my foot feels loads better today. i've done a fair amount of walking and it's been all right. arnica, ibuprofen, and ice are the triumvirate of foot injuries for sure. and other than bemoaning frédéric who i am now relinquishing and banishing to a sweet memory making tours a most magical place, the last few days have been splendid. friday, lynn and i got up late and went into town where we saw a wonderful funny bittersweet comedie called une semaine sur deux about a family struggling through its first year following the parents' divorce. it was so good and we both loved it. we also went to a delicious japanese restaurant where i had a plate of marvelous salmon and rice. so so yummy. and i do so well with raw salmon. i think i may have to add it in as a staple for myself. i'll have to find a good fish monger when i get home. anyway, we also went shopping which was a great experience for me. now we only really went to h&m which is kind of silly since it's not exactly a french shop, but it was the first time that i'd been brave enough to try on clothing in france. really in my life. now when i was in college here 20!!!! years ago, my mother let me do a little shopping at marina renaldi which was the first large size clothing store in france (no joke) and very very very expensive. i remember buying a pair of linen shorts that cost more than $100 and that was again 20 years ago. so you can imagine. anyway, i tried on a bunch of things and found a great little prairie-styled dress in soft navy blue that looks great on me! so i bought that and then i got a really cute top at a shop called promod which is sort of an express equivalent. it was a top i'd seen the first day lynn took me to wander around and i put off getting it because you never know what else you'll find. however, it is now mine and i love it! i bought things in size large and the dress is a 12 which just blows my mind. i haven't been a size 12 since i was in junior high! i'm eyeing a pair of little ballet flats also in a soft navy blue in a nice suede as my french shoe purchase but i'm leaving that more til the end of the trip so i can continue to window shop and feel like i'm getting exactly the thing i want.
last night we went out to dinner to this lovely courtyard restaurant les campagnons de la grappe, and i ate a delicious dinner starting with bone marrow on toast (i have been a very adventuresome eater on this voyage)! then a crab salad with grapefruit, and sylvia and i shared a crème brulée for dessert. it was such a lovely place. the courtyard is full of vines growing up the buildings all around us, the tables were full of people having a lovely dinner, and the food was great. lynn and benoît treated us which was unexpected and so sweet. they are such a generous couple of people. and i'm adoring benoît more and more. i am going to miss them like crazy when i leave! after dinner we walked to another cool spot in town, a cobblestone street that they close off in the weekend evenings so the cafés and bars all put tables out on the street (you have to be careful with your chair!) and it's just so lively and fun! we met a group of friends for a birthday drink--this young woman named flora turned 25. she works with benoît at the lab where he's a yeast engineer (!) and there were a number of people i knew already. it's kind of cool beginning to know a few folks here. cultural difference: the french don't really ask questions of you so it's challenging to jump into the conversations. in the states, when we meet someone we immediately ask what you do in life, your hobbies, movies you might have seen--we make an effort to get to know folks around us and feel uncomfortable when the conversation lags. but the french folk i've met here don't have too much interest in asking those kind of superficial questions and since most people socialize with folks from work, they already have that information about each other. so......well i just jump in as i can which lynn thinks is brave but i just find necessary because i do want to speak french as much as possible and i do want to know people as i meet them. i'm inquisitive that way.
god the weather's just been beautiful and lille is capturing me like crazy. oh! i have to tell you about the dinner we had after i hurt my foot (i lost track of it in all the foot/frédéric fiasco)! johanna and ronan made us a traditional alsacien meal that is mostly meat-based. we started with a "salad" made from julienned bologna and gruyère chese and little teeny rounds of cornichons in a vinaigrette. as i don't really eat cheese this was difficult for me but the bologna-type sausage tasted yummy. this salad was joined on its plate by a deep fried stinky cheese (meunster) wrapped in filo dough. man. not your light summer evening dinner! and that was only the beginning.....following the "salad" we had a meat pie of minced veal and pork that was at least 5 inches high in the middle. it was delicious but so huge and heavy and meaty. really kind of overwhelming. and a green salad. that made me laugh. the salad was so light and fresh and just overtaken by the huge meat pie. and of course there are all sorts of odd looks at me as i don't eat much of anything and there i was a guest in this nice couple's home and unable to eat all of the food on my plate! and after the huge meat pie--thank goodness it was a while later--they gave us this delicious apple/almond tarte with really rich vanilla ice cream. everything was very good but it was way too much! and so meat-focused but there you have it: un vrai repas alsacien! then we sat around for a long time listening to eminem (i know) and 50cent (i KNOW!). at some point, johanna started playing dj really badly--putting on one song listening for a few minutes and then switching it. this drives me nuts. i'd rather listen to a whole song of something i hate than have it leap around. but finally we decided it was time to go and go we did. sometimes it's handy having a pregnant person as your go-to. when lynn gets tired, benoît really pays attention and it was already nearly 2 am. lynn asked benoît to get the car for me since my foot was so bad at that point, which he did. thank god. i really don't think i'd have made it back--i was barefoot at that point and couldn't use the shoes i'd worn over since i was scared of them at that point. plus my foot hurt!! anyway it was a slightly challenging, painful, weird fun evening, and i'm really glad we went to the dinner, but i was bummed about my foot for sure!
