Over the weekend, I decided to have a break from London and spent one day on a Saturday in Lille with my friend. Originally I planned to go to Brussels with my other friends, but then I was told that Brussels was a bit boring (don’t yell at me if I am wrong) and Lille was a better option if I prefer to do shopping (errrrr yes, I am thinking French Pharmacy!)
For those who know me, know that I am a very organised person. I like to plan and set an itinerary, but I am not all militant about it. I don’t have a whistle and a megaphone shouting at people! haha. Though I think when it comes to day trips have a plan is not a bad thing. Few days before I was doing my research on Lille, what sights to see, where to eat and shop and I realised that Lille Train Station where the Eurostar stops at, is so close to Lille Centre. According to Google Maps its a 10 minute walk. Which I was truly quite amazed (I was amazed because it was my first time going to Lille), but also because for example like Paris, Gare du Nord is no way near to the city centre!
Anyway, we took the 08:58 Eurostar train from St Pancras King Cross International and its about 2.5 hours to get to Lille, and we arrived at 11:30am. We made our way to the tourist information which was located in the town centre of Lille, so we could enquire about the City Tour and also obtain a trusty map. We decided not to go on the City Tour, as it the 50 minutes tour was all on the coach, and you couldn’t hop on and hop off. We also made the decision that we were only going to use the map to navigate us around Lille for the day, saying no to Google Maps, even though I had the “Feel At Home” option on Three (which by the way, is amazing!). The plan was originally to eat around 12:30-1pm, but both me and my friend we were not feeling too hungry so we decided to start off the sight seeing.
We made our way back over to Grand Place, which is also known as Place Charles De Gaulle. It is an open centre with historic buildings on one side and shops and restaurants on the other side. We made a wise decision to visit this place first as when we came back later on in the day, it was packed full of locals and tourist!
We then headed over to Vieille Bourse. Not sure if it was just this weekend, or is it like this every weekend, but inside the court of Vieille Bourse there were stalls set up by people selling french items.
Walking out of Vieille Bourse, lead us to the front of the Opéra de Lille. Truly stunning building from the outside, it was closed when we got there so we wasn’t able to go in – though not sure even if it was opened, are you allowed to go in.
Next to Opéra de Lille, was the Chamber de Commerce (CCI). Yet another stunning piece of architecture.
After doing the main sights, we decided to have lunch since the place I researched was close by. We made our way to Basilic Café. It was around about 1ish when we got there and the place was packed full of people. It had a nice friendly buzzing vibe to it. We sat down and got handed our menus, and my friend said “its all in French”. Great start indeed. So I asked the waitress if they had a English menu, as we can’t read French. To which she replied in French and I worked out from the words she used that she doesn’t speak English nor do they have an English menu. All I can say is trust me to pick a restaurant that doesn’t have an English menu and staff that speak very little English! BUT thank god, for technology. Google translate using the new camera feature, where you can translate images and photos came to the rescue.
Me and my friend decided to go for the burgers. I chose the burger called “Le Diet” which was a salmon burger on bread with tomatoes and other fancy stuff (google translate wasn’t very accurate as I found later on, it kept showing different english words every time I hovered my camera over the text). My friend stayed safe and ordered the beef burger (I’m sure it had a fancy french name, but I can’t remember!). All burgers came with fries on the side and we both went for the “Classic” size burger (they had kiddies, classic and XL size). Now I totally wasn’t expecting my burger to be presented in the way it did. Last time I had a salmon burger which was in NYC like 6-8 years ago, it was a round salmon fillet burger shape. But this was how my burger came.
OMG. It was amazing. The salmon was so nice, it was light and fresh and everything that was inside the burger was amazing. Had like a tomato chunk puree sauce, with watercress and tartare (probably wasn’t tartare…but similar) sauce. God I could eat this again. I didn’t take photos of the chips, but they were good. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. YUM.
The beef burger was also a winner with my friend, she said “Yes this is definitely medium to well done”. In London if you ask for a medium to well done beef, it never really is medium to well done, it is more on the well done side (according to my friends who eat beef).
After the amazing lunch we decided we need to walk off the lunch and visit the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de la Treille.
We then headed over to Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse, which unfortunately it was closed so we couldn’t go inside to see the wards.
Afterwards, we decided it was time to do some “light” shopping. Now when you’re in France, one thing you have to do is visit the pharmacy. French pharmacies are on another level. They stock all the well known French brands like La Roche Posay, Eau Thermale Avène, Bioderma, Vichy and etc. It’s not like the high street pharmacy in the UK. You cannot miss the French Pharmacy, as all of them have the “green plus” icon at the front, and they are every where. You walk for less than 20 seconds and there is another one and another one. One thing I found is that the ones that look a bit run down are the best in terms of stock and prices. The more posh looking ones, do not stock as much and also their products are more expensive.
