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4 Feb

Experiencing France for the first time

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I just had my first visit to France in the Nord – Pas – de – Calais region, and dare I say, it was very different from what I expected, not in a bad way, but in an interesting way.

I was very excited to go to France and see this new country, learn about this new culture, try new cuisine and meet new people

We decided to land in Paris and leave from Brussels. The actual location where we stayed more days was Lille, but from Paris to Lille we rent a car and drove through the France countryside. We decided to do this as we had some pit stops on the way and wanted to visit them and we wanted to experience the France countryside.

Where we stayed

We stayed right in the centre of Lille โ€ฆ. at the Carlton Hotel. I am saying it like this as we decided to stay at it after seeing both the reviews it has on booking.com, on google as well as after viewing its website.  The conclusion โ€“ next time we will know better than to pay attention to the reviews and the websiteโ€ฆ as in this case, they both proved to be lies.

It is one of the worse hotels I have ever been to. Even though it is a 4 stars hotels it does not have the minimum requirements of a 4 stars hotel. It does not even have good and respectful personnel to start with. Anyhow, the problem was not that I was not in a luxurious hotel, but that they do not deliver what they promise or what they advert.

So, make it short the hotel was a total disappointment from the personnel to the room facilities and breakfast. For a more detailed input please ask.

Despite this, the trip to France was great.

What we visited

Leaving from Paris to Lille, we stopped in Amines to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral in Amiens.

Notre Dame Cathedral from Amiens

A gorgeous cathedral, which is necessary to see. It is very big, they say it is twice the size of the Notre Dame Cathedral from Paris. It is very impressing. The way the sculptures and the stained glass are maintained from decades ago takes your breath away.  Now I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Maroeuil British Cemetery

Canadian Cemetery No.2

Canadian National Vimy Memorial

These 3 have been the most impressive places we have visited in this trip. We have never been to a memorial cemetery or in a memorial ground and it has been like an eye-opener for what happened during World War I. We saw the tranches, the bombed ground and the impressive list of tens of thousands of soldiers that died. ๐Ÿ™ There are over 650millitary cemeteries throughout the Nord-Pas-de Calais region.

Louvre-Lens Museum

Next stop was at the Louvre Museum in Lens. As never having visited such an important art gallery before, we were amazed at how well the paintings, sculptures and different objects from different ages were kept.

Lille

Lille is this region’s administrative centre and the biggest city. Arriving at the destination in the afternoon, we checked in and then went sightseeing in Lille. It was still early โ€“ 4 PM and we had enough time to visit.

As we stayed in the centre of Lille almost everything to see was around us.

We visited

  • La Vieille Bourse
  • Grand Place du General de Gaulle
  • Town Hall and Belfroi
  • Palais Rihour
  • Eglise Sainte-Catherine
  • Notre-Dame de la Treille
  • The little and chic street of Place aux Oignons

One day was for visiting the shopping streets โ€“ the rue de la Grande Chausee, rue de la Clef, rue Masurel, rue Basse, rue Nationale and of course the Place Rihour. Unfortunately, some of the shops were opening later in the evening โ€“ at 2 PM and some were closed on Monday ๐Ÿ™  anyhow it was nice to see the French little shops and the French fashion boutiques.

Eating

Being in France we wanted to try the French traditional cuisine. Did our homework in advance and knew what to look for so went straight at the Estaminet Vieux de la Ville.

Estaminet Vieux de la Ville

After half of day of sightseeing and pouring rain, we arrived at the restaurant. We found a traditional French place, with small tables, dare I say you could eat from the food of the one of the other table. We did not mind as it was an interesting experience.

We tried Le Welsh and some pie with pork. They both came with French Fries ๐Ÿ™‚ and it was an interesting food. But well, not on our taste; the Le Welsh was made with a very strong cheese โ€“ Maroilles and this was I believe the thing that made it too strong for me. The pie was sweet and interesting. The portions were big and if you ate the food for sure you left the place full. That is if you eat the food ๐Ÿ™‚ People are nice there, they even asked us how we liked our food, so yes, I guess itโ€™s a matter of tastes.

Deciding that the traditional food from this part of France was enough for us, we tried an Italian restaurant next evening. It was a great experience.

Il Ristorante

The food was great, the service was great and the environment was great as well. This was indeed something we were used to and felt cosy.

We ordered some antipasti, then beef with pasta and some pork and polenta. Next, to the food, we had a good Chianti red wine. Everything was very tasty. The portions were again very big and unfortunately, we could not eat all, but this is the only reason. The wine was good, thick and with a strong bouquet. Just how I like it. The prices are reasonable. People serving were very nice even though we did not have a reservation. I would highly recommend this restaurant.

La Fosetta

Next evening we went to another Italian restaurant. Though the reviews were good like they were for the Il Ristorante the place looked more like a traditional Italian bottega. I guess it is a family business and they wanted to bring the unique Italian style in France. The food was very good, but the place was again too tight and I could eat from the plate of the table next to me. Another interesting experience, but this time with good food.

Conclusions

This trip included a lot of firsts for us and this made it more special. This was actually the idea – see and taste the French lifestyle and food.

It was a totally different experience in comparison to other countries and cities Iโ€™ve been to.  France is a beautiful country and people are nice. Though I heard that French people do not speak English, everywhere weโ€™ve been to, they did speak English. And this was again a nice surprise.

It was a great trip that we enjoyed a lot.

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Diana Sterescu
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