48 hours in
Just a channel-hop from
is a city rich with Flemish architecture, cobbled streets, old masters and
mouthwatering 'moules-frites'. Dover
WHY GO NOW
17 July 1999
I travelled as a guest of Thomson Breakaway, whose three-night breaks B&B in the Hotel de la Paix in
I stayed at the Hotel de la Paix (00 33 3 20 54 63 93), at 46 bis rue de Paris, a comfy, central place with every room themed to a different artist. Double rooms with showers are FFr390 (£40). Of the cheap places across the road from the old Lille-Flandres Station (not to be confused with the Lille-Europe station used by Eurostar and TGV trains), the Hotel des Voyageurs (00 33 3 20 06 43 14) is one of the best value with double rooms from FFr155 to FFr260 (£16 - £27). For more refinement, try the
The vast Musee des Beaux-Arts (00 33 3 20 06 78 00) at 18 rue de Valmy in the Place de la Republique is another monument to bourgeois Lille and one of the grandest European art galleries you'll find outside a capital city. In towering rooms, masters from Goya to Delacroix to Rubens are all represented. I also enjoyed the Musee d'Art Moderne in the
LUNCH ON THE RUN
The Lilleois answer to fast food is moules-frites with beer. The traditional place to enjoy this speciality is Aux Moules at 34 rue de Bethune, where great steaming bowls of mussels and dishes of chips will not cost more than a tenner.
WHERE TO WORSHIP
Not in church (
If money is no object, I have to suggest L'Huitriere (tel 00 33 3 20 55 43 41) at 3-7 rue des Chats Bossus, which is one of the most elegant fish restaurants in
TAKE A RIDE
For a fascinating glimpse into the industrial past of the Pas de Calais region, as depicted by Emile Zola in Germinal, visit the coal mines of Lewarde, about 40km away (best access is to take a 25-minute train ride to Douai, then catch a taxi). Tours are guided by ex-miners and include a convincing experience of descending 400m into the mine itself. The mine is open daily from to and entrance is about £6. For more information call 00 33 3 27 95 82 82.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
For the vast majority of visitors from the
TAKE A HIKE
If you have a car, get out to the
Try Les Trois Brasseurs at 22 place de la Gare (immediately to your left as you emerge from Lille-Flandres train station). The beers are home- brewed in the Flemish style; of the several varieties I liked the blonde which is light but still very organic in flavour. Other varieties include ambree, brune and blanche.
THE ICING ON THE CAKE
Le Meert at 27 rue Esquermoise, a delightful cobbled street in the old city, is a patisserie-confiserie to die for. Unchanged since 1839, its interior features baroque flourishes and painted wooden tableaux - as well as smells of some of the finest chocolates and cakes on the continent. Gaufres, exquisite sweet, filled waffles, were ordered from this shop by Charles de Gaulle throughout his life.