Postcard from Besançon

Last weekend I went to Besançon to meet Juju (for those who don’t know her you have to go back in time and to read very old articles about Swedish winter, Swedish stormy weather and Swedish drunk elks).

Besançon is a little town in France’s far East: not far from Switzerland. It is surrounded by hills with military forts on their top. The biggest fort is called “la Citadelle”, it was built by Vauban under the request of Louis XIV. The town is surrounded by the river Doubs and, if you were able to fly, you would see that the river takes the shape of a horseshoe.

What I will never forget about the weekend was the trip: I left a rainy Paris on Friday night…at first I didn’t want to leave my cosy flat to travel late and to wait in the cold of Gare de Lyon, but what motivated me was the fact that it would take me less than three hours to reach my destination. Of course I was wrong. The train stopped after just 20 minutes it had left the trainstation. Passengers waited patiently to know what will happen next, some of them were a little worried because lights went off several times. My biggest fear was to spend the night in rainy Paris. In some way, the train managed to arrive at Besançon Viotte…at 3 a.m.!

We had a really short night because in the morning I was itching for the city sightseeing. So, we hurried outside through the little charming streets of the centre. The weather was not kind to us because it rained, but we didn’t care: we saw the church of “la Madeleine”, we walked along the “Quai Vauban” and we discovered some green areas such as “Chamars” and “La gare d’eau”.

The towns smells like Middle Ages, fresh rain, “Lush” soap and scented tea.

The two main kind of shops you can find there are tea rooms and hipster/vintage dressing shops.

If you are wondering where you can drink the best tea in Besançon the answer will be quite hard to find because there are tea rooms almost everywhere and all of them look welcoming. Since there is some competition, every tea room is a little special: some offer home baked pies, some others cats (not to eat, just to cuddle), some others books and some others different types of pastries such as toddlers made of chocolate (true story!). I went to a tea room called “Bêtise et volupthe” which looks like the house of the Mad Hatter from “Alice in Wonderland”.

The next day, we went to the famous “Citadelle”. The place looks like a typical medieval fort but actually it is much more now: many museums were created in there but what I preferred was the zoo and the farm.

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Within “la Citadelle” many animals can be found: monkeys, tigers, sheep, goats, parrots and many more. Some of them wander around freely (of course I am not talking about the tigers!).

But of all the animals I had the chance to meet, Rango was the best. Rango is a beautiful and psychaedelic chameleon: you may find him in the lab of the insectarium. He lives in a little cage that he hates and spend his time planning a break out. He always tries to lift the cage cover up and to climb on the ficus above the cage. My friend Juju knows him well and she told me how fond he is of human beings (maybe he doesn’t know they are the cause of his imprisonment). He always tries to climb on people or falls on them when they get too near to the ficus. His jailbreaks are famous at the “Citadelle”: once he was found lying in the rubbish bin of the lab!

As all good things, all the weekends have an end…but I was very happy to spend some time in Besançon!

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An afternoon with the Greeter

Living in Paris means that everyday you walk near historical monuments and wonderful buildings you get to ignore just because it’s the routine. A city has more to tell you than you expect, and that’s why I decided to visit Paris with a Greeter.

A Greeter is a person who perfectly knows the city and offers you a walking tour for free.

I had already heard about voluntary guides when I was in Sweden and I wanted to visit the Scandinavian cities, but this was the first time I tried.

I found the Greeter on THIS website where I subscribed. He wrote me back deciding which neighborhood we will be visiting. And the choice was: the 16ème (16th) arrondissement, not far from where I’m working.

We met at Trocadéro. He is a retired American form Philadelphia but knows a lot more than I would have expected about French history and culture. He also gave me some useful little tips to survive the city (for instance, did you know that you can drink without worries from green fountains but you have to avoid grey ones? And did you know that the best free toilets without queue are those of the cemeteries and museums?).

