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Top Ten Things to do in Lille for Mother’s Day

Lille is the perfect location for a girls’ getaway and, with Mother’s Day coming up, a long weekend with your Mum would make a fantastic treat for her (and you). In a blatant attempt to persuade you to visit, here are our favourite things to do, eat and drink in Lille. Together they add up to make a Mother’s Day or even a weekend to remember.

Top Ten Things to Do, Eat and Drink in Lille for Mother’s Day

1. Personal Shopper at Printemps

39-45, rue Nationale

Printemps, Lille, France

Splash out at this famous department store with your very own assistant guiding you to the latest fashions that will flatter your figure and reflect your personality. You’ll need to book it in advance. Tel: +33 (0)3 20 63 62 76.

 

2. Visit Wazemmes Market

Place de la Nouve Aventure

Wazemmes Market, Lille, France

If markets are more your style than department stores, then a visit to Wazemmes famous Sunday morning market is a must. Pop inside to pick up some fabulous cheeses or wander around the outdoor stalls selling a huge variety of things including flowers, Indian fabrics, antiques and street food from around the world.

Open: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Metro: Line 1 to Gambetta

 

3. Morning Coffee (and cake) at Coffee Makers

151 rue de Paris

Coffee Makers, Lille., France

Reputedly serving the best coffee in town, Coffee Makers are also known for their delicious homemade cakes and tasty sandwiches.

 

4. Cycling Tour of Lille

Cycling tour of Lille, France

Perfect for the more active Mum, a cycling tour with Le Grand Huit is a great introduction to the parks and historic sites of the city. You can read about my experience with them on my personal blog, Exploring Lille by bicycle.

 

5. Lunch at Guinquette de la Marine

8 Avenue Léon Jouhaux

Guinquette de la Marine, Lille, France

After all that cycling you’ll have worked up an appetite and this quirky riverside brasserie is the perfect place to refuel. Try their Carbonnade Flamande (Beef and beer stew) or their Tarte au Maroilles (Cheese Flan), both traditional to the area and utterly scrumptious. Arrive early to be sure to get a table. Tel: +33 (0)3 20 39 85 43.

 

6. Afternoon Tea at L’Impertinente

9 boulevard Papin

Impertinente, Lille, France

A fantastic tea room with a warm and friendly atmosphere where the delicious homemade cakes are bound to tempt you.

 

7. La Piscine, Musée d’Art et d’Industrie André Diligent

23 rue de l’espérance, Roubaix

La Piscine, Roubaix, Lille, France

Not far from Lille in neighbouring Roubaix, which you can easily get to by tram, is my favourite museum and art gallery, La Piscine, a former art deco swimming pool with a fascinating history which you can read about in this previous post, La Piscine, a beautiful museum in Roubaix, Lille.

For more information about public transport in and around Lille visit the Lille Tourism website and for more information about opening times and prices visit their website, La Piscine.

 

8. Waffles and chocolates at Méert

27 rue Esquermoise

Méert, Lille, France

A beautiful and historic shop and café, famous for its chocolates and waffles. You’ll also find them in Lille’s Printemps store.

 

9. Champagne at Alliance Couvent des Minimes

17 Quai du Wault

Alliance Couvent des Minimes, Lille, France

Just ten minutes from Lille’s main square you’ll find the city’s only champagne bar. Located in the glass-roofed courtyard of this 17th century former convent, the hotel beautifully combines many historic features with modern design. (And they are currently running a 3rd night free offer which you can find out more about at the end of this post.)

 

10. Dine at Basilic Café

24 bis rue Esquermoise

Burgers

A little further down the same street as Mason Méert, away from the tourist traps of the main square, you’ll find this trendy, reasonably priced restaurant known for their excellent burgers with a twist. They have a number of vegetarian options and I’ve heard they can also offer vegan dishes on request (although talking to them in advance is recommended).

