Monday, June 1, 2009

Paris-Lille-Amiens-et puis?

Yes, I’m on the move.
Starting with the move to chez Jean-Baptiste in the Paris 10ème a couple of weeks back (was it?). It was kind of like ‘coming home’ ... but, alas, this year, ‘home’ was more like a nursing home. Jean was just starting to mend from a really bad bout of bronchitis and I alas (it has now been confirmed) am in the thrall of some nasty oriental parasite or amoeba, picked up on the ship. However, let it not be said that we cowered in bed. Well, not that much. You can’t be in Paris and stay in bed. Well, not that much. So we hit the cafes and the restaurants, we walked again in the Parc Buttes-Chaumont, we visited the Musée Carnavalet, we went late-night partying way out beyond Montmartre and J-B hosted a dinner party for six in our little living room. And on May 29 we hit the road north.
Highlights of the week: easily the best restaurant, the Sainte-Marthe, situated in a peaceful little square just near the flat. A glorious meal of lamb and a serenade from four capable musicians calling themselves Opus 4. They deserved a tip just for carrying the double bass about. Anyway, all my stars for Sainte-Marthe
Encounter with Ken Bloom and Barry Kleinwort, here in Paris to do a show with Christophe. We have known each other by name for 35 years ... and we finally get to meet in a Paris bar!
The Carnavalet: I’m not a great museum and gallery man, but this one I really enjoyed. It’s the museum ‘of Paris’ and filled with (amongst others) the most wonderful C19th paintings of the city. A must for any visitor.
The wine. France is appallingly dear (you won’t get a round of small beers and Cocas in a café for less than $40) … but not for wine! I’ve been able to drown myself in the most splendid grand cru wines for $20 a bottle. And, yes, of course I have.
But in the end, it all comes down to the folk one meets. Especially the new folk. I’ve meet a heap. Benoit, our party-host, a sparkle-eyed lad who beds three women a night and makes his debut next week in drag cabaret, Catherine, gentle-voiced academic reseacher and indefatigable walker, Sandra the vibrant maquilleuse with her Penelope Keith English and her determination to be a writer, Marion, at 23 already on the way to being an opera singer (we had Manon Lescaut at midnight), Laurence the budding journalist, professor Fredéric and Marion (and I didn’t get to meet their baby Chloe) …
and a very special mention for Dr Martine D***, of Le Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, the sort of Doctor everyone longs to have … merci, Madame, and I hope these bloody pills do the job quickly!

We hit the road north on 29 May with intent. Following Mdlle Rosy des Baux. And here we are in Lille, back in the wonderfully hospitable arms of dear friend Didier. If you look at last year’s blog, you will see my panegyric on Didier’s cooking and above all the incomparable rabbit he cooked especially for me…
And when we rolled into le Vieux Lille on Friday night .. there it was! The white tablecloth, impeccably laid and … a huge and wondrous dish of rabbit! Three helpings later (yes, I know I have tummy problems and I know that at best I’m a tiny eater), I was deep in the land of gastronomic grace.
Saturday was devoted to a voyage to Amiens (a good hour and a half each way) to see Rosy run. I hardly recognised my little filly, she is now a decidedly strong-looking mare. She went out third favourite for her race, and after two infuriating false starts (by others), got away well on the inside. She was three back on the rail when the field tightened and she galloped. That, of course, is disqualification. Disappointing, but watching her run on thereafter I have no doubt that in the months to come she will do something. I’m very happy with my French baby.

And so, back to Lille …
I’m falling heavily for Lille. Old Lille anyway. Its beautiful, its big enough and not too big, it’s full of life and things happening (look at this picture, of an exposition of black plastic angel-devils in the main street), and yet it’s not too loud, not too ‘city’. And I’m not even going to mention the food and wine … oh! the Market de Place du Concert of the Vieux Lille! As I write, Didier is just back from the market, and tonight we are going to eat rascasse au four a la Corse, des bouquets de crevettes mayonnaise maison, and the cheeses .. Vieux Lille, aka Gris de Lille ou Le Pur, Boulettes d’Avenes …

O! Gerry Bordman, you who twenty years ao accused me of not appreciating food. Well, my dear friend, I might not have then, but I sure as Hell do now!

And tomorrow is Wissant. I know, I‘m moving too fast. Each year, I say I will slow down .. but for the moment, it’s Monday, it’s Lille and there is divine rascasse for dinner.

No comments: