Monthly Archives: January 2010

Floating animals?

The ancestors of the current mammals found on the island of Madagascar could have been transported on floating vegetation from Africa, a study says.

Pretty rad! It’s like LOST for lemurs.

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Les Françaises

When someone says to you “French girls” what comes to mind?

Style, class, cigarettes, Brigitte Bardot? One friend (a Frenchman) once said, “I don’t date French girls. They are crazy.”

On the contrary, I don’t think French girls are crazy at all. I think they know exactly what they’re doing. Their bedhead hair is extremely calculated, the way they clutch their cigarette is poised but fanatic, they slur their words until it sounds like they are purring, and their leather boots clunk to a perfected rhythm. In fact, it’s their quirkiness that makes them so unique.

Often when I take a glance at a française trundling down the street I think, “Mhm, interesting.” Unlike Scandinavian girls, where their beauty is sometimes downright blinding, French girls have a beauty that takes time to acclimate oneself to. That is not to say that French girls are frog-like creatures who you have to kiss to make them turn into the beautiful princess. Nor is it to say that French girls who are blindingly gorgeous do not exist. Quite the contrary. It is rather that there is a certain twist, an alluring twirk of the nose, a furrowed brow, or a piercing glance that throws you off at first. Then, after a while, you realize that the creature before you is not directing their eyes towards me and thinking, “I hate you,” or turning their nose up at you. But I suppose it is rather, “Pfh…this world…,” “Putain, I have no more cigarettes,” or “God, it smells bad in Lille today” (which it really does sometimes). Ah, so French.

When I first moved here I felt very self-conscious, not only because I was in a new place but because I do not look like French girls. I have short, dirty-blonde hair, and blue eyes, which some French women do have, but most are a gorgeous, flowing brunette with molasses eyes. Damn, that’s the opposite of me. I’ve lived in places where I was overwhelmingly in the minority and overwhelmingly in the majority. But somehow, living in a place where you can blend in but still don’t look like the inhabitants was a little unsettling. Somehow it’s easier to be one or the other, but never in the middle.

After the first month or two I got over my self-consciousness and was glad that I stood out. I’ll never be able to do the bedhead look. I don’t want to smoke cigarettes. I will never be able to speak French like a cat. And I’m very happy to have my own klonk-klonk of my leather boots. But, you have got to give it to them. They are magnificent.

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Porto ay cha cha!

Between the 12th and the 16th Marcelo, Yuki, Sina, Dan and I went to Porto, Portugal to pass some time before classes started. The town, which is the origin of port wine (or porto) is incredibly ancient and the thick layers of moss and dirt accumulating on the buildings accentuates their beauty. Three out of the four days it rained, and we were absolutely sopping wet. Despite the disgusting weather, we had one exquisite day of sun – so…you can guess…we went to the sea! During the days we walked around everywhere, discovering tiny little streets, and continuing the endless quest for fish (which we finally found at Churrasquiera do Infante, a great CHEAP restaurant). At night, we prepared full dinners for less than 5 euros per person (which includes wine, beer, and porto) and stayed up talking until the wee hours of the morning. The trip was so much fun and I am so lucky to have such amazing friends!

Here’s a few photos and videos from the trip. You can also go to my youtube page to see more videos of the trip.

The first night in Porto!

An example of the street art in Porto and Yuki playing the air guitar.

One of the many churches we visited.

Dinner time!

This is a tram installed in the 1930s that we took to the seaside.

Fishermen by the ocean.

The poshest café in Porto – The Majestic

The Cathedral, built in the 1100s.

And some Portuguese guitarra for you:

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Smile!

The most exquisite group of people, whom I love to bits and pieces. J’adore Maud et moi – nous nous accroupissons comme des petites naines. Et aussi cette jolie photo de Maud, très artistique, de Paris caché dans la nuit.

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Soldes

10am: Just ate the leftovers of a peach tart for breakfast (uhm…fruit, that’s healthy right?) and waited for an hour for a friend to Skype with me (no luck) so I’m now getting off the couch and going to check out the madness of the sales. (YES, you heard me, Sale Season here in France!) I didn’t go out yesterday on the first day of sales because, honestly, I didn’t want to get killed by the stampedes of psychos – and, yes, that does really happen. But I promise myself that I’m not going to buy anything, unless I need it, and it’s a really good price (ha, good luck Lise, courage and restriction!). No, but seriously, it’s just after the holiday season and I’d much rather keep my money for more important things, so we will see how this goes.

3pm: Drum roll please…I bought…Pyjamas, which I actually did need. One pair of pants and one nightie. One pair of black tights. And one nail polish (gotta splurge someway). The really ironic thing is that originally I had the intention of going out to buy new underwear and…low and behold…as I was walking I felt like there was something trailing behind me, I look down, and a pair of MY underwear was caught in my pants. Sweet. Classy! Does everyone have some sort of nightmare about nudity, underwear, etc? I don’t really feel inhibitions towards those sort of things, so this was just very funny to me. But for a second there, I was really embarrassed to be walking through the Grand Place – the main strip in Lille – with a pair of my underwear dragging behind me. Yessss…nice way to start of the New Year – exhibitionism!

