Le Cirque

Lately I’ve been quite frankly spoiled. Spoiled in the amount of time I’ve gotten to spend with people I like so much they make me vomit. Really. That’s a good thing. You’ll never know true love til someone is brilliant enough to make you call uncle Huey on the porcelain telephone. More to that later.

A couple of weekends ago I had my family come over to France to celebrate my mum’s 60th. As delighted as she usually is to be the baby of her group of friends, being the last to get her bus pass meant she’d had her fill of 60th dos and decided instead to spend some quality time in northern France.

Maybe I thought about it too much but it seemed since I managed to score a video of my dad’s favourite band singing him happy birthday I would have to find an equally impressive gift for my mammy. Since my mum has not been infatuated with any one band for the last 40 years, I decided I’d just make it a belter of a weekend and spent the time leading up to it testing out restaurants, bars and cakes (tough life). I also decided to surprise her by checking into their apartment on their behalf and decorating it before they got there.

I got so excited about them arriving that I couldn’t stop smiling and had to be asked to stop by Clément who said I had started to resemble “a hamster in its wheel”. However, I continued to be a hamster long after we’d picked them up and brought them back to the apartment. We then headed out to a Greek restaurant where my excitement peaked in the form of a migraine and vomiting. I did promise a vomit story. For those who consumed food rather than projecticle whiteying it out them, the restaurant was a great success. My dad was so impressed with the moussaka that he wanted to talk to the waiter about it. This led to my dad talking to me, me translating to the waiter in French and the waiter translating into Greek. Every time anything was said, it became a brilliant linguistic chain that probably resulted in about 30% accuracy. But hey-ho. As with all tactical whities I rallied and we spent the rest of the night in a bar with 12% beers and lingerie photoshoots on tv. I don’t know why my dad picked that bar.

The next day was the birthday itself, so I decided to treat them to a bit of local culture. My plan had been to take them to a disused train station which has been coverted into a restaurant and a venue for gigs but sadly it was chocabloc, so we instead ran through the rain to get to a microbrewery where we sampled the local delicacy, welsh. You may notice that the word looks an awful lot like Welsh but never point out to people in Lille that the dish is actually Welsh rarebit and not at all a northern delicacy. They will eye you with a suspicious and disgusted air. The meal itself does have a Lillois twist however. It’s a slice of bread, drizzled with beer, with a slice of ham on top, then covered with melted cheese and Lee & Perrin’s then topped with chips. If that hasn’t quite made your arteries shrink in terror, you can also add sausages,eggs and slices of bacon on top. Coincidentally, the north is considered the most obese region of France. Here’s afore-mentioned disused train station (that statue of a creepy winged baby guarding it is not your imagination):

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After waking my mum up from a nap to give her cake and champagne (why has no one ever woken me up this way?) we got ready and headed out to a bar chosen solely for the fact it served 23 draft beers and had a Metallica pinball machine. We ended the night in La Tête de Boeuf where, since it was Valentine’s day, we were surrounded by couples gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes and feeding each other scallops and white chocolate puddings.

Whenever anyone comes to visit me, in spite of their age or their relationship to me I instantly become their mother and worry that since they don’t speak French they will instantly become lost and die. The only time I left my family alone the whole weekend was to jump into Meert, Lille’s most famous and most ludicrously priced bakery. Within minutes a drunk mental had accosted them and it had almost turned to fisticuffs. This is what I’m told. Since they don’t speak French he might have just been very agressively wishing them a brilliant weekend, who’s to say. Here’s a fun conga line we saw that day:

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That night, tired, happy and full of pizza and wine we all fell asleep in front of a documentary about superheroes. Saturday nights do not come much wilder. Sunday means only one thing in Lille – Wazemmes market. The market makes me think of that Bedknobs and Broomsticks song where he sings about a market where you can buy “anything and everything a chap can unload”, it’s like a more North-African influenced Barras. The tradition is to buy nems (big spring rolls) and go and sit outside in one of the bars surrounding the market and watch the world go by, which is exactly what we did. The rest of the day was spent wandering round bars (are you sensing a pattern here?) and seeing some sights, including Lille’s war monument. Most cities went solemn and dramatic with their war monuments and while Lille has their fair share of that, they also have a monument dedicated to the valiant effort of those oft-forgotten noble beasts, the carrier pigeons.

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I’d forgotten how much fun it is to show off your wee corner of the world to people and it was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had, due in no small part to spending 80% of the weekend eating. Eating’s my favourite.

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