There’s a few perks to this little sideline of mine. We get invited to lots of things, we get sent things, or at least people offer to send us things. Some are crazy (surgical instruments anyone?) but sometimes we get invited to great events, nice restaurants and receive some products that I would actually like to try and would buy normally. I only ever write about them if they’re of interest. Otherwise, what’s the point?
This brings me nicely to last Saturday, a gorgeous sunny day which I spent in Lille in Northern France, in the company of fellow food bloggers, exploring the culinary landscape, courtesy of Eurostar, who, via the medium of our friend the internet, are raising awareness of their Little Breaks. I know that the Eurostar can bring me to France in less than a couple of hours, but it never occurred to me to do a day trip as it always seemed too far away. Crazy, when as a Londoner I will cheerfully sojourn 2 hours South for a couple of hours for dinner or to meet a friend.
Nevertheless, I was very excited at the prospect of a trip across the water. I’ve not had many opportunities to travel outside of the UK & Ireland for various reasons this past year or more. I want to travel more and I will. For now brief European breaks will be the band aid on that open sore, that need to travel.
I didn’t know much about Lille, I’d heard lots, that it was industrial and not really all that interesting. Some people had found it disappointing. Why bring us there then? There must be things that they had missed.Why else would they bring fussy food bloggers?
We gathered at 6am at St Pancras, one of my favourite London stations, it’s so vast and gorgeous. Another 5 am start, how many must I suffer in the name of this blog? I jest, but really, is this to become my regular wake up time?! Before I knew it we were in France. Chris announced that he was now on Orange-France, to which I asked, are we in France already? I was so sleepy, that I had missed the tunnel, literally with my eyes open. 1.5 hours after leaving St Pancras we disembarked in Lille.
A quick tour around Lille quickly dispelled any worried of over industrialisation, it’s a very pretty town with gorgeous architecture and lots of dainty little shops and cute eateries. It’s also quite serene, although, I know it’s August and most of France is on holiday so this may not always be the case.
We had a quick wander around, visiting a local chocolate shop (it looked lovely although I didn’t purchase here so couldn’t recommend), and then drawn by the colours of the gorgeous macarons and cakes, patisserie Patrick Hermand. I couldn’t help but treat myself to a box of 12 macarons which I devoured on Saturday night and finished for breakfast on Sunday morning.
Next up, another wander through the winding narrow streets of Vieux Lille and stopped off at Meert, a lovely and decadent patisserie, shop and cafe. We were advised that the local specialities were waffles and merveilleux. I was drawn by the chocolatey decadence of the latter and overwhelmed by the enormity of it on its arrival. It was still morning after all! I coaxed some fellow bloggers into eating some by putting it on their table and walking away when they refused my offer to share. It was utterly delicious, mind, but I just couldn’t take it!
We followed this with a trip to L’Atelier des Chefs for a cooking class which was very pleasant, but I can do this in London, so perhaps may not do this in Lille again. I could see how this would be a lovely option for others, but I already spend way too much time in the kitchen. It was fun, but with just one day, I would prefer a lazy lunch.
5 am was seeming unwise at this point, and taking it’s toll, so I was glad of the sit down at La Capsule for a beer and cheese tasting. The cheeses, as you would expect in France, were superb. Strong and stinky cow’s cheeses and one more delicate goats cheese from Philippe Olivier, a notable local fromagerie, maroilles & mimolette were my favourite and I shall be looking out for those. The beer tasting was interesting, as I am not a beer drinker at all, these, however, were unlike those that I was used to and I could enjoy a glass or two, particularly the lighter Page 24, which I brought home to sup on at L’abbaye des saveurs .
This was followed by a frantic dash on my part to gather some interesting French food & drink that I could play with at home, notably a violet syrup and a violet liqueur, gorgeous and vibrant and purple, I can’t wait to play.
So, back to London we went, indulging in champagne on the Eurostar, and then champagne in the champagne bar at St Pancras on our return at 7pm. I would love to and will do it again, I loved Lille, and could imagine a sleepy, indulgent and stress free break there. I really need one at the moment. Just look how happy this local is?!
It was a pleasure to spend the day with fellow bloggers Chris, Helen, Helen, Krista, Liz, Margot, Michelle, Kang, Stephen and Kerri, Ms Marmite Lover and Andrew. Thanks to Eurostar and We are Social for organising.
Notes: Eurostar operates up to 10 daily services from London St Pancras International to Lille with return fares from £55. Tickets are available from http://www.eurostar.com or 08705 186 186. Fastest London-Lille journey time is 1 hour 20 minutes.