Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: train

June 2019

We’re gonna start our monthly summary post with a brief but obligatory weather update: IT’S NOT SUPER HOT IN WUHAN THIS SUMMER. Last year it was 35+ every day by the end of June, and now it’s almost mid-July and the highest temperature we’ve seen was around 33. Perhaps my prayers of a bearable summer have been heard!!??? And 33 is still hot, especially when it’s humid and sticky and yucky, but it’s so far been so much better than what we had to deal with at this time last year. I do have a feeling, though, that the worst is yet to come, or the entire summer is being shifted back so it’ll still be ridiculously hot in October.

As a result of the not-so-horrendous weather, I went out more than anticipated in June. One Thursday, the Internet was down at our company, so we had a spontaneous day off (which was made up on the Saturday that week because there is NEVER a free day off in China). Anyway, on this unexpected day off, my colleague and I made a short trip to East Lake – I do that often enough already – and wandered around the Moshan scenic area. We stumbled upon a place where we could climb up to get a panoramic view of East Lake – and THIS! In the far distance is the skyline of the commercial district of Wuhan, and closer to us, at the center of the lake is an elevated greenway that traverses the lake from north to south. On a nice day, a lot of people like to take walks or cycle through the greenway and enjoy the beautiful scenery, but don’t underestimate the distance! This is definitely the highlight of East Lake and what makes it well known as one of the best places to relax, for both locals and tourists.

This photo was taken as the high-speed train I was on was pulling into Wuhan Railway Station, and the name of the station here is in mirror image. I’ve been to Wuhan Railway Station many times but have never taken a photos from this angle…or any angle, in fact.

A lot of young people nowadays like places that are quaint and artistic. There are often at least one of two of these streets or areas in a big city, lined with small shops selling hand-made art, trinkets, and random accessories. I used to like them too but they’ve become all the same and too commercialized, like anything in China that gains popularity. I’ve read about “Da Li Cun” (“Big Lee Village”), which was apparently not so far from my place, so one spontaneous day I went to look for it. There are supposed to be these cozy hostels and unique art shops and cafes but…the surrounding area was being dug up and reconstructed! I felt like I actually stepped into a worn down village and not an artistic world as advertised (though I knew better now than to trust embellished advertisements). The hostels and art shops were there, alright, but how should I put this…there was an indescribably eerie feeling in the air. Definitely not a place I recommend going to…at least not before the constructions are complete.

I think these are characters from Kung Fu Panda…well I only watched Kung Fu Panda 2 many years ago and remember the panda itself, so I don’t know who the other guys are.

For my wedding in October, I am giving out custom postcards as favours. They are all of photos that I personally took of Bordeaux, Wuhan, Canada, or other places to which I’ve travelled with the specific recipient. The company that I found that prints postcards does it quite well, and I’m satisfied with the quality, given the price. Here is a sneak peak of the ones that I got as samples to test the quality – not revealing the ones I’m actually giving out!

There is a place at the Optics Valley commercial area called “Fountain Square”, but I didn’t think there was a REAL fountain there. One night after dining with J, we were walking around and stumbled upon a musical fountain show at the Fountain Square! Pretty cool, especially because it wasn’t planned at all.

We saw a large “I ❤ HUST” sign at the grand entrance of HUST one day and I insisted taking a photo of J with it – because I know and he knows that he loves his university. In the background is a statue of Chairman Mao, which is the landmark of HUST. I would say I love HUST too, but I have to add…HUST’s food! I don’t work there so I don’t spend >50% of my life there, but I do eat at the canteens there at least four times a week so I’d day…yes to HUST food!

We found out later that the “I ❤ HUST" sign was only there temporarily for the graduation season so that people could take photos with it. At another building, there was a sign that says "Graduation time!" with a large banner in the back that says "Degree conferral ceremony of the graduating class of 2019 at the HUST". I of course was neither a student at the HUST nor was I graduating (my last graduation was more than five years ago…ha!) but I liked to pretend that I was still a youthful student with hopes and dreams. Just look at that big smile with aspirations for a bright future!

We end with the only group photos of this post, which is a family photo taken at the famous Yellow Crane Tower. A lot of people thought that the lady behind me is my mom, but it’s actually my aunt. She and my dad visited Wuhan at the beginning of the month and of course we had to take them to some tourist attractions, Yellow Crane Tower being one of them. My dad still has that typical “what, a photo is being taken now?” look on his face which I find funny and adorable at the same time 😛

As opposed to most previous posts where I complain about life in Wuhan, I will actually say that life has been rather fine lately mostly because of the delayed onset of bad summer heat. I will take a cool rainy day over a 33+ degree day any time, thank you very much, though I KNOW that the heat is still yet to come. Wedding planning is also stressful, especially because everything is done over long distance, but it is more enjoyable than stressful. Less than three months to go…

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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!

