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In the Heat of the Summer: from Paris to Nice, from Nice to Lille and Back

Lille's Grand Place
Lille's Grand Place

I arrived in Nice Saturday night and in the five short days that I was in Paris, the city took on a new life. Hordes of people have descended on the seaside city and while it’s warm, it’s not unbearably hot like the concrete jungle of Paris. My own street, rue MassĂ©na, was difficult to maneuver having to part the Brazilian acrobat dancers to get to my door, and the cafĂ©s and restaurants were filled to capacity. Music was playing from every corner. Sunday morning, the Cour Saleya was hopping earlier than usual and the vendors were smiling broadly from increased sales. I loved every minute of it.

Not everyone likes this kind of human energy. I hear it all the time from clients who claim they want to find a place that is peaceful and quiet. I had that once upon a time when living in Tennessee on a wooded property that was lovely, but oh so boring. When we moved to Los Angeles, I joked that if I never saw another tree again, I’d be happy! Of course, that’s not true—I love the greenery and nature, but can only tolerate so much. Human life and all that it can accomplish is every bit as fascinating for me. And Nice seriously comes alive during the summer when people are on vacation and can take advantage of all the pleasure it provides.

Tonight I’m off on Easyjet to Lille. It seems nuts that I would go to Nice from Paris on Saturday, only to turn around on Monday evening to fly to Lille, but this is to tape an episode of House Hunters International (my 50th!). It made sense to me. Paris to Lille is only one hour on the TGV and that’s the most logical thing to do, but I couldn’t bear to miss a beach day on Sunday when I can stare at the beautiful aqua water of the Mediterranean. Plus, it was easier to pack a bag of clothing from Nice and return to Nice with the same clothing. Top that off with the fact that In Paris on Saturday, the temperature was 98°F and in Nice at the same moment, it was 89°F! That’s a huge difference and a whole lot less sweat.

Graph showing the average high and low temperatures in Nice, France

The beach was one of the most glorious few hours I’ve ever spent there. The weather was perfect. The sky was perfectly blue and cloudless. The water was warm, clear and calm. The beach was busy, but not packed. Everything was simply perfect. When I hopped onto the sling on the “noodle” (“frites de piscine” in French) to float out, I found myself looking all around and realizing that it just didn’t get better than this. The entire scene was sensory overload of beautiful sights, sounds and as relaxing as it gets.

From an aluminum lounge chair on the beach—front row, of course—I loved watching the antics. There were two different sets of threesomes that caught my attention. Each group was made up of one beautiful young woman, perhaps about 18 years old, with two guys, both vying for her attention. The two guys were doing all sorts of silly things in the water to show off. It was so sweet and comical, too.

Love triangle on the beach

Love triangle on the beach

Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because Nice is 580 miles south of Paris, that it’s hotter. It’s not, although much warmer in the winter, but generally cooler in the summer. Last week I pulled the portable AC unit out of the closet, plugged it in, ran the large hose out the window and turned it on, making my Paris apartment tolerable. A couple of years ago, after living in the apartment 22 years without air-conditioning, I finally broke down and bought two portable units, then only used one of them for three days because my summers are now spent in Nice where I have central heat/air and…the milder climate.

The heat wave is what everyone is talking about because it’s come much earlier than normal. “Climate change is increasing the frequency, magnitude and duration of such heat waves. The next few days will reveal whether this event breaks records.” (Source) Anyone who still argues with the FACT that our climate is changing is of course delusional. We’re doing this to ourselves by generating electricity and heat by burning fossil fuels—coal, oil, or gas—which causes a large chunk of the greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, that blanket the earth and trap the sun’s heat. We can’t fix this fast enough, and fortunately, although most electricity is still generated by burning fossil fuels, cleaner sources of energy are gaining ground. About 29 percent of electricity currently comes from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, which nature will replenish and which emit little to no greenhouse gases or pollutants into the air. The cost of renewable-energy technologies also keeps falling, making renewables the most affordable source of power today. (Source)

The question is, can we reverse the process? Or should we just find ways to grin and bear it? The answer is:

Yes. While we cannot stop global warming overnight, we can slow the rate and limit the amount of global warming by reducing human emissions of heat-trapping gases and soot (“black carbon”). If all human emissions of heat-trapping gases were to stop today, Earth’s temperature would continue to rise for a few decades as ocean currents bring excess heat stored in the deep ocean back to the surface. Once this excess heat radiated out to space, Earth’s temperature would stabilize. Experts think the additional warming from this “hidden” heat are unlikely to exceed 0.9°F (0.5°C). With no further human influence, natural processes would begin to slowly remove the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and global temperatures would gradually begin to decline.” (Source)

Colored map showing ocean heat change from 1993-2019

Lille isn’t going to be as hot as Paris or Nice in the coming days, fortunately. Today the high is 73°F and the rest of the week is predicted to be a few degrees warmer, but no higher than 81°F. That’s my kind of perfect. I’ve never even been to Lille before, so this will be an eye-opening experience and one I’m seriously looking forward to. Next week you’ll get a full report, but for now, here’s what I’ve learned:

Located in the French Flanders, on the river DeĂ»le, it’s near France’s border with Belgium and that influences it greatly. The population is about 235,000, making it the tenth largest city in France. The metropolitan area is much larger, of course, bringing that number up to the fourth most populated in France, after Paris, Lyon, and Marseille. It is part of the first European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), belonging to a vast conurbation formed with the Belgian cities of Mouscron, Kortrijk, Tournai and Menin, which has more than 2.1 million inhabitants.

