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Gastama absolutely the Best Hostel in Lille!

Posted at:19 August, 2015 in Ambassador Blog

Aug 12

Three hours of restless napping in the night…  Great…

I got up at 05:00 to shower some life into me.  A taxi came to collect me when I was ready and I regretfully checked out of Oasis Lisbon.  It was the wee hours of the morning, and my taxi driver took advantage of the situation.  The fastest I saw the speedometer reach was 110 km/h as we nearly flew to the airport through stretches of the city in the long distances between red lights.  I had planned to take the metro to the airport, but was concerned about timing as it would only open at 06:30 and would take another 45 minutes to get to the wrong terminal of the airport where I would have to catch a bus to get to the correct part of the airport for my flight.  So, I was glad to spend €12 on a cab this morning, just for the race we had against no one else in the city.

My first view of the Old Town of Lille.

My first view of the Old Town of Lille.

Not only the best hostel in Lille…

A person usually has a little knowledge of a city where they are travelling, even it is preconceived notions.  You likely have some internal feeling about Barcelona, Paris, Zagreb…without visiting the city.  Lille was different for me.  I had no knowledge at all of Lille….  The word Lille was just a word to me, and no had no mental connection to anything.  So, when I got off the bus and walked in a mapped direction towards the Gastama Hostel, I could not believe the beauty of the city.  The buildings are gorgeous and elaborate.  The old town of the city is a magical looking.  I feel like it is a secret of the locals, and no outsiders know what is here and nor the prettiness of a French city called Lille.  It is like an undiscovered gem…

I made it to Gastama Bar and Hostel and manager Nico, who is just about the nicest person you will ever meet in your life, was at the desk when I arrived.  Gastama owner Florence was also there as well as a waitress/receptionist named Cyrielle.  Everyone was really friendly and smiley.  We all shook hands and then to settle in, I tried a local beer out of one of the 14 taps on the bar.  I have never been to a hostel with so many types of beer on tap.  They have wine-beer, they have strong beer, they have beer from Brugge, they have Gastama beer, they have Guinness, they have it all…  It is pretty awesome for a hostel bar to cover so much ground.

Florence, Nico, Cyrielle and I chatted by the bar for a couple of hours.  I learned that ‘Flemish’ are the people and the language of Lille and ‘Flanders’ is the name of the area.  When they said Flanders, it reminded me that Flanders Fields is close by, which was a war poem I learned in school as a little boy.  Flanders Fields is where poppies grow over the graves of the fallen soldiers of the First World War…  I love Europe because there is history everywhere all of the time…

Nico and Cyrielle took me and two other hostel guests to a very traditional restaurant called ‘Au Vieux de la Vieille’ where we ordered ‘Welsh au Maroilles’. Welsh au Marailles is a meal with the strongest cheese I have ever encountered.  I can actually smell the cheese right now, just from my memory storage.  The cheese had crazy powers, and inside of the casserole dish is battered ham.  It is a heavy meal, and you will never forget it.  It would be impossible to forget the strong flavour of the cheese.  It is a must try if you are in Lille…cheese pushed to the limits…

Hostel pimped out key.

Hostel pimped out key.

Cyrielle and Nico.

Cyrielle and Nico.

Next thing I knew it was 2 am and we were in a vodka bar…

I still had not even checked in and my backpack was still by the front door a couple of hours after I had arrived because they staff had been so warm and welcoming so quickly.  At the bar Nico pushed something towards me and said, “I pimped your key!”  I opened up the small envelope to find my room key card inside and it had a cut-out beaver taped to it.  Now there is a testament of the coolness of the hostel!

Nico, Cyrielle and the rest of our little crew went to a bar called La Capsule (I have been having a blast trying to say everything in as French of an accent as I can possibly French it…) where they have many kinds of craft beer.  We drank strong 8% beer as other friends of Nico and Cyrielle arrived to join us at the bar.  Next thing I knew it was about 02:00 and we were in a vodka bar called Le Kremlin.  A man bought roses for the girls who were with us.  I ate Cyrielle’s rose.  She beat me with the stem after and gave me heck.  I like it here in Lille.

Aug 13

Yesterday everyone in Gastama Hostel told me to have a sleep in…

Christmas lights all year in Lille.

Christmas lights all year in Lille.

…I did!  Yeah!  I never get those.  I dragged myself out of bed at about 11:00 with no guilt.  It was a treat.  Then I hung out in the hostel for the afternoon catching up on life.  The soundtrack that the hostel plays through the day is fantastic! This just IS the best hostel in Lille!

In the early evening I went walking through the streets of Lille.  This is a beautiful city.  The architecture is fantastic, the pace is slow, and the city is quiet.  At the hostel they have been telling me that August is a quiet month in France and especially in Lille where everyone from here is on holidays somewhere else.  I like the city.  The next time you are planning to romance someone come to Lille…  Forget Paris…  In Lille you might end up being the only tourists in town for your love affair and it will feel like the whole wonderful city is yours.  Stay at the Gastama Hostel and get a private room.  Act like you are on your honeymoon.  Lille is fantastic!

This is a shopping center in Lille!  Wow!

This is a shopping center in Lille! Wow!

