Flexing my linguistic mussels

Civic events.

They fall into one of two categories:

  1. They suck. Much like cultural diversity in Tucker County, West Virginia (100% white, non-latino)
  2. They effing ROCK

Another Man’s Come-Up

Every first weekend of September, the Lillois host a major European event. La Grand Braderie is a two-day outdoor market. But it’s much more than that.

Take that outdoor market/flea market. Now make it have 100 km (62 mi, as in just about the distance from Raleigh to Fayetteville) worth of stalls. Now invite 3 million+ attendees. Add to that a party at night that without exaggeration spans an 8+ city block radius PLUS the bars and clubs on the streets and probably literally tons of mussels and you’ve got the Braderie.

And this event was literally outside my residence door.

This shot, by the way, was taken from my residence door. I'm not kidding about the literally part.
This shot, by the way, was taken from my residence door. I’m not kidding about the literally part.

For two days, all over the city, throngs of people meandered past stalls selling everything from mundane, useful things like cups and plates and clothes to more arcane things like giant halogen lamps and severed mannequin legs.

Both of those last two, by the way, people actually bought.

Macklemore was right.

Big Mussels

One of the main traditions of the Braderie is to eat Moules Frites, a dish common to Nord-Pas de Calais and Belgium. Moule Frites is a dish of mussels in a creamy white wine sauce with celery and onions with a side of steaming fries.

20150906_130748For the Braderie, almost every restaurant in Lille offers moules frites as a menu option, resulting in tons and tons and tons of the bivalves being shipped into the city in one go. One restaurant rinses and dumps empty mussel shells onto a pile on the street.

20150906_174929Friendly reminder that that’s one restaurant. Multiply that by the entire city–all 100km (62mi) of stalls and you have the scope of the mussel madness that grips the city.

Banking on Patience

Students in France have to apply for securité sociale, French Social Security that is basically health insurance. To be able do that, we first have to pay into the program–215€. Then, we have to open a French bank account. After that, the French government will be able to reimburse us our medical expenses (yay!).

But first we have to open up a French bank account.

Let me tell you, that isn’t easy. After going from office to office to find the right person to talk to, I was finally able to settle on Société Générale, a partner bank with IÉSEG. After providing them with what seemed like an entire tree worth of documentation, finally was I able to open an account. Advice to those coming in the future: START EARLY.

Something about getting an education?

With all the excitement about being in a new country and meeting people from around the world and other associated verbs it’s almost impossible to remember that the real purpose behind this trip was study.

Until classes actually start.

Then you remember. I finally had my first classes this week–Art History and History of the French Language to start. Both in French. I’m glad to say that I was able to fully understand the *modern* French with no difficulty and even contributed in class!

But I only understood the modern French.

History of the French Language covers archaic French from before the 13th century. No problem. If you sign up for a beginner’s class.

Which is not what I did.

So class session and confused me later, I spoke to the professor and asked to be moved to the earlier, beginner’s section. Simple.

La Vieille Bourse

The Vieille Bourse used to be a major economic hub for 17th Century Lille. Back in the 1600s, this building housed major decision makers. Now, it’s one of the most important landmarks of Lille and the entire region. Today, the central courtyard houses a market selling old books and Spanish Tango on Sundays.

The building is built in a combination of Flemish and French style–much like the rest of the city–and is painted an eye-catching red and gold that stands out in the Grand Place.

20150824_122647 20150824_122806

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Erik says:

    I’m a bit behind, Raul, but glad to have caught up (at least this far) with our gallivanting.

    Can you smell the mussels in the air everywhere?

    Also, I’m surprised you were surprised about the mannequin legs for sale. I mean, how else are you supposed to make Christmas lamps?

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