away. Six months turned into four months with still no luck. Finally on November 22nd, things fell into place and BOOM, I now had a city to move to: Lille, France.
As I moved to, and found work in this beautiful city, it became a place very near and dear to my heart. Moving to this random city that I had never heard of before, I eventually discovered that it is actually on a list of top cities in France to visit. Because it is such a lovely place, I want to share with you some the best and the most unique things that I discovered during my time there. If you are ever in the area, I'd suggest trying to at least make a day trip of spending some time in Lille.
Old Lille - Lille is broken up into two parts - the old and the new. The new part of Lille is much more modern looking, but taking a walk in Old Lille is like going back in history. Here you will find cobblestone streets and very old buildings. You can find a strong Belgian influence in its architecture, especially the centre of the city, called Le Grand Place. I once heard a visitor say, while walking in the streets, that it was like Beauty and the Best. Old Lille caters especially to walkers and is beautiful during the day, while is almost calming with a romantic touch during the evening, thanks to the beautiful street lights.
The Citadel - This is one of the most beautiful and natural looking places to walk around, in Lille. When you walk to the middle of the citadel, you will find the city walls, built by Vauban, which date back to the 1600's. In the centre is the current military base, which is well guarded. The public is welcome to walk on the paved paths around the citadel, which include beautiful landscape. Nearby, you can also find some very nice parks. Spending some time in this historical area is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, if you have nice weather.
Café Society - This quaint bar is located near the Grand Place, in Vieux Lille (Old Lille), hidden just behind a side street. It is smaller in size and has Jazz theme in the decor, which gives off a warm and welcoming feel. It has a beautiful second story as well, where clients can go to share a drink or even play some games that are there for the customers to enjoy. This place is very special to me, as it is actually where I used to work, during my time in France. Multiple times a month they have live music and jazz groups who come in to play during the evenings. If you're looking for a nice place to grab a drink and with maybe even a saucisson (a French dried sausage), this is not a place to pass up.
Le Waf - If you happen to have a gray or rainy day (as that's the most common type of weather in the North of France), here is a really unique indoor way that you can spend your time. This place is a Dog Cafe! It's quite a special place, as they typically have 5-6 rescue dogs there. How it works is that you pay a cover charge of 5 Euros to come in, and you can have coffee, tea, juice etc., all for free - just help yourself. They also have more fancy drinks and snack that you can order as well. During your time there, you can sit and chat on the couches or at the tables, and interact with any of the dogs that come up to you. Some of them like to play with the toys there while others just prefer to be lazy. The people who work there will tell you about each of the dogs and the best ways to interact with them. When I was there, they gave us treats to give to the dogs. I think this place is so cool and is such a unique way to spend part of a day.
Museums - Lille, and even the surrounding towns, are filled with museums of all sorts. They range from art to former homes of famous people, and everything in between. The largest one is Beaux-Arts, which is the most popular, ginormous art museum in Lille. The art even expands into the Metro stop, closest to museum. If you happen to be visiting on the first Sunday of the month, you are extra fortunate, as museums are free those days. You can't get much better savings than that!
The Marcel Dhénin Farm - After living in the city for quite some time, I really began to miss certain elements of country life, especially the animals. I discovered a little farm which housed quite a variety of animals that you could go and visit. It's free to the public and a great place to take children or even just go to walk around and see some happy animals. Just be sure to check the hours as they close down for lunch in the afternoon.
Christmastime - Lille is a very beautiful place during Christmas. There are plenty of decorations in the streets and the Grand Place and surrounding areas are filled with a giant Christmas tree, a giant Ferris Wheel and even a few rides. Stalls are set up for vendors at the Christmas market, which although it isn't terribly big, it's a nice place to wander around and look at the unique items for sale, as well as maybe even buy some mulled wine and a sweet treat or two.
Waffles at Méert - So the story is that Charles de Gaulle used to live in Lille. He loved the vanilla waffles from the local bakery Méert so much that when he moved to Paris, he would have them shipped to him. Upon hearing this, my fiancé and I decided that we absolutely had to try these waffles. To our surprise, they didn't look anything like we had expected and they were a little bit more expensive than we thought they'd be. In the end, we loved them so much, that we went back for more another day. We even started a tradition that every time that he visited me in Lille, we would go out and buy some waffles from Méert.
Welsh Food - This is the French food of the region. To be honest, I only had a chance to try it once, but if you are looking for the local specialty, this is it. Put simply, this food is a variety of dishes mainly made out of cheese, beer and bread. They sit quite heavy because they are so dense, but it is something certainly unique that you can try, to get a taste of the region.
Aux Marveux - There are now a few of these shops around in Lille and I have even seen them in other towns. While walking through the street with a friend, she point out this sweet place to me and told me that it was well known and that I needed to try it sometime. There is typically a giant chandelier in the window, which makes the whole place look incredible through the windows on the outside. They make these really beautiful meringue cakes which are coated with different flavoured icing, rolled in toppings. They are really unique and tasty and they come in all sorts of sizes, ranging from small, bite-sized, to large, shareable ones.
The Metro and Buses - The superb thing about Lille is that it is a manageable sized city. Old Lille doesn't have any public transit throughout it because it's old but also walk-able. Other parts of Lille do however provide both the bus and Metro system for getting around. You can even travel to some of the closest towns by using this transportation provided. It's not terribly complicated to use and you can find routes fairly simply from either Google Maps or the local Transpole website or phone app.
After living in this city and its surrounding towns for almost a whole year, I really have so much that I could share with you. From this list, these are just a few of my favourite things that I think you may enjoy. I find that some of the best parts of travel anyways, is what you decide to explore and discover on your own. With that being said, go ahead and explore this wonderful city and be sure to tell me what you managed to find and love!