A thunderstorm came up while I was walking through town and it began raining les chats et les chiens!  The water was coming down in sheets of rain that I had to hide from in a shopping center (which could double as a palace if you were only judging the building from the outside).  It took an hour for rain let up enough so that I could get to Gare Saint Sauveur which is an old train station that is now a gallery.  They were serving craft beer inside and a dj was playing groovy music to create a really comfortable atmosphere.  Cool…

The Christmas lights in the that the city never takes down are a charming touch on the street the best hostel in Lille, Gastama, is located on.  Somehow, they will make you smile inside.  When I walked into the very busy hostel bar, Florence was still there so I spent some time chatting with her and her friend Thomas.  At about 10pm they took me out for cheese, sausage and wine at a restaurant called Jaja where a French wine connoisseur named Matilde taught me things about wine that I had never considered before.  I have been on the road for 10 years, and today was the first time I have been in a restaurant with a wine connoisseur…  It was a really nice experience.

France and the French people are really winning me over…

Aug 14

I breakfasted at Gastama Hostel and then a tour guide named Grégory (nordoccupe@gmail.com ) arrived to take Florence, Nico and myself to the battlefield of Vimy Ridge from the First World War.  Vimy Ridge is where the Canadian Corps won in a battle against the German Sixth Army on the 12th of April 1917.  The ridge had been under German control since October 1914.  Grégory, a man who possibly knows more about war history than any other human alive, explained the battle to us and broke down all of the events as they took place.  I do not have any nationalism in me, but I felt a very strong sense of pride through the tour of Vimy Ridge.  The land is still heavily battle-scarred from all of the shells during the war, and the trenches are still intact.  The land is in France, but the French government has given it to Canada and the Canadian government maintains the grounds today.  Because the battle-scarred land is so rough, a herd of sheep graze the grass at night to keep the grounds pristine….one of my favorite things I learned today…

The trenches of Vimy Ridge.

The trenches of Vimy Ridge.

Brasserie Cambier

FLY – The wold’s first automated rapid underground network was inaugurated in Lille in 1983.

Flo took Nico and I for lunch where I had traditional French carbonella, which is a meat stew.  It is possibly the first time I have had a meal in France that did not involve cheese.  Without cheese, I think the French would perish.  It is as important as water in this country.  In the afternoon, Flo drove Nico and I to ‘Brasserie Cambier’ (www.brasserie-cambier.fr) which is a small brewery operated by two people who make delicious beer.  Nico and I had a tour of the brewery, but our tour guide-beer taster-receptionist-saleslady named Virginie did not speak English, so Nico had to struggle to find difficult terms to translate for me though the whole tour.  I found it fascinating that they yeast can be used over again to up to six times to make beer, and then it is fed to the cows of a local farmer.  I asked what the alcohol content of the yeast would be at the point but Virginie said it would be minimal.  Somehow that disappointed me as I like to think of the cows knowing a shipment of beer yeast would be arriving every few weeks and it would be the party of the month on the farm.  Cows and bulls would loosen up the shackles that keep them uptight in the corral and dancing and one-night-stands would take place in the wee hours before the break of dawn on nights of the yeast feast…Yeh….

Enjoying a beer with Florence and Nico at Brasserie Cambier.

Enjoying a beer with Florence and Nico at Brasserie Cambier.

Virginie was giving Nico and I samples of the barley they had cooked for brewing.  Then she showed us the hops.  With very surprised and wide eyes, Virginie watched me eat some of the hops as well.  It was one of the most horrible and bitter things I have ever eaten but I got through it.  Virginie rushed off to get me a beer to drink to wash it down as we continued the tour.  That worked pretty well!  I told Nico it was an old trick of mine to get free beer…

The back terrace at Gastama Hostel.

The back terrace at Gastama Hostel.

Back at the best hostel in Lille!

After the tour, Nico and I took the metro back to the center of Lille, ordered pizzas and went to Gastama Hostel to hang out in the bar.  I was drinking 9% beer called Troubadour that the hostel has on tap.  Nico told me that he knew better than to make that mistake.  However, I am foreign and new…  Cyrielle had her last day of work today and she was having a going away party in the hostel bar.  When the Gastama bar was closing our party moved to a club in town where they were playing rock music that managed to keep us entertained.  It was a really nice mix of hostel staff and guests and a lot of fun until about 4am when it was time to find my bed…

The season of the striped shirt.

The season of the striped shirt.

Aug 15

I made my goodbyes and hugged everyone as I was leaving…

…Gastama Hostel in Lille might have the highest percentage of attractive women per hostel-staff-capita of any hostel I have visited.  It is easy on the eyes and it is not an easy place to have to leave….

I had a bus to catch at 12:40 so I walked to the station to find the stop for the bus.  However, there was piece of paper taped over the IDBus sign that said something in French about ‘100 M.’  Oh oh.  It was not far from 12:40 and now I had a French puzzle to solve.  I asked the first person to walk past if they spoke English.  Nope.  The second.  Nope.  The third.  Not much, but he was able to translate the French into a direction he was pointing to.  I ran in the direction with my backpack on and found a couple of buses parked on the side of the street.  One of them was an IDBus.  I asked the driver, “Brussels?!”  “Oui.”  It was 12:38.  That was cutting it a little fine….

 

Gastama absolutely the Best Hostel in Lille!
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