Vieux Lille

Vieux Lille

It’s the “Capital of Flanders,” that has had an eventful history from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution. The last two world wars did a real number on the city during which it was occupied and suffered a lot of destruction. Since the 16th-century, it’s been an industrial capital, mostly with textiles and mechanical industries, but fell into hard times until the 1990s when the city gave itself a face-lift, rehabilitating the historic center and other stricken areas of the city.

The city looks more like a city in Belgium than one in France, characterized by 17th-century red brick town houses and paved pedestrian streets. The WowTravel.me site describes it as the “baby of Brussels and Paris” because of the mix of cultures. Guides to Lille recommend a visit to The Belfry and the City Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s 104 meters high (341 feet) and it is touted for an exhilarating view of the entire lovely city from the top. I’ll try not to miss it! There are a host of other things in the town to visit, according to—wowtravel.me—so the bucket list is already growing.

But more than just a tourist destination, Lille is a college town with over 110,000 students. This means lots of bars and cafĂ©s, and maybe a lot of noise for us older folks, but it also means that there is a lot of young energy and that’s what would keep us young at heart. According to a survey in 2017, the city ranked “as the most attractive place in France in relation to job salaries and affordable properties.”

We’re going to find out as part of the taping of the episode. As it turns out, the “contributors”—a young couple who recently married, from Kansas who had never even been to Europe as tourists, was given a once-in-a-liftetime opportunity to take a job in Lille. Even though it seemed awfully scary to make such a big change in their lives, they took the leap to Lille and to France.

They are in for a big shock, but hopefully, we can cushion the blow of the differences of life in France compared to Kansas. I have already warned them that my involvement in their search for the perfect rental apartment in Lille will involve a few lessons on how to bridge the cultural divide.

I still have a lot to learn about Lille—particularly the districts and what’s hot and what’s not. There are four neighborhoods of special note: The old town (Le Vieux Lille), the Grand Center, Wazemmes and Vauban.

Colorful map of the Lille neighborhoods

Lille neighborhoods

The old town is the heart, as it is in most French cities. This is where property will be most expensive, but where you’ll find 17th, 18th and 19th-century buildings, cobble-stoned streets and the historic sites. Location, location, location—this is the most upscale and possibly the most desirable.

The Grand Centre is elegant, with 17th-century gabled townhouses surrounding the cobbled Grand Place, crowded with al fresco cafés serving coffee and pastis. The adjacent boulevards are lined with upscale stores, art galleries, theaters and museums. Sounds like my kind of neighborhood.

Wazemmes is cosmopolitan, focused on the redbrick Wazemmes Market Hall, which is busy market selling flowers, honey and cheese, and even a Sunday flea market. The streets are narrow, lined with row houses that offer up a variety of ethnic food vendors and eclectic architecture.

The Wazemmes Market, Lille

The Wazemmes Market, Lille

The Vauban district is the student district but also considered the “green” district of Lille. The Bois de Boulogne is the main garden of Lille with the majestic citadel built by Vauban himself (a French military engineer who worked under Louis XIV considered to be the greatest engineer of his time).

Parc de la Citadel, Lille

Parc de la Citadel, Lille

I’m also hoping to enjoy some of the culinary delights, such as “carbonnade flamande” (small beef chunks stewed in beer and often sprinkled with gingerbread), “petit salĂ© lillois” (a traditional potjevleesch, like a potted meat, made from lean ham) and “babeluttes de Lille” (a popular confection, toffee flavored).

A plate of Carbonade Flamande

A plate of Carbonade Flamande

I’m not much of a beer drinker, but this is France’s center of beer country, with lots of local micro-breweries making strong-flavored beers with high alcohol content. I might be brave enough to try one!

A variety of beers. Photo provided by France Travel Blog https://francetravelblog.com/why-you-should-do-the-beer-tasting-treasure-hunt-in-lille/

Photo provided by France Travel Blog

Tuesday is the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year. Sunset in Lille will be at 10:04 p.m., but it is also the FĂȘte de la Musique in France. This is the 40th edition of the festival and Lille will be participating just as will the rest of the country. Starting at 2 p.m., there will be free concerts all over town. (See Lille’s website for the line-up.) I hope to take the crew and find a few…after the taping that day!

Poster for France's FĂȘte de la Musique

So, stay tuned for next Monday’s NouvellettreÂź when you’ll hear much more about Lille and our experience taping the show. Then I’m off for one week for a real vacation, in Portugal with my daughter. There may be no NouvellettresÂź Wednesday June 29th, Thursday the 30th, or Monday the 4th of July…

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds in a big floppy sunhat and sunglasses on the beach in NiceAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds GroupÂź

P.S. Speaking of House Hunters International…You can easily view details for all of our past episodes and check for any re-airing dates. And, we will always let you know in our NouvellettresÂź when any episodes will air. Check them out on our HHI page.

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