Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: music

Things I miss about France

There are days when I just miss France and Bordeaux. I had called the elegant Bordeaux “home” for three years, and everything that was so unfamiliar at first little by little became a part of my everyday life. From time to time (and now is one of those times) I think of the tidbits of my French life and begin to appreciate these beautiful things all over again!

Fête de la Musique

France is probably not the only country that has an annual music festival, where in every city and town, large and small, music comes to life all night on June 21, the summer solstice. I was fortunate to be part of the event in Bordeaux in 2011 and 2013, and all the way till way past midnight, music and dance in all forms invaded the streets. Alors, on danse! (Well, let’s dance!)

Gésiers, confit, and crème brulée

Ah, French food. If I were to piece together a perfect 3-course meal, it would begin with gésiers (duck gizzards) from Les Provinces (the restaurant doesn’t exist anymore, unfortunately) as an appetizer, confit de canard (duck confit) from La Table Bordelaise – they really have the best! – as the main course, and crème brulée from well…anywhere, as a dessert. My mouth is watering just thinking about this…

Bonus: I also crave the beef (with the oh-so-delicious special sauce) and the unlimited French fries at L’Entrecôte from time to time. Even though the queue to get into the restaurant is always at least 30 minutes long, it’s never stopped me!

Wine

How can you say you’ve lived in BORDEAUX without mentioning its wine? Alright, while I admit that I’m no wine connoisseur and still can’t tell the difference between one wine and another, it’s become a social and cultural thing that I gladly immersed in. A good meal (the abovementioned, for example) is just not complete without an aromatic glass of wine. Santé!

Coffee shops

Some days I like to go to a local coffee shop with a friend or two and have a quiet, relaxing chat for a whole afternoon. Some days I like to go by myself with a notebook and a pen, writing as it rains outside. My favourite spot is a little place called Les Mots Bleus, but there are so many unique coffee shops around the city that it suffices to just drop by any one and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea with maybe a slice of cake.

TGV

The TGV (train à grande vitesse, or high-speed train) makes travel so convenient within France and to nearby countries. Three hours from Bordeaux to Paris (3.5 to CDG airport) and only two hours from Bordeaux to Toulouse – and the rides are always smooth and comfortable! Oh, being young with the youth discounts is an awesome deal in France – make sure you go before you turn 26 (28 in some cases)!

Life in France was once only a dream but one that came true and left behind its traces in the form of these things that I miss dearly. Oh France, what a beautiful country you are!

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Songs of the cities

I noticed an interesting phenomenon as I was traveling through Switzerland, Austria, and Slovakia. Whether voluntarily or not, I began associating certain points of interest with songs as I hopped from place to place. Sometimes a very obviously related song would automatically pop into my head while sometimes the connection came later, as I reflected. Some even become stuck in my head for a while. I noted these songs and the respective landmarks each one is linked to, and I thought I’d share them here.

Song: Johann Strauss II – The Blue Danube
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkzWF1UE1CI
Location: Danube river, Vienna and Bratislava

Whenever I passed by the Danube, whether it was in Vienna or Bratislava, the orchestral masterpiece by Strauss sounded in my head. My dad loved this piece and he would always ask me where in Europe the river is located, so when I actually got to see it, the song immediately began to ring. The gentle flow of the Danube accompanied by the light, fluttering beats of the dancing instruments…with a majestic sunset over the river, seen from the Novy Most in Bratislava – perfection at its best!

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La fête de la musique à Bordeaux

There is something about music that touches the depths of your soul, that harmonizes with every electrical pulse that runs through your body, that makes you want to jump or dance or scream or cry. Music is the universal language of expression, a ubiquitous medium that transcends through time and space, race and culture. That is why we celebrate it…with la fête de la musique!

The music festival is an annual event that takes place in France. In almost every city, from the afternoon till well past midnight, there are concerts, performances, and dances everywhere. According to a French ex-colleague, it is THE biggest event of the year. Coming from an authentic local, I knew I couldn’t miss it. I experienced the hype in Bordeaux two years ago but wasn’t here last year as I was in Belgium, but this year, the timing was perfect as June 21st fell on a Friday! Most of the fun happened around downtown, and since I live in downtown Bordeaux anyway, I figured I’d take full advantage of the walkable distance and spend the night immersing myself in the musical scenes of Bordeaux.

