I had always figured the first place I would visit in France would be Paris, but I was wrong. The past month and a half I have been learning about food and culture and the connections between the two. As part of my class, we had an optional trip to Lille, France. Now I know very little French so it was important that if I were to go, I had to be on a tour and this was the perfect opportunity. We left London around 9 am to arrive in Lille by 12pm. After meeting the tour guide and dropping our bags off, it was time to start exploring the city a bit before the first food stop.
Up first was a visit to a cheese shop, supposedly one of the best, to try about 5 kinds of cheese. As I will mention in a post later this week, this was not my first bout of cheese tastings. Anyways, it was delish although a bit smelly (thank god for hand sanitizer and fresh air).
After the tasting we explored the city more and learned about the history on our way to a creperie for lunch (also known as a massive sugar rush). To get the full experience we had cider (the alcoholic kind) with our crepes per the instruction of our tour guide. My crepe was a speculoos flavored one that if I listed everything in it would make me regret having it (just admire the photo)… Following that visit we walked off the calories before heading back to the hotel to check in before we had some free time to explore on our own.
We explored the city a bit before dinner which was a traditional flemish dinner. Let me tell you, I don’t know how the French are so thin because we had A LOT of food! First were croquets with a small salad, then I had fish and vegetables in a white sauce (I don’t eat red meat so I didn’t have the beef stew with chips aka French Fries) and finally Creme Brûlée for dessert. Oh and I can’t forget the alcohol. We had a cocktail on arrival (a mix of sparkling white wine and black currant liquor that was amazing) and then tried a few different kinds of beer. Three were more traditional and of the three I only had a normal tasting glass of 1 (the other two I had a sip) and then a cherry beer that was pretty amazing (like a cherry cider almost). Thanks to the ridiculous amount of food, I don’t think the alcohol ever truly hit me. Some of us stopped by a pub on the way home to let food digest and chat for a bit.
No morning in France would be complete without a croissant.. Like honestly you have to have one and of course they had them at the hotel for us for breakfast. After breakfast we headed out to explore an outdoor/indoor market with everything you could ever need (no joke). We had free time for most of the day, so after the market it was back to the main square of Lille in search of some macaroons. Since the town is very rooted in old traditions, most stores are closed. This made finding a shop difficult, but also provided some empty streets and great photography opportunities. I’d like to send a huge shout out to my travel buddy Heidi for the fabulous candids she got of me.
We then headed out to get some mussels for lunch (that three of us split one pot) and then to end out trip at a pasterie famous in Lille. It’s called Meert and there is one that has recently opened in Paris, but Lille was the original one and is somewhat of an icon in the city. We all got slices of chocolate tarts and cups of tea and sat in an indoor but open air room. It was beautiful and the perfect end to the trip.
Even without knowing the language, Lille was a beautiful place to visit and something I would highly recommend. A short two hours from London on the Eurostar, it is the perfect weekend trip and less touristy than most places.