 

3rd Night free offer at Alliance Couvent des Minimes

To make this Mother’s Day a day to remember, book a long weekend in Lille at one of the many lovely city centre hotels. The elegant Alliance Couvent des Minimes currently has a 3rd night free offer for travel completed between 15th February and the 9th March. With this offer the price for 3 nights, including breakfast and travel by Eurostar, is from £187 per person based on 2 sharing a room. And you can travel in style with an upgrade to Eurostar’s Standard Premier from £73 per person each way.

For more information or to book call 01489  866932.

Please note that the price for the Eurostar element is subject to fare availability.

 


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Tis the season…

Christmas has finally arrived! So we wanted to treat you all to a compilation of beautiful Christmas photos from around Europe – a mixture of food and drink, markets and lights – arguably all the best things about this wonderfully festive time of the year.

So let’s make a start with a classic Christmas in Paris, the city of love…

You can’t really beat the gorgeous Eiffel Tower, covered in a glistening layer of snow, a beautiful backdrop to a very festive looking carousel.

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As you can see, Galeries Lafayette knows exactly how to decorate for Christmas and keep up an ambience of class.

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I’m sure you’ll agree there’s nothing more magical than wandering around a Christmas market, mulled wine in hand, looking at all the trinkets and gifts on sale. And in the snow, it couldn’t be much more festive!

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As we all know, it’s not just Paris that are skilled in adding that little (or large) festive touch…

Lille, France is a dab hand at adding a touch of bling to their architecture.

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And Reims looks stunning when the markets start to pop up, coating areas of the city in lights.

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Now let’s take a stop next door to Belgium, and see the handsome buildings of Grand Place, in the central square of Brussels take your breath away…

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And definitely not forgetting one of the best activities associated with this time of year, ice-skating! Take to the ice in one of Belgium’s Flemish Christmas markets.

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Once you’ve spent the evening picking yourself up off the ice and probably feeling rather worn out, a Rakomelo is certainly well deserved. Actually a traditional Greek beverage, its warm, sweet (and alcoholic) taste will be sure to go down a treat – only for adults though, sorry kids!

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So moving along again, this time to Deutschland, we’ve found that Cologne is a trinket buyer’s paradise. With gifts galore and all sorts of wonderful bits and bobs to look at, we couldn’t not feature it in this blog.

Here’s a rather unique stall at one of the markets:

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Now here’s the bigger picture for you…

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And the ice-skating rink looks perfect for a family friendly race (if you can stay on your feet of course).

Blick auf die große Eisbahn auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt "Heimat der Heinzel" auf dem Heumarkt in der Altstadt Köln, im Vordergrund das Reiterdenkmal, im Hintergrund Dom und Groß St. Martin.

Our final stop on this festive tour takes us to a little place called Amsterdam, which embraces the Christmas spirit in a delightfully cultural way.

The most impressive perhaps, is this Christmas tree made of bicycles:

4205497257_94c8df9078_o AMSTERDAM

Image credit: Xavier Vergés, Flickr

We then have performances from the ‘World Christmas Circus’, which is a festive tradition in Amsterdam.

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Image credit: DirkJan Ranzijn, Flickr

And finally, I can’t think of a better way to round up these images than with a drink, and better yet – a Christmas drink! Delirium Christmas, a festive Belgian beer will send your taste buds tingling with hints of fruit, spices, caramel malt and candied orange. You can buy a bottle or two here.

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Image credit: Hideyuki Kamon, Flickr

We hope you’ve enjoyed our mini festive tour around Europe, and are now well and truly in the Christmas spirit!

So now’s the time to go and get your favourite festive drink, a mince pie or two, put your feet up and await tomorrow’s fun and food filled day.

From everyone at Great Escapes, we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Bruges at Christmas


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Great Escapes Autumn Sale

The later part of the year is a wonderful time to visit Belgium or France. One of our favourite annual events is held in Bruges, the  ‘Magical Winter Moments Christmas Happening‘ which runs from 21st until the 30th of November in 2014. Previously known as “The Grand Christmas Happening Bruges”, this is a stylish and festive event in the heart of the city, featuring all the newest trends in home and floral decoration.

