Euro ’16: Food, fun and après matches in Paris, Lille or Bordeaux

Before, during and after the football, Paris, Bordeaux and Lillie offer a great choice of bars, restaurants and things to do - including where to watch the match if you don't have a ticket

 

There’s a lot going on besides football these days in Paris, Bordeaux and Lille. From Bordeaux’s glammed-up image and futuristic new wine museum to the exhibitions and markets of Paris, from Lille’s Flemish-accented architecture and fabulous art to its heavenly waffles and craft beers, those après match gaps will be easily filled. So hop on a bike, put on your walking shoes or buy a tram ticket to discover three diverse, historical and vibrant cities.

Paris

Even the most seasoned Parisian will tell you they constantly discover new places in their home city; you can never see it all. June is one of the best months to visit, with temperatures usually agreeable before the harsher summer heat kicks in. Take in an art exhibit or French film, enjoy a Seine-side stroll or Bateau Mouche cruise, grab a pew on a cafe terrace.

A Paul Klee retrospective (with a “romantic irony” theme) continues at the Pompidou until August 1st. Late opening until 11pm on Thursdays. centrepompidou.fr

The Musée D’Orsay has one of the finest Impressionism collections. It’s hosting a major exhibition by Henri Rousseau until July 17th, and also a show on the influence on the visual art world of poet and critic Apollinaire until July 18th. musee-orsay.fr

Children and adults will love the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, where games and experiments are all hands-on. Details at cite-sciences.fr

The lovely Marias area is packed with quirky shops and cafes. Check out the area around the Place du Marché St Catherine, the Place des Vosges, and the Picasso and Carnavalet museums. The latter is one of the many glorious 19th-century palaces lining the streets.

Paris is heaven for cinema lovers. From rickety old backstreet theatres showing French- and English-language classics to shining modern multiplexes with the latest releases, the choice is vast. French-speakers, learners and improvers can get previews of French films long before they show up in Dublin, if at all. Check out frenchcinemareview.com for an overview of the newest films, reviews and cinema world news.

Sans ticket? Paris will have a free fanzone for up to 90,000 on the Champ de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. There will be a giant screen on the Place Jacques Rueff and smaller ones dotted throughout the zone, as well as free concerts and places to eat inside this “Uefa village”. Access to the zone is via Ave de la Motte Piquet, Ave Joseph Bouvard, or Ave Charles Risler. (Motte Piquet Grenelle or Ecole Militaire via metro). The matches will be shown in many pubs across the city, including the O’Sullivans and Corcoran’s chains, both with pubs across the city (osullivans-pubs.com; corcoransirishpub.fr); and The Green Linnet (8 Ave Victoria near Hôtel de Ville).

Paris bites: The food markets in the city are among the best in the world. Several of the prettiest are on pedestrianised streets where, after filling your shopping trolley, you can rest with a coffee or lunch on a sunny terrace and watch the action.

The nicest include rue Daguerre in the 14th arrondissement (metro Denfert Rochereau), rue Montorgueil in the 1st (Les Halles), rue Cler in the 7th (Latour Maubourg/Ecole Militaire) and rue Poncelet in the 17th (Ternes). Try Bistro des Petits Carreau on the rue Montorgueuil and the Café du Marche or Tribecca on the rue Cler.

Why not take a guided foodie tour with paris-walks.com, which offers an extensive schedule of walks including a chocolate trail, taste of Paris tour, and many other themed outings including “French Revolution” and “Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Left Bank writers”.

Le Rubis wine bar on rue du Marché Saint Honoré (metro Tuileries) is a Paris stalwart specialising in Beaujolais and, at lunchtime, delicious homey stews, sausage and lentils, steaks and cassoulet. Cheese and charcuterie plates in the evening. Be warned: service is not what you’d call warm.

The Brasserie de L’Isle St Louis offers no-nonsense Alsatian and other fare, including stick-to-your-ribs choucroute, cassoulet, sole meunière as well as delicious coq-au-vin. Try to get a terrace table, as there are fabulous views of Notre Dame. labrasserie-isl.fr

For a classy cocktail try the Meurice, a 19th-century palace on the rue de Rivoli, as much for its lavish Louis XVI interior as for the gilded service and range of drinks. Charlie Haughey was reportedly a regular customer, which certainly could be true given its proximity to Charvet around the corner on the Place Vendôme. Top chef Alain Ducasse is resident chef in the main restaurant, which has three Michelin stars. alain ducasse-meurice.com

Hot chocolate lovers should take themselves to Angelina, an elegant tearoom and restaurant just up the street (226 rue de Rivoli) serving jugs of steaming, luscious nectar you can stand your spoon up in.

