Magda, a student of French as a foreign language from Amsterdam, is pleased to share her travel diary, carefully written during her language stay in Lille, the capital of Flanders.
The 21-year-old Dutch student is studying to become a French teacher. This is not her first language study trip to France. After Paris and Provence, she decides to explore the Lille metropolis with a group of French as a Foreign Language students guided by Vacances Actives Linguistiques. In her travel diary, she tells us about her 10 favorite cultural, gastronomic and artistic discoveries.
From Amsterdam to Lille, head to the North of France for a busy 6-day trip!
My first impressions of a trip to Lille
I was eager to discover the North of France: we know Lille for its great street market, for its cultural life since the city has been European Capital of Culture, and for its somewhat rich gastronomy !
The first steps we took in Lille led us to the Grand’Place: wow!
To start this travel study holiday to Lille, I really had the impression of being out of place and the Flemish architecture has a lot of charm. These high facades, worked and colored, this lively square with its lively terraces, and this belfry which towers above us… This warm atmosphere delighted me!
My 10 favorites of FLE travel in Lille
1. Walk in Old Lille and its cobbled streets
We started our discovery of Lille with a walk in the historic center, Old Lille, with its cobbled streets, and its magnificent buildings with Flemish architecture of brick and stone.
I particularly loved the Rue Esquermoise, the rue de la Bourse, the Grande Chaussée: the district has a lot of charm ! Between artisans shops, luxury stores, bars and restaurants, there is something for everyone!
La Place aux Oignons also marked me a lot, with its original name! This place is very pretty but has nothing to do with onions… Its name comes from a deformation of the expression dominium, the keep, pronounced and distorted in “onions”. In any case, it makes one smile!
2. Visit the Belfry of the Town Hall and the Grand’Place
We cross the Place du Général De Gaulle : the inhabitants nickname it Grand’Place (no I haven’t forgotten the final E!). It is the heart of the city. There are historical monuments, such as the Old Stock Exchange, the Théâtre du Nord, or the Column of the Goddess placed in the center.
My best memory that day?
The visit of the Belfry of the Town Hall, 104 meters high: we followed our FLE guide to the top! Its architecture is original, with a mixture of Flemish tradition and reinforced concrete, and its chime resonates very loudly! Two characters are carved on its spire: they are the two giant founders of the city : Lydé… and Phina… something like that, I don’t remember their complicated names! They are a bit like the Rémus and Romulus of Lille!
From the top, what vertigo! A 360 ° view of the whole city! It’s a great emotion, we feel really tiny, and we can contemplate the city peacefully.
3. Chess games at La Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange) in Lille
I discovered an absolutely incredible place during this language study trip to Lille. On the 2nd day my group of students and I entered the Old Stock Exchange building, in Flemish Renaissance style. In fact, it is a set of 24 identical houses, twinned around a courtyard. And what a discovery!
This building now hosts booksellers, as on the quays of Paris, and chess players ! In this monastic silence, we did not even dare to whisper… I would have liked so much to participate and take myself for the heroine of the series Le Jeu de la Dame. On summer evenings, the players give way to the dancers: tango music, jazz etc. The atmosphere must be fascinating!
4. Tasting of Flemish specialties at the Wazemmes market
Northern gastronomy and French lessons live from the Wazemmes market! This market is really friendly, like I have never seen at home. And our guide took the opportunity to make us taste the specialties of Flemish cuisine ! My stomach still remembers it.
Starting with the welsh, a bread covered with melted cheddar cheese, ham, and egg, with beer. Very special…
And my friends laughed at me when I smelled the smell of local cheese, Maroilles. Absolute horror, I didn’t even want to taste it!
I preferred the Merveilleux, this Lille chocolate cake with meringue and cream… It was so delicious!
5. Afternoon at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille
After this hearty lunch, we spent the afternoon at the Palais des Beaux-Arts. It is the 2nd most visited museum in France! This is understandable when you see the prestigious paintings on display in this beautiful 19th century palace. Works by Rubens, Goya, Delacroix, but also sculptures by the famous Rodin and Camille Claudel. A great artistic richness that touched us, my FLE group and me, because there were many Dutch artists represented, including my favorites: Anthonie de Lorme or Pieter de Hooch.
6. Stroll to Vauban’s “Reine des citadelles”
- Free morning : I took the opportunity to visit the birthplace of General de Gaulle in the center of Old Lille. Listed House of Illustrious and Historic Monument, this charming bourgeois house was nothing like a castle.
- Afternoon historical walk: Gathering with the FLE group for a guided walk in the citadel of Lille. This construction was commissioned by the Sun King to the architect engineer Vauban, who nicknamed it “the Queen of the citadels”. Star-shaped and surrounded by five bastions, it was built to protect the city of Lille in the 18th century. We took a walk with the French-speaking guide in the vast park that surrounds it and along the river. The citadel itself cannot be visited because it remains a military site.
- End of the day: Moment of fun shared with foreign traveling friends. We had a (local!) beer in a bar located on the Archimedes barge, on the Deûle river… a perfect time to meet up with Dutch friends and the guides!
7. Best moment ever: waffle tasting at Maison Meert in Lille
My best memory of a trip to Lille?
The tasting of Lille waffles at the “Family Tea” tea room of Maison Meert. A unique moment! It is one of the oldest pastry shops in the world still in activity! It was founded in the 1760s. The recipe for their filled waffle has not changed… and of course remains secret!
Meert waffles filled with crunchy sugar and vanilla are very delicious and tender. I gave it to my family as a travel souvenir in a pretty decorated box.
The boutique of the Meert house located in Old Lille is splendid. We have the impression of entering a small marvelous world out of time. The architecture and decoration are particularly luxurious, with chandeliers, gilding, arabesques, lots of colorful and slightly oriental details. Delicious souvenir!
8. Stopover at the Museum “La Piscine” in Roubaix
Today, head for Roubaix, a few minutes from Lille, to visit an extraordinary museum: the Museum “La Piscine” (the swimming pool) ! Why ? Because it was fitted out in an old swimming pool in art deco style : original, right?
There, I was able to discover various collections of paintings, sculptures but also fabrics, or photographs. But what impressed me the most was the visit to the building itself: the place is really superb. Art Deco is one of my favorite styles, it’s a very elegant and happy art.
9. Visit of the Louvre-Lens Museum
We continued our day in Lens, 50 km from Lille, to discover the Louvre Museum N ° 2! A branch of the famous Louvre in Paris has been created in Lens. This one is a little different (and obviously smaller!) from the one in Paris, which I had the chance to visit two years ago. We visited the Galerie Du Temps, which presents works of art from around the world in chronological order. I like this arrangement because we can really follow the evolution of art, crossing all civilizations.
10. A Saturday at the Braderie de Lille
It was the event of our linguistic trip to Lille: the big sale!
This is also why we chose to leave the first week of September to discover this popular event that everyone is talking about, even in Amsterdam.
La Grande Braderie is a huge street market where people come to sell their items and do good business. It is interminable: it seems that it represents more than 100 km of stands throughout the city of LIlle! It is a very old festival that brings together nearly 2 million visitors each year. And above all, there is an essential dish that is part of the tradition: mussels and fries!
We made the most of our day, strolling through the city, chatting with the people of Lille who are very friendly and warm. The whole group of FLE students tasted a very comforting dish of mussels and fries before heading back to the airport… An excellent moment shared before departure!
Do you want to follow in Magda’s footsteps and discover the North of France?
Our linguistic and cultural stays are suitable for groups and for all teenagers or adults to discover French cities and improve their French!
Contact Vacances Actives linguistiques and let’s organize your stay in groups, schools and adults!