Five reasons Lille should actually be part of Belgium

Lille sits on the French side of the border, but American blogger and Lille resident Dana Wielgus tells us why the northern city actually fits in better in Belgium than France.

Five reasons Lille should actually be part of Belgium
Photo: Hailemichael FISEHA/Flickr

France shares a border with eight different countries, making it a perfect melting pot of cultures within the European Union. For example, if you travel east to the city of Strasbourg, you will easily notice German influences within the architecture.

Similarly, if you continue southeast to the city of Nice, you will arguably debate whether the city is actually a part of France or Italy.

Finally, as you venture north, past Lyon, Paris, and Picardie, you will find yourself in the city of Lille, just a few kilometers from the Belgian border.

And although the typical “Ch’ti” accent, delicious baguettes, and the abundance of dog poo on the street are undeniably French, here are five reasons why Lille should actually be a part of Belgium.

The Beer

Photo: Anthony Jauneaud/Flickr

Although France is famously known for its wine, Lille is considered to be beer country. Highly influenced by deliciously tasting Belgian beer, you don’t come to Lille to drink wine.  Instead, indulge in Tripel Karmeliet, Chouffe, Duvel, Grimbergen, or Leffe. But drink in moderation—Belgian beer is strong!

The Flemish Architecture

Photo: Guillaume Delebarre/Flickr

Once a part of the County of “Flanders”, the city of Lille contains architecture that is much different to the rest of France. Like most of Dutch-speaking Belgium, Lille is filled with Flemish-style buildings and red brick structures. Vieux Lille is especially colorful—be sure to admire the medieval structures, roofs, and narrow, cobblestoned streets.

The Belfries

Photo: dlwillis11/Flickr

There are over 30 belfries throughout the Belgian regions of Dutch (or “Flemish”) speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia. Belfries were originally constructed to be used as both a watchtower and a bell tower, while also to symbolize the cities’ individual independence and power.

Because parts of northern France used to be a part of Flanders, Lille, as well as several other French cities also have belfries. In fact, UNESCO named the Belgian belfries as a World Heritage site in 1999, and added the 23 French belfries in 2005.

Les Friteries ou La Baraque à Frites

Photo: Julien/Flickr

You cannot visit Lille without indulging at a Friterie or a Baraque à Frites, as they are interchangeably called.

Often found in town squares as well as on high way roads, French Fry Stands are an essential part of both Belgian and Northern French culture. Usually, the “restaurant” runs out of a converted trailer, caravan, or small truck, and most orders are made to go, unless the Friterie also provides a few tables for paying customers.

Typically, the fries are served in a plastic cone, with the sauce on top and a small, plastic fork (tip: Ask for the sauce on the side for a “cleaner” experience!) If you’re feeling especially daring, order a Fricadelle, the most typical meat dish served at Friteries. Just don’t ask what’s in it!

Bike Culture and Flatness

Photo: Fabien Lemetayer/Flickr

Just like the Netherlands and Belgium, Lille is an extremely flat city (just climb to the top of the belfry if you don’t believe me!) Because these northern countries are so flat, they are extremely bike able, with cities such as Amsterdam and Ghent especially known for being bike-friendly.

Lille has a great bike-sharing system called V’Lille. It is easy, safe, and an inexpensive way to get around the city, with many designated bike lanes and docking stations placed strategically around the city. 

To read more from American blogger Dana Wielgus, visit her blog As Told by Dana.

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Row over French stadium accident that left 29 hurt

The owner of French top-flight club Lille hit back at his rival at Amiens SC on Sunday, suggesting safety lapses were to blame for the collapse of a stadium barrier which left 29 fans injured during a game between the teams.

Row over French stadium accident that left 29 hurt
Photo: Francois Lo Presti/AFP

The chairman of Amiens, Bernard Joannin, initially blamed hundreds of “hardcore fans” among Lille supporters for the shocking scenes during Saturday's Ligue 1 encounter in Amiens in northeast France.

“They surged forward, chaotically, more than 500 people, against this barrier, which was in perfect condition,” Joannin said after the accident which led the game to be abandoned.

Most of the victims were discharged from hospital on Sunday morning except six people who sustained serious injuries when the pitch-side barrier gave way, sending dozens of people tumbling on top of each other.

The Lille supporters – no more than a few hundred – pressed against the barrier early in the first-half as fans moved forward to celebrate their team's opening goal against newly promoted Amiens.

Gerard Lopez, the chairman and owner of Lille, told AFP he was “shocked” by Joannin appearing to blame hooligans for the accident.

“What's serious is that supporters are celebrating a goal and at the end there are injured people. It's very serious to talk about aggressiveness,” he said in a an interview on Sunday.

He also raised worries allegedly mentioned by supporters from Strasbourg, Marseille and Nice who had claimed the stadium was “not very solid”.

“I've seen photos of the stadium, the supports for the barriers,” he added.

Joannin said on Sunday he regretted his initial reaction.

Stop the arguments

Referee Thomas Leonard suspended the match in the 16th minute as Red Cross and emergency workers rushed to help the injured, while prosecutors have since opened an investigation.

“It happened all of a sudden. I don't even know who scored. It just suddenly fell on me. I couldn't hear anything, I couldn't see anything and then the emergency workers took me away,” said Georges Penel, a 21-year-old Lille fan who suffered injuries to his leg and back.

Built in 1999, the Stade de la Licorne (“Stadium of the Unicorn”) is the smallest of the 20 French Ligue 1 clubs, with a capacity of only 12,000.

Renovation work is taking place throughout the 2017-18 season, but chairman Joannin ruled out any link between improvements to the stadium and Saturday's accident.

“We shouldn't mix up work being done on the roof and the rest of the stadium, which has been checked and approved by all of the security commissions,” he told a press conference on Sunday morning.

In May, local politician Alain Gest had suggested that upkeep of the stadium had been neglected by previous local administrations but was now “perfectly in line with regulations” and “up to standards for playing in Ligue 1”.

The mayor of Lille, leading Socialist party figure Martine Aubry called for calm on Twitter, saying: “Let's stop the arguments. Think about the victims first and let's wait for the enquiry results.”