I've been meaning to do a post on my hometown and Nord-Pas-de-Calais forever. I oftentimes feel that Americans think Paris is the only city in France (Ava...), which isn't true. France has so much to offer. (Side note- no offense, Christelle or any other parisiens.)
To clarify myself, city-wise, I much prefer Lille, but when it comes to weather, I prefer Paris. I obviously have a preference to my hometown and what it has to offer. I like the layout of the city better, but then again, it's what I'm used to. However, I will say that Nord-Pas-de-Calais is notorious for dreary, cold weather. Sure, it does rain and become cold in Paris, but it's nothing compared to the North.
DISCLAIMER: Before I start with discussing the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Lille, I will say that Paris has nice things to offer. I am in no way trying to bash Paris, but it doesn't have the same special feeling that Lille does. This warning is for Christelle, who (according to Lilly) will come after me with a chainsaw after she reads this.
To begin, I will give a brief background on the Nord-Pas-de-Calais...
This is the region of France I am from. It boarders Belgium and contains two departments- Nord and Pas-de-Calais. Lille is the Nord department, but it is also the largest city in the whole region. The second largest city is Calais.
While the region is predominantly French-speaking, the two minority languages include French Flemish (the region has a strong Flemish influence) and the Picard language- or Ch'ti.
Summers never reach high temperatures, but can often fall below zero degrees Celsius.
Now, let's move on to Lille...
Lille, as I have stated before, is the largest city on France's boarder with Belgium. The Flemish name for Lille is Rijsel. In 1668, Lille successfully became a French city under the rule of Louis XIV- le roi-soleil. In the early 1700s, from approximately 1708-1713, Lille was occupied by the Dutch. The city never formally partook in the French Revolution; however, there were riots and burnings of churches. In World War II, Lille was obviously occupied by the Germans. The most notable person from Lille would have go be Charles de Gaulle, founder of the Free French movement.
So that was a very brief history. Now it's time to discuss the city in more recent decades.
Throughout the 1960s-70s, the Lillois faced some economic hardships with the decrease of the mining and textile industries. In the 80s, Lille turned around with the opening of its automated métro system; it was the first of its kind. In 1994, the very modern Eurolille center opened, which contains parks, shops, and more. Ten years later, Lille was voted as the European Capital of Culture.
Thinking about going to Lille? Here are some places you need to see!
La vieille bourse: this building, dating back to the 1650s, was a stock exchange. It was built when Lille was part of the Netherlands, so the architecture is very Dutch.
L'Opéra: this was finished in 1923, to replace the old Opera House which burnt down. It is just as detailed and decorated.
La Musée des Beaux-Arts: this is probably the best-know attraction in Lille. It is a beautiful art museum, which houses paintings by Monet and Renoir (to name a few). Some even say it's better than the Louvre; I may very well agree. ;) (Sorry, Christelle!) This was personally my favorite place to hang out with friends. We sat near the fountains outside and talked, relaxed, and listened to our iPods.
Porte-de-Paris: this arch was built in 1692 to celebrate the induction of Lille into France
Vieux-Lille: the older section of Lille- it is filled with beautiful architecture and rich in culture!
I strongly suggest visiting Lille for Christmas. There is a huge Christmas market in the Place Rihour beginning in late November and lasting until late December. 80 unique stalls are set up, as well as a huge Ferris wheel. The weather may frosty, but it is still fun for everyone.
How about foods? Nord-Pas-de-Calais cuisine, like food in any region, is specifically unique to its area. My personal favorite is les gaufres à la chicorée- chicory waffles. Chicory is very popular in the region. It is also well-known for its beer. Mostly everything is cooked in a pot. Some favorites of mine include Waterzoï, which is a bouillabaisse made of freshwater fish. I especially love carbonade flamande, a beef stew simmered in beer and brown sugar. Yum!
So...that was a quick overview of my hometown and region. I hope this was enjoyed, as it took me a decent amount of time to write this in English. Maybe I convinced some people to visit Lille?