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Late-night Lille stopover

Hi there! I have an issue that I was hoping someone here could help shed light on.

I am flying from CDG to JFK via Heathrow on December 24 at 10:05 am after spending a few nights in Amsterdam. Originally, I had planned to take megabus from Amsterdam to Porte Maillot and then spend the night in CDG, but the bus is no longer available.

After some searching, I've come up with an alternate itinerary: night megabus from Amsterdam to Lille arriving in Lille at 2am on December 24, then a TGV from Lille Europe to CDG departing at 5:37 am. This appears to be a reasonably cost-effective option ($50 at current exchange rates) and has the added bonus of delivering me to the airport doorstep in plenty of time.

My big concern is the approximately 3 hour gap I have in the dead of night in Lille. Unfortunately, Gare de Lille doesn't open 'til 5:20am, so I can't exactly spend those hours inside the train station. Yet the amount of time is so short that it seems silly to book a hostel bed I won't even sleep in.

So, I suppose my question is: how safe is Lille at that time of night? Are there any places open 24 hours, even if it's a pharmacy or something, where I could conceivably go and try to kill some time? What about sitting in a hotel lobby--would that be considered acceptable?

Relevant details: I'm 20, American traveling light, and would have qualms if the consensus was that the best solution was just to walk around for 3 hours. If I don't sleep in those hours that's fine with me. My French is extremely spotty at best.

Thanks in advance for any advice you might have--I really, really appreciate it!

Posted by
16761 posts

Ok, here is another budget option. Take the iDBUS (div of French Railway) from Amsterdam to Paris-Bercy. 49 euro, leaves 23:45pm from Amsterdam, arrives Gare de Bercy 6:30 am. Proceed on Metro line 14 to Les Halles, change to RER B to CDG. that should get you there by 7:30 am, cost about 9.50 more euro.
http://booking.idbus.com/ScheduleSelect.aspx

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks, that makes a great deal of sense! Unfortunately, I've already booked the train from Lille to CDG before seeing your post.

I had considered iDbus (and Eurolines for that matter) but I was spooked by the prospect of the bus getting delayed and wanted to factor in extra time for being in a foreign country for the very first time and having no idea where to go at every step of the way, even with advance planning. That was part of why I booked the train--I trust it (whether rightfully or wrongly) to be on time more than a bus, and it takes me right to the airport doorstep. Also I needed to book by tonight to lock in the £18 fare.

Given that my ticket is non-refundable, I suppose I'll just try to make the best of things. I've emailed a number of hotels on the off-chance one of them will let them crash in a lobby. Alternatively, wikitravel notes that La Chicoree has pretty insane opening hours, which the website seems to confirm (http://chicoree.restaurantsdelille.com/plan-acces-restaurant-lille-brasserie-la-chicoree.html) so I may also walk (or perhaps run) the 1 km to get there and have a drink if none of the hotels are being cooperative.

If you think I'm being dangerously reckless in doing this do let me know; otherwise the notion of searching for a home for a few hours is starting to grow on me. I realize it'll be cold, but the 10-day forecast suggests it won't be too far below freezing, if at all; I know I can deal with that.

Again, thanks so much for the reply--it's too bad I got impatient!

Posted by
3336 posts

My husband and I used to do the crazy middle of the night bus thing when we were young and adventurous!

Sometimes the bus terminal will be near a travelers cafe that is open all night. That seems to be more common out on the autobahns and highways than in towns though. I haven't been through Lille so I don't know what their bus terminal is like. Typically in France, and most of Europe for that matter, the 24 hour thing hasn't caught on. It's just not part of the culture - it's probably illegal in a few countries! I don't think you'll find a hotel in France with a 24 hour lobby in a town the size of Lille - that's a very American or big city thing. I have found that European hotels in smaller places have keys and passcards for their lobbies after hours generally.

If it were me by myself I would try to check in to a hostel. Pay for a cab to take you from the bus station so that you don't have to hunt for it. My only question would be if there is a hostel that will admit you at that hour? If you can pull it off it's better than being out in the dark in a strange city. You can get a couple hours sleep and a shower and be good to catch the train in the morning. Good luck!

Posted by
16761 posts

That's OK. Take the extra money you're saving and grab a cab to La Chicoree if its really cold. Should work out OK. When they kick you out at 4:30 am, it will be the right time to head back to Gare Lille-Europe. Lille-Flandres opens at 5:00 am if you need to warm up on the way.

Posted by
5 posts

Appreciate the thoughtful replies! I think, because an irrational part of me relishes the idea of being young, stupid and sleep-deprived, I'm going to plan on making my way over to La Chicoree--I've read the service can be quite slow, which is actually ideal for me. Plus the route there will lead me past Lille Europe and Lille Flandres and give me a sense of the lay of the land. And Sam, your suggestion about Lille Flandres is definitely a really good one, though I might also just loiter outside my station so I can assure myself plenty of time to find my train.

Anita, definitely a good point about the lobbies I hadn't adequately considered. To clarify, I would never waltz in and just plop down, but rather would ask at the front desk (if in fact it was still operational) if it was OK for me stay there first. I won't be counting on this, though.

As for the hostel, I'll do a little hunting, but I'm having trouble justifying to myself the cost in exchange for what little sleep/relative security I'll actually get. Again, this is very possibly a case of pigheadedness on my part, but there it is.

Again, thanks for taking the time to read/reply!

Posted by
8396 posts

You do need to consider that you could be picked up for vagrancy (or even worse), and you will need to contend with street people. Hotels don't just open their doors, but in fact lock them, so wanderers won't come in to sit in the lobby (which consists of a check in desk and not much more most of the time). How do you prove to the night watchman that you are just a harmless traveler? The suggestion to catch a cab to La Chicoree is a good one. Lille is a northern, post-industrial city with all the accompanying urban problems.

Posted by
5 posts

Re: Bets, well, I will have my train ticket out of Lille Europe on my person, not to mention plenty of other documentation/booking printouts that would hopefully convince any authorities that I'm not a vagrant. I do definitely see your point though; I'm pretty persuaded at this point that I should just head straight to La Chicoree upon arrival (and I'll definitely look into taxi services). Thanks for the feedback!

Posted by
2829 posts

I think you are over-complicating things without need. Pay for a cheap hostel bed and be done with it.

Posted by
5 posts

So, an update for any interested...the feedback on this page has been sufficiently cautionary to get me to reconsider and alter my plans. I've booked a cheap hostel bed (about 20 eur) and moved my bus earlier (thankfully megabus is good with reservation changes) so I'll now be arriving in Lille in (hopefully) broad daylight (140pm if the timetables are right). I'll still be getting up at an absurd hour to catch the train, but at least now I'll have half a day to check out a tiny bit of the city without having to skulk around looking for shelter.

I know I've said it a lot, but thanks so much for all the helpful feedback!

Posted by
8396 posts

Smart move. Hopefully you'll meet up with people in the hostel to have a nice evening in Lille.