September 29, 2011

Meurtre, elle a ecrit.

Almost a year ago, back in October 2010, a young man of 33 disappeared in the middle of the night after leaving a party at a friend’s house by himself. His body was found 4 days later in La Deûle (a canal/small river that encircles the citadel of Lille).

Since his wallet, with his credit and id cards, was still with him, and his body didn’t show any signs of aggression, the police believe he was drunk, fell in the Deûle, and, being unable to climb back out as there are not very many access points to the canal, drowned.

Four months later, in the beginning of February, a young man of 26 was partying with some friends on rue Royale (a street a five minute walk from my own), and then disappeared around 3am. 18 days later, they find his body in the Deûle.

Police say that he drowned because, just as before, there were no signs of aggression and the wallet was still with the body.

At the end of February, two friends are leaving a party in the Vauban quarter together, but their paths diverge next to l’Esplanade. The 22 year old student’s body is found five days after he disappeared, once again in the Deûle, a mere two days after the discovery of the second body.

Once again, the police say that he drowned.

These three deaths of young French men disappearing in the middle of the night and their bodies being found a few days later already seemed a bit suspicious to me. During the winter, whenever FBF would leave my house I would always watch him from my window to make sure he made it safely into his car, as I was afraid he’d get snatched away and become the next body found in the Deûle.

But as winter turned into summer, and summer into fall, these mysterious drownings had wandered far from my mind.

Two days ago, yet another body was found in the canal. A 19-year-old student was partying on rue Solferino, and he disappeared in the night. 6 days later, his body was found in the canal, once again with his wallet and no signs of aggression. However, this time the Deûle wasn’t on his route home.

A map of where the four bodies were found in Lille.
Source: La Voix du Nord

I have once again started to survey FBF on his walks to his car to make sure he gets home safe. All these bodies ending up the canal seem very suspicious to me and I don't want FBF to be the 5th young adult male to be found drowned in the Deûle.

What do you think? Serial killer or simply drunk men falling into the canal? I'm leaning towards serial killer.

News source: La Voix du Nord

September 23, 2011

Disneyland Paris

If planning a visit to Disneyland Paris, one might expect it to be a similar experience to visiting the original Disneyland. And while there are lots of similarities between the parks, with a few changes in layout and ride styles, Disneyland Paris is a very different cultural experience from that which I am accustomed.

Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant in Disneyland Paris.

Growing up in Southern California, about a 40-minute drive from Disneyland, I have had an annual passport for more of my life than I haven’t had one, and I know the park comme ma poche (like the back of my hand). I have never needed a map.

The layout of the two parks is basically the same. You start off on Main Street, which leads you to Sleeping Beauty’s castle, beyond which lies Fantasyland. If you veer off to the right you find yourself in Discoveryland/Tomorrowland (Paris/Anaheim). On the left you can enter either Fronteirland or Adventureland.

Le plan (the map) of Disneyland Paris.

The first and most obvious difference between the parks is that there is no Toon Town in Disneyland Paris. The next one is that the Matterhorn is conspicuously absent. The last major landscape difference is that there is no Critter Country in Paris, either.

Then there are all the small differences that make each park unique, such as different tracks for Space Mountain, the placement of rides (for example, Star Tours is in the back of Discoveryland, but in the front of Tomorrowland), different restaurants, and of course different weather. Despite going in the middle of July, it rained during FBF and my visit. This explains why more of the lines are found under a roof in Paris.

The physical differences aren’t the only things distinguishing the two parks, however.

I was surprised by how much French was spoken. Instead of being in English and then Spanish, the announcements of how to behave properly before and after a ride start with French, are followed with English, and then continue in other languages I don’t speak.

Even the animatronics speak French! Imagine my surprise to find C3P0 speaking in French with R2D2 (who speaks in beeps, even in French).

C3PO talking in French to his buddy, R2D2 at Star Tours, Paris.

I realize it was silly to think that Disneyland Paris would be in English, but finding myself in a Disneyland remarkably similar to that which I came to know as a child, I kept forgetting I was in France.

But language wasn’t the only reminder that I was in France. Even if the buildings and attractions look similar, the people do not act the same.

When at Disneyland at home, I know which hours to avoid going to the restaurants if I don’t want to wait in lines, as most Americans eat meals around the same time. This is not possible at Disneyland Paris. People come from all over Europe and have such different cultural norms for when to eat that there are always people at the restaurants.

When meeting a character, instead of people forming a line based on who got there first, it's a mad dash to greet, take pictures with, and receive autographs from Disneyland Paris’s various inhabitants.

Although it happened less often in my experience, people even try to cut in the lines for attractions. An Italian family just up and walked past at least 7 people before deciding that was where they would be waiting for the ride.

