For that reason, I’m safely in Lille and getting the hang of the city relatively well.
What I did was either brilliant or incredibly stupid.
What it did do is save me at least $600 USD. Sure, I could have taken the beaten path and taken a flight from Charlotte Douglas straight to Charles de Gaulle. Total flight time: ~7h. But why make life that simple?
Thanks to Aer Lingus, I was able to find airfare to Europe for $900, or the price of about 180 Pumpkin Spice Lattes, plus a cheaper airfare from Charlotte to Washington Dulles. Total travel time: 25h. That, of course, included a six hour layover in Dulles before catching a flight from DC to Dublin, Ireland, a five hour layover in Dublin before caching a flight to Paris, then a three-hour wait for the TGV to Lille.
Was it long? Can switching to Geico make you happier than a camel on a Wednesday?
Was it worth it? YES.
The world invited
Right now, most French students at l’Université Catholique de Lille have yet to arrive. So here at the residence there are almost entirely international students–making for some interesting times explaining each others’ cultures and languages. My residence houses people from every corner of the world, speaking English, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese, French, Spanish and then some. With them, I’ve explored the city, gotten lost (and subsequently found), and ran into many surprises the city has to offer.
The international aspect of life was expected, but not to this extent.
It’s almost stereotypical, but one of the main topics of conversation among the international students is that of the differences between our respective cultures. We’ve spent almost an entire day comparing contrasting, debunking, and reaffirming certain beliefs, and perceptions in a surprisingly levelheaded way. As cultural ambassadors, we all get As.
North by North-best
Lille is located in the north of the country in the département of Nord Pas de Calais, 30m away from Brussels and 1h from Pairs (by TGV).
At its center lies Vieux Lille: the old part of town with a blend of Flemish and French architecture. Architecturally, the city is rich, especially in this part of town. Thanks to a combination of pure luck and conscious effort, I was able to get a residence in Vieux Lille.
It wasn’t until after that I learned that it was near the geographic center.
From the outside of the building, a small, village-style street greets me
As for the city itself, it has a blend of village and city feel in Vieux Lille. In this area, at least, there are a few major landmarks. For now, here are two of them.
1) La CCI Grand Lille
One of the most prominent buildings in Lille, the chamber of commerce (that’s right, in this building) features a gorgeous red clocktower. (speaking of red clocktowers, GO PACK!)
A relatively newer Cathedral, it was originally meant to be built in a classical gothic style. Due to various reasons, WWII being among them, the cathedral is built in a…nontraditional style. A style that surprises even French tourists who expect to see something more like Notre Dame in Paris.
That organ, by the way is ABSOLUTELY ENORMOUS. Probably at least 1.5 stories tall. At least.All in all, this city has been great to me and the other international students so far. Let’s see how that continues once classes start.
Keep your days at least a LIL awesome.
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