France - Lille, the getaway in the country of the Ch’tis

Lille is in the middle of a colourful country where urban life and regional heritage mixes up. You will get to know the city as from the wriggling area of the Lille Flandres SNCF station, 55 mins away from Paris while it would take 1h05 mins to reach Lille-Europe. You’ll appreciate a weekend full of emotions, in a small city close to Paris that offers real authenticity. Par Jérome AZNAR.

 

 

When. The Northern France cobbles are pleasant in winter as well as in summer whether it is in June at the Gay Pride, during the Braderie, and the Salon des Gens du Nord at the end of January. The Braderie at the beginning of September each year gathers a keen crowd in the emblematic places of Lille.

 

What to see. The Art Nouveau, Neo-Flemish art around the Parc Rouge, the Sébastopol Theatre, the Euraille shopping centre stuck between the Lille-Flandres and Lille-Europe SNCF station are more admired than visited. The city can be visited in one day giving you an overview of the unexpected treasures of the city. Vieux-Lille is punctuated by mansions often closed but accessible during heritage day at mid-September. Belfries rise up in the city centre in particular the CCI one near the Opera which is 102 m high or the town hall one, headquarters of the famous city Mayor. The Bois de Boulogne and the Champs de Mars surround the citadel by the Deule River where you will meet families, joggers and tourists. The Musée des Beaux-Arts, on the other hand, is the second museum in France for the richness of the presented collections.

What to do. Have a coffee near the Grand Place at Morel & Fils, an old 1823 shop which preserved its authenticity in the shade of the old Stock Exchange transformed into a second-hand market during the weekends. The market is a must on Sunday mornings. Wazemmes is colourful and mixes cultures with some snacks at P’tits Loups. Otherwise, there is the bourgeois boheme version of the market at Place du Concert.

 

Fooding. Here, on the cobbles of Northern France, chicory bear a name which have a nice country flavour: the chicon. It is prepared with ham and a Mornay sauce. Do choose Povjevleesch, the Flemish beef stews with gingerbread or the waterzoï – chicken with Maroilles cream – on menus often written in Flemish. The Braderie offers a large choice of mussels and French fries. Many gay and gay-friendly restaurants like the Domaine de Chavagnac, the Vieux Louis, Chez la Vieille, Philip bar-resto  or the Zango welcome you at Rue de Gand. The smell of Maroilles cheese is a treat if you buy it from one of the cheese makers at the market on Sunday. The northern part has many very old regional sweet specialities, bakeries and confectioneries. Famous one are the Pie qui Chante or the Mi-Choco. Before going back, don’t forget to fill your pocket with Bêtises de Cambrai, Sottises de Valenciennes, Chuques de Bavay, vanilla waffles from Meert the historical bakery open in 1735 at Esquermoise street, chicory or brown sugar waffles with their funny sayings, the ones of Eugène Blond. The Belgian speculoos is available in various flavours. Lille is rich in lagers and brown beers produced in the region with pleasant names like Choulette and Saint Glinglin. There is even a beer brewed during each Brasserie of Lille.

Night life. Nights in Lille are long. The beer bars in Solférino and Gambetta streets are packed in the shade of the Sébastopol theatre. The Vice-Versa remains the perfect gay bar with the Privilège  its opposite neighbour, an ultra gay-friendly champagne bar. There is always Le Brigand at Rue de Gand where you can meet, until closure, the teams of the gay-friendly restaurants in the street after their service. The Tchouka club de Claude will celebrate its 15th anniversary of Lille’s nights. The newlywed of Lille, Anthony, continues his Delice nights, in Lille at the private hetero club of B-Floor. The bar-club of La Suite welcomes you since 2010 every month on Sunday as from 6.00 p.m. with the only gay GTD in Vieux Lille.

 

Sex. The city offers various possibilities: Le Cube, a sex-shop disguised into a cruising spot on two levels very well wisely accommodated; the saunas Le Lokal (urban place near Lille Flandres SNCF station); Les Bains – divided into 4 levels and; the huge Soho sauna in La Madeleine (everything is huge there starting with the changing room), together with Le Sling at the entrance de Douai which offers a cruising zone on three levels and which closes at 6.00 a.m. during the weekend, complete this small world of places for sex in Lille. There are also the Pied Marin in Dunkerque and O’Relax in Lens. But the cave of the Jardin Vauban still remains THE outdoor cruising place, in the small English park opposite the citadel in the middle of the Bois de Boulogne, separated by the Deule River.

Lodging. Unlike other regional cities, there are few gay-friendly accommodations in Lille, apart from the large house of Jean-Jacques with its garden-terrace behind the Sébastopol theatre. There, you will adore the breakfasts prepared by Myriam. Some dating websites can help you find accommodations.

 

Around. Take the subway to go and discover the Piscine de Roubaix, an Art Deco jewel that has become a museum of decorative arts; or to go and visit the Annex of the Louvre in Lens (40 minutes away).

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