baltimore is an interesting and quite charming city. i was given a couple of tours by car around the town to see all the sights, but we actually spent most of the weekend in washington dc which was really fine by me. i love dc. it is such a beautiful place and i love being surrounded by history. that is such a sweet thing about being on the east coast which we just don't have in portland. anything older than 1970 is ancient on the west coast, so it's really a treat to be in among these buildings that were built 200+ years ago. sylvia and tim live in a lovely apartment not too far from hopkins and it really is a terrific place. i had my own bedroom and bath and was really comfortable. they wouldn't let me pay for anything either so i was triply glad i'd brought a nice pinot noir from argyle vineyards (thank god the made in oregon kiosk was open at the airport 5:30 on friday morning!).
saturday, sylvia and i drove into washington and had a quick dash through the library of congress (wonderful!) and then into the hirschhorn where we saw a great exhibit in the downstairs gallery. i love that museum! it's so small and manageable and so rich! we also saw an intensely disturbing video (a life of errors) by a couple called nicolas and sheila pye. man, i dunno about those canadians.....then we had to leave the splendor of cultural dc and go over to a party at some friend's of tim's. interesting evening. it was also incredibly long. and the german woman who was hosting got drunk and became even more german as the evening progressed. for german, read more didactic, more all-knowing, and less able to let anyone in the entire party get a word in edgewise. at some point she attacked me for the horrible drug problem we have in portland demanding to know what i was going to do about the fact that everyone knows you can get pot more easily in portland than in amsterdam. which is news to me. i didn't realize our coffeeshops were that good! anyway, it was, as i said, an interesting evening.
sunday, sylvia and i went back into washington where we had a much more leisurely stroll through georgetown (love it!) and a really cool museum directly across from her old apartment (absolutely gorgeous!) where we saw an exhibit of contemporary chinese art. this was eye-opening in an excellent way! some really beautiful paintings, a huge iridescent stainless steel sculpture of lifelike ants (huge like horse-size), some soft wall art made of silk, it was just really excellent and very modern and intriguing. it actually made me want to visit china which i've never felt a pull toward before. after the museum and the stroll around georgetown, we drove down to the mall and walked through the fdr memorial which is my favorite by far of all the monuments in washington. it is just such a powerful place. and i'm really glad i got to see it again. then we took a little time to go along the tidal basin and look at the washington and jefferson monuments reflected in the water....it was a beautiful day and really nice to be back in dc. we headed home to find tim had gotten us delicious indian take out for dinner. then i packed my suitcase up and headed to bed.
the travel portion of this trip was awful. let me splain, no there is too much. let me sum up: delayed flight out of baltimore meant 5 hours waiting there, then running for my flight out of kennedy (made it thank god!) where a beer-brewing fanatic from michigan told me his life story. then lynn and i missed each other for 2 hours in brussels (i was waiting outside and she was inside). moral: never travel without some sort of back up plan, my dears. but finally we found each other and i was in france!
lille is such a beautiful town. i reminds me a bit of nîmes in its casual elegance. it's not nearly as pretentious as paris and has a real nice warmth and relaxed feel. there is a main grand place full of cafés and shops and historic buildings and it's only a five minute walk from lynn and benoît's apartment in the area known as vieux (old) lille. their place is lovely, full of light and on a relatively quiet street. i have my own room and a salle d'eau (shower and sink) so handy. every morning there are church bells ringing out and i love that. lynn has spud the terrier and bobby the siamese/mancoon tabby (whom i adore!) and benoît is a doll! they've taken me in like family and are taking such good care of me, you wouldn't believe it!
it's been such a pleasure to be here with very little agenda and a long time to fritter away. we've been to wazemmes, the great big huge marche that happens kind of far from lynn's place 3 days a week, and bought the most amazing peaches and strawberries (side note, i've been finally able to successfully and happily eat fresh fruits and vegetables! the joy!) and had lunch in a funny cafe. we've been to the musée des beaux arts and seen some very nice rubens and even a monet or two. mostly we've just been living life so getting up and having breakfast and then eventually going out to the market for what we need for dinner. the second day i was here, lynn and i had tea in a delightful tea room called meert which is a lille institution since 1761! we sat like rich ladies and drank fragrant earl grey fleurs and ate delicious patisseries. it was truly luxurious. a couple of nights ago we met some of benoit's friends from work at a really cool bar called le sarthe--lots of interesting art ont the walls and with a more bohemian feel than most french bars i've been in.
it's also just been such a pleasure re-connecting with lynn. she's such a good sweet person so smart and funny and we're having a ball together. she's now 7 months pregnant with pancake their soon-to-be-girl who will be just as much of a delight as her maman, j'en suis sure! i spent some time frantically knitting a sweater and hat for la princesse pancake (finished the hat the last day in baltimore) and so she will be suitably dressed this winter at least until she outgrows the darned thing! and, again, they're not letting me pay for almost anything so i'm really glad i had a good gift to bring them. today, we're going to go to the nearer marché and i'll get the ingredients for a ratatouille and we'll have that for dinner tonight. and tomorrow!
tomorrow, i'm leaving for a few days to go to tours in the loire valley where i'll stay in the hotel colbert (yes, i sort of feel thrilled to be staying in stephen's family hotel) and will take bus tours around to see all the châteaux i can possibly fit into my brain. i'll be back in lille on wednesday night late, and i'm so excited to strike out on my own and see something new. i've never been to the loire, not even after having been in france so many times so this is really a dream come true. i will see chenonceau, chambord, azay le rideau (the castle they used in ever after), vilandry and some others. i may even buy a disposable camera or two to capture what i see. i know it's hard to believe but i don't own a camera!
then sylvia arrives saturday and we'll have a couple of days here in lille with her and then! then we all go to paris together on monday and lynn and i will be there until wednesday. i'm thrilled! we're going to stay in the hotel i stayed in with the students i led here in 2004--the gilden magenta (although it's no longer the gilden magenta but the garden st martin). we've also booked a day trip to london for the 19th just before i leave europe. we'll also go into (probably) ghent and bruges and possibly brussels all of which are very near lille.
this trip is like out of a dream. it's really just been a pleasure all the way 'round. and i'm so thrilled to be back in france and exploring new corners. the church bells are ringing. it's sunday morning. i think i'm home.