Monthly Archives: November 2009

I’m not a grinch but….

…A week ago a giant ferris wheel was installed in the Grand Place. Yesterday was the first day they turned it on, which included INCREDIBLY LOUD Christmas carols being blasted from speakers. Needless to say, it’s visually pretty but the noise is seriously obnoxious. There is also a “Winter Market” that opened last week as well. I now live in a wonderful, fake snow, winterland. I might go crazy and try to pull down the ferris wheel in a week if they don’t turn down the volume…

UPDATE: They turned down the music…whoo hoo! Also, apparently I am gaining followers…Nicolas and Emilie talked to me about my blog tonight at a chic boho party, or “bobo” (bohemian-bourgeois) as the French like to call it. I had no idea!! Thank you so much!
PS – Great party, Marc!!

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Thanksgiving

This past Thursday was Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. Thanksgiving is a particularly American occasion and I was not expecting to celebrate it this year*…luckily, I was wronggggg!

The Clairouins and I made a supremely delicious (if I do say so myself) Thanksgiving lunch this past weekend in Dieppe. We made my first turkey, with apple and sausage stuffing, a fig compote to replace the traditional but impossible to find cranberry sauce, a green salad with figs, walnuts, and roquefort, and mashed potatoes. Marie Noëlle made a creamy pumpkin pie and I made an apple pie. It was all a great success! The recipes will be listed on my Recipes page if you are curious to see what ingredients I used and would like to try yourself. It was so great to be with such a wonderful group of people and to not feel like I was missing out on an important family holiday.

On Thursday night, Olivier and I went out with Dan and Casey, two friends from Germany and America, respectively, for moules frites. Ok, you may wonder, mussels? But Lise, I thought you hated them. Not any more! I love them now! Especially with a creme, garlic, and white wine base – although I don’t think I could refuse anything with those ingredients. We went to a brasserie on rue Bethune, the shopping street here in Lille, and it was very colorful, noisy, and warm, a perfect environment for recreating that holiday feeling. And after the four of us met up with Jenn to celebrate her birthday. A very festive Thursday!**

To top things off, I skyped with my mom, who was in Bellevue, Maryland – right next to the beautiful Chesapeake Bay – where we always go to have Thanksgiving with Buck and Mike and their families. I got to say hello to everyone and, of course, to the doggy family too.

This was a GREAT Thanksgiving after all! Happy Thanksgiving to you all!! Please tell me what you did for the holidays. Also, let me know how you are doing in general!

* I spent my first non-American Thanksgiving in Helsingør, Denmark eating Ramen noodles and drinking Tuborg beer with my American friend Nate. Needless to say, we drank, complained, and were thankful that we were at least two Americans together both equally missing turkey – equal (un)opportunity, an American civil right at it’s best.
** Photos courtesy of Dan Orbeck, who sends salutations and a Happy Thanksgiving to my family.

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The French and The Metro

I have to preface this post by saying that I grew up in Hong Kong, one of the world’s largest metropoleis with a population of approximately 7 million people. In Hong Kong the metro (MTR) is massive and, because there are so many people in Hong Kong, you learn to move strategically to save you the pain of bumps and human traffic jams, which are just gross so we won’t talk about it… In Hong Kong, you can easily pack 20 people into a 10 person elevator, and the same goes for a metro car. Hong Kongers are calculating and decisive – they know how to move from point A to point B in the fastest amount of time.

Therefore, you can understand that when I got to France and saw the catastrophe that French like to call a metro, I almost wanted to go drink a whiskey in the middle of the day to calm my nerves (though, I assure you, I did not). First, they like to stand IN FRONT of the doors when the metro is arriving, making it impossible for those inside the metro to get out and move to their next destination. Second, when inside the metro car, they just stand there and guard their place, not moving at all when another person needs to get inside the car. And there is so much free space! But they don’t want to move.

One evening, Olivier and I had just gone grocery shopping in Euralille, a large shopping complex with a big grocery store, and were taking the metro back home. When we arrived at the platform, a metro came, and people walked in, leaving no room for us. So, we waited for another one. This time, I was absolutely set on getting into the metro, but everyone just stormed past us, leaving me to run for the doors and to get STUCK in the doors with my grocery bag. Everyone just stared, like, “What the hell is that girl trying to do?” When all they could have done was just MOVE to make more space and let me in. I guess the 3rd time’s the charm, because we finally got the 3rd metro. (ABSURD!)

Believe me when I say that I am not alone in my frustrations – international and French alike agree that it’s absolutely incomprehensible that people stand in front of the doors. And I do realize that I’ve been in a sort of bashing mood the past posts, and I apologize, but seriously…MOVE YOUR BUTT and get on the metro!

Long story short – a lesson in patience.