Bordeaux

Bordeaux, once dark, dirty and showing her considerable age, has had a makeover. She’s now blonde, thanks to a radical exfoliation of her 18th-century stone facades, and stands radiant and rejuvenated on the banks of the Garonne. It took some 15 years to shake off the nickname Sleeping Beauty, endured for decades when Bordeaux choked under a fog of pollution, her arteries clogged by traffic, her waterfront scarred by abandoned warehouses.

The city is now out of her coma, thanks in no small measure (even left-leaning Bordelais would admit) to centre-right city mayor and former prime minister Alain Juppé. She has embraced her maritime past, rediscovered her grandeur and is also attracting the young crowd. Bordeaux’s historical centre is a Unesco World Heritage site, and the cafe-lined squares, parks, open spaces and pedestrianised quays make it one of the country’s most attractive cities. Sans ticket? A fanzone, open to all and free, will be set up on the Quinconces esplanade and remain open throughout the Euros. It will accommodate 60,000 fans, and all 51 matches will be broadcast on a big screen. There will be free concerts and other themed events. You can also watch the matches at some of the city bars.

Those offering live, wide-screen broadcasts include El Bodegon and Pub Saint Aubin on the Place de la Victoire; the Sherlock Holmes Pub and the Connemara in the Mériadeck-Gambetta district; the Charles Dickens on the Quai de la Douane; Molly Malone’s on the Quai des Chartrons; and the Houses of Parliament on the rue du Parlement Sainte-Catherine).

On your bike: With some 160km of easy cycling possible along the seven cycle paths that cross Bordeaux, renting a bike is a great option to see the city. Vcub.fr (the site has an English version) offers rates of €1.50 per day; bike stations accept cards.

Don’t miss the ultra-shallow Miroir D’eau (water mirror), built in 2006, the world’s loveliest puddle, which reflects the grand Place de la Bourse.

Raise a glass: Fans of le ballon de foot partial to un ballon de vin might find themselves tipsy with indecision in Bordeaux. The latest jewel in the region’s tilted Bacchanalian crown is the recently opened Cité du Vin, a towering, space-agey decanter made from glass and aluminium that houses a wine museum-come-theme park.

Tilted Guggenheim-like over the Garonne river a short distance from the centre (metro Cité du Vin), the €81 million building’s swirling shape is said to have been inspired by “wine swilling around a glass”. The exhibition inside explores the evolution of wine and honours all vintages across the planet from 80 wine-producing countries.

Highlights include an immersive journey through the maritime history of wine, a bouquet-sniffing game and the “chair of despair”, where you listen to famous people describing their hangovers. laciteduvin.comThe Cité du Vin and the Bordeaux Metropolitan Tourist Information Office (bordeaux-tourism.co.uk) are the starting points for many excursions to the Bordeaux vineyards, including introductions to wine tasting, visits to châteaux, vintage workshops and an urban wine trail.

Or you could travel independently further afield if you desired, perhaps taking in some of the top Irish Wild Geese producers such as Château Phélan-Ségur, Château Lynch-Bages and Château Kirwan.

Fans extending their stay can check out the Bordeaux Wine Festival, June 23rd-26th. Among the highlights is a 2km wine-tasting trail along the Garonne, where you meet winegrowers and shippers and explore the 80 appelations of Bordeaux and the Aquitaine. A €21 tasting-pass can be supplemented to include château tours. bordeaux-wine-festival.com

Bordeaux bites: Some years back, few saw a reason to raise a glass to the restaurant scene in the world’s wine capital. Now, with a slew of young, innovative restaurateurs as well as big-name chefs working wonders in kitchens across town, Bordeaux’s gastronomic horizon has broadened like a well-fed waistline.

There are several Michelin-starred eateries but also excellent bistros and brasseries offering local fare at reasonable prices.

