Monthly Archives: September 2009

Kim and Barry came to visit!

This past week has been really fun and like a mini vacation because two of my best friends from the Netherlands came to visit! I had not seen Kim and Barry for maybe two years and it was so wonderful to spend time with them again – I missed them so much!!!

We went to the zoo, took a turn (literally, watch the video) on a terrible carnival ride where Kim and I almost threw up because we were in the air upside down for at least 5 minutes – I had to yell at the people to tell them to stop. We also ate lots of yummy food (check the recipes section)!

Here’s some photos of the two days.

Cool tree trunk carving

Cool tree trunk carving



Before getting sick

Before getting sick

While getting sick

While getting sick

The after effects

The after effects

There was also a huge party thrown by Nicolas, Arthur, and Raphael at their apartment. I invited all the international students and the party turned out to be 75% internationals. There were so many people you couldn’t move. There was also live jam music with drums, a guitar, and Nicolas’ accordion. It was great! (But we also totally trashed the guys apartment. I am really sorry dudes!)



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The newest addition to our family



This is Noé, the newest member of our family. He is a present from Arthur and Nicolas for my birthday. Noé lives on top of the stereo to feel the vibes of the music!
Merci beaucoup Nico et Arthur!!


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Dieppe, Le Havre, and back to school

This weekend was relaxing, warm, and cozy with Olivier’s family. We hadn’t seen his parents in about 2 months, so it was wonderful to see them again. It was also Olivier’s oldest brother, Jean-Baptiste’s, 29th birthday!! Olivier’s parents, Noel and Marie-Noelle, set up a sneaky surprise birthday for JB with all the siblings, except for Maud who lives in Biarritz, at JB and his girlfriend Angelique’s apartment in Le Havre. JB was totally surprised and the whole night was absolutely wonderful. It was really good to see both Bruno and JB again and to finally meet Angelique. And we called Maud to say hello and say that we missed her. I always love going to see the Clairouin family!

The Dieppe cliffs and harbor

The Dieppe cliffs and harbor

We also went to the Dieppe market, saw Simon and Hombline, two friends of Olivier, and ate lots and lots of yummy food.

Now we are back in Lille and September weather has really set in – it’s autumn! I also received my class schedule so now I know what most of my classes are, although I’ve been told that they will change, and still don’t have the schedule for any English classes yet. French schools seem seriously disorganized. I haven’t made any international friends yet, which is hard, but I am sure that I will soon. I’ve made friends with a lot of French people but not Internationals. I sent a message to some people today to ask if they would like to hang out, even though I’ve only met them in a class or hallway once. We’ll see! I am sure I will make international friends soon.

UPDATE! I went out to have drinks with two Swedish girls and a girl from Hong Kong! I am so happy 🙂

Sciences Po Lille

How are all of you??? Thanks so much for keeping up with my blog! I love to see your comments and messages!


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La Grande Braderie

This weekend was absolutely insane. I think the only way to describe the Grande Braderie is a Big Mess. Thousands of vendors came from all over the region – Belgium, the Netherlands, all of France, England, and Germany, to celebrate one of the largest flea markets in Europe. Despite a few obstacles during the Braderie, such as the GRIPPE! (swine flu), stores not selling alcohol after 3pm to avoid drunken mobs, a big brawl in the Grand Place between drunkards and police at 4am, and the fact that NO ONE slept well the whole weekend because of all the noise, the Grande Braderie was so awesome and totally fou.

Our friends started arriving on Friday at around 5pm, began the apero while waiting for others to arrive, and watched the madness start to unfold out of our window – vans parked everywhere on the sidewalk, vendors sleeping in tents on the street, and hordes of people arriving to Lille by train, car, or bike every second.

Irina, Gaetan, Claire, Markus, Olivier, and Arthur

On Saturday, I woke up to a marathon outside our window and all the vendors prepared to sell their goods.

