Tagged: study abroad

nuits sonores lyon mirrorballs

Nuits Sonores 2015: Making the Most of 12 Hours in Lyon

Combining my two interests of running from uni work and trying to explore a city in an inordinately short amount of time, last Friday I spent the night in Lyon for Day Three of the annual Nuits Sonores Festival. Nuits Sonores is an urban festival, taking place all over the City of Lyon during the Ascension weekend.

Coffee en route, featuring an anthropomorphised octopus which I consider to be more menacing than is necessary

Coffee en route, featuring an anthropomorphised octopus which I consider to be more menacing than is necessary

Knowing I’d be staying up all night (the event was running from 9pm-5am, so I decided to save on hotels and just get a commuter train back to Basel in the morning), coffee was in order.

nuits sonores lyon poster

Weather less than ideal

When I arrived in Lyon it was drizzling, but luckily the nighttime events were taking place in the Ancien Marché du gros, a collection of disused industrial buildings which were lit up for the occasion. Despite being fairly central, they weren’t that easy to find, so the lava lamp visuals projected onto the side of the main hall were not only snazzy but practical too.

Lights at the entrance to the site - thankfully visible from quite far away

Lights at the entrance to the site – thankfully visible from quite far away

Blue Daisy Nuits Sonores

Blue Daisy in the second hall

Having arrived at a time that most would consider devastatingly uncool (before 11pm!) I was there to catch Blue Daisy, who’s electro-rap stylings were going down very well with the crowd. (Though it doesn’t look very full in the photo above, the halls were huge!)

I was also there early enough to get some drinks tokens before the queues built up (and over the course of the night, they really did build up.) and to grab something to eat:

Bao Kitchen Nuits Sonores

The shining lights of Bão Kitchen

Veggie Bao Nuits Sonores

Veggie Bão! Definitely in my top three acts of the night.

This being France, there wasn’t an abundance of vegetarian options among the impressive line of food trucks. Among them I managed to track down the fantastic Bão Kitchen who were serving up some tasty veggie bão – savoury buns filled with diced vegetables and smothered in sweet chilli sauce. I may or may not have gone back for seconds before the night was out…

Jessica93 Nuits Sonores

Jessica93 in the third hall

Next I headed over to the third and smallest hall for the brilliantly named Jessica93, a post-punk one man band from Paris who was looping and layering some shoegazey noises and getting some interesting results. Hall 3 seemed to be home to the more eclectic acts of the night, as demonstrated by the next band, Future of the Left.

Future of the Left Nuits Sonores

Future of the Left in the third hall

I had barely heard of Future of the Left before Nuits Sonores, and I demand to know why nobody told me about them. This shouty alt-rock band from Cardiff were the unexpected highlight of the night for me, although they weren’t exactly at home among the electro-house pumping out from the other two halls. They might not have drawn the biggest crowd at the festival, but it was certainly the most rowdy. The guitarist brought a number of bananas onto the stage, and one by one fed them to enthusiastic crowd members during the set. In this cut throat music industry it’s great to see a band that takes the time to worry about their fans’ potassium intake.

Future of the Left Nuits Sonores

Bananagate

Public Service Broadcasting Nuits Sonores

Willgoose of Public Service Broadcasting

Next up was the act I had come all this way for – Public Service Broadcasting. Credit to Rosie for taking me and Bill to see them last year and getting me hooked. This was before their new album The Race For Space was released, and I was excited to hear some of the new tracks live. They didn’t disappoint. Along with some favourites from their debut album, they played Gargarin and Go! from the new album, both of which got a great reaction from the crowd and rightly so.

public service broadcasting nuits sonores

Public Service Broadcasting in the third hall

Nuits Sonores Ancien marche de gros

The festival site in the early hours

By this time the larger halls were starting to get really full, so I went over to check out Brodinski in hall 2. I loved his solo release, Dance Like Machines, so I had high hopes for his set. I was a little disappointed. This is probably an unpopular opinion but as one of the more sober members of the crowd I felt slightly unimpressed with the repetitive beats and lacklustre mixing, which fell short of being redeemed by the impressive lights, and the visuals dredged up from the depths of the uncanny valley. Some of his set is of course on youtube, so you can listen to it here and draw your own conclusions.

nuits sonores lyon mirrorballs

Nuits Sonores Hall 1

All in all, Nuits Sonores Night 3 was fantastic, and I’ll definitely try and head back for next year!

