Three Days in Lille: Day 2 – More Food and Exploring

I woke up refreshed and to find the weather brighter than the day before.  We had a loose agenda for the day:  have breakfast, go to the Wazemmes market, and do some more exploring.

First, breakfast!  The food on offer was a continental breakfast, and what was available was fresh and good.  Coffee came from a machine, which was the only downside for me.  There was a choice of fresh fruit salad, boiled eggs, ham, cheese, cereal, juice, baguettes, assorted mini croissants, yoghurts, assorted jams (in individual glass pots), honey, butter, etc.  I didn’t notice any hot food being available.

After breakfast, we walked down Rue Leon Gambetta (or Gambetta as it is known) toward the Wazemmes market.  The market opens at 7am and closes at 2pm.  The best and most interesting day for the market is on Sunday, where you can buy anything from puppies to panties.  We weren’t staying until Sunday, so we went to the market on Thursday when it is a bit low key, no puppies.  The market is still very busy on Thursdays.  There are a vast array of stalls on many of the little side roads off of Gambetta that flow into the Rue de Sarrazins and around.  You can find people selling clothes (women’s, men’s and children’s), shoes, toys, house hold products, fabric, jewellery, cosmetics, records and books, knick knacks, cooked food, fruits, vegetables, etc.  The restaurants in the area will sell food outside their premises.  There is a covered market where people sell food from all areas of the world, but we didn’t quite manage to go inside.

The flavour of the market is definitely ethnic.  There are Middle Eastern, African, Turkish, Indian, Central European and people of other nationalities selling a vast array of goods.  There are as many different ethnic restaurants in the area.  The Wazemmes or Lille Sud area is a bit down trodden in comparison to other areas of Lille we had experienced the day before and subsequently.  The houses are a bit smaller and shabbier.  Although it seems a bit shabby, I really liked the flavour of the place and it reminds me of certain neighbourhoods in New York.  I like the variety of people and the casualness of the neighbourhood.  Amor and I explored the market and eventually made our way out of the hustle and bustle towards Rue Des Postes down towards Boulevard Montebello.  Architecturally, Boulevard Montebello was not too interesting, but it picked up a little bit and improved when we got to Place Cormontaigne where we stopped into a café for a coffee, pit stop, to get our bearings and work out where we were going to go next.

I thought it would be a good idea to carry on walking toward the canal and along i towards the Citadelle.  It wasn’t a very nice walk as it isn’t possible to walk along the canal until one comes to Jardin Vauban.  We arrived at a beautiful war memorial near the entrance to the Citadelle.  There is a very large park surrounding it that contains a zoo with over 400 animals.  It is not possible to go inside the Citadelle walls without making prior arrangements through The Tourist Office.  Then one must give 24 hr. notice and visits can only be made on certain days.  I think it could be a very interesting tour.  We were very happy to have a look from the outside.  As you can see, the entrance is very impressive.

On our way out, we crossed the car park to Pont du Ramponneau into Vieux-Lille (Old Lille) toward the centre and Place du Géneral De Gaulle or Grande Place.  This is where I went crazy about the Architecture.  The oldest part of Lille is probably the most beautiful.  We found a restaurant in Grande Place to have lunch.  I don’t know the name of the restaurant, but it was opposite the McD’s on the other side of the square and we could see the statue of Déesse from the window.  The decor was pleasant and modern with some amusing and unusual artwork on the walls.  The restaurant served traditional French food.  I had the Carbonnade, which is beef cooked in a sauce flavoured with beer, onions, brown sugar and thickened with gingerbread, sort of like a stew.  It came with chips.  Amor had a special type of sausage of pork and herbs (and chips!).  My meal was excellent.  It wasn’t too sweet, the meat was very tender and flavoursome.  Amor wasn’t too sure about his sausage.  He liked the taste, but wasn’t sure about the texture.  The sausage fell apart when he cut into it.  I guess it depends on what one is used to.  I didn’t try it as I don’t generally eat pork.  We didn’t have coffee or dessert.  It took awhile for our bill to arrive.  I think the restaurant was a bit short-staffed and our waiter was running around all over the place.  I took this opportunity to use the facilities, which were very nice.

We decided to do the second walk in the AA book, Vieux Lille – the Old Town on page 38.  I went a bit mad with the camera.  There was so much to look at.  There were so many interesting details on many amazing buildings.  The shops were amazing.  There were designer shops left right and centre, many I never heard of.  I fell in love with a pair of purple, suede, pull on boots.  Purple is one of this season’s colours.  Unfortunately, they were out of my budget, ouch!  There were also many pátisseries, chocolate shops, trendy bars and restaurants.  The Old Town provides a feast for the eyes and palate.  I may have driven Amor a bit crazy with my camera antics and continually pointing things out to him by saying, “Ooh, look at that!” every few seconds!

We went inside the Cathédrale NotreDame de la Treille, a neo-Gothic cathedral started in 1854 and eventually completed in November 1999. This building took many years to complete as work completely stopped in the 1940’s.  If one looks at the building carefully, you can see the various styles of work done through the ages.

We continued walking around Old Lille making our way back to Grand Place and The Opera.

It was teatime and I fancied a coffee and cake.  None of the pátisseries we came across had anywhere to sit to have cake and coffee.  It was either cake or coffee, except for the famous Pátisserie Méert. The building is beautiful and elegant on the inside as it is on the outside.  The premises have been extended and there are several rooms, including a courtyard, to have your coffee (they also serve tea) and cake.  We were seated in the back with a view of the courtyard.  We were given a menu, in French.  I could understand a bit of it, but when it came to the cakes, we were a bit lost and had to ask the waiter for advice.  This is what we ordered.

We both had café crème.  I had the rhum au baba and Amor had a chocolate cake.  The chocolates are complimentary and come with the coffee.  Everything was divine.   The coffee was excellent, the chocolate cake was to die for, the baba was sublime, and the chocolates were coffee praline (we saved them for later).  We had all of this for €25, which is about £25!  It’s a bit shocking really, but it was soooo worth it.  Would I go back here again?  Definitely, and I would choose different cakes, and take photos of the interior and the loos, which were very pretty.  After our decadent feast, we walked around the Grand Place some more before heading back to our hotel for a snooze before dinner.

It was our last night out in Lille.  We had been out walking all day (apart for the time we were eating) and we wanted to eat at a restaurant near the hotel.  We brought out the guide books for well, guidance.  We decided to go to Le Chat qui fume (The Smoking Cat).  It was practically around the corner from us, was supposed to serve traditional food, and it had a cool name. (We found it in the MapGuide book.)  If we weren’t looking for it, we would have walked right by the restaurant.  It had an unassuming front, though the figure of a smoking cat was a good clue.  We went inside.  The place is quite small, but it had a lovely atmosphere, very cosy.  There was an upright piano that made up part of the bar, and as one would expect, there were pictures and paintings of smoking cats and other cats on the walls.  The place was very quiet and we were the only people in there until a small group arrived about a half an hour later.  Our waiter was friendly and very helpful as the menu was in French.  Amor had a steak with baked potato. I had the potatoes dauphinoise with Maroilles, a soft creamy cheese, and a side salad.  Amor’s steak was cooked perfectly and my potatoes were delicious with a delicate flavour from the cheese.  Amor had a beer with his meal and I had a small carafe of rosé wine.  As with all the places we had been to, there was no hurry for anything and we had a relaxed evening out and enjoyed a lovely meal.

Pátisserie Méert: 27 rue Esquermoise – 59000 Lille –

Le Chat qui fume: 3, Rue Henri Kolb, 59000 Lille