As the minutes passed and the marathon came to an end, the street began to buzz louder and louder. When everyone at the apartment was ready to submerge into the crowds we went out. Here’s a few pictures from the day – quiet streets turned into traffic jams, massive amounts of food to feed the hungry, and policemen on horses to control the crowds. At one point, I was so overwhelmed by the amount of people, by my inability to communicate in French because of exhaustion, and because I dropped kebab grease on my shoe, that I just shut down and felt I could not go on any longer. But, alas, ’tis the Grande Braderie, and thus I forged on!

For lunch on Saturday I tried mussels and fries – the traditional Grande Braderie meal. Lets just say that I can wait until next Grande Braderie to eat mussels again! And, of course, we bought some things for the apartment:
– egg cups
– a big poster for the living room wall
– a mortar and pestle
– a butter dish
– a dress for one euro (I bought this one obviously not for the apartment but for myself)

My friends bought stuff like a carpet, a recipe box full of recipes from the 60s, a tea kettle, TONS of old clothing, including two suits for both Alex and Gaetan who wore them to a big party one night and looked like gangsters from the 20s with their black hats, black suits, and cigarettes. You could literally buy anything at the Braderie – from skis to second hand everything to snakes and lizards.

Here is a view of the Braderie from our window at the height of the weekend. There was a steady stream of people exactly like this from Saturday to Sunday.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend full of apartment parties, street parties at 4am, and odd purchases. Now, I am absolutely dead and want to stay in a hole for at least a week.

How are your lives? It is the beginning of the first semester for a lot of you – is it going well? And for those of you in the northern hemisphere, did you notice how the weather changed this week so suddenly? It’s COLD now! Summer is really over, true fall is on it’s way!


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La Corse, l’Île de Beauté

San Ciprianu

Hello everyone! I just got back from Corsica, “the island of beauty,” after an amazing 10 day vacation. I’ve collected lots of memories, a few shells, and a couple of pictures so you can feel like you swam in the Mediterranean also!

On the evening of the 20th of August, Olivier and I arrived in Corsica at the Figari airport where, to my surprise, it felt like we landed in California because the weather is so hot and dry (normally 30 C and above!). We were met at the airport by Maud, Olivier’s big sister, and one of Maud’s best friends, Natalie. After about a 30 minute drive through the windy hills of the countryside we reached Le Martin Pecher, the house of Olivier’s grandparents, Maminic (Nicole) and Papili (Jacques). The house is a typical Corsican holiday house, a one story stucco with a beautiful terrace, surrounded by eucalyptus trees, pines, and lots of lizards and geckos. The house is located in San Cyprien (San Cyprianu in Corsu) in the south of Corsica, in the district of Lecci. San Cyprianu is written in white, on the southeast coast of the island.

La Corse

Most mornings were spent on the beach of San Cyprien or Pinarello, or touring the southeast coast of Corse with Michel and Danielle, Olivier and Maud’s great uncle and aunt. Michel and Danielle are absolutely wonderful. They must be in their mid-70s, but have very young spirits, and are so fun to be around. They also have an adorable terrier, Oscar, who loves to swim and eat the rind of cheese.


Going out on the boat was the best for reaching places without a lot of tourists and going fish hunting. Fish hunting is a favorite past time of the family and Olivier initiated me into the club. It’s so fun to swim quietly and slowing, then suddenly dart after a fish, pull the trigger of the rifle and attempt to capture the fish. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of shooting fish but since we ate every fish we caught, I thought this was a sufficient argument and therefore the sport is OK in my book. I did not catch any fish, neither did Maud, but Olivier caught 3 or 4. When the water was too stormy for my taste for fish hunting, I stayed close to the rocks and looked for shells among the schools of baby fish. It’s really sad that there have been so many tourists over the past 100 years because the island has been literally stripped of shells – I found only 3 tiny shells that were truly beautiful!

