Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: Belgium – Louvain-la-Neuve

Autumn in Louvain-la-Neuve

Autumn is a magical season. It’s the inevitable transition between extreme warmth and extreme cold, the time of the year where you can wear a light comfortable jacket without feeling sweaty or shivery. Last time I was in Louvain-la-Neuve, it was during springtime, just the opposite transition. This time, I saw the temperature slide slowly from 20 degrees Celsius to 10 degrees Celsius. I’m ready to welcome winter, but not before saving some autumn memories.

Now, I say autumn is magical because it is filled with the colours of warmth and passion. As I wade through fields of yellow and red and orange leaves, I can’t help but feel that my whole surrounding is embraced by the moving flow of life. The leaves, they quietly fly away from the branches they have been hanging onto, and gently wave goodbye to the year, joining their companions on the ground in a sea of heterogeneous radiance. It’s as if the trees were shedding their hair, only to wait for fresh ones to come back next year.

It’s the first time ever that I feel like I’m in love with autumn. Such a short spam of time for the switch from summer to winter, but so calm, so beautiful.

Let’s start with some good ol’ LLN. Then we’ll see what autumn has that got me so amazed and in love.

I always find this sight amusing when I pass by, shoes hanging randomly from a string. Till this day I do not know the significance of them, if there is one.

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24 Heures Velo 2011

I always seem to neglect Louvain-la-Neuve in my blog. Well, there’s no excuse to ignore it this week as it was time for…24 Heures Velo!

As the name implies, it is literally a 24-hour bike race. With beer. Lots of beer. And people.

This year, the race happened on October 26th and 27th. Some sources say that this is the second largest beer event in Europe after Oktoberfest, which surprises me because it’s happening in a small place like Louvain-la-Neuve. In any case, I’m pretty sure it’s the largest beer event of the year in Belgium, and definitely THE festival of the year at Louvain-la-Neuve. Some 40000+ people are said to attend each year, many from cities all over Belgium. Beer and bikes – a good combo or not? You be the judge.

So how does this race thing work? I actually didn’t quite figure it out myself, but I know there are three types of races: normal bikes, “folkloric” bikes, and charity bikes. I think it works like a relay race where teams have racers that rotate amongst each other and go around the circuit x times in y amount of time. I can’t imagine one person biking non-stop for 24 hours – that would take endurance, heck of a lot of endurance.

Aside from the races that take place through circuits designed around the city (I still hesitate using the word “city” to describe Louvain-la-Neuve, but heck, it makes things easier here), there were a plethora of concerts and activities happening concurrently. As far as I know they lasted all night, and yes, there were beer stands. Lots of beer stands for your drinking pleasure.

Let’s see how it went down.

Some colleagues told me that a few people in our lab were racing in the normal circuit, so I decided to join the team…as a spectator, and part of the cheering squad! Here’s Remi in blue, heading off for his turn. It was my first time trying to shoot fast moving action with Mr.Nikon, and I really have to practise more and learn how to do it properly, especially in the dark! A tripod would probably help, but with 40000 people in a crowded place, I felt in danger even with Mr.Nikon around my neck that day, not to mention a tripod…

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More life in Louvain-la-Neuve

Back to Bordeaux for a week, and already I feel like I’ve left all of Louvain-la-Neuve behind. It wasn’t like this the other way around. When I went to Louvain-la-Neuve, I wasn’t able to let go of Bordeaux for a good two weeks or so. That’s the power of a city with streets you love and people you miss.

Sinking back into the French lifestyle was easy. All you have to do is…do nothing. Nah, I kid. I do have to work, but I have to admit that the pace in France is significantly slower than Belgium. In Louvain-la-Neuve, there were times during my stay that I felt like I was running out of time, that I wouldn’t be able to get any results with my experiments. Back here, yeah I again have limited time, but the mentality somehow just completely changed. I am way more relaxed and I convince myself that I’ll get everything done on time. I can take it slow and easy.

Blah. Is this my lame excuse for my own laziness? Perhaps, but I’ve learned enough time management to know better than leaving things until the last minute now. I think I can proudly say that I am slowly getting rid of my nemesis in university, named procrastination. It has improved a lot since then, and I am no longer pulling my hair minutes before a deadline. Thank goodness.

