Lille and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, aka Le Nord, has a sort of negative reputation in France. The best way to describe how the south of France views the north of France is similar to how the Northern and Eastern parts of the United States view the deep south. Lille area also has a reputation for being cold and rainy most of the year, and its people talk with sort of a “sh” lisp accent (they talk ‘ch’tis). In fact, One of my favorite french films, Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis, or “Welcome to the Sticks,” exaggerates these stereotypes in the film. PLEASE NOTE that Lille is LOVELY, as are its WONDERFULY kind and diverse people! However most ironically, upon stepping off the train platform, it was 10 degrees cooler, and it immediately started pouring. Then, I heard a man speak in that same accentuated accent from the movie. “Welcome to LE NORD” I smiled to myself.
The train ride from Paris to Lille is only one hour on the TGV, and is in the northernmost part of the country. In fact, Lille itself is only 20 minutes from the Belgium border! I arrived at 10h45 and had a bit of time to kill, so I scoped out some free wifi, grabbed a cafe, and surfed the net.
At 12h45, I made my way to La Grande Place, so I could have lunch with a fellow expat and blogger, Travelling Amber! Amber started as a TAPIF assistant back in 2008 in Caen, but now lives and works permanently in France! I had such an amazing afternoon with Amber; she was so genuine, open, and willing to show me around. I’m quite sad we live on opposite sides of the country but I guess that gives me incentive to come back!
I spent the rest of the weekend with my friend Ethan, with whom I studied in Caen back in 2010. He has been living in Lille since January, and is almost finished with his masters! Ethan and his roommate Bettina took good care of me. It was fun to walk around centre ville, have a movie night, go shopping, and see a movie in the cinema!
The weekend I visited was actually the weekend of Journées Européenes du Patrimoine, basically meaning that all the must see monuments of Lille were open and free to the public all weekend. On Sunday, Ethan rested at home and I ventured out into the city by my lonesome to visit Le Palais de Beaux Arts and a few other sides. We also explored an old house in town. I highly recommend a trip to Lille!