Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: city hall

A little place called Brussels

When people ask me what my favourite place is in Europe out of all the cities I’ve travelled to, I never really give a straight answer. How DO you answer this question, when each place is so unique, so charming? Yet, I always ALMOST say Brussels, because that’s what comes to mind when I think of places that I really love.

So then Brussels became sort of my de facto favourite place in Europe, just as it is the de facto capital of the European Union. It’s right in the middle of Paris and Amsterdam, two very popular cities, but ironically, these are two of the most overrated European cities in my opinion. Brussels lies there, unnoticed and often overlooked by travellers, but what a gem it really is! I’m lucky that one of my co-tutelle universities is in Belgium, so I have plenty of chances to go to Brussels, which is just an hour away by train from Louvain-la-Neuve, my university. It’s not quite a place I’m super familiar with, like Bordeaux, yet not JUST a tourist destination for me either.

I realize, though, that during the two and a half years I’ve been in Europe, I’ve had six sessions in Belgium and countless visits to Brussels, yet I’ve only written about this beautiful place once or twice. And it deserves much more attention than that.

I stopped by Brussels the night before my departure to Lisbon, and the view at Mont des Arts just swept me off my feet. All I could say was…wow. I love cities in the night, and Brussels got me completely mesmerized. Never thought I’d see a rainbow at night!

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A lil’ bit of Lille

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.

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My room is cold

At one point during the night, I was shivering like mad in my room. That was why I dressed more warmly than needed today, although it was a brilliant 16 degrees Celsius outside. Note to self: 16 degrees Celsius is pretty warm.

If I were to describe what I’ve seen of Bordeaux so far in one word, it would be the word “elegance”. When talking to my friends, I’ve told them that there is an indescribable elegance that surrounds the atmosphere wherever I go, and I kind of like it. Elegance is once again the word I am going to use to describe the tramway system. It reminds me of a mini-TGV, fast (in terms of intra-city commute) and efficient. For 192 Euros a year I get unlimited travel within the Bordeaux public transportation system. Converting that into Canadian dollars using today’s exchange rate, that’s roughly $268 a year, which is around 5 times cheaper than what you’d be paying for TTC if you were to get a Metropass every month. Pretty sweet deal.

And yes, I finally have my first set of photos. The following sequence loosely describes my routine of the day.

Bordeaux tram traversing the city

This is a tram taken near the location of my future apartment. I love the sound of the gliding tram – so elegant. I apologize for the redundancy.

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