Lille, France

Bertrand met us at the train station at 9 am, so nice to see his face in the big train station.

First went to town. Walked past De Gaulle’s home. I might have told Bertrand De Gaulle was a painter. Oops. :P

Got cafe in the center of the town. Right in front of the opera house and across the street from the hotel where the IMF head guy got arrested for rape the second time a few months ago.

After went walking around. Walked through the city center. Lille was named the cultural capital of Europe a few years ago, and you could tell why. It was so cool, good atmosphere. Two years ago, Bertrand said, they had life size gold elephant statues all over. This year they had giant babies as big as elephants with dragon tails and wings. Odd, and terrifying.

“Breathing’s just a rhythm”

Um. Went inside a museum. Bertrand talked to the lady and said we were international students, trying to get us in for cheap. She told him how we could sneak in for free. So we suspiciously wandered the place, trying to follow the directions she had given us. Ha. Got caught though. An hour or so in France and already in trouble. :P

Next we went to lunch. Went to a popular nice fast food French restaurant. A nice ham and lettuce baguette sandwich lathered in butter with a drink and a croissant. My croissant had real fruit inside of it– pineapple and apricot, so so so good!!

Our second story seat overlooked the street. Below there was a cafe Voltaire– and Bertrand asked me who I thought Voltaire was. I gave an informed answer and redeemed myself from the De Gaulle comment earlier.

We sat around and read French newspapers and horiscopes and made each other do British accents and worked on each other’s English/French accents. “Eet ees/it is.” “DON’T use your throat! Stay up here! Stay up here, Bertrand!” :P

We started talking about leaving. And it was really sad. And the music was really dramatic and sad as well. And Bertrand and I noticed it at the same time, and laughed. Our soundtrack.

Next we walked down the river. Bertrand said that this winter there had been a succession of deaths at the river, four university male students had died on four separate nights in it. They thought it was a serial killer as it was so odd there were so many on separate occasions, and always the same type of victim. Creepy.

Bertrand stopped by a bar on the way and we used the restroom. Walked out and the guy yelling at Bertrand in French, “You’re not even going to take a coffee or anything??” Ooops. :P

Went to the zoo. So much fun. Had tons of African animals. We could have watched the monkeys all day— they were constantly moving and swinging and leaping and fighting with the birds– so fun!

Walked past a french fry booth. “Mmmm, smells so good!” “It’s just grease! That is literally the smell of GREASE. You are so American.”

Stopped in the park and Bertrand and Jisu smoked cigarettes and I sat and fiddled my thumbs and tried to look cool with my cool smoker friends. Ha. :P

Saw lots of French police cars. “They are really not as scary as other European policeforces,” we all concluded. Then we saw a French protest against Sarcozy. “Sarcozy is everywhere, justice is nowhere.” All of the sudden a barricade of French policemen with their faces covered swiftly marched right toward and past us, the air whooshing in our faces. “Okay. Maybe French police can be scary,” Bertrand said. Ha. “The police are everywhere and justice is nowhere!”

It was raining very hard at this point and it was a shame as we were supposed to end the day visiting the old town, which is the most beautiful part of the city. Running, we stopped at a 400 year old sweet shop, anything but cheap, and Bertrand bought us each macaroons; pistachio, vanilla and raspberry. He also bought a pretty little expensive box of something.

Ran to a coffee shop in the ice cold rain. Arrived and the barista brought us three hot cafes each with two little sugar cubes, speculoos cookie and a tea spoon.

Ate the macaroons- never tried one before. They melt instantly in your mouth. Amazing amazing amazing.

Then Bertrand opened the box- inside were cute little tiny Lille waffles. Different from anywhere else in the world. They are the size of a cracker– two soft thin waffles with a more than adequate layer of sugar/cinnamon/spice in the middle. Melts instantly in your mouth as well. So so so good I wasn’t even sure what was happening. Have never tried anything so good and interesting and fancy.

Finishing our cafes, I took my sugar cubes and dipped them in my espresso and ate them (this becoming a very bad and childish habit I have picked up in the last few weeks).

French cafes- names not important. Hardly any of them have visible sign names out front. They are just too cool for names. ;)

I saw a chess board– and Bertrand told me how to ask “can I take this?” in French. Went up and asked for it after practicing multiple times. “Nice, he didn’t even ask you to repeat it!” “That’s because everyone in the whole cafe heard me repeat it over and over 20 times before, Bertrand.” Ha.

We played a few games, and Jisu played for the first time ever after we taught her. The music, once again, was perfectly timed. Our personal soundtrack. It was so intense during the intense moments of the game. Bertrand had to go buy another pack of cigarettes after the games because he was so stressed out. :P

Man next to us reading French satirical newspaper.

About to leave, standing in the entrance way while they smoked. I said the guy in the corner writing looked interesting. Bertrand went over and peeped through the window and translated what he was writing into English.

France:

clinking spoons on the bottom of espresso cups.

always make self presentable, but always make the scene and ambiance BEAUTIFUL.

Haha. When we were all sitting at the table eating dinner and talking about our hometowns with Bertrand’s family, his mother said in French, out of the blue, “You know that you will never see each other again”

“Yes. We know that, Mother. But thank you for pointing that out to us.”

Ahahaha. She is exactly like Bertrand.

When driving back to Bertrand’s town, Bethune, from Lille, I was sitting in the backseat asking Jisu and Bertrand how to say words in French. The Sarcozy/Holland BIG debate was that night, and Bertrand’s father had wanted to see it as it is a really big deal, only presidential debate once every 5 years, but they were not going to watch it since we were coming. So I was trying to figure out how to say, “Let’s watch the debate!” in various ways in French. I started out slow, learning little words like television, etc. I knew how to say the time it was on, neuf our or whatever, from french class. Slowly and secretly I gained more words, and when Bertrand figured out what I was building up to he wouldn’t translate anymore. “You won’t even understand what’s going on on the tv!” But I really wanted to watch it, and I wanted his parents to watch it. So I kept practicing. And Jisu and Bertrand were laughing, saying I was like ET. Kept repeating broken language over and over. When I would put some words together in a coherent form, they would be like, “Oh no, she is improving!” It was really funny. And sure enough, when I met his parents, I waited a bit, but then was like, “La Debat?” :) And I think his dad was excited to get to watch it. French debate: the two candidates sit and FACE each other during it. They are not speaking to the audience, they are speaking to each other. And, according to Bertrand’s family, the French love to when the candidates get sassy with each other. They want bloodshed. Who doesn’t with a good debate though? And it certainly seemed like a good debate. Bertrand translated for me. They put the subtitles on though, and it was kind of easy to see what they were talking about though. French words sound really different than English words, but when you see them written, they are very similar to English ones.

On a separate note, mice or rats got into my food supply I put in the attic. I threw the damaged stuff away. Considering throwing the rest away as I’m sure it’s all swarming with disease.

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