Were you there? Can you recommend any other festivals in the area? Let me know in the comments!

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Father John Misty, and Further Adventures in Berlin

Last weekend I braved the night train to Berlin!

Basel SBB Berlin Night Train

When you book a couchette on the night train, you get to sleep in a triple decker bunk. Well, “sleep”. I didn’t do too badly – I was really glad to be in the top bunk, and got a solid 4 or 5 hours sleep on the 10 hour journey.

Sunrise over the Spree

Sunrise over the Spree

The best thing about the night train is how early you get into the city – I was at Berlin Central Station by 7am! I certainly saw a different side of the city as a result. Walking through the Tiergarten at sunrise was a great experience. The holocaust memorials feel completely different when you visit them alone, rather than when they’re surrounded by tourists.

The Komponistendenkmal in the Tiergarten

The Komponistendenkmal in the Tiergarten

I’m the first to admit that my history knowledge isn’t the greatest, and in Berlin there are remnants of the city’s past everywhere you look; The Komponistendenkmal is still scarred by WW2 bullets (despite much reconstruction). There are pieces of the wall throughout the city, and Checkpoint Charlie is a major tourist attraction.

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Checkpoint Charlie

During the day, I managed to make it around a lot of the traditional tourist sights (The ReichstagBrandenburger Tor, and Tiergarten, among others). I took some time to look around the Jewish Museum too, which is not only historically interesting, but is also a beautiful piece of architecture by Daniel Libeskind.

Shalekhet ("Fallen Leaves"), an installation by Menashe Kadishman in the Memory Void of the Jewish Museum. Over 10, 000 faces are cut from iron plates and scattered on the floor.

Shalekhet (“Fallen Leaves”), an installation by Menashe Kadishman in the Memory Void of the Jewish Museum. Over 10, 000 faces are cut from iron plates and scattered on the floor.

As any regular readers will know, I will take any excuse to go gallivanting off to a new city. The excuse on this particular occasion was a Father John Misty show at Heimathafen in Neuköln (an apparently trendy area of Berlin which is the title of a Bowie song) and it was 100% worth the journey.

Father John Misty Heimathafen Neuköln Berlin

I’ve been listening to his new album I Love You Honeybear on repeat lately, so when I found out he was coming to Berlin I had to go. The atmosphere was great – the gig took place in the Rixdorfer Ballroom, a beautiful old hall with an elaborate moulded ceiling, and a theatrical stage set quite low. Low enough, infact, that a number of young women had climbed up onto it while waiting for the show to start. A member of staff came to shoo them away, “you don’t want to be sat there when he comes out girls, he’ll be in your laps.” at which they retreated, giggling. It was a fair warning though – Father John Misty is certainly not shy…

The set was long and full of energy. Many tracks – notably True Affection – seemed to make a lot more sense live, while old favourites like I’m Writing A Novel had the whole room moving. His stage persona is part cabaret act, part Mick Jagger; he climbed on top of the drum kit three times that evening (I counted.)

Basel Fasnacht 2015: I’m still finding confetti…

This week in Basel it was Fasnacht!

Barfüsserplatz on the Monday of Fasnacht 2015

Barfüsserplatz on the Monday of Fasnacht 2015

Fasnacht is the spring festival in Basel – it’s a bit like Mardis Gras, and takes place a week after Shrove Tuesday. It lasts exactly 72 hours, running from 4am on the Monday to 4am on the Thursday. It’s INSANE. Some Fasnacht facts (Fas-facts?) I’ve been told over the last few days which I can’t confirm but sound good:

  • 1 in 7 Baslers is an active “Fasnachtler” – Fasnachtlers are members of the marching bands which patrol the city in full costume throughout the festival.
  • Some people stay up for the WHOLE 72 hours. (how???)
  • Fasnacht is supposed to “chase away the ghosts of the winter” – the sun has been out in Basel this week, so clearly it works.

