8th Year Anniversary Trip to Lille

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June 22nd 2017
Published: June 23rd 2017
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Alfreton to Lille

It was that time of year again....8yrs this time! πŸ’ 10yrs of actual togetherness ❀️

James is now living with us full time and in the midst of his GCSE's so our options were quite limited as we couldn't be away from home for too long. Luckily our friend Neil had offered to come and stay for the weekend to keep an eye on James so at least the child care aspect was taken care of 🌟 . Not that he actually needed looking after.....as a 15yr old James is very sensible and we had no concerns πŸ˜… . NSPCC guidelines, however recommend that you don't leave under 16's over night so it was handy that Neil was available.

We decided on Lille. The Eurostar πŸš… took us right into the city centre and Andrew's work meant we got reduced travel rates πŸ˜… πŸ’³ and of course neither of us had been before so it seemed to tick all of the boxes. Finances weren't great after the move and house renovation so cheap and cheerful was definitely on the cards 😊 So onto the actual booking....we first choose the Crowne Plaza hotel, as part of Andrew's work he had acquired lots of loyalty points with the IHG group so it seemed sensible to use them. All good until we were sorting out our main family holiday and realised that hotels in Helsinki were a tad pricey so we cancelled the Crowne Plaza and used our points in Helsinki instead πŸ˜– . So back to the drawing board....despite the cheap and cheery pledge Andrew refused to consider the Ibis so we opted for the Mercure Grand Palace 🏩 which is located right in the centre of the city. The saver non refundable rate was of course opted for, at a cost of approx Β£75 a night, all seemed well βœ….

It was then then time for us to book the Eurostar. The Eurostar for staff is only bookable 12 wks in advance but never had any issues previously so were confident all would be well......mmm....first snag....the staff rates for the Eurostar had skyrocketed in price and a return journey for both of us was going to cost in the region of Β£250 😱 . (As my condition makes travelling in cramped conditions painful, we always pay a bit extra and go 1st class) In an age of Β£9.99 air fares, this certainly didn't fit into the cheep and cheerful category 😑. We discovered Lille had an airport so set about finding a flight instead ✈️ . Amazingly I couldn't find one flight from the UK that landed at Lille! Rather annoyingly we had only selected Lille cos of the Eurostar and now we were left with a non refundable hotel room and no sensible way of getting there πŸ˜– . Last option was to go by ferry 🚒 and to our amazement we discovered that we got a staff 'priv' rate between Dover and Calais on P&O ferries πŸ€— . The offer of a Β£12 return ticket for the pair of us was too good to resist and despite suffering from sea sickness we booked it immediately. So we were all good to go.....

The week of the trip was very busy. I was in the midst of an insomnia programme which meant i was actually getting less sleep than normal and was feeling quite 'yucky' πŸ˜₯ On top of that I was busy with getting the house etc ready for our 'babysitter' to stay. I was dreading the long journey on the Friday and had quite a few reservations about the up and coming weekend πŸ˜•

On the Thursday night I took a travel sickness tablet πŸ’Š which apparently doubled up as a treatment for insomnia so I decided to forego my usual sleeping tablet which I take on the odd occasions when getting a decent night was essential. Sadly the insomnia part didn't work so I ended up having less than 2hrs sleep 😴.

But still the show must go on.....

I was amazingly awake considering and decided 'nap' time would be on the bits where travel sickness was a distinct possibility. So onto the 0749 train to St Pancras πŸš… . All on time and actually got seats without any problems. So far so good. The connection at St Pancras allowed us to take a few pics and raid M&S for some decent orange juice. The train to Dover πŸš… again on time, and we got seats without any problem....previous experience of this high speed wonder meant only one thing...nap time! 😴

We soon arrived at Dover and straight into a taxi for the Port πŸš–. . Β£6 later and we arrived at the ferry terminal. As we were new to this ferry lark we had arrived in plenty of time and actually had at least 2hrs before our booked ferry but the lovely lady at P&O changed our booking for the next ferry without any hesitation or charge for that matter. We literally had time for a couple of bites of our packed lunch before it was time to get on the bus to take us to the Ferry 🚒. The whole thing was extremely easy. Once we were on board we headed straight to the deck to take some photos before making ourselves comfy to finish off our lunch. One of my priorities was to stock up on White Toblerone 🍫 a strange thing you can't seem to find in any usual high street shops but they are in abundance in duty free shops thankfully. Since being diagnosed with my condition I have found that most chocolate makes me very nauseous but thankfully white toblerone still hits the right spots! However the walk to the shop did me no favours which meant only one thing.....nap time! 😴

We soon arrived in Calais and because of course we were early, we had no idea of train times so a quick hit on Google πŸ“± revealed we were better to head out to Calais Frethum for the express train to Lille πŸš…. Luckily again, due to Andrew's work we had free rail passes to use throughout France so we were fully flexible. The only downside being the 40euro taxi fare πŸš–t to Calais Frethum but considering it had only cost us Β£12 return for the ferry we couldn't really complain. Again no problems and we arrived in Lille approximately 3hrs earlier than anticipated! Google maps (now thankfully free!) guided us to the Mercure and we were soon checked in.

