After a flurry of Portugal related posts, after Christmas we’ve been rather quiet. This is mostly because we've been exploring our latest home, which is Lille!
I was met with more than a few blank expressions when I mentioned where we were going (although not from Nicolas’ friends and family). Despite being less than ninety minutes on the Eurostar from London, it’s not a hugely touristy place. That doesn’t mean it’s not charming though.
After three weeks here, we’ve ticked off many of the “Lille essentials.” We’ve walked around the citadel, still a working military base, in the snow.
We’ve visited the Musée de Beaux Artes, which houses France’s second largest fine arts collection after the Louvre, and, unlike the Louvre you certainly won’t have to queue to get in. We have also perused Wazemme market, an excellent mix of food produce and cooked food. It is also fully covered, which is nice in February when it’s raining.
However, mostly what we’ve done is eat. The North of France is home to plenty of delicious regional delicacies, and you can visit an Estimet, a traditional local restaurant, to try them. Unsurprisingly, given this is France, there are a lot of cheesy dishes. Also unsurprisingly, given how we are close to Belgium, mussels, frites and beer also feature on the menu.
For me, the standout dish is the Welsh. This is like a Welsh rarebit, if you put it in a bowl and filled the rest of the bowl with cheese and the served it with a side of fries. Our cholesterol levels are going up faster than a toupee in a hurricane, but I regret nothing.
The other classic Flemish dish is a Carbonade flamande. This is a beef stew made with beer. It tastes surprisingly sweet and usually also comes with a size of fries.
If these main courses aren’t sufficient, for desert there are patisseries here selling all kinds of eclairs, millefeuilles and other pastries I can’t name. There are also waffle stands on every corner , and in the heart of the town, a shop that sells marveilluex.
Marveilluex are soft filled meringues and come in flavours like pistachio, salted caramel and white chocolate. They are just a bit crispy, not too sweet and you can wolf down a mini one in one mouthful, two if you are being polite. There is always a queue out the door of the shop, but nobody minds waiting a little while for something so delicious.