Next up on the European itinerary, Lille, France! I had never been anywhere in France other than Paris (read my post about my last trip to Paris here), so when on-line buddy Aelle offered to let me stay with her in Lille, I could not resist!
I was also lucky to find a travel partner. Pandacookie was able to come to England in November, so together we jumped the Chunnel and crossed over to France. (In this photo, she is posing with Obama at the Lille train station. This was less than a week after the U.S. election, so there was Obama-fever everywhere!)
Here is Aelle, and her partner Wally. They were the coolest hosts. The first night, Aelle had made reservations for us at Le Toucouleur, an Afro-Caribbean restaurant. She had, awesomely, previously made arrangements with the Chef for us to get a two-course vegan dinner! In the above photo, you see our cocktails. All the cocktails at the restaurant are named after African capitals- mine (on the left) was the Yaoundé, a tequilla cocktail sweetened with agave nectar and pineapple juice. I had to get it, just because it taught me how to say agave nectar in French! (nectar de goyave)
Our dinner was amazing. We got the first course, this delicious and spicy vegetable stew with rice, and ate it all up, forgetting that we had another course coming!
So by the time we got this amazing veggie curry (withs sweet potatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions, and more) we were all stuffed! That didn't stop us from indulging anyway. The experience at the restaurant was so nice- without a host who knew the city so well, what would we have had for dinner?
On Sunday, we headed to Lille's large market. It was super bustling, crowded, and filled with beautiful foods and sights. Above, you see some of the brightly-colored spices at a Moroccan spice shop.
And here are some giant squash. Everywhere we went, people gave us samples of clementines, grapes, olives, etc. The market was a very multi-sensual experience.
Here's one of my favorite photos from Lille- a family of musician playing on the street during market day.
After picking up some fresh bread (bien sûr!) we headed home, where Wally and Aelle cooked us a magnificent... Japanese feast. (You see, both of them had been living in Japan until recently). This fragrant dish, full of mushrooms, peppers, and noodles was so satisfying on a cool day, and we inhaled it all.
Here is one of my funnest discoveries in Lille! Kwak beer (being in Northern France, near Belgium, beer is a huge deal in Lille, and people drink it more than they do in other regions.) Kwak beer is called so because it's served in the special glass that you see- and when the drink gets down to a certain point, the sound of air bubbles as you tip the glass make a "quack quack" sound- it's hilarious! And the stuff is very potent, so giggles are sure to accompany a Kwak order!
Of course, you can't go to France without gorging yourself on fresh-made baguettes. Pandacookie and I must have gone through at least 10 loaves of this stuff...
Both of us were also happy to get to check out Le Furet du Nord, formerly Europe's biggest bookstore! (Now the 2nd biggest)... It was so fun to browse through floor after floor of books, magazines, stationery, and art supplies, including a whole section of books in English (and other languages as well).
Here are Pandacookie, me, Aelle, (and of course, baguette), as Aelle dropped us off at the train station on our way to Belgium. Our visit to Lille was so extremely fun, mostly because of the coolness of Wally, Aelle, and her family who were nice enough to take two internet strangers into their house! It was nice to get an insider vegan view of the city, and I can't wait to go back. Merci, Aelle!
To see all my photos from Lille, click here.
Coming up next, join Pandacookie and Bazu in Ghent...