The official Fasnacht website doesn’t offer a lot of clues as to its origins, other than that, “the terrible earthquake of 1356 which destroyed large parts of the city and many official archives”, so there’s no real record of the festival’s beginning.

The official badge, or "blaggedde", of Fasnacht 2015.

The official badge, or “blaggedde”, of Fasnacht 2015.

The profits from these badges help to fund Fasnacht, so it’s bad form to be seen without one.  You can even buy a gold version! The design this year is based on the new tower at Roche, where I work. A surprising choice, as not all the locals are big fans of the tower; it’s set to be the tallest building in Switzerland when it’s completed, so it’s pretty big on the Basel skyline.

Before Basel Fasnacht is Chienbäse, which takes place in Liestal. “Cheinbäse” is the name for the bundles of pinewood which are traditionally set alight and carried through the old cobbled streets of the town.

liestal cheinbäse fasnacht 2015 fire

These seem pretty impressive. Then you see the bonfires:

liestal cheinbäse fasnacht 2015 fire

liestal cheinbäse fasnacht 2015 fireIt gets pretty warm! The procession gets on for about an hour, with the bonfires getting taller and hotter until the whole street is filled with smoke. This happens the Sunday night before Fasnacht begins in Basel, so I left smelling of woodsmoke and opted to stay up all night for the 4am start.

Fasnacht in Basel begins with Morgenstraich.

Crowds arriving for Morgenstreich

Crowds arriving for Morgenstreich

At 4am on the Monday of Fasnacht, all the lights in the city are switched off, and the laterns belonging to the various “cliques” are illuminated. They then parade around the city into the morning, playing the traditional Fasnacht tune on piccolos.

Lanterns at Morgenstreich

Lanterns at Morgenstreich

basel fasnacht 2015 morgenstraichThe next day, things get very different. Large brass marching bands assemble to play Guggenmusik, often discordant versions of pop songs or standards (I heard the Pink Panther Theme A LOT). Waggis appear, showering everyone with confetti, flowers, and increasingly strange gifts – on separate occasions, I saw fruit, cuddly toys, scarves, cakes, lighters, cans of cider, leeks, potatoes and bulbs of garlic handed out. In my bag at the end of the day I had sheets and sheets of stickers, a white rose, a bag of popcorn and a lemon.

Fasnacht Basel 2015

Fasnacht Basel 2015

The best clique I saw all weekend

The best clique I saw all weekend

The Kappelijoch waggis - a group of waggis had set up camp in the small chapel on the bridge between Grossbasel and Kleinbasel. Get too close and you might get a bunch of flowers, or a handful of "räppli" (confetti) down the back of your neck...

The Kappelijoch waggis – a group of waggis had set up camp in the small chapel on the bridge between Grossbasel and Kleinbasel. Get too close and you might get a bunch of flowers, or a handful of “räppli” (confetti) down the back of your neck…

An impromptu Gugge concert takes place in a side street, featuring the ever popular dudelsack! (or bagpipes, in English)

An impromptu Gugge concert takes place in a side street, featuring the ever popular dudelsack! (or bagpipes, in English)

Many of the costumes and lanterns featured jokes, mostly about politics or social issues. Being written in the Swiss German dialect, the majority of these went right over my head. However, I think everyone can appreciate this topless Putin costume:

From afar...

From afar…

It's the raincoat.

It’s the raincoat.

After an exhausting weekend, I was back to work on Tuesday – no 72 hour partying for me. Despite the rain, I can definitely see why the locals call Fasnacht die drey scheenschte Dääg, or “the three most beautiful days”.

