France's friendliest city makes typical afternoons that much sweeter.
By Regina Kaza
One of the many things I adore about the French and their practice of la vie cultivee, is the indulgence of lovely sugary things. American culture tends to either banish desserts and shame them with diet and sugar-free counterparts or supersize mass produced cakes with little love or celebratory spirit, there is no in-between.
There is a sort of mindful presence to these afternoon dessert rituals. The idea of indulging in simple pleasures with a friend or colleague away from a desk in an intimidate setting over a fresh fruit tart filling the air with conversation is something to admire and practice and not sugar shame ourselves over.
In addition to the friendly faces and libations on every corner, Lille like most French cities knows how to curb a sweet tooth. And although Luxembourg and Brussels are just a hop and a skip away by train with their waffles and chocolates, Lille has much to offer. Day-tripping to Lille is still like visiting a different country. The city is complete change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Paris, trading cigarette smoking fashionistas for beer-fueled sing alongs at a pub of your choosing.
Our first stop was at Méert, a pâtisserie where dessert dreams are made and served on little porcelain plates accompanied by afternoon tea.
Being so close to the Belgian border, Lille is also home to some wonderful local brews. And what pairs better with beer than chocolate? No seriously, try it for yourself. While there is a local tour that offers a professional beer and chocolate tasting, we preferred to improvise and pick up an assortment from Benoit Chocolats to pair with a flight of local brews.
And an afternoon in Lille, is not complete without some Merveilleux cakes, Belgian meringues welded with whipped cream in a variety of flavors but traditionally dusted with chocolate shavings. Although these little shops are popping up throughout Paris and even New York City, Lille is home to the original Au Merveilleux de Fred and a must-stop on a sugary trip to Lille.