so i'll try to capture some of the last couple of weeks. i think the last time i wrote, sylvia was just arriving in lille for our whirlwind weekend. we had such a lovely time. paris was terrific. we were back in the same hotel i stayed in with the kids when i worked for eil in 2004. it was exactly the same with the same staff and the same yummy petit dejeuner and miniscule shower. we arrived pretty early in the morning on monday and spent some time in a little café; called prune. i felt so incredibly happy to be on the canal st martin with my two girls in paris on a beautiful day. it was sublime. so nous flânions au café; and rested a while and then began our walk. this was a walking visit for sure. we think we did nearly 20 miles in two days. we walked from the hotel to the galeries lafayette and printemps where we giggled over the crazy shoe/boot nuttiness that seems to have invaded shoe design this year. lynn got some great shots of me adoring these awful high heeled sneakers (which i will post once she sends them to me) and some other silliness. then we headed to bercy to have lunch with marie-agnes, sylvia's old friend who'd been an exchange student at their house when they were in high school. great meal, fun conversation, interesting little quartier--an area i don't know at all. we also discovered that paris has added a couple of metro lines and some new stops on older lines. this made us all feel a teeny bit off-balance. it's strange when a city which seems sort of timeless and changeless, changes! then we walked some more and wandered into the tuileries where we flânions some more. sylvia was in charge of the day so we were just floating around as she desired and walking everywhere. it was wonderful. we had a fabulous stroll along the seine and then finally made our back to the hotel. there we cleaned off and got dressed (i wore my new dress from h&m with bronze sparkly flip flops)and grabbed a cab to my favorite restaurant called le loup blanc. it is such an interesting restaurant. it's in the gay area of town which is known as montorgeuil (i love that name--mount pride) and the decor is really cool--they commissioned an artist to do the light fixtures and the frames of the mirrors so everything has this kind of steampunk feel. i love it there! they have this not at all traditional menu where you choose your main dish and then the number of sides you want and the food is so fresh and different. we had a gorgeous meal and a lovely time and i had duck which is my favorite. and i was so glad the girls enjoyed their meal too--you know how it is when you bring people to something you loved and it might totally fall on its face? well we totally kicked bad possibility in the butt!
sylvia left super early the next morning which made us sad. it was so fun to be all together again in paris and we'd had such a great time together. but lynn and i forged on. we thought we'd hit the musée d'orsay in the morning so we headed that way on the greyish, rainyish morning, but since the louvre was closed and the sky was dripping, the d'orsay was insane with people. so rather than wait in line forever to get in we decided to buy tickets for the next day and just walk down to our luncheon with chinesebakery . in trying to figure out how to buy those tickets, we discovered that pregnant women in france have priority for all kinds of things as the guard who we were just wanting to ask a question of, shooed us inside the museum! at this point, we thought we'd won the lottery. so we headed to the entrance inside where the fellow taking tickets set us straight in that although we have priority entry, we still have to buy tickets! silly américaines! so we found the line for advance tickets and waited forever to buy them but we had a good laugh. and then we headed south down towards rue de commerce where we met chinesebakery for lunch. it was so cool to meet her in person and we had a nice meal. i'll be psyched, if it does work out for me to move here, to spend more time with her. oh livejournal, you enrich my life! anyway after lunch and an abortive attempt to buy some black sequined leggings (not enough elastic!) we hit the metro back up to the 7th where we walked for a while discovering a really cool garden but also realizing we were walking in the wrong direction we got back into the metro and actually got ourselves up to the 5th.
ah familiar ground! we wandered through la huchette, got t-shirts for the nephews, checked out notre-dame on our way to berthillion for some delicious ice cream and a bit of flâner-ing, then decided to hoof it over to the 14th to see le hérisson, the film adaption of the book: the elegance of the hedgehog. another crazy walk through paris! we were super rushing too because we thought well i thought we had more time or less distance but we really misjudged it. lynn is the most amazing trooper dragging her 7 month pregnant self along this incredibly warm speed walk through paris! when we got to the cinéma, there was a huge line, so we bought tickets for a later show so we could dash into the salle to see the movie at the time we were just barely squeaking into. but the little napoléon at the entrance wouldn't let us in. so we'd killed ourselves for nothing! but we found a terrific place to sit and joined café society for an hour or two waiting and it was lovely. and the movie was worth the wait as well. after the movie we had an uninspiring dinner at an italian restaurant in montparnasse and headed home.