And then the visit began. We went to the “Cimetière de Passy” in front of the Trocadéro, where many famous people rest, among them, a ukranian princess. She rests in the biggest chapel of the cemetery. The inside of the chapel looks like an artist atelier because she was a painter. The greeter told us that there is a huge space problem in Paris cemeteries. Once in a while, if the family doesn’t show up, tombstone are removed. To keep their place, beautiful statues are built over tombstone or the corpse shares the chapel or tombstone with a more famous or prestigious family. I didn’t know so much about cemeteries and how hard it is to keep the memory alive.

But the visit was not just a walk along forgotten tombstones, we also saw beautiful buildings where famous people such as Edith Piaf and Maria Callas lived. We also stopped in front of the most famous butchery of the city, the house of Balzac and the hidden passage behind it (Balzac had many debts to pay and he used to runaway by the little passage, large enough for a carriage to pass!), an ancient monastery where monks used to store wine, Benjamin Franklin’s house and an ancient train station which was transformed in a restaurant.

I was rather surprised to discover that common buildings and streets hide mysterious stories and I would advise anybody to walk and discover even their own city with a greeter.

Little things I forgot to write about Sweden

I suppose it happened to anybody, while cleaning their room or flat, to find a particular object they had forgot since the dawn of times.

It happened to me yesterday. Don’t ask me why but I found a little diary that I had started writing while in Sweden. At the beginning it was a serious project: keep a diary of my special erasmus experience, then many things happened (basically I started this blog) and my beloved diary became more of a notepad.

In the last pages I had written some article ideas for my now-beloved blog and, reading these little notes now, makes me really nostalgic. I feel like I have lost a huge opportunity to write more about Sweden because obviously I had these ideas but now it would be completely impossible to write down structured and complete articles mainly because I am not in the swedish “habitat” and therefore in a swedish mood.

So I have decided to write down a short list of what were my article ideas and what you will never know about Sweden (even though travel guides or other blogs may contain more detailed information).

  • “Odd things you can actually find in a swedish supermarket”: this article should have contained a list of strange stuff to buy for a foreigner. I had already started a list including caviar cream, the huge amount of “Wasa” (crunchy bread), herrings with sugar (disgusting!) and the difficulty in finding butter without salt.
  • “Christmas in Sweden”: besides Christmas markets (remember my pics?) there is so much to say about Xmas: traditional parties, typical songs and the special beer (yes, in december every brand launches a new beer: the Xmas beer).
  • “People I’ve met in my Erasmus semester”: this was my biggest dream!
  • “Funny things about the Swedish language”: last semester, I took some swedish courses for beginners…of course I made improvements (starting from 0 it’s almost impossible to avoid improvements) but I have not a good level of Swedish and I won’t be able to have a conversation…but I discovered funny facts about this language and, more generally, about the swedish culture.
  • And at last…don’t laugh but I wanted to write a full article about the love of my life: Persilio (for those who don’t know him: a little plant/roommate) but “Alas!” Persilio died ages ago.img_1350

Twin Peaks: “My (B)log does(n’t) judge”

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Breaking news: I have decided that since my Erasmus is over and I have less trips in program, I will start writing about series or books I’ve watched/read. I promise I will try hard not to spoil anything (in spite of my “spoiler” nature!).
Name : Twin Peaks
Episodes : 8 (season 1)
Produced in the US by David Lynch and Mark Frost (1990-1991)

Dear all,

it’s true I am in Paris and I am supposed to enjoy the rich cultural life this city is able to offer. However, in these last days the weather was depressing. Believe me, when there is just a glint of sun I’m ready to leave the flat and walk in the streets (and take many pictures) but these moments are rather rare.

Instead I’ve discovered Twin Peaks. I’ve not really discovered it because I knew about it before, I had even started to see the first episodes two years ago…but then I promised eternal loyalty to my twin-peaks-buddy so I had to stop. Now I am with my twin-peaks-buddy again and we have plenty of time to watch it.

Little advice: many of you have already watched this masterpiece, but for those who haven’t yet…please find a twin-peaks-buddy. Firstly because some scenes are a bit scary. Secondly because you inevitably become a detective: too many stories disclose in front of your eyes and, it may seem strange, but you actually get to know more than what fiction-detectives are actually aware of.

