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Clare
Clare

Day 6: Tournai and Lille

When we went to Waterloo yesterday, we weren't anticipating that there would be enough to see there to fill an entire day, so we had been toying with the idea of going to Antwerp as well. It turned out that Waterloo was far more exciting than we had thought, meaning that plans to squeeze in Antwerp had to be shelved. Last night we therefore had to make a decision about whether to go to Antwerp today instead or to stick with our original plan for the day which was to travel to the town of Tournai, then hop over the border into France to visit Lille.

It was a difficult decision to make, and we spent a significant part of the evening looking at photos on Google images, trying to decide which place looked prettiest. All the photos looked lovely, so we tried to narrow it down by looking at ticket prices on the train website, but the cost seemed much of a muchness so that didn't really help either. In the end the weather really made the decision for us: when we woke up this morning it was pouring with rain and so the prospect of spending as much time as possible on a train seemed appealing. We decided to visit Tournai and Lille.

Tournai is located about 50 miles southwest of Brussels and on a direct trainline. Our guidebook described it as being the most attractive town in Wallonia (the French-speaking part of Belgium), which was our motivation for wanting to go there. The most impressive sight was described as being the cathedral, which has no fewer than five towers and is a UNESCO world heritage site. We were looking forward to seeing it, so a bit disappointed when we got there to find that it was in the process of renovation.

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The other famous sight in Tournai is the medieval belfry, which was first constructed in 1188. We were able to get a good photo of this one, even if it was a little damp!

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Walking past the belfry we found ourselves in the main square in Tournai, which is home to the 12th century church of St. Quentin. It looked more like a fortress than a church to us.

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In what seems to be a running theme for Belgium, the entire square was extremely beautiful.

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After an hour of walking around we were soaked through so decided to head back to the train station and continue on to Lille. On the way we walked along the river for a while and found the Pont des Trous, an enormous medieval bridge.

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The journey from Tournai to Lille only takes about half an hour on the train. Unfortunately the weather wasn't any better in France, but the main train station - Lille-Flandres - is located right in the city centre, only a few minutes' walk from the main sights, so we didn't have to walk far before we came across the imposing tower of the Lille Chamber of Commerce, with the opera house next door to it.

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The main square in Lille was very pretty and still all decorated for Christmas.

 

Overall Lille seemed like a really nice place and I think there is definitely more to explore there then we managed to see in the rain. It showed no sign of drying up so we treated ourselves to an enormous meal at a grill restaurant near the main square and then spent some time exploring the main bookshops, before setting off on the train journey back to Brussels.

We're heading back home on the Eurostar tomorrow morning, having really enjoyed our time in Belgium. It's not a place which has ever featured highly on our list of potential holiday destinations and so we've been pleasantly surprised by how much there is to see and do here. Bruges and Ghent have been particular highlights and we would like to return to both places one day in warmer weather. Brussels has made a great base from which to explore the rest of the country, as well as being a fascinating city in its own right. Food prices have been generally higher here than we had anticipated (it feels a bit like eating out in London) but by having an apartment with a kitchenette and self-catering in the evenings we have managed to stick within our budget. We would definitely recommend Belgium as a destination for a short break :)




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