Conferences, beans and blues.

This is a travel/work-related post, as it is about going to a conference in Indianapolis, and visiting a friend in Chicago at the same time. Well, this was a few months ago but I guess it’s never too late to share my best shots and impressions, on this second trip ever to the great US of A.

Fact1: I want to live in Chicago! 

I mean…don’t you?


Fact 2: You can only look stupid on a picture where you are giving a speech…

…but I am still very proud of not loosing my English during the presentation, tripping over my own foot, or having my mind go blank at any point: so here is a shot of my grandiose conference presentation about anti-branding. Mmm, I need to do a post about anti-branding. And put my jacket over my belt.


Fact 3: Conferences are one of the most enjoyable aspect of academic life 

You get to travel around, visit places you might never have gone to otherwise, and meet wonderful people. Hereunder at the Chicago “bean” with my colleague Anais from Belgium:


…and here in Indianapolis, having pints and waiting for our probably 6th burger meal in a week, with all the researchers from the UK  that I could find. It felt like home, and so good to be able to say “lovely” and “brilliant” without being laughed at. Seriously, I am not used to everything being “O.M.G.! AMAZING!” all the time. FYI, the burgers were not.


Fact 4: Meeting alumni from your Alma Mater scattered all over the world is fantastic

Belgians might not be the most prone to expatriation (because it’s a really good country to live in, …probably?), but meeting friends from uni years after and miles away is such a treat. Here, we are with Roberto and Camille who have studied international business with us in Belgium, and now live in Chicago. (#HECULg4ever)



Fact 5: There is no fact 5, I just need to reassert my point that Chicago is beautiful 


And finally, because a post about Chicago cannot not mention blues, and because I think this might have been recorded when I was in the audience, here is a song from the Chicago Blues Bar. Enjoy!

Supermarket fascination #2

As a European who has been around Asia a bit and lived in the UK, I thought I had seen a lot different of supermarket styles and weird local products. Until I got to the US a few months ago.

As I was saying in a post last year, I am a bit of a supermarket fan, probably because of my marketing background and interest in retail and food. This is the Chicago sequel to my last year post.

On my first day there, my friend took me to her local favourite in the Old Town: Plum

What an amazing first impression! Firstly, heaps and heaps of fresh and gorgeous fruits and vegetables attack your senses as you step in.


I had a particular crush on the tomatoes as you can tell.


Then you start getting a bit sceptical when you realised that a regular supermarket is equipped with THAT many protein powders and food supplements. But then again, it’s the US: make these muscles big!


And then, as you are almost out, by the check-out counter, there is a last surprise for you: bacon-flavoured chocolate. My Belgian heart had a twinge…


In fact, Plum was a bit of a paradise, especially if you compare it with the gas station stores on the highway.

There, the snack/healthy food ratio is probably 1000/1.


Not to worry, though: you will find a giant version of what Belgians know as “Bifi”, or these dry, skinny, pre-packed snack sausages. Heaven you say? Ermmmm, yes, ok. I still had none of these snacks (or suspicious oranges, for that matter, and battled with the coffee machine for 15 minutes instead).



Last but not least, I was taken to another supermarket heaven in downtown Chicago: Mariano’s

Pure bliss again this time: A 50 metre-long buffet of fresh or warm salads, meals, meats and: anything you could wish for for your take-away lunch  (which is what we did), tons of fresh fruit and veg, and these mouth watering popcorn (Chicago specialty) and cakes.

I do envy my friend Camille who works around the corner! No university restaurant ever looked like that!



I think I missed out on quite a lot and will have to go back to check out Trader’s Joe, Costco or Wal-Mart.

Next time, for sure!