10 of our students share short summaries and anecdotes from the break at the end of October.
Switzerland – Marla Rinck
Yes, the stereotype does hold true; I spent my October break indulging in good wine, cheese, and chocolate. Welcome to Switzerland: my beloved home country. During the holidays, I reconnected with very close family-friends, enjoyed good food and drinks, and spent time exploring the rainy outdoors in my runners (yes, that stereotype also holds true: I am a ‘runner’). I ran alongside grassy fields with horses, cows, and sheep, and through pine-tree forests that heightened my excitement for Christmas as the smell of earthy pines filled the air.
One of the most memorable moments of my trip occurred when entering my favorite bakery on a grey, rainy, and cold Sunday morning in Thalwil. I could not have been happier when I heard Stolz, the chief baker, greet me with a friendly “guten morgen” (in Swiss dialect) as the doorbell (which is in fact a cowbell) chimed. In response, I gave a warm smile and inhaled the decadent smell of freshly baked Zopf (if you have not tried this yet, it is an absolute MUST), while admiring the rows upon rows of different kinds of bread on offer. From Zürcher Brot, to St.Galler Brot, Bündner Birnenbrot, Hörnchen, Vollkornbrot… You name it – the variety was endless. And with all this bread, I began to wonder whether Switzerland is JUST the land of cheese, chocolate, and clocks – maybe bread too?
Regardless, these holidays, characterised by a lot of delicious comfort food, really made me feel at ‘home’ (not to mention the 10kg worth of food that I brought back to Le Havre from Switzerland)!
Dinner with a close friend
Pubs as community living rooms and other observations from a week in the UK – Joyce Fang
Quaint is the word I would use to describe all the whims and niche tendencies of the poms across the channel. After spending a week in the UK staying with friends that study in London, Manchester and Leeds, I found myself acclimatising to the Brit culture. Following are 5 observations from my time there, reading best enjoyed with a cup of tea.
- The pub is the default way to spend an evening.
Most evenings in the UK went like this: chatting to flatmates after dinner, usually complaining about how it got dark so quickly. Someone, just finishing their cup of tea, looks up and scans the room. “Pub?”
We all quickly agree and grab our coats. Two minutes later, down the road into the local. Warm fuzzy vibes, 2 pound pints and bumping into everyone you know.
- Tea is key.
I generally drink a lot of tea. Our coloc goes through it like nothing else. The British, however, beat us. The kettle is constantly whirring in the kitchen. They probably have english breakfast with a dash of milk running through their veins.
- “You alright?” can be asked in substitute of a hello and it doesn’t always require a response.
Being introduced to people usually involved a hug and a slurred “Y’rite?” without a pause for anyone to hear the answer.
- Student suburbs are little havens that you rarely need to leave.
Big cosy houses just down the road from all your mates, insane house party culture, cute cafés, good thrift shops, cheap restaurants. Everything less than 10 minute walk away.
- British people will not stop imitating your Australian accent.
Being a British colony means you pick up some of the culture. So they feel comfortable with you straight away. Everyone knows someone or someone’s cousin’s friend who’s been to Australia and loved it. We have a good rep. “You’re Ozzie? Well g’day mate!”
Challenging a grey city, and slowing down – Mateusz Giraudo
People’s evening murmur. Wind howling.
Sensual jazzy trumpet caressing my ears. Rain against the windows.
These are the images and sounds that remain in my head after the fall break. It’s been two months since we’ve been in Le Havre, some new, some for the second time. The life is so intensive and requires constant interaction from the morning till the night, when the tiredness or overdone booze closes one’s eyes to sleep.
I get this feeling that most of Sciences-pistes needed a pause. A break, from the daily environment. For me the fall break excursion ended pretty quickly. Wednesday midnight, I was back from Amsterdam, welcomed by the huge downpour as my bus passed by the city’s welcome signs. A promising sign for the rest of the fall break….
I found myself completely alone in LH, I decided to face it and take it as a challenge to find beauty and joy in such an adverse season in so grey a town.
I have never seen Le Havre so lively as on the Halloween day, when all day long I strolled the city listening to people talking and children’s laughter drifting down the streets of the Vieille Havre (old town) around Le Volcan and Les Halles.
Equipped with Murakami’s book I started looking for a cafe to spend a cozy, autumn Halloween evening surrounded by people. Eventually dragged by the warm lights after a long, desperate search of an envisioned place I entered Monsieur Auguste – the restaurant and apparently a tea-house just in front of the Hotel de Ville. I ordered an Earl Grey. put the headphones on (Joao Gilberto’s Bossa Nova), opened my book and took a sip of my tea. I haven’t been that calm and soothed, as that evening for a long time. It made me come there again for the next three consecutive days, repeating the same ritual.