wednesday in paris was more structured and we had a ball! the morning at the d'orsay was so delightful spent looking at the arts décoratifs which is some of my absolute favorite stuff in the world. after a roam through the nabis, we hit up the impressionists so great to see those paintings again--they really are so incredibly gorgeous and beautiful and they move me. then we had a gorgeous lunch at the restaurant there. what a beautiful room and the food was amazing! after lunch we had a wander through the post-impressionists which i also adore and then we headed out to beaubourg. finding beaubourg was frustrating as we got off the metro at les halles and got a bit lost in the maze of streets and it was HOT! but find it we did and spent some time looking at some very strange and disturbing art. they have a very cool new direction there called elles@beaubourg. they decided that it was important to finally recognize women artists as the force we are so the entire museum is now full of all these installations of women's artistry. we spent some time looking around, then headed upstairs to see the abstract impressionist, etc collection and then made our way to the train station. it was actually really great to head back to lille--it feels like home now. paris was great but i really like the more laid back towns of tours and lille. and they're where i'm going to try to move. tours is just so lovely and i adore the loire...i'd be very happy to live near the river there. and the châteaux! my god, they make my heart stop just thinking about them.....
anyway. we spent a quiet couple of days in lille following paris. lynn got a cold which she later shared with me, but it changed up our plans for the weekend. we'd been going to visit brussels together and then bruges on sunday with benoît but since london was coming up, she decided to rest at home for the weekend to store up energy for london while i gallivanted around belgium. i had a blast! i've really discovered how much i love to be on my own, in another place, doing my own thing, experiencing things as i want to. brussels is a nice town--not my favorite by far (the metro is pretty challenging to deal with) but i had a good day. the grand place is amazing--the facades of the buildings are very ornate and impressive. it's quite lovely. i saw the little pissing mannekin (very silly and overwhelmed by a crowd of people taking photos--kind of like the mona lisa) and i had a terrific lunch up the street from there with the best artichoke i've ever eaten. i had the intention of visiting museums but then had no real interest in actually doing that so i just spent time wandering around, hanging out, people watching and enjoying myself. there was a string quartet just outside the grand place playing some lovely music and i spent a while sitting in a café in the shade listening. it was a nice time.
but bruges. bruges is amazing. just a splendidly, lovely place. i loved it. i walked at least 8 hours straight that day! and took a canal boat tour and had a few frites by the belffroi and attended a service at the beguinage which is a convent and one of the most peaceful places i've ever been and went to the choco-story (the museum of the history of chocolate--eh) and the museum of the lamp (seriously amazing!) and bought the most beautiful art deco ring from this funny lady in a market--it's white, pink, and yellow gold (which i never would have thought i'd like since i'm not much for colored gold) with two white sapphires. but it is so lovely and so special and i totally splurged so now i have an amazing souvenir of this trip that i'll wear for the rest of my life.
i was hit by lynn's cold on the train platform on the way home so monday was a very quiet day. i spent it in my pajamas, taking naps as i needed to, and just talking with lynn through our sniffles. and monday night. well, i began to cyber-stalk frédéric again. i still hadn't heard from him and was just feeling awful about it. i just kept thinking that i'd screwed everything up and couldn't stop thinking about him. sigh. overall, i was doing a pretty good job of still having a great time, taking in all the experiences i could, and really loving my time here, but there was also a part of me that appeared mostly at night and kept me from sleeping while i perseverated over frédéric. and i was still working on the translation of his book which of course kept me thinking about him and wondering how we could create this connection and then have it just go "ploof!" so monday, i googled him again and began to read further into the pages--he's got lots of links because he is a published author and he appears in various lit sites and has done a couple of interviews etc. he has his own little wikipedia article too. anyway on about the bottom of the 6th page, i discovered a link to this little starlet/tv hostess/actress called séverine ferrer where it mentioned that she was MARRIED to frédéric mazé and they had TWO CHILDREN TOGETHER!!!!!!!!!!! and then i really couldn't sleep. i kept googling trying to figure out if this was really my frédéric since there weren't any photos of the two of them together anywhere. and i finally found a bio page of hers at some sort of french wiki thing that linked to his bio--the ONE THAT IS ON ALL OF HIS BOOKS!!! and i just crashed.
in the whole time that we'd been hanging out together in tours (granted a short time overall but still...) he'd never mentioned a wife or children or a marriage or ANYTHING!!! and in fact, the first thing i'd noticed about him when we met at the office de tourisme was that he was wearing a wedding ring. this is where my eyes go automatically. if a guy is even vaguely interesting to me, i check out the hand. that's the rule. anyway. that first day, i saw the ring and thought: oh well cute guy. married. comme toujours. but then we had such a clear chemistry, and he said he'd bring me the books, and we had that drink til really late, and i kind of thought, well maybe not. and we talked about my nephews and my family and how my brother's name is joshua which, as it seems to turn out, is the same name as his older child and he NEVER SAID A WORD ABOUT HAVING A FAMILY, NOT ONE!!!!!!! and in fact, the day we did see each other again, i asked him about the ring: what's the story of this ring? i asked. and he said: it was a ring given to him by a copine (a girlfriend) and he'd given up the girlfriend but kept the ring. those were his exact words. so i felt like i had my answer. NOT MARRIED, in fact NEVER BEEN MARRIED. COPINE DOES NOT EQUAL WIFE. and so, all of a sudden, frédéric went from being this wonderful, interesting, intelligent though clearly flaky and disappointing guy i'd met in tours to a liar and a sneak. he had ample opportunity to tell me he was married and had children. when we sat and talked for hours, i talked about my family and life but he never mentioned a thing! not once. i think i made it amply clear that i was interested in him and if he wasn't interested in me, it would have only taken "hey i have a wife and KIDS" and i'd have shifted focus. well, some anyway! but he never did. and so i was left feeling just completely knocked over. too open, too naive, too honest, too available, too trusting. that's me. and too prone to choosing men who are unavailable even if i don't know they are!
