After four weeks of spending my weekends with friends in various cities, the solo travelling is back. This time, the destination was the city of Lille (pronounced LEEL), situated in northern France, right at the France-Belgium border.
I was seriously contemplating cancelling the trip for many reasons. Work in the lab last week totally put me out of the mood of doing anything other than sleeping for “five more minutes” in the morning, so waking up even earlier than usual to catch the train to Brussels at 8:30 in the morning wasn’t exactly a motivating thought. However, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go, so with swift kick of the blanket, I bounced out of bed and 20 minutes later jumped onto the familiar train to Brussels-Midi.
From Brussels I would take a connecting train to Tournai, and finally another which would bring me to Lille Flandres station. Of course, I slept very well on the train while at the same time being aware of the stations so as to not miss my stops. Usually I like to gaze out of the window during long train trips, but sleep seemed like the better option this time.
Lille reminded me very much of Bordeaux. However, I didn’t get a lot of picture-taking done in Lille. Not that it wasn’t a photogenic city, but there was something about Lille that kept me walking from place to place without stopping to take many pictures. Perhaps it was the intricate layout of directional signs. Unlike the very clearly labelled signs in Brussels, the ones in Lille confused me more than they led me to the right places. In fact, sometimes one would point me in one direction and I would walk on and on without finding the destination NOR any other sign telling me to keep going straight or turn somewhere. It got slightly frustrating after a few times, to be honest. I don’t know if it’s just a thing in Lille, or a France thing. I’ve never had the problem in Bordeaux because I didn’t need to read signs there, and Paris…relying on the metro was enough to find the way. Therefore, I can’t make the judgment.
Without further ado, here are some of the photos taken during the short 5 hours in Lille. As usual, more can be found on Facebook.
Porte de Paris on the left and Lille city hall on the right. The city hall tower doesn’t look so grand in the picture but in reality it is quite tall and impressive. It would have to be my favourite building in Lille. There was some sort of activity going on outside the city hall that day. I would guess that it was a demonstration or a strike or something similar. Not surprising, it is France, after all.
Red gates like these surround the Parc Jean-Baptiste Lebas near the city hall. These actually remind me of a place in Guangzhou, China where I grew up till the age of 8. I don’t remember exactly what the place was like anymore, but in my memory, there were definitely red gates like the ones shown here.
Saint-Maurice church in the historic centre of Lille. It is a giant cathedral that resembles Saint-André right in the centre of Bordeaux, equally grand with magnificent architectural design.
Place de Rihour is a public square nearby the Lille city centre. On this particular Saturday in Lille, a band was holding a show in Place de Rihour. The Lille office of tourism, which felt like a tourist attraction itself, was located in the square. The water pyramid in the picture reminded me of, as you may expect, the Louvre in Paris.
A random street I took while looking for the Grand Place. Superb weather – a little chilly when I first arrived, but warmed up exponentially as the day went on.
Finally, after navigating through contradictory and misleading road signs, I arrived at the Place du Général-de-Gaulle, otherwise known as Grand Place. Seems like every major public square in big cities is called Grand Place nowadays, this being the fourth one after Brussels, Bruges, and Louvain-la-Neuve (yes we have a Grand Place in LLN). Shown here is the Chambre de Commerce situated in the Grand Place, a lovely building whose façade I quite liked.
Strolling through Old Lille, I found myself wandering on streets surrounded by orange and many shades of red. Someone once mentioned that Lille is very “pink”, and that was the mindset with which I visited Lille. Seeing the red all around me, especially in the old town, made me felt that I was indeed in the “right place”.
Walking towards Lille Flandres station, after almost getting lost again. Never assume you know where you’re going if you’re relying on signs. I found the way not by following the arrow that pointed to the train station (which by the way led me to nowhere), but by intuition.
The train was schedule to leave at 16:07, and I arrived at the station rather early, so I roamed around the area a little. Like any other train station, Lille Flandres was filled with people moving in and out. Lille is also a hub for European transportation, thanks to its location, with Lille Europe station (400 metres away from Lille Flandres) serving high-speed trains such as Eurostar and the TGV.
Next week was supposed to be Geneva, but due to unforeseen circumstances, that had to be cancelled. Tant pis. Maybe I will go to Brussels again. Or Dinant. Or stay at home and pack. I am heading back to Bordeaux next Tuesday, so taking it easy during my last weekend in Belgium (for now) may not be such a bad idea.