What I realised this fall, is that, however the city grey or emptied may be, one should give it a chance and explore it by themselves, as I did. Secondly, that time alone should be on one’s weekly agenda as it allows you to get a healthy distance to many things allows, listen to yourself and evaluate your well-being in so hasty a student life. So next time you are alone in LH don’t get upset but be open and treat it as an opportunity to treat yourself, and discover what the city surprisingly has to offer.
Going Home: Reflections on the Catalan Independence Crisis – Max De Bruyn
Eager for some detoxing, I decided to forgo all the offers that my friends had given me to travel around Europe and took a plane to my home city, Barcelona.
As I peered out of the window of my parents car, I realised how this was the first time I was getting back after more than two months away from home. Even though I just thought about having fun and relaxing, I was faced with the fact that everybody had carried on with their lives. Barcelona has been experiencing one of the most heated up waves of violence by a sector of the pro-independence movement, a yearning that had been going on since I was a kid. I believed that the movement had already reached its last consequences back in 2017, when the regional government unilaterally declared independence.
Yet I noticed more graffiti on the airport walls, in Barcelona’s avenues, in its many nooks and crannies. As I was trying to throw away a can of coke, I not only realised there were no trash cans, but that there were marks of the recent bonfires that protesters had set up some weeks ago.
Then came the turn of meeting some of my childhood friends. Despite the many laughs, the topic of politics came out on several occasions. I broke the uncomfortable status quo by stating what I had seen; this time, from the outside.
I came back to Le Havre knowing that I was no longer the same and neither were the people around me back home. I thought about what still had to be done: we had to find a solution. Regardless of our views, we have to talk, to ask ourselves and each other questions. I could, on the other hand, forget about this and find respite in the fact that the recent situation ended up without any major changes. This would be the easiest thing to do, and it would still be painful.
Versailles – Orens Gasset
What is the life of a Versaillais during the Fall?
It is always a pleasure to travel from Le Havre to Paris, a route once taken by the greatest impressionist painters Monet and Pissarro… On a recent train ride back to Paris, I rediscovered Versailles and the beautiful continent cold mist that shrouded it. As the train ran on its tracks, all I could see were the avenues of Versailles gilded by the autumn sun. I thought about how adventurous travellers would be able to observe the sunset being mirrored in the Pièce d’Eau des Suisses, and spot a perfect reflection of the Palace of Versailles in the water.
At dawn, I got up and decided to go for a walk in the Roy’s territory, the Parc du Château. It is a fascinating spectacle, that of a tranquil nature, of a landscape just awakened, where the morning dew still dyes the fresh grass. I observed the sun’s rays pierce through the fog that is typical of November mornings in Versaillais. The silence in this diverse nature excited me, the singing of the crows became a symphony, the landing of the swans was like no other spectacle.
For lovers of Nature, History and romantics, try something not-so-touristy—go for a walk at the opening of the park during Fall, or for a run in the gardens of the Palace on Sunday morning. Who knows, you might even catch the French President running across from you during your morning exercise! These are some weekly habits that many Versaillais, like me, have. The citizens of Versailles truly love their parks and enjoy spending their weekends walking, discussing, dancing and reinventing the world.
Thailand – Nacha Rapeerattanakul
When I knew that there was going to be a week long break, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. So many groups going so many different places and I couldn’t commit to a plan. I had jokingly told my parents (the financiers of any trip I would end up taking) that I should perhaps head back home to Thailand because it would be cheaper than a European trip (airline perks). It wasn’t until one day when it was incredibly windy and annoyingly cold that I just went, “That’s it, I’m going back home to the sun.”
So ‘les vacances commencent’ and I’m off on my 12 hour flight back home. It was winter in Thailand but winter was 24 degrees and I loved it. Being back home was great: not having to cook for myself every meal, eating all the authentic Thai food that can hardly be found in LH, seeing my dog, and hearing a familiar language wherever I went. It’s a completely different life and you want to bring so much of it back; so much so that I was nervous going through customs at CDG with all the stuff that I did bring back.
Back at home, I missed France. But back in France, I miss home.
The true highlight of my trip back home
London – Ashley Tan
I’ve been to London a couple of times, but there’s just something about travelling alone that makes the experience a very different one. Much like Le Havre, England is known for its gloomy weather… Which is why I’d like to think I brought the sun with me when the week I spent in London was blessed mainly with clear skies! Armed with a pink suitcase, a pocketful of notes stamped with the Queen’s face, and a rough plan of who I would be meeting, I was ready to take in all that the city had to offer.
