Tag Archives: family

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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Paris, J’arrive!

Gearing up and getting ready to haul ourselves, our bags, and all our Christmas presents to Paris through the snow. I just really hope that the trains will be running on time (HA, right…) and that we are not a day late due to strikes. Makes everything run so smooth, those strikes. But I cannot wait to get there! Clairouin family Christmas parties and a MAJOR PARTY with my parents, sister, god parents, and god sister. Paris better get ready! They won’t know what hit them once we’re all there…AMERICAN EXODUS TO PARIS! (Can’t wait to report back how the Parisians act towards us, this is going to be hilarious.)

But right now I’m running off to a friend’s house for the last international party of the semester (SOOOO SADDDD). I cannot believe that everyone is leaving and that people I’ve come so close to are now going back to their home countries. Well, it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. (And you know, my international friends, that I love you all so much!)

What are your plans for Christmas? Tell me!

Hope you’re all doing well and not buried in 10 feet snow (like most of the East Coast right now) and Europe’s going into a deep freeze now too. Get your longjohns on and grab a hot toddy!

PS – I finished my paper today and I gave money to both the women, in case you were wondering 🙂

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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 HelsingĂžr, 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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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 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.


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


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


This is Kronborg, Hamlet's castle, in Elsinore (HelsingĂžr). 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 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, by Olivier (approximately 4pm on Wednesday)


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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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 Corse, l’Île de BeautĂ©

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 rosĂ© 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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To blog or not to blog?

As most of you know by now, I am terrible at keeping up correspondence. I also hate blogging but a friend, who has been diligently blogging about her summer travels, inspired me to start one. So here it is – my blog.

To whom I have sent this blog, I deeply care about you and don’t want you to think that I am a good-for-nothing niece, friend, daughter, etc. I know that I have not kept regular correspondence with many of you and even though these posts are not personal letters to each of you individually, they will be written with the same integrity, honesty, and love. This is my way of keeping in touch with you, in my little way, and I apologize for sucking so much at writing letters. I just hope I will be able to maintain this blog, otherwise I’ll have to start apologizing for sucking at blogging too…(ough, maybe this isn’t a good idea…).

My goal is to update at least once a week to tell you about what’s going on in my life right now. I’m not really sure what to anticipate but I think the blog will be mostly filled with my trials and  tribulations of living in France, university life, and such. If there is any information you think might be helpful to someone, feel free to pass the blog along. Also, PLEASE PLEASE comment on the post if you read it and want to tell me something. I want this to be a dialogue, not a one-sided conversation.

Current update:

I live in Lille, France with my boyfriend Olivier. I am on the longest summer vacation of my life and have so far: moved out of my student apartment in Charlottesville, gotten 4 impacted wisdom teeth out with a recovery of 2 days, saved a woman’s life by giving her CPR when she had a seizure and will now have CPR classes re-established in the Charlottesville public schools, studied in Falmouth, Jamaica for a month with a graduate level architecture course learning drafting and doing my own sociological studies on Caribbean masculinity for my Gender Studies major (I am a Sociology and Gender Studies double major at the University of Virginia), and am now in Lille.

This weekend my friends Hannah and Arthur, Olivier and I went to a music festival, Les Nuits Secretes, and had a great time dancing until early in the morning to some really awesome bands. (More to be written about this later, I think…)

I’m learning that the French language has many, many more exceptions than rules. That little French women stay skinny because they smoke like chimneys and eat like birds. And that some French men won’t stop saying Bonjour to you if they like your ass (though definitely not as annoying as the tttsssttt noise that Jamaican men make). Also, that I really need a haircut but am absolutely terrified to get one because I don’t want anyone to butcher my hair.

In short, this is a feeble (or maybe grand, depending on my level of laziness) effort to reach out to you and tell you what’s going on in my life. I know…this is a long long post, but it is the introduction and wanted to make it satisfactory and informative.

I hope you are all doing well and I send my love to each of you.


Olivier and me in Paris, March 2009


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