For a great sense of travel go to the Train Blue at Gare de Lyons.
Bypass the cafe on the main concourse and head up the stairs to the main resturant.
Even if you are outside the main times and coffee and croissant there will give your journey a magical start.
The strange and Kitsch front windows of the rue Frochot night clubs and hostess bars are fascinating.
Pulling putters from all over the world, these bars and clubs show their cosmopolitan side by reproducing a German bar front, a Sevillian facade with iron ornements, a typical English pub, an Art Nouveau one and a copy of an American pub.
The street is really small and they all concentrate on both side of it, as if on a small size town dimension. The girls inside bring an exotic touch to the place when they sit at the bars windows.
For reasonably priced, wonderful food in spectacular surroundings, you can't beat Le Dome du Marais.
The building, as the name suggests has a marvellous dome and, on each occasion I've eaten there, has been a memorable and very Gallic experience.
Every first week of September, Lille houses the biggest open market in Europe for three days and nights. A highlight is 'le roi de la moulle' (the king of the mussel), where each cafe throws a pile of mussels in front of its entrance. The biggest pile measured at the end of the weekend makes the owner king (or queen), ensuring fantastic advertising for the next 12 months.
Going on the Bateaux Mouche (river boat on the Seine) is much better in the winter when it is far quieter and there are fewer tourists to get in the way of the view.
The floodlit glamour of Paris at night comes to life. Just wrap up well!
Buy a RATP billet jour (day ticket) picking up a map of the Paris network and despite the excellent Metro use the bus to get out into the suburbs.
Particularly good is the contrast seen on the T1 tram from Bobigny to St Denys then take the bus to La Defense to look around (the view of central Paris is memorable).
Continue on Tram2 from La Defense the route of which hugs the south bank of the Seine to Issy - Val de Seine RER station whence you can return to central Paris by RER/Metro or by bus.
Couvent Des Minimes is a great place to stay. In the heart of a historically-listed building only five minutes away from the city centre, the hotel offers luxurious and peaceful accommodation. This is an old convent that has been converted. Excellent food and great bars.
Make sure you visit the Piscine art gallery while you're in Lille. It's a metro journey away from the centre of town, but it's worth the trip to see this wonderful art gallery converted lovingly from an art deco swimming baths, with the changing cubicles turned into exhibit cases. Every now and again there is even a burst of sound recorded from a busy swimming baths to remind you of the gallery's former purpose.
23 rue de l'Espérance, Roubaix
Open Tuesday-Sunday 11-6. Entry 3 euros
Just south of Gare du Nord and within striking distance for a lunch break with a difference lies the Marais, once a swamp area outside the City and now a thriving centre and very metropolitan area.
Rue Vielle du Temple cuts through the middle and gives you quick access to a multitude of good restaurants - about 20 minutes walk from Gare du Nord.
Restaurants like Au Gaiman are a must for buzz and feel for young Paris, followed by a walk down to the Seine for stunning views and back to the station. All in a day out from London - just magic!
My favourite restaurant in Paris is a delight to savour. The food is typically French and the prices are extremely digestible. That must be the reason why the locals frequent it.
The menu follows brasserie-style traditions.
Chartier, located at 7 rue Faubourg Montmartre (Metro Grands Boulevards) is not just a restaurant. It is an experience.
The restaurant opened in 1896 and is a listed historical monument. White-aproned waiters serve at this "Belle Epoque" venue.
Simon sells the most beautiful beer in all Paris. He lives beer. Wheat beers, beers made by monks, beer drunk by monks. Flat, bubbly, full of sediment, clean as a whistle, light, fresh, dark, sharp.
While the rest of the gang are in the Pompidou centre, aim one block west towards Les Halles and at 45 Rue de Quincampoix, say hello to Simon, and let him sell you something you've never tasted before.
Catch the morning Eurostar from London-Lille, then midday train Lille-Nimes. Book seat on top deck of TGV to get views of Eiffel Tower as train arcs around Paris.
Arrive Nimes 16:30 and check into the Novotel Atria, a short walk from the station and adjacent to the fabulous Roman amphitheatre.
Trawl shops, restaurants and bars in Nimes’ pedestrianised centre, buy locally pressed lavender and olive oils, visit the park and water-gardens that climb up to La
Visit the Norman Foster-designed art gallery overlooking the Roman forum. Return on the 9:00 direct train to Lille; arrive London late afternoon.
Rather than endure the torture of the office Christmas lunch in one of London’s eateries, we took the Eurostar to Lille in the hope of finding a restaurant to pass a few pleasant hours partaking of good wine and food.
By chance, we stumbled on Le Barbue d’Anvers, and were not disappointed. Housed in a characterful sixteenth-century building just seconds from the Grand Place, the menu included an excellent selection of regional specialities (such as carbonade flamande and waterzoï).
An extensive and reasonably priced wine list was complemented by service that was attentive but not obtrusive.
1 bis, Rue Saint-Etienne
Tél: +33(0)3 20 55 11 68
Fax: +33(0)3 20 15 08 14
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