Having been kindly accommodated by friends who live in student halls, I had a taste (quite literally because of a thing called “meal swipes”!) of what college life is like in London. From sitting in for lectures in the London schools, marvelling at how “bloody expensive” Tube prices are even with an Oyster card, and waiting in line for an hour just to secure 25£ musical tickets (anything to help with that student budget, right?), I couldn’t help but feel both completely awed and at home in this cosmopolitan metropolis.
Trafalgar square, a politically charged landmark known for its demonstrations and protests
The highlight of my trip, however, was basking in the dazzling lights that filled each corner as my friends and I walked the streets of Chinatown. Bellies warm and full from dinner at Old Town 97 (pro-tip: If you ever visit this restaurant, order the “LSE chow fan/fried rice”—I promise it won’t disappoint), I remember looking up and around me, only to realise just how fortunate I was to be in a city brimming with such history, spirit and vigour.
It was then that I finally understood why Samuel Johnson once said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”
Stockholm – Hanlin Zhang
During the fall break, I travelled to Stockholm—a city embracing the sea, or a city embraced by the sea.
It is where Lake Mälaren integrates with the Baltic Sea. Indented coasts and scattered islands are signs of Quaternary glacier erosion. A water fountain in Arlanda Airport is proudly illustrated by a sign which says: “The water you are drinking comes from Lake Mälaren. The water is fresh, high quality, and environmentally friendly. Enjoy!”
The T-Centralen metro station has soothing blue colors and fronds of leaves spreading along its rocky walls, as if the ocean breathes a life of its own underground. When passing by the modern blocks of the city and approaching the edge of the sea, the train raises off the ground onto a bridge that stands above the water, before stopping at Gamla Stan, a seaside station of old town. This district hosts dark and colorful houses, medieval palaces, the Nobel Museum, and an unimpeded view of the headland.
A gorgeous afternoon by the clear blue waters of Stockholm
I took this picture in front of the city hall. Even at noon, the sun just passes the lower sky, making the whole day look like morning. The gaze of the statue meets a couple by the sea. Stray leaves flutter silently and fall with a sigh. Tous les oiseaux du point du jour chantent l’amour.
As night falls, thousands of lights shine bright in an eternal serenity, while the low houses in Stockholm cover the land on the opposite bank like a thin layer of Arctic moss. The scene reminds me of a view I once witnessed in Hong Kong, where shining skyscrapers lifted the island up like sturdy bamboos at night.
It was then that I fell in love with Stockholm.
Germany and Austria – Jeremy Zhang
This fall break, my friends and I went on a road trip, speeding down the “Autobahn” to get from Strasbourg to Munich. We started off with a couple days in Strasbourg, a beautiful town which blends German gothic with classical French architecture. We visited the Cathedral Notre-Dame, Petit France, and like good political science students, the European Parliament.
Then, rolling through the Bavarian mountains and the Black Forest, we arrived in Munich. On our first day, we visited Dachau Concentration Camp, the first of many horrible camps built by the Nazis. It was a haunting but necessary experience. We also explored the towering cathedrals in Munich, and treated ourselves to many bretzels, schnitzels, sauerkraut, sausages, and black forest cake.
The next day, we went on a day trip to Salzburg, Austria, another beautiful, Bavarian city. Its cliffs, old town, and fortresses were sights to behold. On our final day, we got up early in the morning and drove to Neuschwanstein Castle. It was a beautiful drive (and this is a comment coming from the driver!) as we climbed up hills, emerging out of the morning mist to catch sight of a bright blue sky, mountains covered in fall colours, and the countryside dotted with little towns and farms. We then arrived at the castle which displayed the wealth and grandeur of Kings, yet remained dwarfed by the massive mountains.
Scenery on the drive to Neuschwanstein Castle
This trip was an incredible experience, having gotten to spend time with my friends and seeing some of Europe’s most amazing sights.
Italy – Anonymous
A picturesque view of Venice
If I were to describe my holidays, I would say it was a nice autumn break as well as a much needed escape from the dullness of Le Havre.
For the break, my friend and I decided to head to sunnier climates and enjoy the last fragrance of summer, especially because we knew the weather in Le Havre would be cold when we got back. We chose to set up home temporarily in Italy. Aside from enjoying good weather, we met up with other friends there and enjoyed ourselves very much.
What struck me the most were the gracious features of Venice, all the bridges that linked each island with one another, and all the double doors that opened directly to the canal. Venice seemed from another time — it always seemed to hold a scent of conspiracy with the presence of secret canals. We would have loved to spend one more day and night in Venice in order to catch a glimpse of the daily vivacity and discover the mystery that surrounded us.