In the North, the Sun is in Our Hearts
Volume XX, Issue 29
One of the reasons I write French Property Insider every week is even more for me than it is for you! This is an autodidact’s answer to learning new and important things, staying up on the real estate market in France and then imparting whatever wisdom I can acquire to you.
As I write this, I am sitting in a small restaurant in the northern French city of Lille, waiting for the House Hunters International crew to join me, have lunch and then head off to begin the taping of my 50th episode.
This is my first time in Lille, so I have much to learn about it. Writing about it here is my way of learning about it, too. Everything I say about it on the show must be correct and true, so I must trust the information I get, then by the end of the taping (Saturday), I’ll have my own impressions.
I flew from Nice to Lille which was quite easy. The airport in Lille is small, but quite pleasant. A taxi took me to our hotel in central Lille, but the fares are not fixed from the airport like they are in Paris—the cost was €32 for a ten-minute ride. It seemed a bit expensive.
This is France’s fourth largest city, but most people don’t even realize it exists! Most Eurostar travelers know it as “that stop on the way to Brussels.” The city is located close to the Belgium border and is not known as a tourist destination, despite being the home to two Unesco World-Heritage sites: the Belfry of the Town Hall and the nearby Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin.
The region happens to be one of the country’s poorest regions (Nord Pas de Calais), and that might contribute to its lack of tourism, but in 2017 it was ranked as one of the most attractive cities to live in based on salaries and affordable property.
At one time, Lille was an important merchant center of French Flanders, mainly the textile and mechanical industries, but it declined from the 1960s onwards, which led to a long period of crisis. It was not until the 1990s that the conversion to the tertiary sector and the rehabilitation of the disaster-stricken districts gave the city a different face. (Source)
In spite of the poverty, a recent survey found that residents in the region were the happiest in France. The weather is known to be cool, gray and rainy, but there is an expression here that seems to ring true: “Dans le nord, le soleil on l’a dans le coeur” (In the north, the sun is in our hearts).
Our “contributors,” Abby and Jon, a young couple seeking a rental property in Lille, told me that they found Lille very convenient for them as it’s only one hour two minutes from Paris, 34 minutes from Brussels and one hour 21 minutes from London by high speed train.
As the Capital of Flanders, it has Flemish roots. And from the short time I’ve been here, it’s evident in its architecture, their cuisine and the accents of the Lillois. The architecture is what I would call “masculine”—a combination of French and Flemish; the streets are lined with tall red brick and sandstone buildings. I suppose this is what classifies a city as “masculine” or “feminine” for me—the detail, the color, the stature, etc. Generally, I am more in tune with feminine cities, such as Paris or Nice and therefore Lille hasn’t yet touched my heart, but I’ve only been here 24 hours.
There is the cultural aspect to consider—it was elected the European Capital of Culture in 2004 by the European Commission for one calendar year during which it organized a series of cultural events with a strong pan-European dimension. Our hotel is steps from the Palais des Beaux-Arts museum which is home to France’s second largest art collection after Le Louvre with works by Goya, Rembrandt and Rubens.
Students abound in Lille as it’s the third largest student population in France, after Paris and Lyon, with 100,000, 20 percent of whom are foreign. Our contributors are part of that group, having come from Wichita, Kansas, for a paid position that would allow Jon to further his education by getting his PhD at the Université de Lille. With the students comes a young, vibrant and welcoming atmosphere.
This week we will be taping at the Wazemmes market in the city center, one of the largest markets in France, and is also known to be one of the most animated, sometimes called an “Ali-baba cave.” This will make great video for the show! There is also the Grande Braderie de Lille, the biggest and most famous flea market in Europe, that will officially start at 8 a.m. on Saturday, September 3rd, 2022, the first weekend in September, with 100 kilometers of aisles for 10,000 exhibitors. Sadly, we’ll miss it!
I wanted to try Lillois cuisine Tuesday night, so the crew and I landed in La Ducasse, a traditional restaurant in Lille since 1979 offering the city’s specialties. I ordered a Carbonnade Flamande, which is a Flemish stew, also known as “stoofvlees” made with beef, beer, thyme, juniper berries, mustard and spiced bread. It’s both sweet and sour and is very hearty—perfect for the weather of the north.
A couple of the crew ordered up the Welsh Complet made with ham, a fried egg and plenty of cheese! This fare is certainly different from the Mediterranean diet of the Riviera of fresh fish and plenty of Provençal vegetables!
Property prices in Lille are about half of what they are in Nice and one-fourth of Paris. An apartment in Lille rents for as little as 750€ a month for a one-bedroom in the city center and 575€ a month outside of the center. To purchase a property, the city center is about 4,000€ per square meter and outside of the center only about 3,000€ per square meter…again, half of the Nice prices and one-fourth of Paris’. I’d consider it highly affordable.
Would I recommend living in Lille?
I haven’t had enough time here to be able to answer that up to now. So far, what I have found is a lovely city, with interesting architecture, plenty of cultural things to do, a young and vibrant population and an interesting alternative to Paris.
The Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Our newest House Hunters International airs TONIGHT in the U.S.! Don’t miss it!
“A Newlywed Homecoming in France,”
“A French native is returning to France to take advantage of a work opportunity in Montpellier. While her American husband adores French food, culture, and charm, he’s having a hard time syncing with her idea of the perfect space.”
Thursday, July 28, 2022: 10:31 pm Eastern US/9:31 pm Central US
Friday, July 29, 2022: 1:31 am Eastern US/12:31 am Central US
See our website for more information or tune in by visiting HGTV.com (if from outside the US, be sure to use your VPN!)
P.PS. Currency Opportunities & Social Security for US Expats Abroad
Don’t miss our third quarter North American Expats in France Quarterly Financial Forum brought to you by Dunhill Financial and the Adrian Leeds Group Wednesday, August 3, 2022, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. France time, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern US time and 10 a.m. to 12 noon Pacific US time.
Join Dunhill Financial and Adrian Leeds as we discuss the currency outlook and social security for American expats in France. The webinar will focus on currency expectations particularly surrounding the EUR/USD and its recent trip to parity with the USD and what this means. We will also go through a brief history of the formation of the EUR and its historical and political significance in unifying the Eurozone. Last but not least we touch upon how social security works as a US Expat including some of the best practices and strategies to optimize your situation.
It’s Free and it’s informative! Click here to register.