Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My thoughts on Canada

Though my friends and I were only in Ontario for a short time, and for a wedding nonetheless, leaving us with very little time to explore the area, we did walk away from the experience with a number of impressions stuck firmly in our minds.  With this post I don't intend to step on any international feet, offend anyone, judge an entire country based on a very short trip or otherwise feed stereotypes or risk insulting anyone.  I just want to share some over our overall observations and impressions from our short time in Canada, more for the sake of discussion and for memories than as a means to analyze and evaluate an entire country and it's people.

So, what were my overall thoughts and impressions after my trip?

1.  Canadians are SOOOOO nice.  It's just unbelievable really.  The stereotype about Canadians being extremely polite is definitely true, at least in my experience.  Laura, Delaware and I were just floored by how welcoming, open and kind everyone was.  They didn't even know us and were willing to bend over backwards to make us feel comfortable and at home...lending us their phones and GPS when we needed to find a supermarket, their homes for impromptu pool parties, running out to the store to pick up burgers, beer, etc, letting Delaware borrow some items he had forgotten, always checking to see if anyone else needed a drink or anything else, worrying about our experience with border control, making every effort to talk to us and make sure we were having a good time in their country.  The list just goes on and on.  It was amazing!  Canadians must be the nicest people on earth.  Makes me kind of ashamed to be American; we are not nearly as warm, welcoming and friendly as our neighbors up north.

2.  The border crossing was much easier than I expected.  Just goes to show you can't believe everything you hear.  I had no issues driving into Canada despite the fact that I couldn't even correctly answer the first question the border control officer asked me.  He asked where I lived and I said Ohio (because that was where I was coming from) then had to correct myself to France.  And rather than harass me because of it he just asked a few other questions (how long I was staying, why I was coming, what I was bringing with me) and let me go on my way.  Very simple and straightforward and the entire process, from getting into line to driving away only took about 5 minutes.  On the way back out we got a few more questions, but it was also very quick and painless (and I remembered where I lived that time).

3.  While Americans are known for being perhaps overly patriotic and displaying American flags nearly everywhere (and much of the rest of the world likes criticize us for this), I did notice quite a few Canadian flags (though nothing like in the US) like this one at the entrance to the supermarket:


Seems they might have a bit of patriotic pride as well!  Though not as overwhelmingly so as Americans.

4.  I love that everything is in French and English!  It is so much fun and I find myself, as an American, being somewhat jealous of that bilingual tradition.  It was just really cool to see street signs, labels, products, almost everything in both languages.

5.  Canadian roads are very nice to drive on and much more similar to the US than Europe.  I was much less stressed than I am driving in France, and after making it through Windsor I was able to just sit back and cruise along without a worry.  Everything is well indicated, the roads are in good condition, the drivers aren't crazy.  It was just nice.  Except the speed limit - 100 km/hour is far too slow for highway driving!  Especially for such a large country!

6.  Canada is more expensive than the US.  I was surprised by the cost for a number of different things.  Gas overall cost more (not surprising), but not nearly as much as in Europe, but various foods and drinks were more than I expected.

7.  Tim Horton's literally is everywhere!  Trying to get into the Canadian spirit, I stopped at one in Michigan for dinner before crossing the border, but as soon as you step foot into Canada you can't help but find a Tim Horton's.  And they really do love that place!  We ended up stopping at the Tim Horton's near Marybeth's for coffee before heading back to the US.  We just felt obligated to go at least once while we were there.

8.  All Dressed/Assaisonnées chips are incredible.  And that is what happens when you set three Americans loose in a Canadian grocery store.  They make discoveries.  Once we saw the bag we just had to buy them out of curiosity.  And they are very, very good and extremely dangerous.


9.  Everyone really does say "eh."  All the time.  It's kinda adorable.

10.  I like that the culture, while similar to that of the US, is still quite different in many ways.  I was afraid that everything would be like in the US and so was pleasantly surprised that there are quite a few differences, more than I expected.  It was just enough to make it quite clear that we were not in the US, while also not being overwhelming.