A Wintery Saturday at Freiburg’s Münster Market

Primo study spot

Primo study spot

As usual, I’ve been using my stack of uni reading as an excuse to go and drink coffee in pretty cities near Basel under the pretence of “studying”. This week, Freiburg:

freiburg germany munster markt

Freiburg is a small German city on the edge of the Black Forest. I’d visited Freiburg once before, but on a Sunday; as with Basel, Freiburg is pretty much closed on a Sunday so it was great to see it on a busier day. Even if it was a bit grey:

freiburg germany munster markt

A bookseller sheltering outside the Historisches Kaufhaus, Münsterplatz

The weather did nothing to deter the stallholders, however; the Freiburg Münstermarkt has existed in one form or another since the town was granted market rights in 1120, so a bit of rain wasn’t about to stop it. There are huge flower stalls, as well as vegetables, handicrafts, and all kinds of exciting food stands.

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vegan snacks freiburg munstermarkt

I even found a stall full of mysterious vegan treats! They’re made from nuts, dates, dark chocolate and dried fruit. I got a few to try, which went well with my coffee on the train home.

vegan snacks freiburg munstermarkt

I spent the rest of the day exploring Freiburg. The city is full of beautiful cobbled side streets, lined with pastel coloured buildings and “Bächle” – tiny canals set into the ground.

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Freiburg river

All in all, a great place to get lost for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. On the train back to Basel I encountered a group of Fasnachtlers who were already gearing up for the festivities, which begins this evening! I’ll be at Chienbäse and Morgenstreich tonight – any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Greasepaint, Wine & Musical Saws: Tiger Lillies at Kaserne, Basel

Tiger Lillies Kaserne Basel

It’s become a running joke between me and my housemates that I am the “artsy” one – cemented last week when I convinced two of them to accompany me to see Birdman at the cinema. I’d like to think I enjoyed it enough for all three of us? I asked around to see if anyone wanted to join me to see The Tiger Lillies this week at Kaserne, but in retrospect, it probably wouldn’t have helped my reputation..

When I heard that The Tiger Lillies would be coming to town, the name rang a bell – the Peacock & Gamble podcast used to use their music, so I’d heard bits and pieces. The bio for the band on the Kaserne website was in German, and running it through google translate gives possibly the best description of them you could write:

“the lyrics are not for the value Conservatives and wherever there is objectionable, they put it provocatively another. Bandleader Martyn Jacques sings about whores, junkies, pickpockets, murder, the common man’s life and all the smoke died sparkled figures in the world”

So there’s that.

Tiger Lillies Kaserne Basel

I’ve decided I’m a big fan of going to gigs alone – go can stand where you want, show up when you want, and you don’t need to fight your way back to exactly where you left everyone if you want to go to the bar. Kaserne has a bit of a weird layout, and kept the audience in what I can only describe as a holding room until about 15 minutes before the band took the stage. In this time, I was approached by a guy from the local tv news who was covering the gig. I quickly gave up on trying to talk to him in German (I really haven’t made much progress) but he was undeterred and pressed on in English. The outcome of this is that there is now footage out there somewhere of me like a rabbit in the headlights (quite literally; Kaserne has pretty low lighting, so the camera had a huge lamp strapped on the front) mumbling about how I was excited to be there. The world is a strange place.

Tiger Lillies took to the stage and were faced with perhaps the most unusual audience I’ve been a part of at a gig. People drink WINE at gigs here – I can’t imagine ordering a glass of red wine at a gig in Birmingham. And right down the front was a kid with his parents who couldn’t have been much older than ten. Now seems like a good time to point out that a LOT of The Tiger Lillies’ songs are about drug abuse, prostitutes, and dead babies. This is not an exaggeration:

I don’t know how much English your average swiss ten-year-old has under his belt, but I’m pretty sure he got the jist.

No one in the audience seemed the slightest bit phased by the content of their songs, though. The Tiger Lillies have been gigging hard for a pretty long time, and it shows – they are a really tight band live, and use everything at their disposal to give a great performance. (Think props, masks, and the occasional over-enthusiastic audience member). They mix up the instruments a fair bit too – they’re a three piece band, but the stage was full of instruments, including a piano, drums, double bass, guitar, accordion, ukelele, theremin and musical saw. The latter was a highlight for me.