Olivier on the beach

On the second to last day in Corsica, Michel and Danielle took Maud, Olivier, and I to a protected reserve to feed the fish. Upon arrival, I discovered that the reserve was also a reserved beach for nudists! Avoiding the swimming nudists, we fed the fish baguettes – frenchy fishes! – and were so surprised to see HUNDREDS of oblades flock towards us and literally follow us like dogs back to the boat. (I didn’t take any photos but wanted to show you a picture of what the fish look like. I guess you will thank me for not taking pictures at a nudist beach, ha!)


In the afternoons, after taking long, relaxing lunches, with at least 3 courses (fruit, main course, coffee and tea with chocolate and drinking rosé like water) we were absolutely dead from all the food and stay inside to escape from the heat. At around 3 or 4pm we would slowly venture outside and normally take trips in Maud’s car to visit Porto Vecchio (Porti Vechju), where we ate cassis sorbet and drank Corsican beer, or Bonifacio (Bunifaziu) to admire the views of our neighbor Sardinia.

Southernmost tip of Corse


Lighthouse of Bonifaccio

One afternoon Olivier, Maud, Natalie, and I went hiking in the mountains to a massive waterfall near L’Ospedale (which can be seen on the map above). Most Corsicans lived in the mountains, not near the water, for defense against Italian and French invaders. Today, this could be considered protection against tourists who come to bronze in the Corse sun! A Corsican saying, “Look at the water but live on the land.” My favorite aspects of Corse were the the sharp, jutting mountains that pierced the sky. (Of course I cannot forget the crystal turquoise water of the Mediterranean, but the mountains are incredible!)

Mountains of Corse

At the beginning of the hike we made fun of the trail, trying to make it more “extreme,” laughing at the woman who was wearing high heels while traversing the gentle path. Then, suddenly, the path became SUPER steep and we had to literally rock climb down the mountain to reach the waterfall and scale the rocks to come back up. It was a seriously extreme hike by the end of the day! A few days later, on the 25th, Natalie took the back back to the real world and she was sorely missed! Also, as we made our way back down the mountains, we saw a terrible motorcycle accident. The couple, who was pregnant, died, either instantly or because the ambulance could not make its way fast enough through the small roads to the top of the mountain. My thoughts are with this couple and their families; what a terrible thing to happen.


We also celebrated my birthday while in Corsica and it was so much fun! The day was quiet, it was extremely hot, and we spent most of the day indoors. We only ventured outdoors to the beach in the afternoon as the sun was calming down. At night, after things had cooled down a bit, Maud, Olivier, and I went out to a seriously AWESOME pizza restaurant, the Corse are killer at making pizza, and drank a bottle of delicious Corse red wine. After dinner, we came back to the house, ate half of the huge plum tarte that Olivier and I had made earlier that day, drank rosé, and then walked to the beach for a midnight swim with plankton that SPARKLE! It was so amazing to watch the shooting stars above our heads and the shining plankton below our feet. A great 21st birthday!!


All in all, La Corse is now one of my favorite places on earth. At times, I was incredibly perturbed by the amount of tourists, by the floating trash in the water, by the cigarette butts on the beach, and just plain freaked out by some of the women’s breast jobs we saw. But I have utterly fallen in love with the mountains, the fish who swim carefully in and out of the rocks, the wine, the bubbling noises of French, Italian and Corsu mixing together, and the way the Mediterranean sun soaks like olive oil into your skin.

view of San Cipryanu and Porto Vecchio from Michel and Danielle's house

Now I am back in Lille, welcomed home by the rain. School started two days ago, and so far so good. I have met a lot of Swedish people, it’s funny how all the Scandinavians all coincidentally sat in the same area. But I seriously hope that my classes will not be as boring as my methodology class was today!!! Expect another post after this weekend with news of the Grande Braderie (one of the biggest flea markets in Europe with 3 million people!) and masses of people staying at our apartment for a huge party!

I would like to dedicate this post to my dog Daniel, who just passed away last Saturday. I just found out two days ago upon my return to Lille. He was a wonderful dog, a good friend, and a true member of the family. I loved him very much and am sad to know he is gone and that I was not able to say goodbye.



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