La Brasserie Bordelaise (50 rue Saint-Rémi; metro Place de la Bourse) is a stylish take on a traditional brasserie, serving local ingredients such as Blaye asparagus and Simmental-race beef a dozen ways. Weekday lunch deals include two courses for €17. nicolascolombes.fr

Belle Campagne (15 rue des Bahutiers) in the buzzy Saint Pierre quarter is so into its locally produced food that it lists not only the producers of the main ingredients of each dish – you’re also told how close they are based to the restaurant. Menus are changed every two months to keep up with the seasons.

Current options include trout with fennel gnocchi and veal with sautéed wild mushrooms. Snacks in the bar area downstairs include charcuterie and cheese boards as well as chips cooked in goose fat. Mains from €15. belle-campagne.fr

La Tupina (6 rue Porte de la Monnaie) is a Bordeaux institution serving up southwestern classics, its huge hearth and roaring, spitting fire roasting chickens and lamb. Weekday set lunch is €18.

In fact, you could have breakfast, lunch and dinner on this cobbled street without leaving the company of La Tupina owner Jean-Pierre Xiradadis, who has slowly colonised the entire stretch to build what he calls a “rue gourmande”, with the zinc bar Café Tupina (good for coffee and pastries), Kuzina fish restaurant and his Bar-Cave de la Monnaie. latupina.com

Discover how locals live and eat by booking an aperitif or an entire meal prepared by and shared with people in their homes through website VizEat. It’s a bit like Air B&B except the hosts stay and cook for you and you don’t stay over. vizeat.com

Try a cannelé, a local speciality cake with an oozy custard centre and caramelised crust, sometimes doused with rum.

Lille

The old capital of Flanders and birthplace of Charles de Gaulle, Lille retains a strong Flemish accent: after all, it became French only in 1667, when it was captured by the sun king, Louis XIV.

The city was long associated with the grimy effects of heavy industry and, as a result, often overlooked as a tourist destination. Today it is France’s northern star, offering everything from top cultural attractions to beautiful cobbled streets lined with elegant 17th- and 18th-century buildings.

Lille ticks all the shopping boxes, from the Euralille centre with 160 options to its quaint old core filled with chic boutiques. The small shops inside steeply gabled historical houses on and around rue de la Monnaie, the city’s most beautiful street, are worth a visit.

The loveliest building is La Vieille Bourse (the old stock exchange) on the Grand Place, a flourish of Flemish Renaissance complete with gargoyles, garlands and caryatids. Nowadays money changes hands at stalls in the courtyard, over vintage vinyl and old books.

The Palais des Beaux Arts on Place de la Républiqe is touted as second only to the Louvre. Its vast collection includes works ranging from medieval artists to the Impressionists as well as rooms of antiquities that include a mummified cat from 4th century BC Egypt. pba-lille.fr

At Charles de Gaulle’s birthplace (9 rue Princesse), you can admire the formidable general’s tiny cradle and christening gown. charles-de-gaulle.com

Sans ticket?: The fanzone, at the Espace François Mitterrand in the Parc Matisse, will have space for 25,000. It is situated just 100m from the two train stations (Lille Europe and Lille Flanders). Pubs showing the matches in the city include Tír na nOg on the Place Philippe Lebon. Take note: The Fête de la Musique takes place on June 21st across France. The streets of all three cities will be buzzing with crowds dancing to the different beats of live rock, jazz, rap, classical and more. All events are free.

Lille bites: The Place du Concert food market, open on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings, offers a range of local produce. If you want to skip the cooking bit, steaming pans of paella, spit-roasted chickens and other cooked dishes are available.

L’Ecume des Mers (10 rue Pas) is a popular seafood bistro with a changing menu (set lunch €18 for two courses; dinner €25 for three) serving towering seafood platters, bouillabaisse and a vast variety of fresh wild fish. Ecume-des-mers.com

The Bistro Lillois (40 rue de Gand) serves up traditional hearty fare, including snails, slow-cooked beef with carrots, and duck.

Lillois flock to Meert, a cake shop and tearoom on the rue Esquermoise, for its thin waffles filled with sweet vanilla cream. De Gaulle was a fan, you know. Check out the oriental galleried interior. meert.fr

The region is renowned for its brewers. Check out Jenlain, 3 Brasseurs and 3 Monts. L’Echappée Bière organises a two-hour beer tour of the city for groups. echappee-biere.fr

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