All in all my impressions were quite positive, as I expected them to be, and I hope to have the opportunity to return to Canada one day to do some more exploring and visit with friends.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Canada

I'm finally getting around to posting about my trip to Ontario for my friend's wedding while I was in the US.  Admittedly the only other time I have ever been to Canada was during two prior trips to Niagara Falls when I was much, much younger.  So I wasn't really sure what to expect.  Plus I was driving up from Cincinnati with no real knowledge of Canadian roads or rules, so I was a little nervous.  And I was even more nervous about the boarder crossing.  But it didn't matter because I was looking very forward to my friend, Marybeth's, wedding and to having the opportunity to catch up with some other friends as well.  We are all friends from back in our assistant days in Paris, and the last time we had all seen each other was at my friend, Laura's, wedding two years ago.  So I knew that, no matter how nervous I was about the trip up, the wedding and the entire weekend were going to be a blast.  And I was right!

I'm going to split my Canada trip into two posts so first, the wedding and the weekend with friends and then I'll do a second post about my impressions of Canada.  Since I was driving up on the Friday night from Cincinnati after a full day of work, I didn't end up arriving at the wedding location (where we were staying the night before the wedding as well) until about midnight.  The second I stepped out of the car I was almost knocked over by my assistant friends, Marybeth, Laura and Delaware (actually named Rob but we always call him Delaware).  And the fun began.  I FINALLY got to meet the groom and we all stayed up late with some of their close friends and the bridal party catching up, getting to know one another, goofing off, drinking and just having a good old Canadian time.

The following day was the wedding day and we helped with some of the setup and preparations and then just took it easy (i.e. drank with some of the others who were not in the wedding and therefore not needed for photos) until it was time for the ceremony.  They held the wedding at an outdoor recreation area in Paris, Ontario and the location was beautiful.  The spot where they had the ceremony was surrounded by trees and the sun was shining while they said their vows.  Overall a very nice ceremony, not too long but not overly short, and Marybeth's mother officiated.

 the ceremony

After the ceremony we had some free time before the cocktail hour and reception and they had a bunch of activities set up all over the grounds to keep their guests entertained.  Of course, we didn't really check any of those out, we just met up with a bunch of the people we had met the night before and continued with the drinking festivities! I swear, this group of friends really brings out the alcoholic in me.  Sometimes I think it might be a good thing we don't see each other very often.  At one point (I think it may have been the bride who originally brought it up, but then she took off) the idea of drinking games was introduced, and somehow we ended up playing flip cup and the mother of the bride even joined in.  Finally, after a few too many rounds of boys vs. girls flip cup (and the girls kicked butt!) it was time for the rest of the festivities to begin and we headed over to congratulate the happy couple, grab a drink and sign the guest list in the cabin where the bar was located before finding seats and snacks in the reception tent.  They had a slideshow set up with photos of their lives, including far too many embarrassing photos of us all and our adventures as assistants in Paris, which made for quite the laugh.  A delicious dinner of barbeque ribs was served (I would have been terrified to eat that in my wedding dress so props to Marybeth) and afterwards the dancing started.  And we danced a lot.  In fact, I danced the most I probably ever have in my life.  I was a veritable dancing queen!  Finally the formal reception started to die down, the dancing ended and most of the guests left.  Those of us who had booked a cabin at the wedding location, however, were treated to another surprise - midnight snacks and a late night campfire complete with smores!  We all stayed up chatting, drinking and being merry until the wee hours of the morning.  I think when Laura, Delaware and I finally tucked ourselves into bed in our little cabin the sun was starting to come up.  Overall it was very good times and one of the best weddings I've been to, country theme and all!

 Laura, Marybeth and I before the reception

 Delaware, Laura, Marybeth and I

 The first dance as a married couple!  I'm so glad I finally got to meet her husband...I've heard about him for years but he never made it out to visit Paris and he unfortunately had to miss Laura's wedding two years ago as well.

