Friday, February 28, 2014

Papers, papers partout!

I feel like I am currently buried under gigantic stacks of paperwork and I'm struggling to get out alive.  And for once, it is not only French bureaucracy at fault, though that is a large part of it.  I have simultaneously been working on preparing my dossier to renew my titre de séjour, finishing up my dossier de naturalisation and trying to comprehend America's overly complex tax system in an attempt to prepare our US taxes.  And let me tell you, trying to do all of this at once is really stressing me out and it's getting quite confusing.  Not to mention that I feel like my brain can no longer function after trying to wrap my mind around the US tax code.

Some people have asked me why I'm tackling all three of these tasks at once.  And well, admittedly my dossier de naturalisation has taken much longer to assemble than I would have expected (thanks to last year's government shutdown in the US, the state of New York and the overly complicated process of obtaining a birth certificate with apostille for someone born in NYC, my lingering fear of La Poste and their inability to deliver mail based on previous experience, the Tribunal d'Instance de Bordeaux and the Préfecture de Bordeaux).  I naively thought I would have had all of that paperwork together and turned in before the end of 2013.  Clearly that is not the case.  I just refuse to wait until I finish with the other tasks.  I really want to get that file turned in ASAP in the hopes that next year I might have citizenship before I would need to renew my titre de séjour again.  As for the US taxes and my titre de séjour renewal, it's not like I had the choice.  I have to renew my residency card before the other one expires and I had to wait to receive our W-2s from our jobs in the US before I could start on our taxes and they need to be filed by April 15.  I know I can get an automatic extension but I just want to get it done.

The only good news in all of this is that I managed to finish assembling my dossier for my renewal request and I mailed that en recommandé this week.  I've already received the récépissé from the préfecture to let me know they received the file (surprisingly quick...I was shocked), so now I just have to wait to get a date for my appointment and keep the originals organized until then.  The current status of my dossier de naturalisation is much more complicated but suffice it to say I thought we had all of the papers together and then discovered that one of the documents won't work so now we are trying to scramble and get a different document.  I'm also waiting to hear back from the préfecutre regarding an appointment thanks to their convoluted appointment scheduling system.  And the US taxes, well, I don't even know where to begin.  I feel lost and confused.  Every time I research answers to my questions I just end up even more confused than I was in the beginning.  So, needless to say, I am quite stressed at the moment and it is highly likely that there will be more posts on this coming soon.  Here's hoping I eventually find the light at the end of the paper tunnel!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Finally, une vie sociale

As I mentioned the other day I've been quite busy.  One of the things keeping me busy lately has been the return of some semblance of a social life, something that has been sorely missing from my life since our arrival in Bordeaux.

Sure we knew a few people in the Bordeaux area before moving here, but between their limited availability and the renovations on our house, we barely had any sort of a social life during our first 4 or 5 months here. Since then, things have slowly been improving, especially for me as I am just more social in general than Lionel (he can be a bit casanier).  And since the beginning of the year I've been going out once or twice a week, plus some on weekends, which is pretty crazy for me, especially considering the fact I could count on one hand the number of times we went out in our first months in Bordeaux.

Not only have I been participating in all the Afterwork in English meetups in Bordeaux, but I've also started seeing a few people I met at these meetups on a pretty regular basis.  And since one of the girls I met is also new to Bordeaux, we have been making an effort to discover some new places in Bordeaux (mostly pubs and cafés).

Decoration in one of our new favorite bars...Café Brun (sign says: "please give your offerings for the poor with tuberculosis)...I just love the decoration and ambiance of this place, very laid back and eclectic.

Lionel and I have also been spending time with the few people we already knew in Bordeaux (one of Lionel's closest friends and his wife moved to Bordeaux from Paris shortly after we moved to the US) and some of their Bordelais friends and family who we had met on occasion prior to our move.  A few weeks ago we went to their apartment for dinner and a poker night and guess who beat all the boys!  That's right, yours truly!  I didn't just beat them, I destroyed them and made a bit of cash in the process!

My big win...20 euros!  I'm very proud of this because usually when we play poker with Lionel's friends I come in second.  Pretty much always, actually, so I was very happy to win for once!

I've also been spending quite a bit of time with the incredible blogger over at Den Nation and she has been taking me to all sorts of new places in Bordeaux.  We've tried a few places that were new to us both and she's shown me some of her favorites.  Lionel and I have also been meeting up with her and her husband fairly regularly.

Hot chocolate and key lime pie at L'Autre Salon de Thé, one of her favorites and apparently the best hot chocolate in Bordeaux...after trying it I would have to agree!

A new discovery for both of us, Le Wine Bar, an Italian themed wine bar with excellent food.  Exceeded both of our expectations.

