“GET the champagne, you’re in France,” my hotel receptionist tells me with a cheeky grin.
And there was definitely something to celebrate. Just one hour 22 minutes after leaving London’s St Pancras Station I was in Lille.
The Eurostar has long been a revolution when it comes to flight-free holidays, and Lille is the closest on the network — perfect for a cheeky city break.
Hopping off the train in the centre of the city, my first port of call was Meert for one of its famous filled waffles for just £3.
It was believed to be a favourite of Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French during World War Two, who was born in Lille.
Small enough to not be overwhelming, the vanilla and chestnut cream filling certainly satisfied my sweet tooth and I wolfed it down while peeking through the windows at the cafe’s stunning interiors.
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Round the corner is the city’s other favourite queue-worthy treat — Aux Merveilleux de Fred’s mouth-watering meringues. I chose the most popular chocolate version and was left licking cream, off my sticky fingers. They are deliciously light so it’s likely you’ll want a couple more while you stroll around this very walkable city.
The best views of Lille are found up the 366 steps of the Belfry Tower. But rather than work off my double whammy of sugar, I opted for a tour by vintage teal Citroen 2CV.
My guide Maxime zipped me around the city, giving me bite-sized titbits of its history and pointing out the French, Belgian and Dutch architecture. And just as my sugar was wearing off, Maxime made a pit stop where we shared yet another waffle, this time orange-flavoured.
He even happily put the roof down while going at a top speed of 20mph so I could take photos.
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Not short of attractions to spot, I couldn’t help but laugh at the city’s own Arc de Triomphe — a tiny roundabout with the 17th-century Porte de Paris in the middle.
But if there is one reason to leave the beautiful city, it’s a visit to La Piscine, an art museum which is a short tram ride to Roubaix.
The former bathhouse was built in 1932 to tackle the spread of tuberculosis as a result of poor working conditions. The art deco pool was closed in 1980 but reopened, fully restored, in 2000. The huge stained glass windows flood the art-filled atrium with light.
But when the sun goes down, the best place to visit back in Lille is Nu, which has the city’s only rooftop bar. The restaurant boasts 360-degree views, DJs and live music at the weekend, and kind staff who didn’t judge my very broken “vin blanc, s’il vous plait”.
And if there is one thing I had to try in France, it was snails — even though I was a reluctant first-timer.
Sauteed with mushrooms and nuts, thankfully the gorgeously rich and juicy starter converted me.
Followed up with the decadent chocolate mousse, I forgot the feeling of ever being hungry.
After polishing off a few glasses of Bourgogne wine as well, my hotel Mama Shelter was thankfully just a few steps away. The chain started in France and now has hundreds across Europe, including one in London.
Inside the rooms are huge double beds and zany printed carpets, but make the most of the buffet restaurant downstairs.
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Settle in with a coffee or cocktail under the painted ceilings, or pop out to their private outdoor terrace.
So if you are ever wondering what to do when you have a spare 90 minutes, a trip to Lille is by far the best decision.
GETTING THERE: Eurostar tickets from London St Pancras to Lille start from £39. See eurostar.com.
STAYING THERE: Mama Shelter rooms start from £78 based on two sharing. See mamashelter.com.
OUT & ABOUT: Tradi’Balade 2CV car tours from £30. See tradibalade.com. Lille 24hr City Pass starts from £22, see en.lilletourism.com.