I did it again! Complete and utter detachment. I am loving it. Every weekend is starting to feel like a mini vacation. Something inside me clicked after our trip to Normandy last weekend. The explorer in me is on fire. The stark realization that going away for a weekend is really this easy and this uncomplicated has been like accidentally finding a $100 bill in your pocket. What an awesome discovery!
I have friends visiting from Dubai and we decided to spend the weekend outside Paris in an effort to broaden their (and my) European repertoire of cities visited. We headed up to Lille on the TGV and were there in one short hour. It’s amazing what a mere one hour difference can make on your surroundings, the food, the people, everything..
A small background is in order because this city is not very well known to people outside France. Lille is the 4th largest city in France after Paris, Lyon and Marseilles and is the largest city in French Flanders. It is located north of Paris near the French border with Belgium, hence the strong Flemish influence that is prevalent in its architecture, beer culture and waffle mania to name just a few things. The people were also considerably different from my fellow Parisians…more hospitable, welcoming and helpful. I still love my Parisians nonetheless, so what if they’re not always very nice, they boast some important strengths like fashion sense, awesome shopping and a stunning city. That must be worth something, right?
Although the 4th largest city in France it’s very industrial except for it’s beautiful old town and so we spent most of our Saturday admiring it’s stunning buildings, walking its cobbled streets and enjoying its quaint shops and restaurants. The city also boasts a popular university bringing down the average age of its population considerably. At some point we saw a bizarre parade of cyclists dressed in funky gear. At first thought we assumed they were students but there was an interesting mix of ages that ranged from clowns to stilted cyclists and we are still wondering what their zoom through the city was all about. If anyone knows, please enlighten me.
We visited the Palais des Beaux Arts that was gorgeous on the outside and inside. The art didn’t impress me as much as I would have liked but it was nice to squeeze in a little bit of culture and to take shelter from the cold!
I must take a moment to say that I have never felt as competent (or as needed!) in French as I did this weekend. My cute little Dubai friends can sport no more than 5 French words each making me a major asset in every situation imaginable: buying tickets, ordering food, shooing away strange men, asking for our photos to be taken, asking for shoe sizes in Printemps, asking for directions, requesting a cab, settling a bill, you get the picture! Now multiply these requests by 3 (girls). It was tiring being so in demand (hehe i sound like a whining celebrity!) but such an awesome ego boost and the truth is I genuinely enjoyed it because i love those girls! Now that I am back in my Parisian hometown I must make sure my language ego remains on cloud 9. The Parisians are not so forgiving!
Stay tuned for my Sunday in yet another new destination… yes, dear readers, this fake parisienne is on a roll! ( ;