Que voir à Lille

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Every year, I try to visit a new city in France, either before or after my summer job in Paris. This year, I decided to go to Lille for a few days at the beginning of August. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and wanted to share some of my favorite places to eat and places to go. In this post, I’ll just focus on where to go and in a follow-up post, I tell you where I enjoyed dining.

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1. Lille City Pass: My first stop, after checking in to my very nice hotel, the Clarance, was to go to the tourism office on the Place Rohan and buy a 72-hour City Pass. They are also available for 24 and 48 hours. This gave me access to numerous historical sites, as well as the network of trams, trains, buses and the two-line subway system. Not having to pull out my wallet each time I visited a site certainly freed me up to check out places I might not have gone to otherwise.

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2. Guided City Tour: At fist, I couldn’t make any sense of Lille’s tangle of street in the historic town center, so the guided City Tour really helped me to understand the why as well as the where of Lille. Lille grew exponentially in the industrial 19th century, due to the textile industry. Its success, however, also brought difficulties in the form of disease and an astronomical infant mortality rate. Originally, like nearby Bruges or more exotic Venice, Lille had been crisscrossed with canals. These were used by the factories as well as the citizens for, well, everything. The city walls kept the population contained within a fairly restrained footprint.  Eventually, the decision was made to fill in the canals when three successive waves of plague swept through in the course of a century. There are still places in the city where a smell of stinky drains emphasizes the wisdom of that decision!

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3. City Bus Tour: The following day, I went on the bus tour with recorded  commentary (and an over-eager driver who kept talking over that commentary),which helped me get a sense of where things were outside the historic core of the city and plan more visits, such as to the Porte de Paris and Befroi, a deco-era tower with a panoramic view of the city.

6AE6E3D3-E471-405F-9AD7-E2AFE5588E9F4. The Palais des Beaux Arts: Although its relief maps from the 18th century are currently being restored, there was still enough to see in a pleasant hour. The second floor houses several Rubens’ and this rather lovely sculpture of Napoleon’s son, for example.

Que voir à Lille (kuh vwar ah Leel) means “What to see in Lille” and I hope I have given you some ideas. Of course, the most enjoyable moments are the little corners one stumbles across par hasard. And to do that, just go for a wander. No admission required.

 

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L’Atelier des lumières

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One of the perks of my summer job is the ability to tag along on visits to the latest Parisian exhibits each summer. Yesterday, I had the immense pleasure of visiting L’Atelier des lumières, where three immersive sound and light shows are currently presented. The most fabulous one, in my opinion was the Gustav Klimt show, marking the centenary of the Austrian painter’s passing and also considering his artistic heirs, such as Egon Schiele. The shows are projected on the floors and walls of a former foundry in the 11th Arrondissement. You are bathed in light and music as one image is absorbed into the next. The Klimt show is on until November 11, 2018 and I highly recommend that you make it a priority if you will be in Paris before it closes.

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L’Atelier des lumières (lat-el-e-ay day loom-e-air) means “workshop of light,” and I will definitely be adding it to my list of places to return to when I am in Paris.

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L’échapper belle

5ADDC3ED-E0EB-46CD-9493-909CF7F16143A tradition at my summer job in Paris has become doing an Escape Room as a bonding activity during the week that we prepare for the students to arrive. This year, a colleague suggested that we try a new venue, Inside Opera, right inside the Opéra Garnier.

TF1, SOIREE INSIDE OPERA, 4 JUIN 2018, OPERA GARNIER, PARISCostumed actors played the role of a troupe who have lost part of a musical score to the Phantom of the Opera. Our mission was to find the missing letters in order to complete the score. As usual, we had one hour to complete our task. If you are successful, your group will earn admission to hear the completed aria with the missing notes restored.

013AC1CE-32DD-49AA-BACF-443542D6CABFI don’t want to say too much in case I end up spoiling this for you, but it was a lot of fun in a tremendous setting. I think the setting was actually the biggest handicap for my group; several of them had never been to Opéra Garnier before and we lost time as they gazed around in awe at the ornate interior.  It was an inventive way to explore a great Parisian landmark. L’échapper belle (lay-shap-ay bell) is to have a narrow or lucky escape. I hope that is your fate if you try Inside Opera.

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Le défi

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I have barely been posting over the past year largely because I have been working on a certificate in educational leadership through Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. It’s almost done now (woo hoo!), so I am planning to post more regularly again.

