Saturday, November 21, 2009

France, Day 10- Lille

Day 10, Wednesday.
I take pictures of pastry cabinets. Now, I know what you’re thinking but before you go and judge my issues, which are plentiful, let me explain. We’re in France. Pastry displays are works of art. In fact, the pastries themselves are works of art. Almost too good to take a bite out of or mar with a fork but only almost. Once you have destroyed one you look forward to the next and relish with great delight the destruction of something so beautiful only because the taste is even more brilliant. This is why I take pictures of pastry cabinets, they are too pretty not to and I know that each little beauty contained within in bursts with untold flavors extraordinaire. Can you blame me for taking pictures? But why am I admitting this here? Because I think I may have seen the most beautiful pastry display window and photographed it today. With my iPhone camera because my regular camera and I are still fighting and it won by having the battery die on me and no replacement on hand. This image of confectionary perfection is located where Jeremy and I are staying now, Lille, a large city north of Paris.
We left for Lille in the morning taking the TGV which is a very fast train that if I had to guess the initials stand for “To Go Vite” but that would be Frenglish and I highly doubt they would use Frenglish for the official name of a train. I’ll have to ask Jeremy what it stands for. Suffice it to say it is a fast train, we went 138 miles in an hour between Paris and Lille. In Lille we were greeted by the lady in the green jacket AKA: Debbie Zumack. She is married to Leroy Zumack and together they have been with GEM France for 24 years or something like that. I forgot how long exactly. Most of that time they were in or around Paris until they felt led to the Lille area 5 years ago. We were there to meet them, learn about the ministry in Lille, consider the possibility that we spend some time in Lille ourselves, etc. It was all wonderful and Leroy and Debbie took great care of us and showed us the city in all it’s independent regal beauty. They made sure that our first meal there featured traditional northern France fare which is a bit different from the central and southern parts of the country. For one thing, they really like beer here and lots of it. For many of the recipes they have the market on you really just substitute beer for wine and boom, it’s food from the north region. They really like fries here too, loads of them, in fact, they like fries so much they have “frites” stands much like hot dog stands in New York or Chicago or Taco stands in Houston. For lunch I had Mussels (don’t lecture me about a pregnant lady eating mussels, ok?) and Jeremy had Carbonara which is beef cooked in, wait for it, wait for it... Beer! Seriously tender beef. The side “vegetable” for both of us? Les frites. Which of course means Jeremy went all the way to France to get steak and potatoes. From Texas no less. The food was really good, we enjoyed our meals a lot. Then the Zumacks took us around to old Lille and showed us around. We had coffee at a little local shop that overlooked much of the old town and it was a little humbling to think that I was sitting in a building built in the 1600’s. I’m sure my hosts thought it was really endearing of me when I compared it to Disney World. Hey, what’s an American girl to do?! They had called another member of the GEM France team to come join us for coffee so we met Gary, a ministry worker doing campus ministry in the area and serving in a church. It was great to hear from all of them what is going on in Lille with the various ministries both connected to GEM and independent or with other organizations.
Then it happened, after checking e-mail and sending an expense report in, etc. Debbie led us around Old Lille telling us fascinating historical stories ripe with details and punctuated with fascinating tidbits regarding the era and area. While she guided our tour she led us to a yarn store. A beautiful yarn store housed in a 16th century building. More than just yarn, actually, they had all kinds of textiles to encourage creativity. So colorful it looked like a candy shop. One wall featured a rainbow of pulled-taffy-like yarns hanging from hooks. All different fibers including wool, cashmere, cotton, linen, and more. Hanging above them were pieces of clothing hand knit from the yarns as samples of the goodness one could create with the candy-looking yarn. The opposite wall showcased rows of old fashioned candy shop jars housing beads of all shapes, sizes, materials and textures grouped by rainbow order in a dazzling colorful display. It was like the Care Bears had been here and shot their magical bellies off at will turning every day ordinariness into sparkling rainbows of enchantment. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Gushing like a band nerd and willing my French to be better than it actually is I took to petting yarn, fingering buttons, eyeing up potential patterns, playing in beads, stroking ribbons, and even trying to convince myself I could decipher knitting patterns in French. The baby things they had knit up were my biggest downfall. I didn’t want to buy them, I wanted to buy the pattern book, all the yarn and all the little notions to make them all myself. Reality wouldn’t catch up with me until after we left the store but thankfully budgetary constraints prevented my foolhardiness from getting the best of me and I left with only one skein of yarn in grey baby alpaca to make a cowl with. The baby didn’t need all those clothes and I don’t have the time to make them. Yes, a cowl really is necessary in Houston though. Something really good that did come out of it though was me realizing that I could really use my knitting here, I’m pretty sure I’d be motivated in regards to the language if knitting was involved. Getting around and daily life, meh, ok, I can figure it out but knitting? Must work on the language for that. Leaving the yarn store with pictures we snuck on our phones (they didn’t want us to take pictures inside, I don’t get it) we conversed our way through the ancient cobble stone streets allowing ourselves to linger over store windows until we got to the pastry shop I mentioned earlier. Yes, we took pictures. I marveled over the tiniest mini-tarts we’ve ever seen yet with incredible detail and decorations. All of us ooh’d and ah’d at the cookies with more details to them than any grocery store cake I’ve ever seen in the states and the candies, cakes, tortes, etc. had all four of us debating which looked the best. Debbie made a decision in that moment, we had to have some. Did I tell you I think she and I are long lost bosom buddies? She drug me kicking and screaming inside the shop (does skipping count as kicking and screaming at my age?) and picked out two small tortes each with a macaroon on top. One raspberry and one chocolate and she got two of each. A word about macaroons in France: wow. I thought I didn’t like macaroons. I do. A lot. I don’t want to share them either. I even like the green ones. So these 4 beautiful tortes (or are they tarts?) are packaged up and go home with us where we have pizza and tortes. Doesn’t that sound totally perfect! It was, really, it was. The only unfortunate aspect of the evening was the parking ticket they got which I’m still confused as to why they did and feel so bad that they got on showing us around and buying us pastries. That should never happen.
After a brief phone conversation with the girls who were far too busy getting ready to explore caves to talk to mommy and daddy, we watched a French movie: Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis. So freaking good, we laughed a lot. I think I heard Leroy and Debbie say there is going to be a remake of this film in America but if you can, watch the French version even if you have to read subtitles, it is hilarious. Besides, you don’t want to miss out on the rare French film experience that actually has a happy ending.


  1. I am still showing people the photo I took in Assisi.... of a pastry case.
    I totally get it.

  2. Belgium has frites stands everywhere, and carbonades as well. Basically as you pointed out, Belgian food is similar to French food, but made with beer instead. If you get the chance, try waterzooie. It is delicious.

    It is so great to read about your trip. It makes us want to be in France.

  3. You make this sound so much fun! Let's go do it all again!! :)
    (by the way, the dish is "carbonade")