The following day we woke up in time for the buffet breakfast and mimosas, helped with some of the cleanup, then headed over to Marybeth's new mother-in-law's house for a relaxing day at her pool.  We hauled some of the left over food and booze with us and all just took it easy, enjoying the sun and warm weather while lounging around the pool all day with plenty of snacks and beer.  In the evening we grilled out hamburgers and watched some of the World Cup before heading back to Marybeth's house in Hamilton where we were staying for Sunday night.  Monday we had to head out and I dropped Laura and Delaware off at the Buffalo airport for their flight to Philadelphia on my way back down to Ohio.

All in all an incredible weekend and I'm so glad I was able to make it, even if Lionel couldn't (which ended up being sort of a blessing in disguise as Laura's husband and Delaware's fiancée couldn't come either so we were all without our other halves).  It was so great to catch up with my assistant friends and to see Marybeth get married.  Plus, who knows when we will all see each other next.  Probably for Delaware's wedding, whenever that might be (they have been engaged for 5 years and still haven't set a date), unless I can convince them to all come out to Bordeaux!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Two and a half weeks de ouf

I got back to Bordeaux last night after two and a half crazy busy weeks packed full of friends, family, fun, travelling, shopping, drinking far too much, working and a definitive lack of sleep!  I have basically dubbed this trip across the pond a "fake vacation" because I didn't really get to relax at all, I was constantly busy, I barely slept, and I went into my company and worked from the office for one of my two weeks in the States.  But, even though I'm currently exhausted and jet-lagged, it was definitely worth it!  Lionel ended up staying in Bordeaux but I still had plenty of fun on my own.

I had a wonderful time in the States visiting with friends and family, catching up, making plans, and just spending time together.  I also drove up to Ontario for a long weekend for a friend's wedding and had an incredible time (but more on that later as the trip to Canada will get it's very own post) celebrating her marriage and visiting with my "assistant" friends.  I ended my whirlwind two and a half weeks with a weekend in Paris.  I specifically planned my return flight to land in Paris because my friend, Amy (who has appeared on this blog a number of times), was in town from Florida and I wanted to see her while she was in Europe.  Lionel came up to visit as well and we spent a busy weekend visiting with friends all over Paris, including a stop at my favorite wine bar!

Sadly I didn't take any pictures while in the US, but that doesn't mean I didn't keep myself busy.  Between visits with friends, checking out their new homes, meeting their children, dinners and drinks, movies and shopping, a World Cup party, family meals and barbecues, a full week of work, driving all over the place and dealing with some paperwork and other necessities I barely had a second to think let alone sleep.  I got to see most of the people I wanted to see and spend some quality time with them.  If I had had more time in the States I also would have made a trip out to New York to visit with some other friends, but alas that will have to wait for another time.

Lionel and I also stayed quite busy while in Paris, running around trying to see as many friends as possible and spend some quality time with Amy while she was in the country.  In the end I think we did a pretty good job without completely running me ragged from jet-lag induced exhaustion as I landed in Paris on Friday and we stayed out very late that night, first hitting Nicolas and the Frog in Bercy Village and then heading over to the Batofar for some late night fun.  We kept it a little more calm on Saturday with the World Cup, a restaurant, and drinks at a friend's place.  Sunday we took it easy in the morning having a late breakfast with friends and then we headed back to Bordeaux so I could get back and have time to unpack and get situated before having to go to bed for work today.

 with Caroline, Amy and Elias in Bercy Village

I'm also very thankful I was able to pick up my residency card before I left the country because, while I didn't have any issues getting back into France (and they didn't even ask to see it) I wouldn't have been able to get on my flight from Amsterdam to Detroit or my flight from the US to Paris without it.  I was shocked when I not only had to show it when making my connection in Amsterdam (I mean, after all, I'm flying back to my home country), but also when they asked for it in the airport in Ohio before letting me start my trip back to France.  That has NEVER happened before and I'm pretty sure my expired card with a ridiculous looking récépissé in French and the French law printed out in French wouldn't have gotten me very far in either situation.