But let’s get to the point: the series starts with the discovery of Laura Palmer’s corpse. She is obviously dead and wrapped in plastic. At the beginning we are shocked, just as the Twin Peaks inhabitants, by her murder. She was loved by everyone, was there any need to kill her? But as the story is unrolled, we are less shocked and many reasons arise to murder her.

Is it a common murder? Not at all, since also the FBI is involved (Agent Cooper) and many inexplicable events are directly linked to this homicide.

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You may have already heard or seen the famous red room!

It’s impossible to avoid getting involved. From a rather simple beginning the series gets more and more complicated and opens many secondary stories which are in some way all linked.

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These are the main characters and their bonds!

I watched only the first season who ends with no answer and even more questions. I hope to start the second season as soon as possible!

What I liked about this series is the fact that many genres are mixed together: soap opera, detective story and horror. The soundtrack is amazing: in just a few seconds it can change from a love theme to a horror one! The thing I mostly appreciated is the filming. The camera always focuses on objects: dominoes, mirrors, jewels and other stuff which doesn’t make sense at a first glance but then acquire meaning the more you watch.

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Twin Peaks plays on your perceptions: of course the stuffed bear does not represent a real danger but we can feel that Josie is or will be in danger!

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Vintage Mood!

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If you have already seen the series comments will be appreciated, otherwise have a look and let me know if you appreciated! No spoilers please.

My Erasmus Wall

My Erasmus has now totally ended (sigh!)…but I still have a picture to show: my Erasmus wall! I’m so proud of it but I also have to warn you: it doesn’t exist anymore…yes, this was my personal wall in my swedish flat and, a month ago, I had to clear out everything. Saaad.ricordi

I tried to recollect all the stuff in it, so: a) maps of Stockholm, my adventures are narrated HERE (but maybe you have already read them…and in that case…I’m a proud blogger). b) These maps remind me the beautiful week-end spent in Copenhagen (read and have a look at my pictures HERE ). c) The map of the cutest place ever to spend an erasmus semester: Göteborg (and sorroundings). d) instructions for voting for the Italian referendum…I have to say I felt very proud to vote in Sweden and to send my vote to the Italian embassy! e) Oslo: read my flashback HERE. f) HERE you find out more about the “not-so-northern-lights” and how in Sweden it can rain and snow at the same time. g) Still now, I can’t really pronounce or write the name of the castle we visited. I was brave enough to write the full name in THIS ARTICLE ! h) This recalls my day in Liseberg. Liseberg is the biggest theme park of all Sweden…and it’s in Göteborg! I spent a really lovely day there and I’m so proud to announce that I have survived to this crazy roller coaster:

I screamed so much that most of my friends in Italy could totally hear me. I really recommend it…mostly because you don’t have a clue of what’s going on when you are on it and then you feel proud for the whole day (not ready to do it again though!). i) This recalls the “true” story of the pig who luckily escaped the Vasa ship before the drama. If I got half of the story, this is thanks to the best interpreter and travel buddy ever: Hanna :-). j) This is a cinema ticket I bought for the Göteborg movie festival (which occurs in September). Movies are usually in English (sub Swedish) and I saw for the first time “The Shawshank Redemption”. It’s quite an old movie, I loved it and if you haven’t yet seen it…I have plenty of resons to push you to see it…but I think a trailer is enough to motivate you:

k) My big plan, during my semester abroad, was to learn a bit of German. Crazy idea since in the meantime I was also studying Swedish, but I still hung on my wall a nice drawing of a human body with all body parts written in German. l) this piece of paper is a game we played during the loooong bus trip from Abisko National Park to Göteborg Central Station: 25 hours of games (and difficult sleep). m) I also had time to go to the Opera (read HERE) ….but well, not the time to see the whole show ;-).

So, this is pretty much it. My Erasmus semester. Over in the blink of an eye but impossible to delete. I learnt really a lot: not just language-wise but also life lessons.

Most of all, I met new people that made me richer than I was, so thanks to my best Erasmus buddies and good luck for your next adventures (we will meet soon, Europe is a cosy little place, after all).

