With Lille being a mere 1 hr 22 mins by train from St Pancras station, this is a city there is no excuse not to visit. The city celebrated being The European Capital of Culture in 2004 and since then every few years, they've continued the tradition of promoting cultural excellence in the city by celebrating with a festival called Lille3000 and having a specific theme on each occasion; this year the theme is El Dorado. They have been and will continue to celebrate the rich Mexican culture with their diverse themes until the end of the year.
Although this isn't exclusively restricted to Mexican artists as you will discover but all forms artwork that are based on the El Dorado theme: a quest for an ideal within everyone’s reach.
The city is definitely close enough to London for a day trip given that it is a very walkable city; however there are plenty of reasonably priced hotels in the city centre such as the Novotel group which can offer affordable accommodation. And Lille is packed with an abundance of independent restaurants and boutique cafes.
Meat lovers should head down to Babe, a funky French bistro that specialises in all things carnivorous. I had a rather impressive looking bone marrow flambé in front of my eyes whilst the steak I enjoyed was suitably raw by English standards and extremely well marinated.
As for the festival itself, there are numerous shows, street art displays, design shows, gastronomic events, and debates; it is highly recommended that you plan ahead of your visit on what you would like to see.
The few highlights that I checked out included a cabaret performance by cultural icon: Astrid Hadad. She is a well-known force of nature in Mexico where she is both a singer and actress whose performances don't shy away from the difficult political issues. However, they are always addressed with wit and humour and jaw-dropping costume changes for every song. Even though my knowledge of Spanish is limited, her colourful presence on the stage was hard to ignore.
A very moving exhibition to consider is Intenso/Mexicano which is housed in the Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse, a 17th-century hospice turned museum space. They've gathered 48 paintings, engravings and photographs from the permanent collection of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Mexico. It shows important recurring themes amongst Mexican artists in the aftermath of the 1910 revolution to the turn of the 20th century.
Themes explored include sexual ambiguity, the ruins of neoliberalism and the quest for a paradise lost.
The flagship exhibition is Eldorama at the Tripostal which describes the story of Eldorado through a clever collection of contemporary artwork which explores the journey of people looking for a better life whether it is through exploration or wealth. The exhibition is divided across 3 floors with different chapters: 1. Dream Worlds, 2. The Rush, 3. New Eldorados. Expect to queue when visiting Eldorama with blockbuster installations such as Yayoi Kusama's infinity mirror rooms and fascinating discoveries such as Wang Yu Yang's Moon Landing Program which explores Chinese interpretation of the moon landings by America.
El Dorado ends in December 2019, so there are plenty of chances to visit the beautiful city of Lille this year.
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