Last Thursday I set off from St Pancras Station to Lille along with 23 others booked on a Travel Editions art trip to northern France and Belgium. The train journey took just less than 1 hour 30minutes.
Lille Town Hall and Belfry [UNESCO World Heritage listed] from the hotel balcony
“Day 1 : Travel by Eurostar from St Pancras to Lille and transfer by coach to hotel for check in for 3 night stay. Afternoon walking tour of central Lille.
Welcome reception lecture “Art nouveau – an Overview” and dinner with wine at the atmospheric Art Nouveau Brasserie de la Paix located 2-3 minutes from the hotel.”
Unfortunately, it was raining hard in Lille so an hour after arrival and check-in with our brollies out we were on our first guided walk with tour guide and lecturer Mike Hope who mixed his vast knowledge with humour, patience and enthusiasm and from whom I learned all I now know about Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille (and nearby towns) and Antwerp during the following three days.
The Grand Place in the rain
“Once the jewel of the Spanish Netherlands, Lille is France’s most besieged city. It was incorporated into the royal domain in 1304 before passing under Burgundian (1369), then Austrian (1477), then Spanish rule under Charles V. The city became French in 1667 and remained so, except for a brief interlude from 1708 to 1713 and the absurd Nazi Aryanization (1940) from which it was delivered by its illustrious native son, a certain Charles de Gaulle. Throughout the 20th century, Lille was the capital of the French textile industry. … The city [has made] an extraordinary transformation that began with the arrival of France’s high-speed train, the TGV. [It] boasts prestigious colleges, abounds with café terraces and brasseries. Since 2004, when Lille was European City of Culture, it has stood at the forefront of the French cultural scene.” [From my LV Guide Lille, Lyon, Monaco, Toulouse 2012]
From the hotel we were just steps away from the main square and the important civic buildings – the town hall, the old bourse (now a secondhand book market), the opera and theatre – and shopping and business areas.
In the Vieille Bourse
The Voix du Nord Building: Mike points out the architectural features
Art Deco Bakery on the rue Lepelletier – still a bakery shop
A L’Huîtriere, rue des Chats Bossus. Renowned fishmonger and restaurant with pure Art Deco decor inside and out.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Treille : building began in 1854 and was finally finished in time for Lille’s European City of Culture year 2004
The West Window from Inside
… and other Art Deco and Art Nouveau façades in Lille :
And the best place to finish is at Méert famous for its butter and vanilla waffles