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Saying “Hello” in France

I had always known that countries like France, Spain, the latin countries in general, have the custom of saying hello by giving a kiss on each cheek (or 4 kisses, oy vey!, if you are in some parts of the world). So it wasn’t a huge surprise when I moved to France when someone approached me to say hello with a kiss on the cheek. It’s just a cultural difference that doesn’t exist in any of the countries I have lived in before.

The thing that gets me, though, is: 1) you must say hello to everyone by kissing them on the cheek, and 2) no hugs!

1) It’s not that I am anti-French or anti-French culture (of course, how could you even think that I am anti-French if I am living here and living with a french man…and if you did think so, shame on you!) but good lord…do I really have to say hello to 20 people (let alone strangers) by giving them a kiss on the cheek. It takes 30 minutes to say hello! I just want to get on with the party. And how am I supposed to remember their names, that they are saying to me mid-face-about-to-kiss-the-other-cheek, when I am so focused on aiming for their cheek and not the air/their ear/or, please god no, the in-between spot between your cheek and your mouth that provokes the question, “Did you just try to kiss me?” (Disclaimer: not that this has ever happened, but uhm, hello, even just the possibility of awkward!?)

Of course, if it’s my friends, or friends-of-friends, I am absolutely fine with giving bises. But, if you’re a smelly stranger, I’m really not inclined to kiss you on the cheek. And to all the wonderful French who just read this, please, keep kissing me (on the cheeks)! I need all the cultural lessons I can get!

2) No hugs. This sucks. I love hugs – that is, I love hugs from my friends, my family, and my boyfriend. If you are a creepy homeless person, I don’t want a hug. Thank you. But hugs are just so comforting and reassuring. And, in a way, I feel like hugs are much more intimate than a kiss on the cheek. Because everyone gives bisous on the cheeks here, a hug is even more special to me now. Thankfully, my girlfriends here have the same mentality as me and we all give each other hugs, which makes people stare at us, but that’s ok with me! I need my hugs!

Hope you are all doing well. Bisous!

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København!

On Sunday night we got back from our road trip to Copenhagen, which included: two super long drives (approximately 14 hours the way there and 14 back), lots of hygge (a danish word that means cozier than cozy) time with family and friends, and lots of Danish beer and Danish food! We saw Pip for his 22nd birthday along with Oly, Kat, Tom, and Mattias (friends from IPC), my cousin, Theresa, for dinner and drinks at a bar where one of Arthur’s friends from Japan works, Nikolaj for a julebryg, and my aunt, Marley, my uncle, Nils, and Theresa for a delicious, home-cooked dinner that was perfectly hygge.

Here are some photos with captions from the trip.

Me driving

Olivier and Nicolas drove most of the way. This is me getting freaked out by German drivers, who drive incredibly fast!

Arthur in The Living Room

Arthur, in one of my favorite cafés, The Living Room (formerly known as Robert's Café)

Nicolas, Arthur, and me at Kongens Nytorv

Nicolas, Arthur, and me at Kongens Nytorv. The weather was pretty cloudy most of the beginning of the trip

Floss

Floss Bar, one of my favorite bars that has thick graffiti all over the walls. I think this bar kind of freaked out the boys. It also has a toilet that will make any French toilet look clean.

Christiania

We visited Christiania, the famous Danish hippie commune, and visited one of my favorite lunch/café places inside the commune.

Louisiana

We went to my favorite museum in the whole world - Louisiana (www.louisiana.dk)

Kronborg

This is Kronborg, Hamlet's castle, in Elsinore (Helsingør). We drove here to visit my old school, IPC (www.ipc.dk).

The boys

Nicolas and Arthur on the boat tour around the Copenhagen harbour

Olivier

Olivier in Nyhavn, on the boat, enjoying the sunshine

Den Lille Havfrue

The little mermaid (or Den Lille Havfrue in Danish). We went to see this because the boys had never visited DK

Vor Frelsers Kirke

Our Savior's Church (Vor Frelsers Kirke) in Christianshavn

Jule Bryg

With Nikolaj, a dear old friend, at Salonen. Danish christmas beer (Jule Bryg) was distributed on October 31st. This is considered to be one of the most important nights for Danes and they stayed out partying until 6 or 7am! (We could hear them from our hostel)

Nyhavn

Nyhavn, by Olivier (approximately 4pm on Wednesday)

Nyhavn

Nyhavn, by Lise (approximately 11am on Friday)

This trip was definitely a tongue twister for my mouth and head – I spoke French, English, and Danish in the same sentences in order to translate things all the time. And sometimes it was just easier to forget English all together and speak French and Danish.

On the way home, we stopped in Leiden, the Netherlands, to see Kim and Barry. We stayed at their amazing apartment (which they constructed themselves and is sooo cool!) and ate some delicious pumpkin soup that they made. Then it was back to France and back to school!

Hope you are all doing well! If you went on a trip for fall break recently, I want to hear about it! Please tell me in the comments!

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