Oh, bonus: it didn’t rain! I totally expected the rain to continue, as it had been raining almost all week in Bordeaux – quite violently too! But God had been nice with us and sent us the sun to accompany our music. Let the magic begin.

I left the house at around 8:30pm and started at Place Pey Berland, going towards Rue Sainte-Catherine and towards the quai. Even the restaurants had their own events going on. Literally, there was something taking place in every corner of downtown. You just had to follow your ear and as soon as the previous sound of music faded away, another welcomed you. Who knows what concert you’d stumble upon next? 😉

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Paris and a little bit of Brussels, in one day

No travelling makes Annie a dull girl, so after a month of staying in Louvain-la-Neuve, I went to Paris last Saturday. It’s a place I’ve been to perhaps more than enough times already, almost like my backyard whether I’m in France or Belgium. Now, my friends in Canada hate me when I say that, but I am not trying to boast (trust me, there really isn’t much to boast about Paris). Still, being within a 3-hour train ride from either Bordeaux or Louvain-la-Neuve, Paris became a frequent destination from either city of depart, as a transit point or a place to meet friends.

The purpose of Saturday’s trip was precisely the latter. A friend from Bordeaux is leaving for her internship in China next month, and she happened to be visiting Paris on Saturday. I had booked my tickets to Paris for the same day about a week ago, to see another friend’s art exhibition (which was, actually, the main purpose), so I figured, why not meet up before we say goodbye? I do head back to Bordeaux next Saturday, but there will be a training school in Anglet the week right after, and I will depart on Sunday. By the time I get back, she will be gone 😦 As such we planned our day carefully, first having lunch after my arrival, then heading to the exhibition and finding a place to have a nice chat afterwards.

Even though the city itself has failed to impress me each time I went, I still somehow look forward to every visit to Paris. Of course, I see it not as the most romantic city in the world or the “City of Lights”, but more as a big maze of a place where I can convenient go to get myself lost. And I love that feeling of wandering; Paris is perfect for that.

But as much as I dislike it, I gotta admit that amidst the strange odour in the metro, the dirty sidewalks, and the crowds of people everywhere, Paris is a city filled with music, art, and culture. There are streets where entire rows of galleries and art shops can be found, like a heaven for the true artist. Turn a corner to the next area and you’d find a whole bunch of street musicians performing for an audience that is willing to pause and listen. Such is Paris.

Friends and I were on our way to the art exhibition when we stumbled upon this small strings ensemble playing near the Louvre. Judging by the sound, they certainly didn’t seem like your average amateurs. Seems like you can find a concert anywhere in Paris, even on the metro.

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Fête de la Musique

Apologies for missing last week’s entry! I had been busy this week with guests over at my small but cozy apartment almost every night, and I really haven’t any time alone to sit down and catch up on blogging. Alas, let’s hope it picks up again from here!

I wanted to write about the music of the city of Bordeaux, in particular the Fête de la Musique – or Music Festival – that took place on June 21. It’s been two weeks, I know, but still worth writing about.

According to a colleague of mine, this was THE summer festival of Bordeaux. Starting in the afternoon and lasting all the way until way past midnight, music (and crowds) filled every corner of the city. From street to street, enthusiastic Bordelais danced into the night to jazz, rock, blues, hip hop…you name it! Of course, our adorable friends from the public transit sector decided to take a break on the same day in the form of a strike, thereby paralyzing public transit in the downtown core. I don’t blame them though; I mean, after all, everyone deserves a break sometimes, and who wouldn’t want to join in the festivities? The entire downtown area was so full of people that it would have been impossible for trams to operate through them anyway.

Anyway, music – and art in general – really is a prominent feature of an European life. I’ve noticed within the past few weeks that you can find music everywhere, every day in the city of Bordeaux. It’s not uncommon to attend an organ concert at a cathedral, or chance upon an orchestra playing near the quays, or catch a jazz trio performing by a restaurant while a lady moved to the rhythm, or walk by pairs of tango dancers by the river.

And so, you immerse yourself in the beautiful musical culture, and become absorbed in the sound.

The afternoon started with a chorale at the city hall. It was the first time that I entered the courtyard of the hôtel de ville, which was literally 2 minutes away from my house.

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