Given that I only woke after a twelve hour sleep, it seems that the weekend NYU trip may have been a lot more taxing than I thought. And with the stack of work of tomorrow (albeit revising vocabulary and grammatical things, and writing a 1500 word récit on a subject of my choice), I also shouldn’t be blogging. But to justify my typing into this textbox right now, I figure that this “mental exercise” would help warm up my brain before going for a marathon, which seems to be the plan for the next couple of days.
So to begin, I was up and early (per usual, excepting today) but somehow wound up packing minutes before I left. I grabbed the Phèdre book on my table and stuffed it into my bag, and then hurriedly left thinking that I would barely make it on time to the train station. Turns out, though, that I was fifteen minutes early so the incessant last minute panicking was merely to give me an early morning adrenaline rush. But with any rush, the crash back down is much expected; for some reason, I thought i would be productive in the ride to Lille and read Phèdre. That said, I got through one act before finding my eyes closing between every other line.
Upon arriving to Lille, we were quickly greeted with the sight of the city for about twenty minutes as we waited for our transport to quickly shuttle us off to Arras. Funny to note that I didn’t quickly remember the significance of Arras (it’s been a while since grade ten history) and was wondering what the Canadian flag was doing risen up alongside the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. Things did begin to click as I noted the poppy pins being sold (which I don’t ever wear because I always end up pricking myself with the needle) at the Carrière Wellington and I noticed the date being relatively close to armistice/remembrance day. We descended 20m beneath ground level and found ourselves amidst the quarries that were once used during WWI (and later WWII) in preparation of the Battle of Arras. To be honest, I thought the tour would be a drag, especially considering the overly dramatic tour guide in Normandy two years ago, but the set-up of the guided tour was done well and the immersion into the quarries provided a sense of relevance.
Believing that we already were in downtown Arras, the thought that we would be remaining in the city for lunch was seemingly dreadful. Driven several minutes away from the quarries, we found ourselves in a quaint city and a restaurant to sit ourselves at for lunch.
Somehow I hadn’t figured it out, but the bus was to be considered our second home for the duration of the trip since we often found ourselves riding it from place to place. After lunch in Arras, we were driven on over to Despinoy to discover the regional candy, bêtises. Popping the candy into my mouth, I thought it would be a gooey type of caramel but, boy, I was wrong. Hard and minty, I was in a shock. But it was made up for with the fruit flavored candies that delivered the succulence of fruit with a tinge of fresh mint flavors. It was hard to follow the explanation of the candy making process since it was somewhat visual and with 60 people crammed into the room, it was somewhat hard to peer over the taller kids.
So this is where we are left in Cambrai with over an hour of free time. I couldn’t grasp the logic of why we weren’t taken to the hotel, which was listed as being in the city, first and then allowed our free time (since dinner was to be served at 8:30). Turns out that our hotel was far from city center and was in fact a castle – Château de la Motte Fénelon. Before you get as stoked as I was, no one actually stayed in the château (although we did eat there for dinner and breakfast), we were led 200m away and to sets of cabins. Kind of cool, in a “I’m in the forest and near a castle in the middle of nowhere” sense.
Dinner was pleasant to say the least with our glasses of wine refilled by waiters (oh how we secretly wished that they would just leave us the bottles on the table) and a double dose of dessert (sugar tart and chocolate cake).
To think of the second day as peculiar would be the gist of it. We woke up to find ourselves leaving for the Brasserie Castelain, which really is the beer brewery for Ch’ti and Jade beer. Somehow the idea of beer sampling before noon is a little unsettling, but hey, if NYU took us there, who is to say no?
Now the whole idea of having free time in Lille wasn’t particularly eventful aside from the riots that surrounded the square. Eating a Baba au Rhum from Meert bakery at the fountain, people with signs protesting against Sarkozy and bright red sparklers lit provided me the dessert time entertainment. Sadly, following the troop around the streets would have been a better guided tour than the one we had of Lille. Our tour guide seemed to live in her own world as she rattled of facts and scurried from location to location, losing students as we blitzed through the streets.
Perhaps the most interesting component, or rather, most seemingly like a comedy or action movie (depending on how you see it), was when we were dropped off at the train station and told to come back in time for the train. Unfortunately, it turns out that we were dropped off at the wrong station and there was an active recon mission to gather everyone and transport them to the right one. If that wasn’t everything, we were in belief that we had two cars reserved for our group, but when people with tickets in hand pointed out that we were in their seats, we soon realized that one of the cars wasn’t even in our reservation. With uncomfortable shifting around and somehow police on board the trains, the trip that was to everywhere and then Lille concluded in comedic fashion that quickly calmed itself down with everyone fast asleep.