Not too shabby for two and a half weeks!  More on my trip to Canada and the wedding coming soon!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Happy day

Today I literally feel like jumping for joy, celebrating this momentous occasion and overall feeling of peace and liberty. Today (drum roll please) I went to the préfecture and picked up my 10-year carte de résident!!!!

At the Préfecture just after receiving my carte de résident

I feel so free - free from yearly préfecture visits and piles of paperwork, free from the stress and frustration of spending multiple months a year without a proper, valid form of French ID, free from the hassle and the need to waste so much time dealing with administration, just absolutely, completely free. And it feels good!  So, so good. I almost want to abandon the entire citizenship request (which is not going nearly as well, by the way) for the time being and just relish in the delight and happiness that this 10-year card brings. I want to enjoy a few Préfecture/Bureau des Etrangers-free years before throwing myself back into administrative battles. But I won't because that would be silly and who knows how long the entire process is going to take, especially considering all of the obstacles I've already encountered.

The entire process at the préfecture went very smoothly. I was able to buy my 260€ de timbres fiscaux at the préfecutre and then get in the line to pick up my card. I only had to wait about 30 minutes, which was quicker than I expected, and then I had my card in my hands. I was surprised to see they updated the format and that all new French ID cards are now credit card-sized rather than the gigantic cards they have been using for years that don't easily fit in a wallet. It also now contains an electronic chip with a digital copy of my photo and personal information as well as having all of that info appear on the card. Quite impressive and modern...way to go France, finally entering the 21st century!

I'm also thrilled that I was able to get my card today because I leave for a two-week trip to the US on Thursday and I was starting to worry how I was going to fight my way back into the country without a valid titre de séjour (my old one expired in May) and only a récépissé de demande de renouvellement. Though in theory this shouldn't be a problem I read a few horror stories and a lot of sites recommended printing out a copy of the French law as you would most likely encounter problems at passport control. Now I'm just happy I don't have to worry about it. Ever again!

As ridiculous as it may seem (though anyone who has experienced the titre de séjour process will probably understand), today I just feel victorious.  And it feels great.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Weekend à la campagne

We spent a relaxing and calm weekend in Corrèze last weekend, visiting with friends, enjoying the weather and decompressing in the peace and quiet. I had never been to Corrèze before and wasn't really sure what to expect; all I had ever heard was that it's very agricultural and the middle of nowhere.  Well, I was pleasantly surprised!

We had an incredible weekend and really took advantage of the opportunity to destress and enjoy nature. We drove out Friday after work and when we arrived the barbecue was being prepared. After a delicious meal we hung out, caught up and played some games.  We spent a lazy Saturday lounging in the sun, barbecuing and we went in a hike to a nearby lake.  On our hike we encountered all kinds of creatures - horses, a donkey, a goat, ducks, the largest slugs I've ever seen, a dog, chickens, roosters, cows and even a squirrel (first squirrel I've ever seen in France!).

 Lac du Coiroux

one of the adorable old buildings on our friend's property

 
 a family of hourses we encountered on our hike

 a nearby pond

Finally, after another barbecue on Sunday we headed home, making a pit stop in Collonges-la-Rouge to visit one of les plus beaux villages de France. And it definitely lived up to its reputation! In the end it was a great weekend, we had a lot of fun and it was just what I needed after quite a few hectic and stressful weeks.








Thursday, May 22, 2014

Expat excitement... discovery au supermarché

Made quite the discovery in the condiment/sauce aisle at my local Auchan the other day:


Never in a million years did I really expect to find Frank's Red Hot for sale in a regular French supermarket, and especially outside of the produits du monde aisle (though I do check this section of the store every time I go shopping...just in case). So imagine my surprise when I quickly scanned the bottles and jars this week, comme d'habitude, and actually saw these little bottles nestled on the shelf!  My excitement level was similar to when Philadelphia cream cheese first came on the market here in France (and I'm sure most American expats in France felt similarly about that one!).