And this is also the only use I see of a wall. #MyErasmusWall

Smells like Xmas spirit…

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Now I can totally feel Christmas. Gothenburg is in the most complete dark (sunset at 15.30) but lights and decorations are everywhere. I was desperately looking for a Christmas market, and I found nice shops in front of Kronhuset, one of the oldest buildings of Gothenburg.

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This is the Christmas fika. (for those who don’t know what fika is, click HERE). Lussekatt is the typical pastry that you can eat during the whole Christmas period, especially the 13th of December, to celebrate Lucia. I found this pastry rather peculiar because it is made with saffron…I still have to decide if I like it or not.

11 reasons you might be experiencing winter like a swede

Hej Hej, dear all! Recently I’ve been studying hard…and wasting a lot on time on the internet, especially on newspaper websites (yes, many surprising things are happening in the world). And I found the perfect article: “Eleven ways to act like a true Swede in winter”.

Two premises: a) I am perfectly aware that we are not experiencing winter yet. But remember, I am talking about Sweden. b) I have decided that I really like lists so I’ve created a new category: MyLists

So now, let’s have a look at the tips to act like a Swede:

1. Say the sentence “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” every time someone says it is cold outside

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I already said this sentence! Now it is my new religion, before going to Lapland I was really scared that my frail Italian body won’t be able to cope with the cold and I was not the only one, many Swedish friends lent me lots of clothes. One of them was particularly concerned and gave me: two shirts for skiing, a fleece sweater, a jumper and a pair of shorts!

2. Complain about Stockholm complaining about the snow

Nope, never done. It snowed in Stockholm two months ago, when I went there the snow had already melted 😦 . But, when I’ll be back, I’ll surely complain about Parma complaining about the snow (if we are lucky enough to have snow this year).

Of course Stockholm complained about the snow also this year, how? Well, Swedes want more gender equality and snow as well can be seen as a mean of inequality. Women suffer more of the harshness of the snow because they use sidewalks more than men who use highways. Until last year, highways were cleared from snow before sidewalks…now it’s not the case anymore. If you know French and if you want to know more about it, click HERE.

3. Have a discussion about where the north of Sweden starts 

No discussion but facts. Since I’ve travelled from the Southern city of Malmö, to the Northern city of Kiruna… north starts…in Denmark! Sorry guys but Sweden is too north to claim to have southern parts.

4. Drink even more coffee than usual 

You don’t have to mention coffee in front of me. Swedes do not drink coffee but a sort of brown beverage which costs at least 15kr! No, I’m sorry but this tip is totally wrong and I won’t consider it. I miss coffee more than anything else. When I made the choice of not bringing my moka with me I was just a fool little girl…since then I’ve grown wiser…and coffee-less.

5. Plan everything with the weather and daylight in mind

Of course I do that. If I oversleep on Sunday I feel guilty for the rest of the “day”.

6. Jump into a water ice hole – no really +/-

I’ve not jumped into a water ice hole but I’ve jumped in an Arctic lake and in the snow (after the sauna)…if it can be of any help, I’ve also drunk into an ice glass.

7. Go ice-skating or skiing – followed by hot chocolate, coffee or glögg

No skiing (where are the mountains?) but ice-skating. Well, I’m terrible at ice-skating but I did not fall! For what concerns the beverages I don’t like hot chocolate, for coffee please read again (and AGAIN if you are not Italian) point 4, for glögg…I tried it and I really liked it, it keeps you warm especially if you are in Kiruna and you have to cross the city to go back to your hostel.

8. If the temperature gets over 5C degrees, take off your jacket

I took off my jacket at -3C…no problem.

9. Complain about ‘datumparkering’ – a law that limits parking spaces during winter.

I have no car here.

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10. Sit and look at the sun, when it comes out

Yes, thanks a lot for the tip mr I’m-giving-you-nice-advices-to-face-winter-like-a-real-Swede. So, since you are so intelligent…where is the sun supposed to be? I don’t see it anywhere.

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Where are you Mr Sun?

11. Go to Thailand 

I have to say, this is a more useful way to face the winter…is it ok if I go to Italy? It’s not the same place but, believe me, there “comes the sun”.

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