Dominique and Yveline are young and dynamic retired people who enjoy visiting new places and countries… They take English lessons to become more fluent when they travel abroad. They’ve just come back from Istanbul, which they really liked ! Here is their interesting report… thanks a lot !


Our trip to Istanbul, Turkey

     We left Brussels by plane, and we landed at Ataturk airport in Istanbul three hours later. We reached by taxi our hotel, ideally located in the heart of the city, close to all the beauties of the city…


   Istanbul, formerly called Byzantium, then Constantinople, is a city at the border between the East and the West. The Bosphorus Strait, which is about 32 kms long, separates Europe from Asia.


     On the first day we took a boat for a ride on the Bosphorus, one of the symbols of Istanbul.


     On the second day, we visited the Blue Mosque, named like this because of the blue mosaics that decorate its interior. It is the only mosque in the world which has six minarets.


     On the third day, we visited Hagia Sophia, first a byzantine church, then a mosque…


We dedicated three hours to the visit, as it is full of beauties.


      On the fourth day, we discovered the palace of Topkapi, the private residence of the Ottoman sultans for about 1000 years… The palace is now a museum.


     On the fifth and last day we went to the tank, the big water tank which fed Constantinople during the byzantine period. The interior has 12 rows of 28 marble columns and is built underground.


     We went many times to the ‘Grand Bazar’, where there is an amazing atmosphere, with people crawling everywhere… it is a covered market of 4000 shops, and you can find everything there !


     Istanbul is a fascinating city which we are very happy to have discovered !

     Valentin is a nurse at hospital, and he is currently taking English lessons to improve his level so as to go on a humanitarian mission abroad… He is fond of sport and particularly climbing… This summer he spent a very special day with some friends, cycling from Lille to Bruges… Would you do it ? Thanks a lot for sharing this experience...


A trip to Bruges


     One day, a friend I climb with suggested to me a trip to Bruges from Lille by bike. Immediately, I said “yes!”. She prepared the road trip for me and some friends. We were five friends on the fluvial way towards Bruges. We started from Lille on Saturday the 27th of June at 8 o’clock and we arrived in Bruges eleven hours later. All told, we travelled for approximately 130 kilometers by bike in one day and without training.


     We didn’t take the shortest way and, I confess, we were sometimes a little lost. All the road beside the canal was beautiful and so quiet. Sometimes, it was less funny, cause we needed to take a little of main road... When we arrived in Bruges, we were so tired but so happy to have succeeded the challenge. In the evening, after a good shower at the youth hostel, we went to a little free festival in a park. I don’t remember the name, but it was so funny. And finally, we went to bed. Exhausted !!


     On Sunday, we visited Bruges. We walked all the day. I‘d already been to Bruges, but it’s always beautiful. We came back by train in one hour. The train was full and we each had our bike. The last challenge before the return! Finally, after this amazing weekend, I went to work…


     Véronique is the President of this association. She recently had the opportunity to spend a week in London. She wanted to share with you three of the interesting visits she could make :


     This summer I had the opportunity to make an old dream come true… That is to say, I simply wished to have a stay in England, but for more than three days, at least eight days, and it happened this year in August. My hosts had prepared several plans about visiting old places, districts, perhaps towns I didn’t know…


     So, I first went to Kenwood, which was the property of the Guinness Family (I suppose everyone knows this name, even if you don’t drink beer or ale). Kenwood is a beautiful white mansion of the XVIIIth century in a huge park. In a part of this park you can have a large view on London (the London Eye, the Gherkin etc…). What is well-known in Kenwood is the collection of more than 100 paintings by masters like Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Turner,

Gainsborough, Canaletto… which was gathered by the former owner who was fond of these. They are exhibited in different rooms where there is also some furniture of that time. Now Kenwood belongs to the State Heritage. The first owner of Kenwood was Lord Mansfield. Then the Guinness Family bought it and later gave it to the state,… provided the entrance to this place remained free (you only pay a ticket for the car park and gardens).

