I went to my INSEAD 10-year reunion over the weekend in Fontainebleau (FBL), 55 klms outside of Paris.
It is strange but wonderful to reconnect with old classmates, share old stories, jokes, and catch up about endless things. Memories from 10-years ago flash back in your head like film clippings. My husband James and I also went to the INSEAD Ball at the Châteaux de FBL – The Palace is one of the largest French royal châteaux. It is the work of many French monarchs, building on an early 16th century structure of Francis I. The building is arranged around a series of courtyards. The commune of FBL has grown up around the remainder of the Forest of FBL, a former royal hunting park (built from scratch by Napoleon). It is now home to many endangered species of Europe. It is not uncommon to run into wild boars while driving on the road, even family of boars (very cute – with a big mother boar followed by a line of little baby boars)!
When I was there 10 years ago, we heard one of our classmates drove into a boar (luckily unhurt as it can be very dangerous). The next day the INSEAD restaurant served boar meat on its menu – everyone was a bit suspicious of its origin.
When it is sunny, it is magical to walk in the forest with the sun shining through the thick velvety green branches. And be sure you have a map or knows where you are going because you will get lost!
The ball was a big event – there were over 1200 people – possibly one of the biggest balls in the world (like the ones they do in Vienna at the end of Feb.)! There were alumni coming for their 5, 10, 15, and 20 years, and INSEAD staff and students. I posted some pictures on my FB page – the entire setting was like in an enchanting dream. The moon was shining mysteriously, surrounded by dark clouds (only less than deal thing was the weather – chilly and rainy most of the wkend, with the sun peeping out only occasionally). There were costumed actors performing theatrical tricks in front of the entrance, rotating in giant translucent balls and on tall “fake” legs like in a circus. Repeating neon lights displaying angles, the ying/yang sign, roses, INSEAD logo (have to say it did get a little too much and cheezy but quite hilarious) lit up the entire palace.
One thing I regret doing is taking off my flat shoes too early – I took them off and changed to heals just after the front main gate, not realizing it is still a long way to the chateau and ball entrance. And let me tell you – walking on 16th century cobble stones (although they were larger than the usual ones) on heels was not fun. My husband kept telling me to “aim my heel in the middle of the cobble stone” (not sure where he learned that) but in the dark, it was not easy to do. When I finally managed to get into the tent that was set up outside, it was such relief (for my 15-year, I will know better).
Inside it was already filled with people – in sexy colored dresses for the ladies and tux or suits with bow ties (most wore black ones, James wore a patterned one just to be different) for the gents. Loud dance music played in the background. The food – provided by one of the best caterers in Paris – was also fantastic, probably one of the best I have had (I am sure my positive emotion also contributed to the taste). This was definitely a step-up from the ball I attended 5-years ago, although they did double the price, which everyone complained about. But the Dean told me at the Salamander donor drinks I attended that they are not even breaking even – it is just so costly to plan such mega balls.
Before I get carried away, I will end here about the evening and go on to talk about more “serious” subjects. But it was an amazing night to remember!