Eurostar is perhaps ranked at the top of what Londoners take for granted. The idea of being able to reach Paris and Brussels (read this) within such a short time never cease to amaze me; the time for the return trip to Paris won't even cover a fraction of a train ride from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. As a result, many Londoners would just cross the English Channel to France for a short getaway. The cost? Less than 60 pounds (return trip) for Paris, Lille and Brussels. Is that worth it? You bet.
I've never heard of Lille (pardon my geography) if not for the fact that Eurostar stops by it en route to Brussels. It's the fourth largest French city. Though it cannot be compared to Paris in terms of culture and grandeur, I did enjoy Lille more than the French capital; the people are friendlier (though the French are actually quite nice people, they're just misunderstood), the atmosphere more relaxing and the pace is slower.
Took huge loads of pictures and had a hard time sieving through them. Well, here are just some of them. Enjoy, my friends!
The Chamber of Commerce on the left with the Opera House on the right. Other than the Citadel, these buildings would be the most impressive ones in Lille, dominating its central square.
Always wonder about the fascination about the French for straight roads. This one is of Liberty Road. I can almost imagine victorious armies marching down the avenue. But it'll be really demoralising to be marching down a road with an end hardly in sight...
Palais des Beaux-Arts (don't ask me for to pronounce that)is considered to be the second largest general-interest museum in France, just after the Lourve. Frankly speaking, after spending around 2 hrs in the museum, I am under the impression that the museums in France are impoverished to make Lourve great. It is indeed a far cry from the Lourve. You're much better off at the British Museum.
Notre-Dame de la Trelille Cathedral could have been an impressive cathedral if not for the lack of funds to complete it. There is, however, a model of it within its premises and it would just take some imagination to see what it would have been. Instead the construction took over a hundred years and the result is somewhat incoherent; part medieval part contemporary with the front facade made of translucent marble. What was hailed as an architechtural marvel didn't work for me.
The translucent marble viewed from the interior. Due to its flimsiness, there were metallic supports in place and it gave the impression of ongoing construction.
Meerts, one of the chocolatier (and candy shop) in Lille, came highly recommended. The shop assistant speaks fluent English as well, which is a bonus of course. But what it's really known for is its waffles. Didn't count on it being closed on Mondays (and Sundays) thus didn't get to verify whether it's really as good as it's reputed to be. Wife swore that she'll be back again.
It's surely no Banksy but street art is very much appreciated in Lille. A number of shops actually commissioned some artists to decorate the store front. The result is quite a treat.
The best for the last. We nearly missed this one though. If you look closely, you can see the cannon balls still embedded in the buildings' facade, a souvenir to the seige of Lille by the Austrians in 1792.