Another reason why I have been posting less is because I wanted to read more. When I did my annual clear-out last August, I gathered twelve books from various parts of my home – in storage, in various bookcases – and placed them in the bookcase part of my bedside table. I gave myself un défi (uhn day-fee), or a challenge, to read one book a month and told myself that what I didn’t finish by the end of the year would have to go. I read for hours each day as a child, but as an adult, most of my reading has been to learn, rather than strictly for pleasure. I wanted to recapture reading for pleasure as part of my life.

Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying guru, gave me the idea. She pointed out that keeping books that we don’t read for years and years is a socially acceptable form of hoarding. I had owned some of the books that I gathered for my one-year défi for over a decade and had boxed them up and moved them twice.

I knew that I had to feel successful with my project early on, so I chose to read the books from the shortest to longest. This plan worked pretty well, but I did begin to get worried as the year went on and some of the books took more than a month for me to finish. Fortunately, the last two books were really engaging and helped me finish well ahead of schedule! I even included an extra book that I received as a Chrstmas gift, for a baker’s dozen.

If you follow me on Instagram (@onequalitythefinest), I posted pictures of what I was reading throughout the year. It was fun engaging with others about titles that they had also enjoyed. As I finished each book, I either donated it to my public library or sold it on Amazon. Having the visual cue that I was being successful as my bookshelf emptied was very motivating.

Somebooks were in French (Anne La Maison aux pignons verts), by French authors (Eric Emmanuel Schmitt), about French culture (The French, by Theodore Zeldin, An Immovable Feast, by John Baxter), or French history (Royal Romances, by Leslie Carroll). And of course, I liked some of them better than others. I think my two favorites were Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Songs in Ordinary Time, by Mary McGarry Morris.

I liked my défi so much that I have already picked out my next twelve books and added them to my bedside bookcase. This time, I’ll read hardcovers first so that I finish up next summer with slim volumes to slip in my suitcase instead of the brick-sized tome that I brought to France this summer. I have quite a mix again – fiction, history, French, and English. If you’d like to follow along, I’ll post pictures on Instagram.

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Suffisant

5191F509-2936-412E-B55C-388D2B7FBE61For the last two years, I have tried a one word affirmation, as inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast, instead of new year’s resolutions. The first year, it was Read, which did spur me on to make regular time for reading. Last year, my word was Light, which became Léger/la Lumière in French.

Again, this method worked well for me. I redecorated my bedroom, lightening up the color scheme, and I’ve enjoyed it every day since. I unloaded the weight of a carload of things I no longer needed in The Great Purge of 2017 (I kept my husband, but he was a bit worried for a while).

CCE920E6-EC80-4DC7-9183-B9C472FC1B2CMy quest to lose weight was tougher. Despite some early success, no matter what I tried, my weight continued to creep up. In late summer, I found out that I had grown a rather substantial kidney stone that had to be surgically removed. Once it was gone, the weight fell off. The weight gain was really fluid retention due to a malfunctioning kidney. The lesson I learned there was that instead of beating myself up, I should seek medical advice if my body starts acting strangely. The DASH diet and I are now good friends to try to prevent the small stones in my other kidney from growing to the same mammoth proportions.

343230DA-4221-456A-BD1B-2D0450AD1A11This year, I have selected SUFFICIENT, or SUFFISANT (soo-fee-zahn), or suffisante (soo-fee—zahnt) when referring to a feminine noun. How do I see applying this to my life? Well, for one thing, I really don’t need any more clothes. In my overly analytical way, I have been keeping track of what I wear on a monthly basis. I found that I typically wore five items of clothing in each major category most months (for example, five blouses, five sweaters, five dresses) and about ten different pairs of shoes in any given season. Yet, I have far more than five (or ten) seasonally appropriate items hanging at my disposal in any given month. When tempted to shop just for the sake of novelty, I’m telling myself that my wardrobe is more than suffisant to meet my sartorial needs.

3C0FEC71-B379-49B5-94F3-7D07D862329AI’m trying to be more reasonable about what I put my Todoist app for any given day. After all, I can only accomplish a finite number of tasks, and when the list is suffisant, I schedule the new tasks for a later date.

1AC1180C-8ACD-4080-A56F-62CE59F61F6EBut suffisant also applies to things I need to do more of. For instance, part of my new anti-kidney stone lifestyle is supposed to be 100 ounces of fluids a day. One. Hundred Ounces. I have never once made this goal, peaking at about 64 ounces, and yet, the dietician and physician’s assistant both said that this was the most important change I could make. So, I’m going to be more diligent in tracking my fluid intake on my Fitbit app to make sure that I’m drinking suffisant, but I have significant doubts about 100 ounces.