so tuesday, lynn and i spent a fair amount of time analyzing what we knew and looking at all the evidence on the web (also buying the most amazing pair of silvery grey shoes). and this is another thing that struck me: with all the personal information available online, it just seems stupid to try to dissemble with someone since you can just look them up. i mean, didn't he think i'd google him? and isn't he aware that there's all this info about him online? of course, the info that i found about his marriage and children was not actually on any of his biographical info pages. that's why i didn't know when i googled him in tours. i just hadn't dug deeply enough. all the info i gathered about him came from her "fan" pages--there's only the note on his myspace page that he's "en couple" which dates from whenever he launched his myspace page, like 2 years ago. but nowhere else in any biographical information does it mention that he's married and father of two children. and also he has this strange life where he's a tour guide/bus driver in tours and has this little hotel in senegal and never said anything about living with anyone or that anyone was his partner in senegal. and he's apparently been married to this tv star! so at this point, what i think is that he's separated and perhaps he's too hurt or too cynical to tell a near stranger any of the details.....but it's so strange. maybe he just doesn't care, but why would he not just tell me he was married? and he had nothing to lose by being honest with me and revealing his status. nothing. i mean, honestly, and this may throw any of you who are still reading this massive thing, i would still have slept with him, if it had come up, if he'd been honest, married or not. i was actually a sure thing. but what's interesting about this point in the story is that instead of feeling obsessive, rejected, and lame which is how i'd been feeling, i began to feel like i just had a really good story to tell about this man i'd met in tours and the whole mystery he'd created. it began to shift my obsessing to a much healthier place. and it made it easier to laugh and enjoy it. even though i still felt angry with him for not just telling the truth whatever that may be.
so yesterday, lynn and i went to london which was just a ball. we arrived very early, got coffee, climbed a million stairs to the very top of st paul's (amazing, phenomenal, intense, lovely), crossed the millennium bridge, got some lunch at eat (the brits seriously know how to do a sandwich in a triangle package), visited the tate modern, caught a thamesclipper to embankment, saw big ben, the eye, houses of parliament, and had a rest at westminster in the grass (didn't go in because 15 pounds is nuts when you've just been there 2 years ago), grabbed a bus to trafalgar square, had a snack at pret a manger (another fabulous sandwich chain), went into the national portrait gallery (ooh i love that place--the tudors and the modern rooms are my favorite--the bloomsbury group is so fascinating to see), grabbed another bus to picadilly because i'd never been there, had a fabulous dim sum dinner in chinatown, caught the tube back to st pancras and headed back to lille. amazing day!!!!!!!!!!!
and then today, my very last day in europe, when i'd really given up any hope of solving frédéric's mystery or really ever having any contact with him ever again, i get an email from him. in which he says he's been working every day and had to go to visit his family in brittany and hoped i was safely home and that he was so happy we'd had such a nice time in tours together and asked if i'd finished his books and their translation (!) and then he signed it kisses and see you very soon. and i feel like i got a bookend to the whole trip.
today lynn and i had lunch at this great japanese place where they have the best salmon sashimi i've ever eaten (we ate there twice this visit!) and then we ran some errands at fnac and monoprix and then we had tea at meert and came home, made dinner and i'm in bed finishing this up. i leave lille at 6:00 tomorrow morning. lynn is going to drive me to brussels where i'll fly out at 10:30. i can't believe this month is over and this trip is done. it has really been life changing and amazing. i feel like i've lived like i haven't lived in a long time: open to adventure and possibility and squeezing all the juice. i hope to be back here soon. i'll miss lynn and benoît and i wish i were going to be here to see pancake arrive. she's going to be a lucky child with such great parents. and i've loved reconnecting with lynn and feel like we've forged a lasting new friendship. it's going to be a tough reentry but i'm hoping for band practice on sunday and there's a bbq at my brother's house on saturday. plus i don't have to be at work for several more days so i'll be able to get my feet under me for a bit. portland waits. but life should be vacances, shouldn't it?
so endeth my france voyage of 2009.
voilà. ça y est. j'ai fini.