I was half tempted to buy them all to ensure that Auchan continues to stock it, but in the end I didn't since I still have quite the stock at home (I bought a gallon of it earlier this year through Amazon UK, very reasonably priced I might add). But now I can rest assured knowing that my life as an American expat in France has gotten that much easier because Frank's Red Hot is probably the one product from the US that I personally can't live without.  It's practically an addiction; I would probably go through withdrawal without it. At this rate it won't be long before I can find all the US products I need/want on a regular shopping trip here in France!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Thoughts on Bordeaux

*Let me preface this by saying these are entirely my thoughts and opinions based on my experiences so far in Bordeaux.  I'm not looking to offend, just presenting my feelings at this point in time, which are always subject to change.  Also, a little warning that I may have gotten a bit longwinded and I do jump all over the place, perhaps because I wrote this over the course of three days.


Today marks one year since I landed, exhausted and jet-lagged, in Bordeaux.  And so in honor of my one-year Bordelais anniversary, I thought I would do a post about my overall thoughts, impressions and reflections on this city I now call home.

I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that Lionel and I would one day call Bordeaux home, primarily based on the fact that most of his family lives in this area.  And while I always thought that it would one day happen, I never really looked forward to that.  Overall, this is probably the area of France I’ve always felt least corresponded to my personality, character and preferences.  It’s not that I didn’t like Bordeaux or the region, but I didn’t love it either…truth be told, I didn’t have a lot of feelings at all about this city.  So, when we decided to move back to France and realized that we would be going to Bordeaux I started making lists in my head of all the positive aspects of Bordeaux and the area to try to psyche myself up and really get excited about calling this city home.  And here I am, a year after arriving, and I can’t say that my thoughts or feelings have really changed.  When it comes to Bordeaux I generally just feel indifferent.

See, with Paris I had a very love-hate relationship.  There are so many things I love about Paris and so many things I still miss, but there are also a lot of things that I hate and reasons why I know moving back wouldn’t be a good idea.  But I have never felt indifferent to Paris.  I feel very strongly about Paris whereas I just don’t feel much of anything about Bordeaux.  I like it fine enough, I haven’t really found anything I hate, but I can’t say there is anything I really love about this city.  I can think of quite a few other French cities I would choose before Bordeaux, but also a few I would never want to live in.  I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but there is something about Bordeaux that just creates a lack of feelings in me (if that is even possible).  Or maybe I still just haven't figured out how I really feel about this city.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Bordeaux is a horrible place, on the contrary, overall I’m happy here.  However, whenever someone asks me how I’m liking Bordeaux, I struggle to find an answer or to come up with anything to say, positive or negative.  I just can’t seem to form an overall opinion.  Yes, it is quite pretty, especially in the historical center, but I hate the Garonne and how wide, dangerous and ugly it is, cutting Bordeaux in half with no charm or life.  It feels more like a barrier than an integral part of the city.  Bordeaux’s location can be quite convenient with easy access to the beach and mountains along with lots to explore within a 2ish hour drive – Spain, the beautiful Dordogne region, Pays Basque, Toulouse, La Rochelle and the nearby islands, chateaux, vineyards, etc.  The list really goes on and on.  But at the same time, I’m much more interested in Germany, Belgium and Eastern Europe than Spain and Spanish culture (nothing against Spain, it’s just my preference) and from Bordeaux it is quite difficult and expensive to travel to any of the other European countries that really interest me.  And I don’t ski so the mountains in the winter are basically my nightmare.  Though I will never complain about having the beach only a 45 minute drive away.

Travel, that is a big issue for me here in Bordeaux.  I feel like you can’t go anywhere from the Bordeaux airport without paying an arm and a leg and making multiple changes.  Gone are my days of hopping the next inexpensive EasyJet flight to Eastern Europe.  Now I’m going to have to content myself with the countries that match my personality the least – Spain and Portugal.  Of course, I can also get to Italy fairly easily, but a lot of the possible destinations are places I’ve already been multiple times.  I suppose I could always plan one hell of a European road trip to get to some of my preferred and/or dream destinations.  Or hope that Lionel and I win the lottery one day, which should be quite difficult considering the fact that we don’t play.