I’m sure that as 2018 unfolds, I’ll find many more ways to apply suffisant to my life, but these ideas are suffisant for now (couldn’t resist, sorry). All the best for a more-than-sufficiently healthy and happy 2018.

C7467976-73C5-4340-A1B1-8EF5C1510F9DThe Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook

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La Crèche de Noël

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My siblings and me in 1972. I’m at the right with my brother hanging onto my arm.

As long as I can remember, my family had une crèche de Noël (oon cresh duh no-ell), or a Nativity scene. Mary was a little worse for wear, with a chunk missing at the base. She had to be propped up by the manger. The wisemen had camels that appeared to be wearing lipstick. The stable was improvised by my Dad. Apparently, he used a balloon as a form for a papier-mâché structure that he spray painted gold. The stable also housed three cows whose horns were made of coiled wire, painted white, a donkey, a goat, and four sheep. Each year, the pieces were carefully set up on a length of glitter-embellished fake snow.

This may sound like an odd collection of attributes for a sentimental favorite, but make no mistake, this crèche was deeply loved. Depending upon where we lived at the time, sometimes the crèche was set up on our mantel, sometimes on a side table.

My parents acquired the pieces over a period of two Christmases from Woolworth’s in Windsor, Ontario in the early 60s, otherwise known as B.P.E., or Before the Patricia Era. In those days, they had three small children and barely two cents to rub together, so they had to pick and choose which pieces came home. The handpainted pieces were made in Italy, and although they cost less than a dollar each, they represented a splurge for the holidays.

I was shocked a few years ago to discover that my younger brother was now the owner of the crèche. I was secretly (perhaps not so secretly) outraged. Clearly, this was a sign of parental favoritism! But I choked down my resentment and even bought him an intact Mary when he found it on eBay from a shipper who wouldn’t deliver it to Canada.

Fast forward to December 2017. My husband and I went antiquing in New Bedford Massachusetts where we’ve had sensational luck in the past. In the first store we went into, I found my childhood crèche. I almost cried. Needless to say, it came home with me. It had all of the same figures, plus an angel, another shepherd, and a stable that was admittedly an upgrade from the papier-mâché version of my childhood. Other than a modest flock of sheep, one of whom was missing a foreleg, there were no other animals. So that gives me a new mission when we go antiquing. I’ve already found a camel, donkey, and cow on eBay. Can the rest of the barnyard be far behind?

When I got home, I sent a photo to my parents and brother to tell them about my score. That’s when I learned that my parents had been planning to drop their crèche off at a thrift shop when my brother rescued it. It actually wasn’t proof that he was the favorite child. I’m glad that he saved a piece of our family history from oblivion and I’m glad that I get to save someone else’s.

 

 

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Trois livres pour Noël


With just a week to go before Christmas, I have three book recommendations for you. One is a new release, one is a little older, and one is a classic. Trois livres pour Noël (twa leev-ruh poor no-ell) means “Three books for Christmas.” I hope that you enjoy them.

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First up is L’Appart, by David Lebovitz. If you’ve ever thought of buying a pied-à-terre in Paris, as I have, this book will having you reconsidering that dream. Lebovitz recounts the Kafkaesque problems he ran into during the purchase and renovation of his Paris apartment. His sense of humor took a lot of knocks along the way but he seems to have emerged on the other side of his ordeal still  smiling. He punctuates each chapter with a recipe that will have your mouth-watering.

And don’t give up your dream of an apartment in France just yet. I wrote about A+B Kasha a few years ago – a company that  will provide you with a perfectly renovated apartment in Paris. Although their apartments cost about 20% more than the market price, after what Lebovitz went through, 20% seems like a complete bargain!

A92B7092-EB6B-4EA4-AB93-915DF0F0D036Next, is a An Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas, by John Baxter. This 2008 release chronicles Baxter’s quest to source the finest ingredients for his family’s Christmas dinner. The Australian married into a French family and found that his skills as a raconteur and a creative chef won him a place in their hearts. There are plenty of cultural and historical anecdotes to entertain you.

 

 

E18DE16F-2060-43C4-8E58-50908D1FC669Finally, a purely sentimental recommendation. Read a French translation of a childhood favorite. I recently finished Anne…La Maison aux pignons verts, otherwise known as Anne of Green Gables, by Canadian L. M. Montgomery. I received the English edition as a Christmas gift when I was about eight. Some stories are so good that they transcend language or time.

 

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