On a more serious note (for the ladies, and dudes if you have education in this department you can pitch in some advice too) what is up with French lingerie stores? Why can’t I find my size? Does anyone have recommendations for buying bras in France? I thought you guys were supposed to be experts here.

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La Grande Bouffe

The Christmas season this year was The Marathon Of Joy and Good Food.

December 20th: Olivier and I made our way through the perfect layer of snow to Paris, kicking off the celebrations with a Depois family lunch. Everyone welcomed me so warmly, made me feel like a part of the big bustling festivities, and we all ate our hearts out with delicious cuisine. And I was overjoyed to finally meet people I had heard so many good things about, and the talented Marion, who makes beautiful, kwirky jewelry that I love. Then, after lunch, we brushed off our sedation and all the kids, plus Maminic of course, joined us for a vicious snow ball fight in the back yard. Maminic and Papili are two of the most wonderful, gracious people and I thank you both so much for everything, for the soup blender which I have already used and laughed the whole time (very fun! kind of messy, I have to perfect my skills) and for the fun sleepover! Foie Gras Count: 1.

December 21st – 25th: After saying our goodbyes to Maminic and Papili around mid-day, we packed up our things and trudged through the metro and snow to the apartment my parents and the Semnachers had rented – which was massive with lots and lots of art by Cocteau (Cocteau EVERYWHERE). It was a gay man’s fantasy, with all that phallic art, but worked just as well for our crazy families of 7 people total (maybe not big for you, but HUGE for me, my family is tiny tiny), running around, cooking, jumping into the bathrooms to take showers when you had the chance. We saved every bottle of wine we drank (not my idea, nor Claire’s, but our parents) and had a fine collection running the span (and maybe more) of the gigantic mantle piece by the end of the stay. And we cooked up some of the most exquisite dishes (thanks mostly in part to my mother and Paul), things like: bouillon base soup with gorgeous cockles, scallops, shrimps, fish, tomatoes and saffron, a beautiful fat goose for Christmas day, you can imagine what a good time we had! And for Christmas, we went to the midnight mass at Saint Eustache, which was highly impressive with red candles sprinkled all over, the high ceilings lit up with carols, and the most beautiful organ in Paris. Foie Gras Count: 2.

December 26th: The day after Christmas the Semnachers and the Morrish/Dvells/Kvan clan wrapped ourselves tightly in our coats, gloves, hats and scarves jumped quickly into two cabs and made our way to the Eiffel Tower. After taking elevators to the 2nd floor, my mom, Claire, Paul, Mikaela, and I jostled our way onto the elevator to the tippy-top. I got a big woozy because for some reason I now sort of dislike heights but the view was amazing (ahhhh….puke) so I liked to stay on the upper level with the glass and the photo maps where you can identify landmarks. Then, after making our way back down the tower (phew, thank god…) I ran off to take the train to meet the Clairouin family. It was so wonderful to meet the other side of the family and to finally put so many faces to names I had heard so often, and finally the Clairouin grandparents, who were so warm and kind to me – and gave me a brilliantly blue scarf! Thank you so much, it’s my perfect color! I am just absolutely overwhelmed by how welcoming, generous, and affectionate the entire Clairouin and Depois family is. I cannot thank you enough! Foie Gras Count: 3.

December 27th: The Clairouin family (except for JB and Angelique, I wish you could have been there!) came over to the apartment for an enormous lunch: champagne, red wine, porc filled with figs and encrusted in fennel, roast potatoes, salad, magnificent cheese from Normandie, and a beautiful apple tart made by Mikaela. So much fun, so many laughs, and perfect to have everyone together. Then we went for a long walk across the Seine, while the sun set, and attempted to walk off some calories from the past week.

December 28th-29th: The last days in Paris were filled with running around, buying the last bits and bobs, checking out a vintage store where everything was imported from the USA (oh, well…), and a Jonak stock store (Ah! Cheap leatherrrr…puurrrrr, meow). Our goodbyes were said to the Semnachers on the 29th as we made our way to Lille.

December 29th-30th: Bill, mom, and Mikaela loved Lille. We split up so we could cover our own territory: Bill heading off to check out Rem Koolhaas’ buildings and the rest of us to poke around Vieux Lille. It was cozy to have them here to see our apartment, to cook some good meals, and to forget about the forever grey skies in Lille.

December 31st-January 1st: After saying goodbye to my family in the morning, we went off to the grocery store to stock up on champagne and food for the evening and at 5pm the gang arrived: PARTY TIME! It was so much fun to see all our friends again, to joke around, cook, and eat drink eat drink eat drink eat drink drink drink. It was an amazing and relaxing New Years. In the morning (no, actually, afternoon), despite what I think must have been negative temperatures, we took a walk around town, ate roasted chestnuts, and came back to the apartment for a cup of tea. After everyone left, Olivier and I watched a classic French film from 1973, recommended by Bruno, about four best friends who decide to kill themselves by overeating and having sex with the same women (no, no, not killing themselves by having sex with the same women, that was just another part of the plot), anyways, really 1970s French artistique. Seriously, either the best way to end this marathon or the worst…either way, I don’t feel like eating ever again 😉 (but you know that I’m only 1/4 kidding when I say that!). Foie Gras Count: 4 (And we still have some in our fridge. Please call me if you would like it. Seriously, call me.)

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