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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Paris and Lille

Celebrating a long President’s day weekend, I arrived in Brussels on Saturday morning and took the train to Lille to meet my friend Julian. I made myself at home in the Lille train station until Julian got off work, and then we headed down to Paris to meet his friend Antoine, where we were staying. While I had stayed in Paris many times, this was the first time I had stayed in this neighborhood. (See the view from his place in the picture above).

Antoine lives in Pigalle, just up the street from the Moulin Rouge. Antoine’s cousin Alice from the UK was visiting with her boyfriend Jason, so we had all made plans to go out to dinner. We had some wine and champagne at the house along with some pate en croute. Antoine had made reservations at L’homme Tranquil, a wonderful small restaurant in his neighborhood. The host/server/ owner? Of the restaurant was quite a character. Also named Antoine, he put on quite a show the entire evening.

After dinner, we had drinks had Chao Ba, also in the neighborhood. It was very crowded, but we miraculously got a table. I ordered a kamikaze, which seemed a bit expensive at the time (11.50 euros) but it was the drink that lasted forever. It was served in a chilled mini-pitcher, and seemed to go on forever.

Afterwards, we met a friend of Antoine’s at Tango, where we danced until the early morning hours. It was a great club… very comfortable and fun, not at all pretentious.

The next day in the typical French fashion, we had croissants and brioche with tea Alice had brought from the UK. It was a nice, lazy breakfast. Alice, Antoine, and Jason were going sightseeing, but Julian and I had made plans to have dinner with our friends Louis and Michel at Louis’ house, where I had stayed the previous two times I had been in Lille.

While waiting for the train at Gare du Nord, we had a glass of wine at an outdoor cafĂ©. Though February, it was a sunny day and the weather in Paris was awesome. It had to be in the 60s—a nice surprise for me.

After retuning to Lille Sunday evening, we stopped off by Julian’s before being joined by his girlfriend Sara. Then the three of us headed to Louis’ for a glass of champagne followed by a fantastic dinner of bow-tie pasta and his homemade sauce from an old family recipe. Of course, we also enjoyed plenty of cheeses and wine.

After dinner and conversation, Michel dropped Julian, Sara, and I off at Le Privilege, a neighborhood bar in Lille where we had hung out the last time I was in town. Afterwards, we walked to Sara’s house in La Madeleine, where we slept that evening.

The next morning was another great French breakfast of croissants and a chocolate brioche with coffee. Sara left for work, then Julian and I headed into Lille, where we met Louis for some shopping. After a drink at Le Privilege, we met up with Pascal, a coworker of Julien’s, at Le Stout. Sara joined us there.

Afterwards, Julien, Louis, Sara and I returned to Louis’s where we were met by Michel. Michel brought the wine and champagne, and Julien cooked a wonderful dinner. It was another relaxed, wonderful dinner and evening of conversation. Afterwards, Julien and I returned to his place where we watched the latest episode of Heros (which he’d downloaded) before going to bed.

The next morning was a bit hectic as we prepared my return to Brussels. My train was to be at 7:30 am, but when we got to the subway to get to the station, the subway wasn’t moving. There was an announcement of delay, so we called Louis, who came by and picked me up to take me to the station. I was really hoping for a delay for the train to Brussels, but this was not to be the case. We finally arrived about ten minutes late. The next train wasn’t until 9:00 which would put me into Brussels way too late.

After considering staying for another day, we asked about Paris. I was able to change my ticket to Paris, arriving at 8:50 am, plenty of time for the Delta flight to Atlanta at 11:25 am. What a relief!

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