I'm finally starting to feel like I've got some sort of a life in Bordeaux rather than just working and being here because we have someplace to live.  I'm very happy to be meeting new people, to enfin be discovering the city and to actually be getting out of the house for some fun activities.  And what can I say, it feels great to finally be developing a social life!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Relooking for the new year

As you can see I've decided to give my blog a bit of a relooking for 2014.  I had originally planned to do this closer to the beginning of the year, rather than in mid February, but I just got busy and couldn't make up my mind on the look I wanted. I played around with a couple of different ideas, made a few different headers for the title of my blog and took some time choosing the one I liked most.  I'm actually still kind of torn between the header I used and another one which is Lionel's favorite, so who knows, I might make another change soon, or I might just be too lazy to mess with it now that I've redesigned a bit and found something that I'm overall quite happy with.

I was never very pleased with my previous design, which I had redone in 2013.  I just never thought it really fit my personality or style, but I spent so much time working on it (I know, shocking considering how crappy it really was) that I couldn't justify completely changing it right away.  So I waited and figured that a new year was a good time for a new look for my blog.  I've still got a some other ideas floating around in my head so I might be making a few other changes here and there, but I think that the overall look is going to stay the same.  Now I just have to get used to it!  I must admit though, I'm not the best when it comes to design and technology so I'm open to any and all suggestions!

Monday, February 17, 2014

La Rochelle and les îles

I know, it's been awhile (two weeks!) since my last post.  What can I say, I've been busy.  And then every time I would sit down with the intention of posting, I just had no ideas.  And then I would get distracted by something else.  But today I realized I actually have a lot to post about and I just need to get the motivation to sit down and do it.  So today I'm starting off easy with some photos of the little trip Lionel and I took this weekend to visit La Rochelle, the Ile de Ré and the Ile d'Oléron.

It's been 10 years since the last time I visited La Rochelle, back when I was a college junior studying abroad for the first time and a trip to Poitiers and La Rochelle was one of our group weekend excursions.  So Lionel and I were wanting to get out of town for a weekend, but not too far away as we wanted it to only be a one night trip.  We thought about driving down to Spain, but decided to save that for warmer weather, so in the end we opted for La Rochelle and the nearby islands.  After weeks of nearly non stop rain we got very lucky and the weather started to clear as we were crossing the bridge to Ile de Ré on Saturday and we enjoyed overall pleasant weather for the weekend, just a few short showers here and there on Saturday.

We had a great time and Lionel really loved La Rochelle.  The islands were both very nice and we really enjoyed exploring the area, discovering La Rochelle together, and just getting out of town for a few days.

Ile de Ré:

a beach on Ile de Ré

Lionel and I enjoying the beach

walking along la digue

Lionel walking on the beach

Phare des Baleines

enjoying the view from the end of the island

port of Saint Martin de Ré

La Rochelle:

the old town

Tour de la Lanterne and the ramparts

view over the Vieux Port from the ramparts

the Vieux Port at night

entrance to the Vieux Port

the 3 towers of the Vieux Port de La Rochelle

Square Rasteau in the historical center...my cat is famous, he has his own square!

Ile d'Oléron:

view over to Ile d'Oléron from Fouras

view of Fort Enet, Fort Boyard and the Ile d'Oléron from Fouras

La Grande Plage on Ile d'Oléron

Phare de Chassiron

at the far end of the island

the beach in Boyardville

view of Fort Boyard

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl 2014

I'm paying for it today, but last night I kept myself up till 4 a.m. to watch the Super Bowl.  I'm not going to lie, waking up this morning was pretty rough, but I just couldn't stand the thought of missing the game this year.

Unfortunately Bordeaux has a serious lack of late night bars and so I wasn't able to find anyplace playing the entire game.  Instead I found myself watching the Super Bowl at home, alone.  Well, not entirely alone.  Lionel stayed awake for the first half and Rasteau was with me the whole time (though he didn't provide very good game-related conversation).

Overall the game was much less of a nail biter than the past few years (and by that I mean that there was no tension and it was pretty boring).  But what I did notice was that the French commentators did a much better job than they have in the past.  They really kept the commentary to the game and to explanations of American football for a French audience.  Much better than a few years ago when they kept discussing US politics rather than the game.

The halftime show was, in my opinion at least, better than the past two years.  Though I must admit I didn't know who Bruno Mars was until last night when I discovered I actually recognized some of his songs.  And I have a feeling I should be pretty embarrassed to admit that.

I was also pretty entertained by W9's American look during the Super Bowl:


Though the game wasn't as exciting as in previous years I'm still happy I stayed awake to watch.  Now I just need to get caught up on all the great commercials I missed...I've been hearing good things.  And in the meantime I have a feeling I'll be in bed quite early tonight.