The weather was perfect this weekend, especially Saturday. Brilliant sunshine and warm with a cool breeze blowing all day. What a pleasure to escape the congestion of Paris, take the train up to Lille and slow down to the gentler rhythm of the North. Lille is only 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Belgian border.
It turned out that my six year old godson did not enjoy the new Peter Rabbit movie. “Je n’aime pas les animaux,” he said. (I don’t like animals.) I guess we’ll just have to wait out this new not-liking-animals phase. So off we went in the sunshine to his favorite park, me grateful that he still likes parks.
It was packed. He spent the next few hours playing with the other kids and then we were joined by other members of his family. Back to the house for pizza, cold beer and red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Yum.
The next morning, Sunday, was as beautiful as the day before. Too nice to stay indoors! Slinging my camera over my shoulder, I slipped outside and walked briskly to the Sunday morning market in the Wazemmes district. It’s vast, popular and extremely crowded (best to go early.) Using their back door, I ducked into my favorite specialty shop to buy rosewater and orange blossom water (for cakes and desserts) and some halloumi, a briny firm Cypriot cheese, made from a mixture of goat and sheep milk (delicious fried and in salads.) And then, as I headed toward the massive crowd to venture further into the marketplace, it suddenly got very very hot and my left knee started to ache. I decided that I didn’t have the energy to tackle the crowds (plus I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink yet), so I walked back in the heat, careful to stay in the shade.
Gagging for coffee, I burst into the apartment and headed straight for the espresso machine. While I knocked back a double shot, my friends made me a large café au lait and toasted some slices of delicious multigrain bread. I slathered them (the toast, not my friends) with butter. And then the little one appeared, wrapped in an oversized terrycloth bathrobe.
“Tata Juliet,” he said decisively, “Today I want to go to McDonald’s and then to the park.”
“OK,” I said.
“I’ll just do my hair and get dressed. And then we can go.”
Do his hair? In French it’s “je vais me coiffer” which sounds very sophisticated coming out of the mouth of a little boy who has only been six for a week. But then again, his mother is a hairdresser …
Ten minutes later I go into the bathroom to find him standing on a stool in front of the mirror “coiffing” his hair with gel. He’s in fact imitating his two older brothers, aged 15 and 17, who do the same.
I love this gel, he says. Can we take it to the park?
No, we cannot, I say firmly.
So back outside, now it’s broiling hot. Off he marches down the road (like a little Napoleon), me following. Thankfully, McDonald’s is air conditioned. He orders his Happy Meal.
Once seated, I ask ‘Is this your breakfast?’ He nods, his mouth full of hamburger. It seems to be an odd sort of breakfast, but I say nothing.
And then back to the park where he meets his friends and I sit on a bench in the shade of a chestnut tree.