In terms of stuff to do outside the lab, it was almost non-existent in Louvain-la-Neuve. Upon my return to Bordeaux, I realized how lively Bordeaux is during the summer, with events and festivals all over the place! I am going to a Beethoven/Wagner concert next week, then Saturday and Sunday is Fête le Fleuve! Dance shows, outdoor concerts, and of course fireworks…I can’t wait to see what the quais have to offer this time!

Here’s some more on life in Louvain-la-Neuve, the last for awhile. The next time I go back will probably be October of this year, if all works out well.

Random sculptures found along the road during a walk through the woods near the city center. I found a lot of interesting sculptures like these scattered around the campus, each unique in its own sense.

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Life in Louvain-la-Neuve

Believe it or not (I actually found it hard to believe myself), I did have a life in Louvain-la-Neuve.

The trip to Geneva last weekend had to be cancelled last minute. While it was slightly disappointing, the timing wasn’t too bad as I did end up needing the weekend to pack for my return to Bordeaux. And rest. Catching up on some sweet sweet sleep felt so guiltily amazing.

(I’m putting Geneva back on my travel list though. It didn’t work out this time, but next time it will. And it’s an easy destination from either Bordeaux or Brussels, so plenty of time to make it happen!)

As the “Louvain-la-Neuve” section of the blog has been feeling lonely due to my constant absence from the little city during weekends, I will dedicate this entry and perhaps the next to my home for the past three months. I had been hesitant to call LLN “home” at any time; when there is so much mobility and movement from place to place, your expectation of “home” changes from time to time. To blatantly admit that I really disliked a place – well, LLN is the first.

Or well, I supposed I disliked it at the beginning, when the contrast between LLN and Bordeaux was so strikingly clear. Though, after awhile of living in one place, no matter how lurid the place smelled or how aesthetically unpleasing it appeared, you always find something to miss when you leave. Most of the time, for me, it’s the people.

It’s no different this time around. I really did have a great time in Belgium, thanks to the wonderful colleagues that I met at the lab. One thing that sucks about moving around is that just as you’re starting to feel like you are fitting in at your workplace, it’s time to leave. It was the case every single time during co-op in university, since each work term was so short (4 months) that there was barely enough time to be truly integrated in one lab community. Here it’s the same, only difference being it’s a continuous cycle of heading back and forth. That, I am glad, because the next time I go to Belgium, I won’t feel like a newbie anymore, and I can dive directly back into the work environment that I so thoroughly enjoyed the first time around.

Well, if you were wondering what I had been doing and where I had been for the past three months aside from weekend trips all over the place, this might give you a general idea.

This is a chalkboard on the -1th floor of our building. First of all, yes I did say -1th, or -1st, if you prefer. The entrance to the building leads to the -1st floor, then you go up to the 0th floor, the 1st, and the 2nd floor where the lab is. Don’t ask me why the buildings here are laid out in such a manner; I had my own share of confusion already with 0th floors in France.

So, I found it amusing to see Chinese characters on the chalkboard, and funnier still is that some of the characters were written incorrectly. Let’s take a look at the two lines of orange writing. It says “I have a cat; I dislike cats” in bizarre grammar, and the character for “cat”, among some others, was wrongly written in both cases. I was told that this was a French colleague attempting to learn Chinese from a Chinese colleague. Chouette!

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Around the lake in 20 minutes

Week 2 in Louvain-la-Neuve, and to be very blunt, I don’t like the place very much…

…which is okay, because the main headquarter is in Bordeaux and I will be going back there for most of my stay.

What don’t I like about LLN? Well, being a student town in a country where beer is the beverage of choice, you can expect a lot of parties and “soirées” nightly. It is not uncommon to hear rowdy (and probably drunk) students outside the window at 1:30 am, and the result is a very stinky city caused by alcohol-induced vomit. Broken beer bottles around the city in the morning make it even more obvious.

I’m surviving, though. I think the only thing that bothers me a lot is the odour, and everything else is just your normal Waterloo-like scene.

Oh, laundry is ridiculously expensive, as in more expensive than my lunch. I thought laundry cost was high at V1, but here it’s more than double, AND in Euros. I guess I’ll have to decrease the expected frequency of doing laundry here.

Last week I took a walk around a man-made lake in LLN. The weather was mediocre and the sky was mostly gray, but I have the feeling that the area around the lake will be quite pretty during the summertime.

La Mie d’Oli, a restaurant that serves sandwiches and pizza for lunch. I just thought I’d let Oliver know that there’s a restaurant named after him in Belgium, and that he should feel very proud to be making international influence.

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