From Ypres, I decided to move on towards the French city of Lille. Although I had heard a few good things about it from other people in hostels, my visit was primarily motivated by the fact that I have a friend who is living there. The city has a big student population and my friend is doing an Erasmus Study Abroad year there.
The city seems to have a casual, relaxed vibe when you are in the “studenty” areas. There are lots of fantastically beautiful buildings and structures to see as you walk around the streets. Lille’s situation means that there is inspiration from the French and Flemish. The old town area is full of the types of winding narrow streets that I absolutely love.
The best thing about staying with a friend in Lille is that he is off away on a trip home next week, and has generously offered to take some souvenirs home for my family. He is a “slow traveller” too, which means he can travel back home with more than just one tiny piece of hand luggage. Lille is a great place to go souvenirs shopping, because of its mixed heritage. There are some brilliant shopping areas in the city, if you like that sort of thing. Suffice to say, my ma and pa will be getting a few lovely gifts in the next few weeks.
In addition to souvenir shopping, I also enjoyed the bustling Wazemmes Market. I think my love of fresh food means that I always want to explore the local marketplaces. Staying over with Patrick also meant that I had the chance to actually purchase some of the traders’ wares AND be able to rustle up a tasty meal in his fully stocked kitchen! As much as I enjoy hostelling, their kitchen facilities are not always up to scratch.
The town hall belfry is one of the tallest historical structures in the city, and is pleased to welcome visitors for a few hours each day. You normally have to book in advance, but it is well worth the trip to the top. Standing at 104 metres high, the tower offers spectacular views of the town, and off into the mountains in the distance. Getting to the top is also a brilliant workout. Thankfully my WWOOFing in the Netherlands had kept me healthy enough to make it to the top without cheating and using the lift. There are also some displays to help you to understand how Lille has changed over the course of its history.
Pres Du Hem
Patrick also decided that we should go to Hem with some of his fellow students. If you have the opportunity to visit in the warmer months, you will definitely find something to keep you entertained, although I have been told that it can get a little overcrowded in the summer holidays. Whilst it is touted by some as a children’s attraction, we (a group of young adults) enjoyed ourselves.
There are lots of watersports to try your hand at, including kayaks, dingy and windsurfing, as well as nature walks and conservation efforts. If you enjoy the outdoors and like to get a little bit wet, then I would thoroughly recommend this day trip out of Lille, especially if you get the chance to go with some likeminded spirits.
Just as I was finishing up writing this quick post I had a phone call from England and thought I’d share what it was about here. I won’t go into much detail but a couple of weeks before I started out on my travels I travelled to a friends flat in Croydon, England after being invited to stay the weekend to catch up. He also had a spare ticket to the England v Ireland game at Twickenham in the Six Nations so I could hardly refuse!Everything was great, except the result because Ireland lost, but I thoroughly enjoyed it anyhow.
Unfortunately on the way back to Ireland and still in England I got rear ended by a car (not my fault) and ended up with mild whiplash. To cut a longish story short, after looking for some advice on car accidents and whiplash, I ended up starting a personal injury claim, and I’ve just been notified my claim has been successful. I should very shortly be receiving some compensation in my bank account, and although it isn’t really much it is certainly better than nothing, and a little extra cash always helps when you’re travelling on a budget!