 

Bruges at Christmas

Bruges at Christmas

Mid-November sees the first of the fabulous Christmas Markets open. These are held in many towns and villages throughout Belgium and northern France. The atmosphere is festive with the smell of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine in the air. Find our more about the Christmas Markets in Belgium and France in our post, Dates for this year’s Christmas Markets.

Lille at Christmas

Lille at Christmas

Autumn SALE, book by 31st October 2014

Great Escapes is currently holding an autumn sale on short breaks to France and Belgium, offering £40 discount on any package booked between now and 31st October 2014 for travel in 2014 or 2015. Bookings must include ferry, Eurostar or Eurotunnel travel and include at least 3 nights’ accommodation. Discount is valid with ‘free night’ offers for even greater savings.

Here’s just a couple of our favourite examples to tempt you but you can find more on our website, Great Escapes.

Bruges, 3rd night FREE at the 3* Hotel Bryghia

This  family run hotel dates back to the 15th century and overlooks a quiet square within very easy reach of Bruges’ main attractions making it an ideal base for exploring this beautiful town.
A box of chocolates, to be collected locally, is included in all packages booked to Bruges.

Hotel in Bruges

Other information:  3rd night FREE offer valid from 03/11 to 13/12 for Sun to Tues arrivals. For the free night, breakfast is included.  Package also includes return travel Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries (car + 4 passengers). Package price from £109pp before Autumn Sale discount.

To book call 0845 330 2089 and quote 14Save40

Lille, 3rd night FREE at the 4* Alliance Couvent des Minimes

This elegant and comfortable hotel is a stunning  is the perfect blend of ancient architecture and modern design. A former 17th century convent, the Alliance Couvent des Minimes is less than a 10 minute walk from the Old Town with a fabulous range of restaurants, museums and shops close at hand.

Alliance Couvent des Minimes, Lilles

Alliance Couvent des Minimes, Lilles

The rooms are comfortable with all the amenities you would expect from a 4* hotel including free Wi-Fi and tea and coffee facilities. The glass atrium in the centre of the building adds to its character giving the hotel a great feeling of space.  The piano bar and the new champagne bar are the perfect place for relaxation in refined surroundings. The restaurant serving appetising dishes at very reasonable prices befits the excellent standard of the hotel.

Other information: 3rd night FREE offer valid from 12/09 to 31/12 for Fri-Sat arrivals. For the free night, breakfast is included. Includes return travel by Eurostar (Standard Economy). Package price from £209pp before Autumn Sale discount.

To book call 0845 330 2089 and quote 14Save40
Carbonnade Flamande - beef and beer stew, Northern France


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Carbonnade beef and beer stew recipe

I first came across this hearty traditional Flemish dish in the hot summer months in Lille in the north of France, but it would make the perfect winter warmer for the gray, damp days we’re having here in England at the moment.

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Carbonnade Flamande (Beef and beer stew)

Ingredients: Serves 6
3 1/2 lbs chuck steak, cut into 2.5 cm pieces
4 tbsp butter
3 medium onions sliced about 1 cm thick
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
360 ml chicken or beef stock
360 ml Belgian beer (plus some to drink with the meal)
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tbsp brown sugar
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs of parsley for garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper
 

1. Season the beef with a little salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large dutch oven (a covered earthenware or cast-iron container for cooking casseroles) over medium-high heat until hot and almost smoking. Brown the beef well for about 3 minutes on each side. Put to one side.

2. Add 2 tablespoons butter to dutch oven and reduce heat to medium.

3. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook for about 15 minutes, until onions are browned.

4. Add flour and  evenly coat the onions in flour. Cook for about 2 minutes, until flour is lightly browned.

5. Add stock (and loosen any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan). Then stir in beer, thyme, bay, browned beef with any of the accumulated juices, and salt and pepper to taste.

6. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a full simmer.

7. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and leave it cooking for about 2 hours..

or

Cook in the oven at 150°c / Gas 2 for 2 hours.

8. Stir occasionally, scraping up anything that is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

9. Add the mustard and brown sugar, plus slat and pepper if required. Cook for a further 30 minutes until beef tender.

10. Remove the thyme and bay leaf and serve.

Served traditionally with French fries and salad as I had it Lille (but it would also go very well with mashed, baked or new potatoes and some seasonal vegetables).