today lynn and i had a little bit of a plan to make sure we got as much out of lille with sylvia as we could. so, after a late start, we went to the lovely chic marché near the apartment and found our dinner for tonight (which was a lovely set of pork chops and salad--with the most delicious golden cherry tomatoes i've ever eaten in my life), got some yummy chinese traiteur food and had a little picnic in a café on the edge of this market. it was good fun sitting together enjoying the company and the passers by and the sweet day. we didn't get home til nearly 2:30 where we left benoît and went to la piscine. this place is a jewel! it's an old, art deco municipal swimming pool in a relatively suburban neighborhood called roubaix. we drove there which was nice because then we got to see more of lille, areas i hadn't seen and a new perspective is always nice. from where i've been staying, i could be forgiven for thinking that lille was this 15th century flemish town but it has lots of modern areas as well. and wider boulevards and all those things more common to modernity than medieval times. anyway, la piscine is now part of the musées de france and it ranks for sure in my top ten museums in the world. the place is just charming...the old pool is preserved in the main hall and you walk in through the old shower rooms. this beautiful old tile in the little rooms and the mosaic work along the edge of the pool! so sweet! it was so delightful i didn't want to leave and the collection is really great. loads of gorgeous sculpture lining the old pool and a terrific bunch of paintings along with some really good ceramics. everythign very thoughtfully grouped and laid out....i loved it. since lille was a rich textile town and they are bringing it back as best they can especially in the fashion sense, they also have a great exhibition of agatha de la prada's work which is like dr seuss come to life....very whimsical and sweet made of funky materials like astro turf (!) and chicken wire (!). it's super fun and silly and like being in a box of crayons. just a great museum!
after la piscine we went home, dropped off the car, and walked up to meert to have our tea. they have such a lovely courtyard and we three sat happily munching our amazing goodies. i took une caremelline which was the most delicious sundae i've ever eaten but did not make me happy at all! it had vanilla bean ice cream and salted butter caramel ice cream along with caramel sauce and gingerbread and crème chantilly which is whipped cream but nothing like the whipped cream we have at home. richer and thicker and far more delicious actually. anyway even the little bit that i ate was far too much for my delicate little system and i had a while of feeling pretty lousy, but it always passes (thank goodness!) and the rest of the afternoon was just so fun. we sat and visited and i just loved being with my girls!
tomorrow we're off to paris (where i'll meet up with dear chinesebakery !) and i won't have my computer so i'll have to try to keep it all in my head and i'll do a big post later when we get back. it's been such a marvelous treat to have sylvia here. she's such a doll and i adore her so much! i'm sorry she can't stay longer with us here in lille. really it's only been a day and that's far too short! but hopefully i'll find a job here and she'll come to see me then.......i think it's more likely that she'll visit me here than in portland since if she goes west, it's to see her family in california and coming portland never really happens. and it's always way too long between our visits. sigh. but the lure of france is very strong and i know she'd be here maybe even once a year to visit with lynn and me.
anyway i should try to sleep. it's already midnight, but i never feel very sleepy here and i wake so early too. i think i've been getting about 5 hours a sleep a night bit seem to be doing just fine regardless. we leave for the train tomorrow at about 8:20 to arrive in paris at 10! i told sylvia she should take charge of the day since she has the shortest amount of time there and she always has good ideas about what we should do anyway. so it should be terrific. man, you know you're having a good time when you start to run out of adjectives!