Bois de Boulogne
An amazing park, surrounded by the water of the Deûle river and still within the city limits
Park – Open: Anyone can visit daily. On Sunday mornings there tends to be a joggers rush hour. During the French school holidays there are funfairs too,
Zoo – Open: Monday to Friday 9amto 5pm April to October, 10am to 4.30pm November to March. Saturday to Sunday and public holidays 9am to 6.30pn April to October, 9am to 4.30pm November to March.
Zoo – Closed: “nd Sunday in december to 2nd Sunday in February.
Bus 14 to Jardin Vauban
Town and country exist in tandem within Lille’s city limits. One hundred and twenty five hectares of the Bois de Boulogne park contain a mix of wild and not so wild life including prowling panthers, monkeys, soldiers, a variety of keep-fit fanatics and picnickers.
The park wraps itself entirely around the citadel and is in turn contained within a loop of the river Deûle offering pretty lock gates of the Exluse de la Barre. Within the expanses of lovely greenery are picturesque towpaths and a free-to-enter zoo complete with an Isle de Singes – an island filled with monkeys – rhinos, panthers and zebras.
A nearby playground with dodgems, side-shows and candy-floss stands keeps the children amused.
Just outside the zoo is a cobbled pathway which forms part of the notoriously difficult annual Paris to Roubaix cycle race which takes place every April. Locals refer to this stretch as ‘the Hell of the North’.
At the entrance of the park is a tree-lined Esplanade, landscaped by Vauban himself in 1675. Sunday mornings sees a myriad of joggers; some follow the signposted excercise circuit around the fortifications through the ramparts and willow trees. They are joined by Foreign Legionnaires who are distinguishable by their blue track suits. The Esplanade continues across the canal at the Pont de Ramponneau heading to the Champs de Mars where the festive funfairs pitch their attractions during the school holidays.
On a more sober note, visitors might take a moment to visit the Félix-Alexandre Desruelle’s (1865-1943) monument Les Fusillés, created in 1929, located at the end of the Bois at the Square Daubenton. It commemorates the untimely deaths of the Lillois members of the French Resistance victims shot by the Nazis against the wall of the citadel. The area was formerly a moat house, but is now home to a grass lawn.