France-Nord-Pas-de-Calais in pictures - Lille
In brief +
Like the song by Pierre Bachelet goes, "In the North there were the miners' houses". This was once the case but since at least the middle of the 20th century it can no longer be said that this region is the place of mines, coal, greyness and poverty. Although Germinal is a splendid socialist novel by Zola, it should be pointed out that it dates to the late 19th century. Unfortunately, the image it conveys remains anchored in the minds of many people who have never visited the region.
However, contrary to what one might think, Nord-Pas-de-Calais is one of the most visited regions in France. Although some of the French like to make fun of the 'ch'tis' and their accent, there are many who eagerly come here to attend the famous carnivals of Lille and Dunkirk. What's more, it's true that the people of the North "hold in their hearts the sun that is missing outside" and this really shows during these great festivals. Despite living in a climate which is not exactly forgiving, the people of this region give a sense of welcome and friendship unlike any other.
Lille, the capital of Flanders, and Arras are a concentration of this spirit alone but also of the architectural wealth of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Between the Flemish houses (155 in Arras), the belfries, and the lively squares, the principle cities of the North offer a breath of fresh air with their youth, energy, culture and conviviality right across the region.
Indeed, this is demonstrated in their 'Belle Epoque' resorts which border the English Channel, like Touquet or Merlimont, with their casinos, their villas and their luxury hotels, but also by their large port cities (Calais and Dunkirk).
In fact, the entire coast in this northern area of France is magnificent. Between the Flemish dunes, the Côte d'Opale, the Blanc-Nez and Gris-Nez capes, and Platier d'Oye, the landscape offers striking scenery with a blend of sea, white sand, marine birds and lighting that has fascinated many painters.
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