Basque Country part 3: La Rhune

The third part of the Basque Country series is devoted to La Rhune, a mountain range that is part of the Pyrenees. The IDS-FunMat group went to La Rhune as an excursion, as we did in Lisbon last year. In the Lisbon entry I mentioned that the word “excursion” reminded me of elementary school field trips, and it still does! The whole class hops onto a bus, all curious and excited. Where would it be this year?

But seriously, we didn’t know where we were going until we actually GOT there. Unlike the previous year, the organizers said nothing about the excursion beforehand except “bring good shoes as we will be going to a place with a scenic view”. Uh, okay. No name of the place was mentioned, why so mysterious? Consequently though, I think some people brought hiking shoes, expecting some arduous trek or heavy walking, but boy, they were sadly mistaken.

You see, according to inside information from a friend, we would be “going to some place by bus, then taking a little train to go up, then we take some photos and leave”. Dot dot dot was followed by more silence. WHAT?! Some place WHERE? Going up WHERE? Take some photos of WHAT? Then confusion was followed by relief for those who didn’t bring hiking shoes – which was most of us – as apparently one of the organizers said, “You could even go in high heels.” Ha!

So we boarded the bus without knowing where we were going. I mean, they could have been driving us to an island for Battle Royale and none of us would have been suspicious. Ugh, what a horrid thought, I shouldn’t have even conjured up that imaginary scenario. Anyhow, we did pass by Biarritz on the way. At least I was quite fascinated by the views of the city from the bus, and some of us wondered why it wasn’t the destination of the excursion instead. (I suppose it was too close a city to be considered a place for an “excursion” yet too far to go on foot.) Those of that did wonder eventually did go to Biarritz…in the next entry 😉

So after about 40 minutes of bus ride, we arrived…at the base of La Rhune. Of course I still didn’t know what this place was, nor did I know that we would be ascending 905 metres to the top of the mountain for some spectacular views of the Basque Country. I waited in line with the others, got my ticket for the little train, and on we went.

We mounted the little train that would take us up to the top of La Rhune. According to the web site of Le Petit Train de la Rhune, it travels at a speed of 8 km/h and delivers you to your destination in about 35 minutes, to an altitude of 905 metres. And the train has been operational since 1924, strong and proud! 😉

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Short update: Brussels to Bordeaux

Yes dear friends, I am back in France. My trip from Brussels to Bordeaux on Saturday took about 6 and a half hours – 8 and a half if you count the time getting to Brussels from Louvain-la-Neuve. Goodness, I was so tired, mainly sore from carrying heavy luggage, but I’m sure glad to be back!

I’m currently in Anglet for my annual PhD training school. This will be a short update as my days are filled with lectures, presentations, and workshops. Oh, and like last year, internet is only available in the lobby. It’s all good though, the proper entry on Anglet will come next week 😉

The departure station was Brussels-South (or Bruxelles-Midi), and the first stop was Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy station in suburban Paris, where I had a transfer train to Bordeaux. This is actually quite a fancy station, and I believe it’s where people take the bus to Disneyland Paris. Another 4 hours to go…(till Bordeaux, not Disneyland!)

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One year – then, now, and favourites

It’s been one year since I arrived in France.

It’s been one year since I started this blog.

It’s been one year since I stepped into this exciting stage in my life.

It’s really been one year. Wow.

I want to make this a comprehensive and representative post of the past year, in Bordeaux, in Louvain-la-Neuve, and really, just Europe in general (minus the one month back in Canada).

What changed since I first stepped foot into Bordeaux? What didn’t change? Let’s try chart form.

As another school year has just begun (yup, second year thesis student now!) I thought I’d take a memory trip back and list some “favourites” of the year in photos. This will definitely be a fun entry to write and also to look back on in the future!

Favourite place in Bordeaux

Place de la Bourse at night, by the Miroir d’Eau

Without a doubt, it is the Miroir d’Eau, or Water Mirror by the riverside. I like to take strolls at night after dinner and somehow I often end up here to chill or just watch the reflection of Place de la Bourse in the water while waiting for the mist to come out every 15 minutes. When it is not too cold, I love to take off my shoes and dip my feet into the water, sometimes having water fights with my buddies who come along. It’s one of those places that makes you feel like you’re truly in France, carefree and relaxed.

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