“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Alarm goes off, and I wake up to another “homeless” day in Paris. I had been spending the past week crashing in a solid place, but I needed to vacate the apartment that day. And, typical of myself, I had no solid plan on where to go next.
Friends had offered me couches and beds, but, instead, I woke up with a desire to travel and get out of Paris for a few days.
North? South? East? West?
France? Spain? England?
After five minutes of inner debate trying to figure out the most reasonable place to jetset, I settled on Lille. A small city in the north of France said to be filled with welcoming folks and delicious food. So, I threw some things into my suitcase and off I went.
Did I know much about the city before booking it to the train station? Ha ha. Other than the Palais des Beaux Arts and the modern art museum (LaM), very, very, very little. Oh well…It’s not like limited knowledge on cities stopped me before!
(Though, a little research on buses from the train station to my hostel would have been a brilliant idea…it would have prevented me from standing outside in the pouring rain trying to flag down taxis…)
But, I finally made it to a city of cobble streets, Flemish inspired buildings, friendly folks and metro strikes.
Though I was no longer in Paris, I was not safe from the typical French metro stikes (they go on strike often because they want more money…I understand, but you guys are REALLY messing up my plans here….). Thankfully, the city is walkable, but it did prevent me from checking out LaM and La Piscine (a pool transformed into a modern art museum…c’est cool!).
Another time, right?
Since I couldn’t visit these two museums (and I had already spent several hours in the Palais des Beaux Arts gawking at cat mummies), I did a lot of walking and sightseeing and eating.
Moules and frites?
Unfortunately, Lille isn’t a super touristy town which made making friends in the hostel a bit difficult. I did manage to make a few friends AND met some North Carolina folks backpacking around Europe on my last day in the city! Goes to show the world is small…right?
However, I didn’t really mind the time alone exploring the city. Since there are not a lot of tourists in Lille, everyone is extremely nice and patient to practice French with someone lacking the “perfect” accent.
And while I enjoy time spent away from Paris and chances to explore other French cities, there is nothing like returning to the City of Lights. Even if I return “unattached” to a place.
PS: If you have been swayed to go visit Lille yourself (because, you totally should), look at staying at Gastama Hostel! Nice and helpful staff! Free breakfast! And walking distance to the town center!
PPS: If you haven’t been swayed yet, I will note that Lille is supposed to have an awesome night scene! I don’t have first hand experience [yet] since I visited during the week and not the weekend, but that’s what I heard all week!