Lille – North Unexpected

What’s best than a great exhibition, an impulsive friend and a cheap ticket?

One day, me and my friend Sishi were hanging out and I talked about the Amadeo Modigliani that took place at Lille Art Modern Museum (of course in Lille). I’m currently off work and she doesn’t work too, so we spontaneously looked at bus website – Ouibus, and booked the ticket, without having really calculated how much it was.

Turned out that it was a very good deal, which costed us only 10 euros per person, return trip! Hoorah!!

So, in the middle of spring time, we hopped on the bus (which is well situated, not far from my home), and off to Lille, in the morning and return in the evening (7 am and 7 pm). the trip itself is only 3 hours, so there’s quite time to chat and sleep 🙂

Since the main attraction was only the museum (which was situated outside Lille city, Villeneuve d’Ascq), so we didn’t really look up what to do or see in Lille.

I was kinda underestimating the city. I know that Lille is quite big city in the northern part of France, but not that big. I assumed that the north towns are that cold – the place and the people. Turned out…not really!

We arrived just before lunch time, on a rainy rainy day.

Didn’t know where to head, we followed our instinct where to find the good restaurant, then old town, and head directly to the museum. That’s the plan.

As impetuous the ticket buying plan, both of us didn’t want to be as stuck to a strict plan. But first, we noted the transport plan to go to Villeneuve d’Ascq. 

First, we bought a prepaid ticket that can be used in Lille metropole (bus, metro, and certain tourist bus), only 5 euros for the whole day. The ticket can be purchased at every metro station. So when got off at Lille Europe train station (there are two train stations (Lille Europe and Flandres – but both are just next to each other…..:p), we bought the transport ticket there. It’s like a chip card, reusable, anytime you visit the city. The card form is better than the mobilis ticket in Paris (one day ticket). The paris ticket is…a ticket. and you can easily lose it in your pocket, and mostly, it lacks of aesthetic point (and Paris is known as stylish place to be, how ironic). So Lille, you have my vote for the card!!!

And with the ticket, we tried to wander around the metro lines, and continued with bus, since we lost orientation of the city.  The nice bus driver who guided us through the lines was my second good point of the city. And turns out that the downtown is not really that far from the train station. I don’t know why we took the metro, and bus just to return to the area where the train station was located, we could have just walked across the street…wkwkwkwkw

And still the rain was so loyal to mark the day…and with the help of google maps (that wasn’t really great help, actually), we followed our nose to find the old town (not the downtown). I noticed that old city is spelled very lillois, because we usually call it vielle ville, and there they call it vieux lille (old Lille). Speaking of the pun!!

Lille is the northern part of France, so it has proximity with Belgium and England. The old buildings look so …Belgian, with the taste of Dutch. Or perhaps Flemish touch. But the place is half english. Like the big square in front of OpĂ©ra de Lille, is called Grand Place. It makes my tongue a bit twisted while pronouncing the franclais word. And there’s Nottinghill CafĂ© as well in the corner. The consistent pouring rain made it look like we got across the tunnel and arrived in London instead.

We decided not to be carried away with people watching and building selfies, and concentrate to find a place to have lunch. And we saw LE COQ HARDI, the place to have local chicken dish marinade in beer.  It’s another good point I learned that day, that Lille has also food specialty! OMG where have I been. Or perhaps this city is not well advertised!!

The restaurant is just a small one, but full of locals who were having lunch. (and not so quick lunch, I suppose, as french…). They served the long list of beers and dishes I’ve never heard of before. Great!! I chose house special waterzoi au poulet (imagine the chicken and vegetable soups, marinated in beer, but no soups, and just steamed), while Sishi ordered carbonade Ă  la flamande (some kind of beef bourguignon, but stewed in beer instead of wine). Why beer? Well, as I mentioned before, its proximity with Belgium, perhaps, that makes it more likely to produce and consume anything with beer, not wine like the rest of the country.

Cheap, rather quick, and delicious! a nice discovery, and recommended!

After lunch, we headed to go to the museum, since we wanted to be there before 3 pm, so we could return to the city by 5.30 and have a small sightseeing before leaving at 7 pm.

We took metro line 2 and stop at Fort de Mons, continued with bus 59 direction Contrescarpe that stops in front of the museum. The trip took just around half hour. Don’t hesitate to always ask the locals, and I think the bus driver is tourist oriented, so they can give you ample information of getting anywhere in the city, including which one was the right side of waiting the bus to your direction…:p

I was told that Lille used to be one of the first industrial cities in France in the industrial revolution age, so there used to be factories scattered, the ones that moved the country’s economy, not only Lille’s. Many of the factories are closed and being acquired by the haves, so no wonder in certain area you’ll find many beautiful homes…

I was wrong again then, I don’t know why I was succumbed by the thought that the north part is poor part…. You know that stereotype could mislead to misunderstanding, right…

When we finally arrived at the museum, I was so thrilled. Never imagined to travel to anther city, took 3 hour bus, just to see an exhibition! There were quite a crowd, but the queue was not that long, and we waited only around half hour to be able to enter.

Another good point is…the museum has partnership with FNAC (book store) and UGC (cinema chain), so they offer reduction if we have those membership cards. And finally I felt that I didn’t subscribe to both brands for nothing :-)) So I just paid 7 euros instead of 12 euros…If I had got my unemployment card by then, I could have entered for free anyway…

The museum is quite big, but not that big (I’m sorry, I’m used to Modern art museum in Paris), but we could cover almost all artworks and rooms, a part of the famous Modigliani. The garden is quite vast, but again, not that big that you’d get lost while walking. It’s a museum that has easy navigation of space and place.

Satisfied of the exhibition, Sishi and I got back to the city and hurried to go to vieux Lille. This time, we were able to navigate ourselves better, ha! Sishi would like to take the tourist bus, but the thing is the bus stop was not very easy to locate, and I wouldn’t waste my time by searching. We were there to enjoy the scenery and feeling the unexpected.

So while casually searching, we got around, bought the cafĂ© at Notting hill (great place, great coffee, great staff, reasonable price – well everywhere outside Paris :p), took some selfies (finally the rain stopped and the spring weather was on our side), and admired some caricatural buildings, beautiful doors, houses, with Dutch signs on it.

Another good point of the city, everyone was nice, and helpful. Even the old grandpa on the wheel chair, he even asked us if we needed help – IN ENGLISH. We definitely looked so tourists, I guess. (we both don’t look french anyway, so that grandpa had his reason).

Packing our coffee and light dinner to eat on the bus, we headed to the train station, where our bus should have been waiting. The bus was 30 min late. If we had known that, we could’ve enjoyed the city longer! But it’s ok, let’s save it for another trip then.

Another 10 euro day trip:-)))

If you want to know, total damage of the day was 31,7 euros : 10 euros (return bus ticket) + 7 euros (museum) + 14,7 euros (lunch, coffee, etc) 🙂 not bad right!

It was nice to have breakfast in Paris, and had lunch in Lille, and had dinner in between!

See you again Lille, c’a Ă©tĂ© sympa!

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