To celebrate their 15th Anniversary, Eurostar were doing a promotion with The Times to Paris, Brussels or Lille. I received an e-mail with two passwords and only needed to purchase a copy of The Times for the third. I thought the deal was too good to pass up and as Amor’s birthday was imminent, I thought it would be lovely to take him away for a couple of days. It would also do me the world of good to get away from the madness that was taking place with regard to the sale of my house.
We decided on Lille as neither of us had ever been there. I purchased a copy of The Times (it came with a free book! Bonus!), got my third password, and booked our mini-break. I originally tried to book for a weekend, but all of the Friday trains were completely booked as many people had taken advantage of the great offer to go to Disneyland! I was advised that there were plenty of seats during the week and decided that was a better option, thus avoiding masses of noisy children and equally noisy parents. I also booked a hotel through Eurostar as the rate was reasonable. Breakfast was included, and the hotel was fairly central. As the booking was fairly short notice, and there had been postal strikes, I opted to collect my tickets and vouchers from the station.
On the 11th of November (Remembrance Day), we left Eastbourne Station early in the morning to Ashford International, where we were to pick up the Eurostar. The journey took an hour. We had plenty of time for coffee, collecting the tickets, and acquiring some Euros before boarding our train at 10:30. Fortunately, there weren’t many people with children going to Disneyland that morning. While waiting for the train to arrive, I found a map of Lille. One of the men working for Eurostar was French and knew the town. He showed me on the map the best way to get from the station to our hotel. Luckily enough, it was within walking distance. I asked him if it was necessary purchase a City Pass, but he didn’t think we would need one as the metro was small and Lille was not a big city. In any event, we could always get one from the Information Centre if we thought we needed one.
Our train arrived and we found our seats and settled in. Now that I had an idea of where we were staying, I pulled out the guidebooks to get more information on the area. I like to be prepared, and I like to know where I am, or at least have a general idea of where I am. During the journey between Ashford and Lille, we were asked to observe 11 minutes of silence to show respect for the soldiers who had died. I was a bit peeved that there were a couple of young women talking behind me while the rest of the train carriage was quiet. I restrained myself from saying anything and eventually dozed off.
Our journey to Lille was only an hour from Ashford International, plus we needed to add an hour for the time difference. That made it lunchtime! Our first stop was our hotel, then off to find some lunch. As Amor assured me that he was a terrible navigator, I was responsible for the map! Once we pinpointed where we were, we happily worked our way to the hotel. I had a difficult time keeping my eyes ahead of me as I was looking upward all of the time. Most of the buildings are quite beautiful, with French windows, balconies, and gorgeous details. We arrived at our hotel within 15-20 minutes. Check-in was easy and the staff were friendly. The room was small, but it was very clean, as was the bathroom. We freshened up, put away some clothes and went off to explore, and find some food!
Eastbourne to Ashford International: http://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk
Lille Tourist Office: http://www.lilletourism.com
Lille – Everyman MapGuides, by Clemence Jacquinet, Shelley Wanger, £5.99 – “No more struggling against the wind to fold back the extra large city map you picked up at the tourist office. The unique “Everyman MapGuide” series cleverly combines maps and text in an easy-to-use format, listing the best sights, restaurants and shops alongside fold-out maps of exceptional clarity. Each guide divides the city into sections and devotes two double pages to each of them. Sections are colour coded, and a small area map at the bottom of the page tells you where you are within the city, and within the guide. There are also 4 pages of useful information about the city at the front of the book, and a 4-page city-wide hotel section at the back; plus a street index and thematic index. Stylish, clever, practical, a MapGuide is the indispensable pocket companion to your week end or short break away.”
Lille – The AA Essential Guide, by Lawrence Philips, £5.99 – “Make the most of your trip to Lille with “AA Essential Lille”. As well as handy atlas and maps sections the guide is divided into five easy-to-use colour coded sections: the authors introduction to the destination, including the ten ‘must do’s’; the author’s Top Ten places to visit; alphabetical listings of places to visit; detailed listings guiding you where to eat, stay and shop; and quick reference travel information.”