I arrived in Lille at the Lille Europe train station (Gare de Lille Europe), a large modern concourse of glass and steel, complete with matching shopping centre next door. A short walk and we found ourselves at Place de Gare where the older Gare de Lille Flandres flanked one side of the square, our hotel being on another.
Normally such an arrangement would fill me with trepidation, so often I would associate a train station with the darker side of town, the unofficial red-light area full of seedy joints. Here in Lille though, this old station brought a splash of style, even having its own set of fountains out the front.
It is the station building itself that brought back images of a bygone era, almost as if one expected Audrey Hepburn to come through the station doors, luggage porter following behind. There’s a grace and majesty about the doors, the arches and the mix of stone and glass. What style. I even loved the colour of the painted woodwork. So chic.
And then look around the square, all old individual buildings, emanating their own style.
Looking more in the direction of the Gare de Lille Europe, the modern edge to the city comes into view, but give me the old style any day of the week.
So that’s Place de Gare in Lille for you, totally throwing out my preconceptions of a city station’s neighbourhood.