As it was our anniversary we were (without asking) upgraded into a 'Superior' room ❀️ Complete with a kettle, coffee machine and a bathβ˜•οΈπŸ› I was in heaven! The view consisting of a nice old clock tower, wasn't bad either. So after a short rest and the usual unpacking, it was time to head out for some dinner. Despite being in the 'centre' of the city we obviously took a wrong turn as it seemed to take us ages to actually find somewhere that looked half decent to eat...but finally we hit upon an Italian 🍝 . The meal was generally quite mediocre and to our amazement we couldn't get any butter for the bread at all 😧 so in all, quite a disappointing start to things. Thankfully though things did perk up when we stumbled across a Haagen Daaz shop 🍧 on our way back to the hotel. It was then decided an early night was in order as we were both quite tired and I was definitely starting to feel the walking around. The hotel bed was rather on the hard side. Since my condition I have discovered that I have a low tolerance for hard beds and they actually create quite a lot of discomfort sadly but thankfully my usual sleeping tablets came to the rescue and in the end we both slept quite well πŸ’Š

In the morning as it was our actual anniversary πŸ’ we decided to opt for the hotel buffet breakfast. It was quite pricy at 17euros a head πŸ’Ά especially based on our experience the previous night we decided it was worth it. There was a reasonable selection of breads, cold meats and cereals, along with the hot options of scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages. They even had butter which we smuggled into our bags for later use! All was good and we were quite full to start the day properly. We had done a little bit of research on what Lille had to offer but none of it really appealed. Lots of art galleries and museums but the weather was gorgeous β˜€οΈ so we really didn't want to waste that stuck in a museum. In fact Lille didn't seem to cater for the tourist market at all. We discovered one souvenir shop and the shortage of ice cream parlours was definitely cause for concern!! Shopping wise it looked good...even have a Primark! But we certainly didn't go for shopping so once we had bought the mandatory fridge magnet and pressie for James etc we headed straight for the railway station πŸš… in the hunt for a nice quaint little town. We were soon making the most of our free passes and before long we were in a town called Valenciennes. It was much quieter than Lille and we had a lovely wander before having a little nap in one of the parks 😴. A couple of non alcoholic cocktails did nicely before the train trip back into Lille 🍹 Now, as I said it was our actual anniversary and to my amazement Andrew had done some research on where to eat πŸ“± dinner...off to Le Creperie! So what could be better....pancakes! πŸ˜‹ We were actually quite stuffed after our main course so after a little stroll we had dessert in a different restaurant... more pancakes! At least this time we saw a bit more of Lille. It does have beautiful architecture but still was lacking something somehow πŸ€”

The next day we decided to head out for some breakfast. I had done some research on where to go πŸ“± and found a place near the tourist information. The whole ordering process confused Andrew greatly but the actual food was very yummy πŸ˜‹ Next stop, onto the metro to go to the Sunday market. Very big and very busy and very hot. The layout meant you could very easily lose track of which stores you had visited etc. We came out with some bargains though...more baggy trousers for me and a shirt for hubby....total of 17euros spent .πŸ‘–πŸ‘”

We were then just in time to dump our bags off at the hotel before heading out on the tourist bus 🚌 The tourist bus wasn't your usual hop on/off type thing and the whole tour lasted just over an hour 🚌 At 24euros for both of us, it wasn't bad value. I napped 😴 some of the way round but it was a good way of seeing the city and at least we were confident we hadn't actually missed anything, and in fact we went back to the Grande Palais to have a better look before heading out to dinner. After dinner we decided to walk to the Citadel which on the map looks quite impressive. It was about a 30 min walk from the centre so you can imagine our disappointment to be confronted by what can only be described as a building site πŸ˜’ The canalised river was quite pretty though and it did have a nice bridge going over it. Time for cocktails now...so back to the hotel for drinks, bath and Breaking Bad on the tablet πŸΉπŸ› πŸ“Ί Early start tomorrow for the trip home.

The journey home was again very straight forward. We managed to get on an earlier ferry 🚒, much to Andrew's dismay...it was the 'Pride of Kent' again but as consolation we had a lovely lunch in the Ship's Brasserie πŸ˜‹ and stocked up on more toblerone 🍫 On disembarking from the ferry all us foot passengers were treated to the transfer bus coming onto the ferry deck to pick us all up as there was an elderly lady walking with the aid of two sticks and going very slowly... After zooming through passport control, we emerged to find the one taxi had been snaffled by this lady... She must have sensed our disappointment and offered to share it with us. Nice one! On talking to her all the way to St Pancras it turned out that she was from New Zealand and was on a long tour of Europe and her next stop was Cornwall. She had also been staying in the same hotel as us in Lille and had made a special effort to go and see the graves of her family that had been killed in action in the First World War. Andrew enjoyed talking to her and was amused to find out that she had cycled through Alfreton years earlier... All the trains πŸš… worked in our favour and we were home by 5pm! πŸ˜…


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