Despite linguistic and cultural differences, I had a great time visiting Disneyland Paris. The most important thing stayed the same. It still felt like the Happiest Place on Earth.

September 20, 2011

Mon Anniv'

I turned 24 on Sunday!

Me and the number twenty-four in a super secret location! Hint: location disclosed in the next two paragraphs.

To celebrate this momentous occasion FBF surprised me with a weekend trip to Reims, the city where champagne comes from.

He took me to Taittinger champagne house, where we took a tour of their caves (cellars) and got to learn how champagne is made. At the end of it we got a taste of the delicious stuff.

The wall surrounding the Taittinger champagne house.

We then proceeded to drink more champagne. We found a café right in front of the Cathédral Notre-Dame de Reims, where the kings of France were crowned, and sipped on our glasses while enjoying the beautiful view.

The perfect view for enjoying a glass of champagne: the Cathédral Notre-Dame de Reims.

Then we went to yet another café to drink yet another glass of bubbly. This time our drinks came with a surprise aperitif of French fries.

For my birthday dinner we went to a delicious fondue restaurant, where I proceeded to eat more than my weight in melted cheese. It was heaven.

The next morning I woke up and opened a birthday package from my best friend. It came with a tiara (complete with rhinestones and a fuzzy, purple feather boa-type lining) and a hot pink birthday girl pin/ribbon. I proudly sported both while FBF and I hit up Reims’ monuments and received all sorts of funny looks from the French.

Me and my tiara being tourists all over the city of Reims!

Lunch in the city came with, of course, a glass of champagne, and after seeing all the sites we headed back home for little ol’ Lille.

All in all, it was the perfect way to turn twenty-four. Can it get any better than lots of champagne, tiaras, and travel? I think not.

September 14, 2011

l’Esprit Francais

On our last night in Bordeaux, FBF and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and have a picnic dinner along the Garonne River. We used our new knowledge about Bordeaux wine from our afternoon spent in a wine tasting class to buy a bottle of the stuff that we felt confident we’d like. We picked a boulangerie just because the smell wafting out of the store made my mouth water. We found a formagerie and told the lady the different types of cheeses we wanted. We choose a rondelle of chevre, a slice of brebis, a piece of tome de savoie, and a slither of morbier.

We plopped down in the grass along the part of the quai that has been transformed into a park, right next to the famous miroir d'eau (fountain). The sun was still shinning. It was a pleasantly warm evening.

The Hôtel des Fermes and its reflection in the miroir d'eau

We were looking not only at the river but also at the gorgeous Bordeaux style buildings. We were surrounded by flowers. We were having great conversation. We were drinking delicious wine and eating delicious cheese. We were feeling very much in love.

As I sat there soaking it all in and feeling so very lucky to be there in that moment, to get to experience another culture and live in France, I couldn’t keep it in. I had to share.

I must have gone on for more than five minutes about how grateful I was to be eating that cheese and drinking that wine in Bordeaux, France with my wonderful boyfriend. How beautiful the city was and how thankful I was that I got to visit it. How I was having a superb vacation and I just felt so appreciative of all I had.

To which, my very very French boyfriend replied, “oui, c’est vrai, c’est pas mal quand même (Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’s not so bad).”

September 9, 2011

Les Couleurs

When I first learned the colors of the rainbow, they were as follows: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple. Then, in 2nd grade, my mind was blown away by the revelation that Purple was actually two colors, Indigo and Violet.

My color repertoire expanded greatly in 5th grade when I started using the computer. I would choose bright colors with new names, such as Magenta and Cyan.

And while now as a fully-grown adult I am aware that there are a gazillion names for a gazillion different colors (thank you paint companies), I still mainly use the original 6 to describe the world around me, with a few adjectives (dark, light, neon, etc) thrown in here and there.

It came to my attention one day while rushing around my apartment, that the French have more than 6 main colors to describe their immediate surroundings.

Je n’arrive pas à trouver mon saaaaaaac!” (I can’t find my baaaag!) I announced to FBF.

C’est lequel?” (Which bag is it?) FBF asked, starting to look around himself.

Now compared to what I had in les états-unis, my purse collection here is tiny. I have 7. They are all different colors.

Thinking the color would be the fastest and easiest way to distinguish this particular bag from its counterparts, I said, “C’est le rouge” (It’s the red one).

This, apparently, was no help to FBF. “Hein? Tu as un sac rouge?” (Huh? You have a red bag?).

Seconds later, I had laid my hands upon said bag. “You know! This one! My red Longchamp bag,” I said while shoving it in his face.

“Oh!” He exclaimed. “That’s not red! It’s Bordeaux.”

My red bordeaux colored bag.
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