Better still, let it cool, uncovered, before covering and refrigerating for the next day. It will taste even better and can be made up to 2 days in advance! The cooled stew can also be frozen, in airtight container, for up to 3 months. It should be defrosted overnight before reheating. To reheat, put the stew back the dutch dish and reheat slowly in a preheated oven at 150ºC/gas mark 2 for 1 hour, until piping hot.

Bon appétit!

 

Mussel and chips, Lille Braderie


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Mussels and chips, bargain antiques and a festive atmosphere at La Braderie, Lille

Car boot sales, street markets, bric à brac, flea markets, swap stalls and garage sales are extremely popular in  Northern France but the biggest Braderie, as these are known, happens on the first weekend in September every year when some 10,000 vendors come together to line the pavements of Lille, attracting millions of visitors. You’ll find antiques, furniture, crockery, clothing, toys, games and all sorts of other items at rock bottom prices!

maxime dufour photographies_20080906_2436 458 x 611

Although you’ll find a whole range of culinary delights in Lille, for this one weekend it is very much the traditional mussels and chips on the menu, as restaurants around the town try and out do each in an informal competition to see who can build the biggest mound of the empty shells. It’s quite a sight!

Mussel and chips, Lille Braderie

A fascinating history

La Braderie, as we know it today, is believed to have it’s origins in the Lille Fair which is known to have been in existence in 1127 and may well be older still.

In 1446 two butchers were given permission to sell meat and roasted herrings from the front of their house throughout the fair and this idea soon spread. It is believed that the name Braderie comes from the word ‘braden’ which is the Flemish verb ‘to roast’.

Roasted poultry certainly became the traditional food of the market but following a temporary short of poultry, mussels took over in popularity.

The bradeux, or non-professional sellers, first become a significant part of the market in the 16th century, when servants were given permission to sell their master’s old clothes and other items, such as crockery, that had seen better days.

Today the city becomes one huge pedestrianised, open-air market with thousands of traders, second-hand sellers and bradeux. It’s a fabulous time to visit if you enjoy hustle and bustle and a festive atmosphere plus mussels and chips washed down with a local beer.

Lille Braderie

All the details

In 2013 it runs from Saturday 31 August, 2pm to Sunday 01 September , 11pm

During this weekend, the metro will run non-stop every 3 minutes throughout the day and, during the night, every 6 minutes.
The tramway will run non-stop every 10-20 minutes and you can buy a “Pass-Braderie” for €4.80 for the 2 days.

The local tourist office (Palais Rihour, Place Rihour) is open throughout the weekend on Friday from 9.00 am to 8.00 pm, Saturday from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm and Sunday from 10.00 am to 12.00 pm and from 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm.

On the Saturday morning there is also a half marathon with around 5,000 entrants plus a couple of shorter races. For further details visit SemiMarathonLille.

It should also be noted that throughout the weekend many other tourist attractions are closed.

Photography courtesy of Lille Tourism Office  top:  © Maxime Dufour, middle and bottom: © Laurent Ghesquière


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5 Unique Dining Experiences in Lille, France

I recently spent a wonderful long weekend in Lille and discovered some very interesting eateries. The traditional cuisine of the area is tasty and hearty combing Flemish traditions with a touch of the French ‘art de vivre’. Regional specialties include carbonnade (chunks of beef stewed in beer), waterzoi (poultry or fish in a creamy sauce and potjeveesch (white meat terrine in aspic) usually washed down with a traditional, local beer. And for dessert look out for gaufres fourrées (a type of thin filled waffle).

With around 900 restaurants and cafés in Lille, you are certainly spoiled for choice.  If, however, you are looking for something more than just great food, here are my suggestions for 5 unique dining experiences in and around Lille.

