With the city of Lille’s proximity to the Belgian border, I wouldn’t be surprised if the locals of Lille had a closer connection to Belgium than France. Either way, the stereotypical scenes of charming France awaited us for our first day to the country: numerous aromatic patisseries and boulangeres lined the cobblestone streets, boutique chocolate and macaron shops continuously beckoned us to its storefronts, and the lack of English speaking patrons and shopkeepers left me dependent on Chris’ smidgen of the French language.

Lille’s lovely town square:

Adorable shops with plenty of French delicacies proudly displayed in windows:

The best crepe I’ve ever eaten:IMG_8056

Lille’s odd-looking basilica:

What brought us to Lille was not because it was the first major city in northern France after crossing the French-Belgian border. In the process of applying for our 6-month French visa, I learned that I had distant relatives living in Lille! My cousin is married to a French native, whose parents reside in Lille and happily hosted us in their home.IMG_20160310_210258

It was a cold, stormy afternoon when we arrived to Lille, and my cousin’s in-laws gave us the ultimate French experience by lighting a wood fire in their fireplace, serving us hors d’oeuvres, and popping a bottle of champagne.IMG_8038

Their giant 3- or 4-storied mansion consisted of a 2-bedroom flat on each floor. We had the entire second floor flat to ourselves.IMG_8040

They didn’t speak a lick of English, and I didn’t know a lick of French. Fortunately they were incredibly sweet and tolerated with Chris’ French. Long and difficult conversations filled the silence between meals, but I like to think it helped Chris with the language. =) Lille was the perfect introduction to France—a petit city with all the tasty French delights, and a family to help get us started in the largest country in Europe.

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