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Lille or Paris for 2 nights

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Melbourne, Australia
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Lille or Paris for 2 nights

My wife and I hate the 1.5 day/2 night stopover while travelling - not enough time to get to know a place and too long to just sit & relax!

However, due to poor planning and an offer we couldn't refuse, we arrive at Zeebrugge after getting off a cruise ship at 8.am. Thursday 14 July and need to take over a Gite about 25km outside Avignon around midday on Saturday. None of this is negotiable.

Coming directly from a cruise, we will have too much luggage to fly! and have a Euro-drive vehicle leased which we can pick up from Brussels, Paris, Avignon or Nice. We had originally intended to take a slow drive down thru France, but forgot it was the Bastille Day long weekend! Duh!!

Other than sit in Cars on Autoroutes, What do French people do over the Bastille Day Weekend? Unfortunately, my only insight was gained thru watching "Day of the Jackal"!(8-))

We have explored lots of options and have reluctantly decided not to drive (surprise, surprise!).

We know that we cannot catch the morning TGV to Avignon from Paris or Lille if we arrive in Zeebrugge at 8a.m & we don't want to lose a whole day waiting for trains only 2 arrive in Avignon at 8pm where good accommodation is at a premium & availability appears limited!

So, our decision appears limited to either stay 2 nights in Paris or 2 nights in Lille (without a car) & then catch the morning TGV down to Avignon on Sat a.m., pick up our car from the TGV and get on with out holiday.

We'd appreciate your thoughts on whether it would be better 2 spend the time in Paris or Lille. We've been to Paris quite a few time and love it but have never got off the train or out of the car in Lille before. We enjoy experiencing new places - what would we do if we chose Lille! We may get a chance later in the holiday to come back to either or both.

London, UK
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1. Re: Lille or Paris for 2 nights

I like Lille and as you have not been there before, it would certainly be worth a short visit.

Essex
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2. Re: Lille or Paris for 2 nights

Not France (Quel Horreur!!) but why don't you stay in Brussels or Brugge, both more than interesting enough for an 'overnighter' and you can get your car from there, too!

Melbourne, Australia
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3. Re: Lille or Paris for 2 nights

We could pick the car up from Brussels airport, but after a lot of thought, we do not think travelling thru France this w/end will be a good experience! (Bastille Day Weekend etc... - see Bison Fute site re traffic advice!).

I think I have missed the boat in getting reasonable accommodation in Avignon for the 2 nights for anything approaching a reasonable price (the Festival is on that Weekend and places recommended on TA are booked out). I presume accommodation at this time will be easier to get in Lille and Paris!

If we stay in either Bruges or Brussels, we could only stay the first night and then have to move during Friday to be nearer the TGV station. We'd rather do one move from the Ship, so that we have a whole day to do touristy things and, although we like Bruges and Brussels, we need to be in either Lille or Paris to catch the early morning TGV on Saturday morning.

The question I posed was WHY should I stay in Lille or Paris. Not having been there before, I quite like the idea of Lille, but what is there to do around there in 36 hrs without a car. Which restaurants, hotels or B&B's do you recommend? What's activities are reachable by public transport on Friday.

Is Thursday 14 July 11 a Public Holiday in Belgium? Is Friday 15th or Saturday 16th a Public Holiday in France?

Your thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated

London, UK
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4. Re: Lille or Paris for 2 nights

There are direct TGVs to Avignon from Brussels as well as Lille (effectively the same train but they have different numbers).

Melbourne, Australia
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5. Re: Lille or Paris for 2 nights

Re TGV from Brussels. We thought having to change stations in Paris on the morning we are trying to get the TGV to Avignon with luggage would be a hassle? How difficult is this?

If we stay in Lille, do we still have to go thru Paris?

Is there a special train timetable over the Bastille Day holiday & how long is the holiday - does it cover the whole weekend?

Essex
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6. Re: Lille or Paris for 2 nights

http://www.lilletourisme.com/index_gb.php

Stay in Lille

Ohio, USA
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7. Re: Lille or Paris for 2 nights

There are several direct TGVs from Lille to Avignon, more than there are from Brussels I think, though I could be wrong about that. There are several other options that would avoid the station change in Paris of which the most obvious would be a change in Lyon. A change at CDG might also be possible as might a few other routings.

You could start researching trains for the same day of the week (Saturday ?) within the 3 month window.I doubt the timetable will be different from 11 June to 16 July. It would probably be a good idea to be ready to leap as soon as the booking window opens. Mid-July is in the heaviest vacation travel period in France and most of Europe so demand for tickets on any weekend in July will be heavy.

I agree with EssexWanderer, Stay in Lille. You'll find plenty to do there and you will enjoy the Fête Nationale celebrations which you would miss if you stayed in Brussels

Melbourne, Australia
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8. Re: Lille or Paris for 2 nights

Thanks for the contributions. We've decided to stay in Lille now that we know we can go directly to Avignon from there.

Does the Fire Station have a party on Bastille Day? If so, do you just walk in?

I have booked the Hotel Barriere, thru Travelzoo (not only because it comes with an upgrade and a bottle of champagne!). The hotel has has mixed reviews which are, I hope, teething problems on opening. I'll let you know! Spoke with the receptionist on the phone last night and she was extremely helpful.

Paris, France
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9. Re: Lille or Paris for 2 nights

Lille is a wonderful city.

Have dinner at "Aux Moules" in the heart of the pedestrian zone.

Chesterfield...
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10. Re: Lille or Paris for 2 nights

This may be of some help to you regarding Bastille Day in Lille last year.

In Lille all balls are held on the 13th July, most of them outside and starting at 8pm. Faubourg de Bethune, will be followed by fireworks in the schoolyard in the Bois Blanc neighbourhood with a ball in the Brossolette room. The most cosmopolitan of all the balls will be organised by the Wazemmes’ town hall on Casquette square.

On the 14th, a military parade will march along Boulevard de la Liberté from 5:30pm and a huge firework display will be thrown on the Champ de Mars at 11pm. The best place to enjoy it is on the banks of the river Deûle..

Edited: 5:48 am, March 21, 2011