Musical Saw Tiger Lillies Kaserne Basel

Perhaps down to the diverse audience and unpredictable performance, but the atmosphere was fantastic. Basel is gearing up for Fasnacht right now, so Tiger Lillies with all their greasepaint and circus vibes seemed to fit right in. After a brilliant (and long!) evening, the band were hanging out right outside, and were kind enough to pose for a photo:

Tiger Lillies Kaserne Basel

Second from the left in this picture is Kimmy, who isn’t in the band – we met in the audience! She’s staying in Alsace on study abroad from university in DC, and heard my English accent a mile off. Just shows how international Basel can be.

In a few weeks I’ll be off to Berlin to see Father John Misty – any suggestions for what I should do while I’m there?

A Weekend in Amsterdam

amsterdam vintage shops

This weekend I managed to go a little further afield than usual – what began as a joke led to me meeting two friends at Schipol Airport for a weekend of exploring, shopping, and seeing Gerard Way.

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Layers were necessary

Leaving work at 3pm, I caught a flight to Amsterdam from the Euroairport (thankfully only 30 mins away from my lab) and made it into Schipol for about 8pm. I met Rosie there, who informed me that the current weather outside was “freezing rain” (apparently distinct from snow or hail). We got a train followed by a tram to our hostel, Hotel Van Gogh, finding out on the way that it was indeed extremely cold. Charlotte, who arrived earlier that afternoon, met us there having already acquainted herself with all the other guests in the common room and made full use of the hot drinks machine.

After a reasonable nights sleep, we woke up to snow!

#Amsterdam I miss you @ro_drum @selfieninja25 😢 Snow and Waffles and Coffee and @drmartensofficial

A post shared by Charlotte Milton (@charmilton) on

If you read my post last week you’ll know that I will never not find this exciting. With less than 48 hours in the city, we headed off to do some exploring.

Chinese District Amsterdam

Amsterdam has some great vintage shops, which we wasted no time in finding. Purchases included a jumper embroidered with ducks and a bucket hat with unicorns on. (I was disappointed to later discover that the “unicorns” in question were in fact just flamboyantly coloured horses, although this didn’t stop me proudly wearing it all evening.)

Outside Time Warp, Amsterdam

Outside Time Warp, Amsterdam

Candy Freaks

Candy Freaks

We also came across a great little sweetshop which had a huge range of vegetarian and vegan pick n mix. The staff were fantastic; one guy just could not give us enough free samples. This place is well worth a look if you’re in the area, vegan or not!

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Literally in a world of pure imagination.

Literally in a world of pure imagination.

With a satisfyingly weighty bag of pick n mix each, we headed back to the hostel the pick up our tickets for the show that night.

So this is why we ended up in Amsterdam, really. Rosie and I both recently rekindled our teenage obsession with Thank You For The Venom (if you don’t love that album, fight me) which led to us joking that we should go and see Gerard Way live. Which led to me finding out that he was on tour, and playing in Birmingham (where Rosie lives). Unfortunately the Birmingham show was midweek, so I couldn’t really fly back without using up what’s left of my holiday allowance at work. Fortunately, his show in Amsterdam was on a Saturday night. Before we knew it we’d booked out flights..

We missed the support (sorry Nothing But Thieves!) as it turns out that it’s entirely possible to get lost in Amsterdam in the dark with only some hastily scribbled directions from google maps to help you find the venue. Despite my stubbornness (“I’m sure it’s just down here..”), Rosie asked a nearby restaurant owner who showed us the way.

Melkweg

Melkweg

The venue was housed in a former dairy, and the name (“Melkweg”) translates literally as “milky way”.