Cook your own

At L’atelier des Chef, on Bouleverde de la Liberté, you can have a hands-on cooking lesson with a highly experienced French chef and then eat your hard work with your classmates. Courses start from just 17€ for a 30 minute lesson preparing a delicious main course, such as French roast chicken with raspberries and mashed potatoes with basil.

french cookery class

French raost chicken

Eat in a second-hand bookshop

On rue des Bouchers in Vieux Lille (the old town) you’ll find Le Café-Livres. Old armchairs and shelves of secondhand books give a very cosy feel to this bar come restaurant come bookshop. Enjoy simple, fresh meals while browsing through the books, either inside or on the small interior terrace.

Eat in a hosier’s shop

This small restaurant on place du Théâtre, was once a hosier’s shop, founded in 1813 by the present owner’s ancestor. Many details have been kept to remind visitors of the café’s past including dummies, fitting rooms and mirrors, resulting in a quirky, welcoming café bar that is popular with the locals.

Eat in a swimming pool

We recently featured this wonderful museum in a beautiful art deco building that was once a swimming pool – La Piscine, on rue de LEspérance in Roubaix, a suburb of Lille. The museum’s Restaurant Meert serves traditional French cuisine and is famous for its Madagascan vanilla waffles. The original decor of the restaurant has been preserved in every detail including the mahogany bar and even the furniture.

Restaurant Meert

A sunny outside terrace over looks the textile plant garden.

Restaurant Meert’s sunny terrace overlooking the textile plant garden at La Piscine

Eat in a Foundry

The Fonderie also in Roubaix on Bvd Montesquieu is a stylish restaurant in what was once a 19th century foundry.  Combining contemporary décor with reminders of its industrial past creates an intimate atmosphere with style.

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La Fonderie

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La Piscine, a beautiful museum in Roubaix, Lille

La Piscine, Roubaix, Lille


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La Piscine, a beautiful museum in Roubaix, Lille

In a stunningly beautiful Art Deco building, that was once a public swimming pool, you will find La Piscine Museum of Art and Industry. In the past I had seen some lovely pictures of the museum but nothing beats seeing things for yourself so I was really looking forward to this visit. Our guide, Arnout, from the Flemish speaking part of Belgium, was eager to show us around and to tells us about the museum’s fascinating history.

La Piscine, Roubaix, LilleLa Piscine’s story

Roubaix, was once a flourishing textile town but the living conditions of the mainly immigrant workers were dreadful. In 1927 the mayor of Roubaix, Jean-Baptiste Lebas, who later became France’s Minister for Labour, commissioned architect Albert Baert to design a public swimming baths for the workers.

The swimming pool had separate male and female 1 hour sessions and there were also individual bathrooms, over 20 each for men and women. These could be rented for half an hour for an affordable fee. At that time the workers would not have had access to hot water at home so women also used the baths to wash their laundry as well as themselves! In addition to this there were steam rooms, a garden, chapel and restaurant.

During the Second World War, while France was occupied, Lebas was a leading figure in the French resistance but eventually he was deported and sentenced to hard labour. Despite his absence he was re-elected as mayor not once but twice by the people of Roubaix. Sadly, unknown to the loyal citizens, before his second re-election he had already died. In 1949, a monument was raised to his memory and his body was returned to France in 1951.

La Piscine today

The swimming pool was forced to close in 1985 as the structure had become unsafe but the site was re-designed by Jean-Paul Philippon and fully renovated. It reopened as an art museum in 2001 and houses an impressive collection of 19th and 20th century art with paintings, drawings, sculptures, textiles, ceramics and glassworks by both local and international artists. As well as this wonderful collection of art, the building itself is really worth seeing and will take your breath away. It did mine!

La Piscine, Roubaix, Lille

La Piscine

A wooden floor has been placed along either side of what was originally part of the pool leaving a thinner pool still on display. This can be covered over completely when events such as fashion shows are occasionally held here.

A former industrial town,  Roubaix has reinvented itself to become is a cosmopolitan, exciting place to live or visit.  La Piscine is just one example of how disused buildings have been used in new and imaginative ways.

La PIscine, Roubaix, LilleMuseum’s website: La Piscine

Museums in and near Lille: Lille Tourist Office

Photography © Alain Leprince M.A.I.A.D