Then there is public transportation in Bordeaux.  Apparently it is quite the hassle to get to the airport, should I ever actually have plans to travel.  And while the tram is very nice and new and clean, it is slow and there are only three lines so there are a lot of places you can’t get to without either a car or a lot of time to transfer to another tram or multiple buses.  From what I’ve heard I should be thankful I live within 15 minutes walking distance of a tram stop though, so there is that.  And luckily, since I don’t have to leave the house for work, our tram line takes me straight into the center of Bordeaux and through the administrative district, so it pretty much gets me everywhere I need to go directly, except the train station.  The Bordeaux tram system is also quite refreshing after the Paris metro.  I can usually get a seat, people aren’t constantly pushing and shoving each other, beggars aren’t harassing me left and right and people are actually polite and will give up their seats to the elderly, the injured, children and pregnant women.  It’s quite shocking!

I have found some very nice restaurants and some bars and cafés that I quite enjoy, but the lack of reasonably priced Asian food is starting to make Lionel and I go mad.  I don’t know what we would have done if we hadn’t found the Asian grocery store out at Bordeaux Lac making it possible to recreate most of our favorites in our own kitchen.  Plus I’m still exploring and I’m sure I’ll find other restaurants to enjoy.  I also enjoy that there are quite a few things to do in and around Bordeaux, though I wish there were some more interesting museums.

However, one of my biggest issues with Bordeaux would have to be the wine bars.  Now, if you are like me, when you think of Bordeaux the first thing that comes to mind is wine.  I mean, Bordeaux is basically the wine capital of the entire world.  So, naturally, I expected to come here and have a plethora of fabulous wine bars at my fingertips.  What I didn’t expect was that every one I would go into would require you to purchase some sort of food along with your wine.  I mean, really!?!  Perhaps I’m not hungry.  Perhaps I just want a glass (or bottle) of wine.  Perhaps I was just planning to stop in for an aperitif before dinner elsewhere.  Or perhaps I just want to grab an after dinner drink and am too stuffed from said dinner to eat any more food.  And perhaps, with all of those perhapses, I just wanted to be able to go somewhere with a great selection of wine to have that drink.  I mean, this is Bordeaux, shouldn’t I be able to have a glass of wine without having to buy food?   On a side note, if anyone who is reading this knows Bordeaux well and knows of wine bars in the center that don’t require the consumption of food, please leave a message!

And since this awful discovery about the wine bars of Bordeaux (or at least every one I’ve been to so far), I’ve also noticed the same problem present itself in some other bars and cafés.  Especially when they are in a nice location.  Like on the quais, or Place St. Pierre.  Is it really not possible to enjoy an alcoholic beverage with a nice view without eating something?  Or is it just me and I go to all the wrong places?  Though honestly, along the quais I’ve found both with and without food options, but as far as I can figure you can only have a drink on the beautiful Place St. Pierre if you are eating.  And with policies like these how is it that the Bordelais don’t all weight 100+ kilos?  This is the city of wine people, just let it flow free without any rules or regulations!

And on the subject of wine, I’m ashamed to admit it (and so please don’t tell on me) but I’m really not a huge fan of Bordeaux wines.  I mean, I’ll drink them, don’t get me wrong, I’m not crazy or anything.  But they are not at the top of my list of preferences.  Hell, they don’t even make it in the top 5.  Give me anything from the Val de Loire and I’ll be a happy camper (and so will my wallet).  However, I would never admit this to a Bordelais for fear of being thrown out of the city immediately.  In Bordeaux they sure do love their wines (though only with food apparently)!  Better to not insult them and if you are invited over to anyone’s house here in Bordeaux, it is definitely best to bring a bottle of Bordeaux.  Though sometimes I don’t just to spite them and their wine snobbery!  Even at the supermarket I am pretty much always the only person in the wine aisle not looking for a bottle in the enormous and imposing Bordeaux section.  Nope, I inconspicuously make my little American way over to the Loire section, or sometimes Rhône if I feel like a change, and happily pick out one of my preferences, though each and every time I feel like I should hide my head and be ashamed of myself.   However, slowly but surely I’m learning more about the Bordeaux wines, and who knows, maybe one day I might turn into a Bordeaux wine snob as well.  Until then I will definitely at least enjoy the pleasing sight of vineyards everywhere you turn.