By this point my inner thirteen-year-old had taken over and I was inappropriately excited. I am now the proud owner of a 25€ t shirt, which Rosie kindly pointed out was more than the price of my ticket. I’m just going to put that down to gigs being waaay cheaper on the continent. At this point it should be clear to you that I won’t (nay, can’t) give you a unbiased review of the gig. Instead, a few observations:

  1. They served draught Leffe behind the bar at a reasonable price – this is infinitely superior to the Carlsberg you pay upwards of £4 a pint for at most of the mid-sized venues in the UK.
  2. I don’t think I have ever been to a gig with more women in the audience than men. This was most definitely the case here. It was chill.
  3. Gerard Way’s showmanship was predictably fantastic. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny he knows how to please a crowd. He played every track off his solo album, and threw in an impromptu cover of “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” from Frozen for good measure. This was admittedly a little lost on me, having not seen Frozen, but I think I was the only one.
  4. Gerard Way is now a certified silver fox.
gerard way melkweg amsterdam

It’s not a gig if you didn’t annoy everyone behind you by taking a grainy mobile phone pic.

We left the show to meet Charlotte, who for some reason opted not to spend her evening wading through a crowd of sweaty emo fangirls. Each to their own I guess. She was at Roest, a warehouse bar just a short tram ride out of the city centre. It was situated in an industrial estate, so we were greeted with a slightly post-apocalyptic vibe, despite the liberal amounts of fairy lights.

Hardly a wethers is it.

Hardly a wethers is it.

Thankfully on the inside it was really cosy!

Das hipsters

A post shared by Rosie Drummond (@ro_drum) on

Good music, old friends, and a few beers – a great (if cliché) end to a super fun weekend.

Of course, given more time I would have loved to have seen more of Amsterdam – any suggestions for what I missed out would be gratefully received in the comments!

Mulhouse, Bern, and Studying on the Go

Since coming back to Basel after the Christmas break, I’ve realised that I need to find some more time for my University course. My physical chemistry exam is only weeks away, and I’m the first to admit that it isn’t my strong point!

This means a lot of sitting down and reading through notes. On the plus side, I find trains a great place to read, and I live right near Basel SBB station. So, I’ve been taking advantage of this excuse to do some exploring!

Temple Saint-Étienne, Mulhouse

Temple Saint-Étienne, Mulhouse

Last weekend I made my way to Mulhouse, which is only a half hour trip across the border into Alsace. I’d been advised by a coworker not to, “waste time visiting Mulhouse”, so my hopes weren’t high – it’s just so close that it seemed silly not to visit. However, I was pleasantly surprised! Mulhouse has some great architecture, including the gothic Temple Saint-Étienne or “Cathédrale de Mulhouse” right in the centre of the City.

Mulhouse Rothüss

Mulhouse Rothüss

Just across the square from this is the Rothüss, or city hall – a great pink Renaissance style building covered in paintings. Hung in the doorway of this usually flamboyant building was a sobering sign, reading, “Je Suis Charlie“. These signs could be seen in the windows of businesses all over the city; I was there on the 10th of January, only a few days after the Paris attack, and the events had cleary resonated throughout the country.

Mulhouse coffeeAfter a few hours wandering around the city, I found a great little café where I settled down to get some reading done – I had to do something to maintain the idea that I was getting some uni work done. Everyone has different ways of studying, and for me environment makes a huge difference – I can never get anything done in my own flat. Great coffee and pain au chocolat is a big help, too ;)

View of Bern from outside the Swiss Parliament building.

View of Bern from outside the Swiss Parliament building.

A week later, and I decided to visit Bern. The train there stopped in Olten, which was excitingly snowy. The Swiss of course are used to a bit of snow – everything still works, nothing shuts, and the news doesn’t devote 90% of it’s attention to weather reporting. However, as a Brit I can’t help but think it’s a big deal whenever it happens.

The Zytglogge, a medieval clock tower in the centre of Bern

The Zytglogge, a medieval clock tower in the centre of Bern

The Aare river, seen from Kornhausbrücke

The Aare river, seen from Kornhausbrücke

In Bern itself it was a little more rainy than snowy, but still pretty cold! There’s so much to see in the city, and the old covered walkways offered some shelter. I feel a bit like cities in Switzerland offer a lot more independent shops and small chains than British high streets, which makes shopping much more interesting. I found a branch of Fizzen, a really cute clothes shop that has a few shops across Switzerland. I also managed to make some great additions to my ever expanding postcard collection!

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Do you have any suggestions for where I should go next? Or any great study tips? Let me know in the comments!