October 17, 2015
On a weekend in September we had planned a weekend with the girls – actually the woman in the family – in Lille, the North of France. Like me, some of us had already visited Lille on previous occasions. Question was, what would we visit this time, besides the planned shopping afternoon en dinner evening? I did map out a walk through the old city of Lille on Saturday afternoon, especially since Lille organised a heritage weekend on the days of our stay. The city would be full of events for the occasion, with a procession of giants for one.
I asked the others what would interest them to visit. I had visited La Piscine and the Louvre at Lens already and my sister in law had already visited the LAM ( museum of modern art) on a previous occasion, but my architect brother gave us a great tip. Very close to Lille the Villa Cavrois had, after years of restorations, been opened to visitors only recently ad had gotten raving reviews. I asked the opinion of the others and they all agreed it was a good idea. I therefore decided to go to Lille by car, this way I could bring all of us to the villa, which lay on the way to Roubaix, about 20 min. away from the centre of Lille by car.
We had booked a stay at the hotel Balladins, just in front of the Flanders train station where the others would arrive by train. A simple but decent little hotel. Small rooms, with simple but good beds, a very small but functional bathroom, and most of all, no street noise! You can have breakfast in the hotel for 12 euro per person. They serve it on the top floor, where you have a great view over Lille.
The breakast buffet has all you need, coffee, tea, chocolate milk and juices, croissant, little breads and toast, fresh fruit salad, yoghurts, cheeses and meats, cereals. The breakfast room is rather small, so you might have to wait for a table if you come at a popular hour (9 AM). The first morning we took breakfast outside the hotel at Coffeemakers, in 151 Rue de Paris, a five minue walk from the hotel. They serve very good coffee and you can choose between a classic breakfast of French bread with jam (5 euro), juice and coffee included, or a sports breakfast of muesli with fresh fruits, nuts an yoghurt (6 euro) also with juice and coffee included. Not everyone takes to this kind of breakfast, it is a question of taste. We then took the car which I had parked in the Flanders Parking (20 euro for a stay overnight), and we drove in the direction of Roubaix.
When we arrived at the Villa I was suprised by the number of visitors already there. I had not realized that the villa was that day also part of the heritage weekend in Roubaix, which meant the visit was free of charge on that day. But it also meant we could not enter immediately, people were let in in groups, otherwise the place would be too crowded. They advised us to visit the gardens and the cellar first, which we did. Here they also explain you the history of the villa, the state it was in when the government bought it, and the restoration works that had been done. It made us even more curious to see it on the inside.
The villa was built between 1929 and 1932, in commissioned by Paul Cavrois, by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens for his family with seven children. The whole building has been designed as an example of a uniform architectural style, on the outside as well as on the inside and its decoration and its furniture.
The family will live in the villa until 1985. They sell it to a real estate agency, who want to develop the park. Even though the villa is classified, it is not taken care of and looted over the years. The French government buys the villa in 2001 as a national monument. They start restoring the villa in 2003, bringing it back into its original state, using old photographs.
They use the original materials, restoring or rebuilding everything, up to the furniture and light fixtures. Also the park around the house with the water part and swimming pool are restored.
It is the villa as a whole, the size of a small castle, that leaves an impression. Everything belongs, and form one architectural idea, using beautiful materials like marble and mahogony wood, and the style is repeated up until the electricity sockets in the wall and the door handles on doors and furniture. Everything is luxurious and modern for the time.
I can really recommend a visit to villa Cavrois, it is a real architectural testament, and not many houses are kept or restored in such a complete way.
Both evenings we had a great dinner, the first evening in ‘Le Barbier qui fume”, a meat restaurant with great quality meat. The second evening we ate in “La Royale”, a cosy restaurant with a small but very tasty menu.
If you are looking for more tips on Lille visit my post “Lille, pearl of the North“