     A long time ago (in 1999), I saw a film called Notting Hill. I also heard something about this area, which became fashionable… that is the reason why I wanted to have a look there. What I first noticed was that the place was crowded, because there are a lot of shops, and especially vintage shops. Then there is the ‘Portobello Road’ market. Along the streets there are stalls with all kinds of things : old, modern, contemporary, which can be : clothes, books, toys, crockery, china, plates, silverware, souvenirs etc… I was astonished to see such a mixture of styles ! Quickly, I preferred to have a walk along typical, Georgian houses. Many embassies are situated there. It is said to be a trendy, expensive area, full of contrasts. Rich, young stars live there as well as communities of Spanish, Portuguese or West Indian people. I then had a walk in a very nice park : ‘Holland park’, composed of several little gardens (Japanese, Dutch…).

     Ham House was built at the beginning of the XVIIth century, and is the creation of William Murray and his tenacious daughter Elisabeth. Actually, William Murray was educated as a child with Charles I ; he had the role of « whipping boy » ! But they remained friends and later William was given Ham House and its estate as a gift from the king. Then, the house passed to his daughter Elisabeth, who became the Duchess of Lauderdale with her second husband. She made significant changes which still exist today. The house remained in the family until after World War II, and was given to the National Trust. In the house you can see a lot of « treasures » which were gathered along the years by the owners of Ham House : collections of paintings, rare furniture, various materials and cloths…

What is quite interesting is the visit of the « domestic offices », which are the rooms under the house where Ham’s servants worked (for example, the butler). On the walls there are frames with inscriptions on how the servants had to work. On the table were not only crockery, but also a lot of plants, herbs, vegetables, fruit which were taken in the garden and used to cook but also to cure. Exceptionally it was written « Please touch » ! The garden and vegetable garden are really nice. They are ordered in rows. You can find all you need in each season of the year. In the bathroom Elisabeth created a sanctuary of health and relaxation. The replica bench gives a sense of the luxury she enjoyed there… Surprisingly the bathroom was still used in Victorian times when the ninth Earl finally updated the facilities, adding a bath and shower.

     Thomas has recently made a special internship (« service civique ») in the association Unis Cité in Lille. It was a very interesting experience, which he wanted to share with you. So, he wrote the following text. Thanks a lot to him !

     After several negative answers in January, during five months, from the 3rd of February 2015 to the 26th of June 2015, I did an optional internship in the association Unis Cité. The four people who supervised me during my internship decided about my missions. It was easy : I had to accompany some volunteers during several missions. Even if I was the only trainee. They had been in civic service since October. Our missions : we organized different activities in several districts of Roubaix and Wattrelos, mostly Roubaix, in the south district of Roubaix particularly. Because populations are or were in a precarious situation. That is : the south area of Roubaix is poor and is getting poorer and poorer with delinquency, contrary to the north area of Roubaix which is posh and smart. It is to be known that the social center of the district of Pile is different from the social center of the district of Hauts Champs in Roubaix. And the staff of the association gave me an office in the building of Unis Cité.


     Our missions were : making these populations sensitive to eco-friendly gestures, the aim being to reduce their water and electricity bills, their water and

electricity bills, their consumption, their production of waste, the choice of the products…


     The hardest eco-friendly gesture was to sensitize them to reduce their consumption of meat, because these people often eat meat, there are many Halal butchers in Roubaix and Wattrelos. We taught them how to recycle, how to do savings, how to share, how to reduce waste for water, electricity, food, recipes, we gave them some extra advice without forgetting a certain number of documents about eco-friendly gestures... Some of them understood quickly contrary to others for whom it was more difficult. Managing is never easy, mostly with some of the children who were unbearable. We knew it, it’s more complicated with kids. But it was easier with children who were at nursery school, because they are more supervised than children in the streets. We organized for all these families board games, snakes and ladders, other games, and workshops on : water, on how to make washing detergent, washing liquid, laundry... When groups of children were into something, it was moving and funny. We were feeling good during moments like that. It was very pleasant. We taught young children ecology !

     With old people and disabled people, we organized several different events : going to the cinema, or to the sea, making organic soup (disco soup), visiting organic gardens and vegetable gardens. All talked and shared. Everyone spent a good day in Paris for the twentieth birthday of the association Unis Cité.


