Lovely Lille & Gritty Paris

After Utrecht we headed south towards France, aiming for Lille. Even though we passed through 3 countries in 3 hours, it was a boring ride for the same reason the Dutch love cycling – no hills to speak of. We saw Antwerp from the ring road which I guess is one way to see something. Lots of church spires by the looks of it.

Thankfully, Lille didn’t disappoint. Lonely Planet called it France’s most underrated city, and it’s easy to see why. The town centre was just beautiful, like Paris in miniature. It was very busy though and when we arrived at the tourist office around 3pm we were told the only accommodation available was in a ‘small village’ about 20 minutes away. It was a 1-star hotel that would cost 45 euro. For some reason we decided we could do better and spent an hour asking around all the nearby hotels, only to find there really was no room at the inn. We reminded ourselves that this was how Jesus started, so we were in good company, and we have seen some very lovely French villages so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

Unfortunately by ‘small village’ the girl meant ‘industrial estate by the airport’ so after we’d aired out the smoky room and gone for a walk in search of anything resembling life we headed back into town. It had calmed down a bit so was a good time for a walk and we found a pizzeria down a laneway for dinner, so the day ended on more of a high.

After Lille we were headed for Paris, steeling our nerves in hopes of meeting up with Heather and Michael who’d offered us their sofa bed in the 2nd arondissement for the night. Free accommodation in Paris with friends we haven’t seen in ages was too good to pass up so off we went.

And we live to tell the tale. I am forever in Toby’s debt for getting us there alive, with no scrapes, and only a few extra grey hairs. The GPS performed beautifully, Heather & Michael’s apartment was a quirky, lovable fire hazard, we ate good food and drank in proper Parisian bistros and saw prostitutes (peddling their wares I mean, not actually ‘seeing’…) and the Notre Dame. I guess it was a grittier side to Paris than we’ve seen before, especially as we arrived via what looked like the ghetto, making me very glad it was broad daylight.

Me making tea in Heather & Michael’s kitchen…note the padding at the top of the “doorway” so you don’t hit your head as you enter.

We are currently in Chartres and heading south again tomorrow, hoping for some chataeux viewing and better countryside after 2 boring days on the motorway…


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