I visited the Pharmacie Lafayette, which was on Rue Esquermoise (opposite Meert). Now the pharmacy was quite small and crowded, but they were the cheapest (after visiting at least about half a dozen before I went to this one). I brought three items from there which were all from Eau Thermale Avène at a super cheap price. I brought the Cleanance Gel, which was at 300ml instead of 200ml for €7.85 (£5.60 (£11 in Boots) (using the £1 = €1.4 exchange rate), and two bottles of the Cleanance Expert Moisturiser for €8.95 each (YES you read it right €8.95 EACH) which worked out to be £6.40 (£15 in Boots). I was so pleased with these purchases.
I visited another Pharmacy near the train station (I can’t remember the name, and I threw away the receipt, but its the first one along the street you see as you are walking towards the Lille Centre). They had an offer where they were selling the Nuxe Nuxellence Jeunesse (Day) and Detox (Night) Cream for €59.80 for the set, which worked out to be £42.00, using the exchange rate. Such a good deal as considering for one its £47.00 in the UK. I originally only wanted to buy the Detox one, but since it came in a set with the Day one, it’ll be silly not to bag the last one off the shelf, right?!
No trip will be completed in Lille, without visiting Longchamp. We visited the store at 22 Rue Lepelletier, just before lunch to check out the prices, to see if it was cheaper than the UK, which of course it was but not by a lot, only about £10. But better than nothing. What caught my eye was the travel bag. I always wanted the Le Pliage Large Travel Bag, as I think it would come in handy for short weekend trips away (not that I go to many, so I think it was just an excuse I used to justify the spend!).
Anyway, we came back again after doing all our sight seeing, and was greeted by the same sales assistant who saw us first time round. She was so lovely (I sadly and stupidly didn’t ask for her name, but those who will go to this store in Lille, she is middle aged woman, petite, with brown hair wearing glasses). She let my friend, (who couldn’t decide which colour or size Le Pliage Tote Bag to buy), try on a number of different bags. I already decided first time round what I wanted, so I was super quick with making a decision. I chose the Le Pliage Large Travel Bag in Indigo, which cost €72.00 (£51, £12 cheaper than the UK price of £63). The lady was so nice that she even gift wrapped the bags for us!
Also, no trip will be completed without buying some cakes back to London to eat. We visited Meert, on 27 Rue Esquermoise. Sadly we couldn’t sit down for a drink as the queue for the restaurant was long, so we decided to just buy the cakes for takeaway (which too had a long queue – popular with the locals and tourist!). There were so many to choose from and as everything was in French I couldn’t even tell you what I brought (sadly no photos were taken, as the cake didn’t arrive back in one piece, but it was very tasty as I had it last night). It was an raspberry almond cake with fresh raspberries and a raspberry macaroon on the top. We also went to Patrick Hermand, who did some wonderful pastries, cakes and macarons. Again everything was in French with no english translation, and I had a look on the website and couldn’t find the cake I brought and no photos as the cake didn’t arrive back in one piece. BUT none the less the cake was very nice!
After doing our beauty shopping, bag shopping and cake shopping it was time to eat! I originally wanted to go to Aux Moules as they are famous in Lille for it’s mussels and chips! And no trip to France will be right without eating mussels and chips. Sadly when we arrived at the restaurant which was around 6pm, we were told dinner service was not until 7pm! Damn you French people with their late eating!
So we went to a restaurant near by the Grand Place, in hope to eat mussels, but sadly it wasn’t a day for mussels as they had no mussels *sad face*. Instead I ordered a chicken dish (no idea what was the name), but it was cooked in apple and red cabbage, and surprising it was really good. The chicken was really tender and the cabbage and they sauce was nice and it went well with the bread rolls.
After dinner, we leisurely walked back to the train station reminiscing on what we did and brought today. We visited the supermarket near the train station, which was inside a shopping centre that had lots of shops (H&M, Bershka, Pauls and many more). Had we known early, we probably would of made our way back over there bit earlier to do some more shopping!
One thing I really liked about Lille, was the cobbled roads and its architecture. I liked how all the shops were little boutiques. It gave the city that nice quaint feel.
Our outbound train was at 20:30 and sadly that was the end of what was a nice day out in Lille filled with lots of food, shopping, sights seeing and great company. If only I could do this every weekend…
Have you been to Lille before?