     Before beginning this internship, I had already done this kind of mission. I began this mission in Bosnia-Herzégovine helping people, Christian people and Muslim people. Here, I helped French people and Muslim people in France. So I was very excited to do this internship. We had a compulsory week of training. I had fun during this training. But paradoxically, even if I learnt several things, there were some very boring things too. What I preferred were the usual missions with volunteers and people who trained me.

     At the end of this internship, we had to fill up an application form for every family we helped. I gave employees some knowledge in the field of urban ecology. I taught volunteers how to make a plain film, a short film, how to interview like on TV channels. And together we made a mini-film about the passions of our old and disabled people. We liked it. We did many trials and we made a choice to do the final video editing. And three Mexican students came to see the organisation and the work in every social center, I talked with them about my internship, they were very interested so I invited them to come a day to visit and to explain all. I translated Spanish into French to my colleagues and I translated French into Spanish to Marina, Maya and Patricia.

And nevertheless I don’t speak Spanish fluently but I managed to translate. It was funny.


We did a lot of DIY and works during all these months. We planned. We were more or less happy about the results of each mission. Sometimes we were disappointed. Often we were happy and even amazed; well, in high spirits. We were always into something full time. So we were exhausted every evening. We felt efficient. All these people deserved luck like everybody. I miss it today, but thanks to this internship, like my solidarity mission in Bosnia-Herzégovine I feel useful and so stronger.


     Kerguelen took lessons with English Comm’ a few months ago to prepare the Bulats, which she was very happy to pass ! Very keen on music, Kerguelen enjoys singing, and nowadays the English language is used a lot by singers worldwide… Thanks a lot to her to share her experience as an amateur singer in a musical :

     My passion is singing. I satisfy my passion with musicals and other shows. In fact, I played in a musical which looked like Grease and Dirty Dancing. It was an amateur musical but we worked on it every day. It was a pleasure to sing in front of an audience. After this experience, I sang in a little concert for the World Music Day. Most of my songs were in English ; thanks to English Comm’ my accent is better, even if it wasn’t the goal ;-).


     But today, singing isn’t my priority because my studies take most of my time. However, next year, I will go to London, and there I would like to practise music every day, or as often as possible. Maybe, I will have singing lessons or I will sing in pubs ;)

So, I want to take this up again because doing what we love is important to escape from everyday life.

     Two years ago, Manon made a trip to Italy, and she wanted to share with you her amazing travelling experience in this very beautiful country, with this text and photos… Thanks a lot to her !!

     I recommend you to discover Italy and its various facets ! I would like to talk to you about this country because I made a trip in Italy two years ago, during three weeks and it was such a great experience, a spectacular sightseeing !!! Travelling by train with a backpack and staying at campsites or youth hostels, I wanted to alternate between the biggest cities of Italy and the « natural » side of this country.


     Thus, I discovered cities like Milan well-known for fashion and its wonderful Duomo and Verona which was my best surprise during this trip. Indeed, this city was very nice. I enjoyed losing myself in the labyrinth of the old streets and near the river which borders the city. Inevitably, there was also Romeo and Juliet’s famous balcony.

     After that, I travelled to Venice, the most charming and special city which holds you in a dream, Florence with its spectacular Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the Ponte Vecchio, and obviously Roma, the cradle of our history which let me speechless.


     In order to rest and cut with the excitment of the cities, I stopped three days in a little city of the Lake Maggiore where I made excursions and visited the different very beautiful islands. A few days after that, I spent five days in the « Cinque Terre » too, one of my best memories. In this part of Italy, there are little coastal villages full of colours (red, yellow, orange…) and lovely harbours.


     Thank you to Evelyne to inaugurate this students’ page !


     After watching a very interesting DVD called Britain’s First Photo Album, where a former journalist : John Sergeant, travels throughout Great-Britain on the footsteps of the Victorian photographer Francis Frith, Evelyne had the idea to create a nice video... She compiled old photos of Lille (and mostly of Lille’s means of transportation), with views of Lille nowadays. Again, thanks a lot ! You can view her video by clicking on the following link :