Overall the Bordelais seem to be quite nice, despite their affinity for mocking my accent and their wine snobbery and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by most of my administrative encounters (though I hope I’m not putting my foot in my mouth as I still haven’t had my interview with the préfecture for my naturalization request).  I also like the fact that people don’t wear as much black as in Paris, and I’ve been noticing the influence on my wardrobe.  I certainly can’t complain about the weather in Bordeaux and I enjoy having such easy access to nature and outdoor activities, something that always was an issue for me living in Paris.  I would have to say Bordeaux is probably overall a better size city for me.  It still has the culture, restaurants and amenities of a city without being as stressful.  And well, Rasteau absolutely loves it here and since he’s our baby that is definitely important.  Though I could do without some of his furry escapades!

Nonetheless I’m a bit disappointed in how difficult it has been to find friends here.  While I’ve met a few people that I see on a regular basis and with whom I quite enjoy spending my time, by the end of June they will pretty much all have left Bordeaux, leaving me to start all over again.  Luckily we still have Lionel’s friend and his wife who live here and their group of friends who are all quite nice giving us at least some sort of permanent social life.  But I still want to make my own friends.  People who I choose to spend my time with because I met them on my own and we clicked and really enjoy each others’ company, have common interests, are in similar situations, etc.  Not just people who, in a way (and not to sound mean or anything because they are all very nice, we just don’t have a lot in common for the most part), I am sorta forced to socialize with.  And luckily we also have a lot of Lionel’s family to see as well, so we are not entirely alone.  It’s just, I need friends of my own as well, people I can relate to more and who can relate to me.  And I’ve pretty much given up on meeting other Americans here…I’m just not having any luck no matter how hard I try!  Even the American bar, which would be a surefire bet in Paris, didn’t prove fruitful.  Le sigh.

Regardless, I do appreciate the beauty of the city center, full of winding streets, beautiful churches and historic buildings.  And, even though it may not be my first pick, I’ve enjoyed having the chance to explore a new place.  While part of my frustration may be a direct consequence of my precarious social life and the fact that we don’t actually live in Bordeaux but in les banlieues proches, we do still have people to see, things to do and places to go.  And our less-than-central location at least provides quick and easy access to a lot of stores and the highway for speedy escapes when we want to get out of town.  Though unfortunately a lot of this requires driving, which we all know I am less than keen to do in France.

Overall I have to admit that I’m quite happy with my life right now, which I suppose just goes to show you that happiness doesn’t entirely depend on where you live.  Or perhaps it’s just the peace of living somewhere that doesn’t inspire heated, passionate feelings of love and hate.  Maybe it’s that lack of strong sentiments and quick fire reactions that I need…that overall feeling of indifference.  I feel like I’ve learned a lot in the past few years with our numerous international moves and I think I’ve finally come to understand exactly how I want to live my life and what is going to make me the happiest.  And while I wouldn’t currently say I’m thrilled to live in Bordeaux, I would definitely say I’m OK with it.  I find myself being more optimistic than in the past and I’m trying to focus more on the pros.  While I do just feel indifferent to this city at the moment, I do realize it has a lot to offer and that it is a perfectly fine place to live.  I also realize that nothing is forcing us to stay here forever and you never know what life will bring.  Perhaps, with time, I will begin to feel more of an affinity for this place.  Or maybe one day we will move again and who knows, in the future I might just end up in one of cities that really attract me and fit more with my personality.  So until my dreams of Tours or Strasbourg come true I’m feeling good about working to build my life in Bordeaux, hell I’m even looking forward to it.  In the end I suppose that feeling indifferent really isn’t that bad, just as long as people stop asking me how I feel about Bordeaux!