Well, after a night of partying, I realized that I had done something really stupid. You see, my plan was to return on Sunday (today), so my hotel reservation ended today. But when I was shopping for train tickets, I picked the least cheap return ticket, which was at 22h00. Have you figured out what’s wrong with this picture?
That’s right. Check-out time from my hotel was at 12h00, so I had 10 hours to kill. Add to this the fact that I didn’t get to bed until around 6h00 or 7h00, and you can see what kind of day I had ahead of me. I got up around 11h00, took a quick shower, packed my bags, and then checked out and asked the concierge to hold my luggage.
At this point, all I wanted to do was sleep more, and that was the one thing I couldn’t do. I could go grab a coffee in a café (which I did), I could haul out my laptop and work on my field notes (which I did), and I could wander around and take photos (which I did), but I couldn’t put down my belongings and just take a nap.
Lille, at least, is a really lovely city, with some great architecture and very friendly people. So here are some pictures I took of the downtown area near the train station, as taken by my sleep-deprived self.
Thankfully, I eventually had a bright idea. What if I exchanged my ticket for an earlier train? I know that my train ticket to Lille on Friday was at the “Prem’s” rate, which allows absolutely no exchange or refund, but I distinctly recalled paying a bit more for the Sunday evening return trip. So off I went to the train station, where I used one of the SNCF’s surprisingly easy-to-use exchange kiosks to exchange my ticket. Alas, I had to pay another 30€ to exchange the ticket this late, but at least I was going home at 18h00, instead of 22h00.
When 18h00 rolled around, I got on the train and got ready to enjoy a 1.5-hour nap. Then a young couple sat down across the aisle from me with a toddler that had just started using language and hadn’t yet learned social norms about volume. This is unfortunate but understandable; the fact that the parents showed no interest in actually teaching their child to speak at a reasonable level drove me and everyone else in the train nuts. It wasn’t until I got off the train in Paris, grumpy and sleep-deprived, that I recalled that I had brought earplugs with me for the music festival. Dammit.
On my way through Gare du Nord to get to the métro, I passed this rather unlikely shop in the underground walkway that sold specialties from Auvergne (read: dry sausages and cheese). Unable to say no to well-prepared French dry sausage, I stopped to try a sample and ask the guy about his wares. This is clearly prime sausage-selling season, as I left his place with two plain sausages and two peppered sausages for 15€. And keep in mind that these are big, half-kilo sausages. Yay! Porky goodness.
I trundled my way home and dropped off my stuff, and then zipped over to my friend’s place—the one that took me in at the beginning of the month when I was homeless—to return the spare set of keys I had been using at the time. On the way home, I realized that I was starving and only had a big pile of dry sausage to eat. I took a quick walk in my neighborhood and discovered (to my delight) that there was a rather respectable-looking sushi place around the corner, called Sushi West. I’ve always been very wary of sushi in Paris, having had some pretty awful experiences, but I’ve heard since my return that things have improved.
Sushi West’s menu was certainly geared toward conservative Frenchy palates. Salmon and Tuna was in everything and most “sushi combo” plates were made of exclusively those two fish. There were lots of “special” maki (rolls) that were filled with pretty standard fillings (green onions, cucumber, oshinko, tempura shrimp, avocado, etc.). And, most disappointingly, there were two maki labeled “very hot!” that were, in fact, tasteless; I’m not even talking “mildly hot,” but rather “did you forget to put hot sauce in this?”
The whole thing was pretty expensive, but a good price for Paris. I paid 25€ for a 25-piece sashimi set (with mackerel and sea-bass included in the combination along salmon and tuna), a cucumber roll, and a spicy tuna roll (super disappointing). The sashimi was fresh-tasting and generously portioned, but the rolls were lackluster. Nonetheless, everything tasted very fresh and dependable, so I took a take-out menu home with me.