Wednesday, 1 October 2014

September took Summer away

Summer seems definitely over these days. The air has turned chilly, and the leaves have started turning brown.
Last week I went back to the countryside house I started my French year off in. The swim in pool was definitely a much more hesitant activity than a few months ago.

It has been two months since I have arrived. Time goes by scarily fast. How am I progressing? 

Well, I am cooking more. Still very basic affairs, but thankfully my housemate applauds me as a champion chef whenever I cook for two. Compliments do wonders to my self esteem. I still buy my work lunches, but small dinners I can do. Once I even hosted a impromptu house dinner gathering! Should do more of those, I reckon.

October is here, and along with the change of seasons, I feel it's time to set up some goals for the month. 
  • Squats and stretches in the morning
  • French language book, one chapter a day
  • Run/swim after work at least twice a week - starting off slow, it's been a while 
  • More tea, less sweets, weekly baths allowed
  • Sleep on time!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Scent stalking

Inside a friend's car on the way to another weekend boating episode and there is a strong vanilla smell wafting towards me.

'What kind of car air freshener do you use?'
'It smells strongly of vanilla back here.'
T says, 'It must be me.'

Later on, 'Stop with the sniffing me like a dog!'

I thought he was kidding. It was a strong perfume, but it was a good perfume. It was definitely a different scent to that of A, who was sitting on the other side of me.

I'm not a connoisseur of scents, but men's selections seem to have just as many variety as the ladies'. I've been to both sides, tried on several different brands. If the scent fits me, appeals to me, connects with me, why can't I wear the men's as well as women's?

T's perfume was a Dior, and I liked it so much that I headed to the nearest Sephora as soon as I got back into town. Much to my surprise, the pumped molecules from the bottles did not produce me the same awaited scent that I was expecting. What about T's bodily chemicals had changed from this husky smell to something more thick and sweet? They were completely different tastes!

It's still a mystery.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Lunch place: Le Clos Mirande

The three troopers set out to the touristy town of St Emilion, leaving poor grand-pere behind us. St Emilion is a cute cobbled stoned city famous for its wine productions and distinct Middle Ages features. Grandma S left us to do some shopping alone, then we met up for lunch. Unfortunately the restaurant she had wanted to take us was closed for the whole summer - it must do super well during the year to be closed for the whole season! - so we headed for choice no. 2. 

Out of town.

St Emilion bustles with tourists, but it does not take long for the silence to envelop us, with only the grape vines to keep us company. We didn't go far, either, but the place was almost deserted. Or so we thought. Through the empty restaurant we went, to the lush green backyard. Where all the other diners were already enjoying their breezy late afternoon lunch. Still, it was much quieter in comparison to the commercial atmosphere of St Emilion town squares. Almost like a Secret Garden.
The smily lady with wavy grey chignon bun greeted us warmly, and took great care of Grandma S, making sure she did not trip down the steps, and proving us ladies with a throw each, just in case the wind changed courses. 

From our little dining area under the shades of a leafy tree, we had a panorama of rows and rows of young vines, neatly lined up. We were served house wine, a young  number by regional comparison, who hasn't fully developed its aroma yet. Frothed cucumber soup, meat nearly bleeding almost raw, followed by an assortment plate of mini desserts. 

How do you eat your dessert? From most to least favourite, or the other way around? 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Happy weekend!

The weather has been a little funny this week here in Bordeaux, France.

Sunny, stuffy, but then cloudy turning to thunder storms, cutting off powers in the apartment at one point. It happens mostly in the evenings near hometime after work, and it's like the sky wants to cleanse the grounds of impurities with its super big super strong pressure shower head... Except when you're fully clothed, it's not the same experience, is it.

I can't wait for this afternoon, though, storm or no storm. No, I still haven't got myself an umbrella. But A is coming to visit and we are going to see T for the weekend. Weeee, so excited!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Wine place: L'Autre Petit Bois

My first espresso in Bordeaux was at this place. The dark sombre interior, with a huge tree overhanging purple plush seats and couches, seems like a dark fairy abode. 

The menu is tattered newspaper booklets with the offerings taped on the inside. The lunch menu during the week is 11,50 euros, for which you get a tartine of the day, a dessert of the day, and a glass of wine. I've tried the salmon tartine, and it's pretty simple but large enough to last you for the rest of the afternoon. Being a wine bar, you have a wide selection to pick your fancy, and not just the French or European ones, either. Anyone for an Aussie or Chilean, tonight?

I've since learnt that this place is pretty famous for its wines and cocktails. The place is called the 'Other' Little Wood, since there is another, original, place, just nearby. I hear it has a slightly different vibe though. 

12 Place du Parlement
33000 Bordeaux

Monday, 15 September 2014

Smart Living Tip: Top flat hunting search sites

In any city or country I have lived in, there has always been at least one go-to site for almost everything. Before I move to a new place, I try to find out the most popular site to start my searches early on. Even before beginning the actual house searches, I limit my searches to a handful of areas, making it easier to focus without getting overwhelmed with pages of so many unfamiliar area names.
In New Zealand it's TradeMe. Every Kiwi knows about it. I have used it to buy/sell textbooks and hunt for new flatmates in my uni days, to buy secondhand toys, and even to search for job openings. In an eBay style, every buyer/seller has an account to build credibility, with comments and ratings. It's free to join, but may have small service fees when your item is sold successfully, for example.

If I were to move back to Auckland Central, my suburbs of note would be: Mt Eden, Newton, Freemans Bay.

In Australia, it's Gumtree. Not as stylish in design as TradeMe, and it's primarily a buy/sell point. I found my Melbourne menage thanks to Gumtree. One visit and pizza dinner together, and I was in love, with the house and the lovely housemates sharing it. I also looked out for a bike, but I never ended up getting one, too scared to risk my clumsy self on the Melbourne roads. 

I only had one choice of suburb in Melbourne in mind: hipster hotspot Brunwick.

In Paris, I used Facebook and the university network for the apartment and job, actually. Sometimes Craigslist came in handy, but of course, to be used with caution. I'd say all online trades should be used carefully, but when there is a language barrier and you are alone in a foreign land, it becomes doubly important. That being said, I found two incredible internships during my year in Paris online - though I ended up letting go of one of them. 

Cool places to live in Paris: le Marais, St Canal de Martin, Republique.

Again in France, I relied heavily on Le Bon Coin for my current Bordeaux abode. It did take a while longer than in most cities to get this place. I think it was mostly due to the timing, being summer when no one was here, then suddenly nearing back-to-school, with everyone trying to secure a roof over their heads. I thought of going though an agency to help me out, but in the end, decided that wasn't my style, and I stuck it out until, luckily, an ideal apartment came up. 

Advised areas in Bordeaux: Chartrons, St Pierre, Hotel de Ville.
Sometimes flat hunting takes time, and with it, patience. Don't get discouraged you don't find the perfect place on your first visit. Perhaps your expectations are too high. Central city is convenient with easy access to work and play locations, but the places may be smaller, noisier, and more expensive. Be realistic on how much you want to spend, and what that amount is going to get you. 

Perhaps even more important than the location and price of your new apartment, is who you are going to share your new space with. For me, sharing a bigger house with one or couple of housemates has always been more attractive than living alone in a tiny studio. Living alone, I found myself picking up weird habits such as reading out aloud to myself, and eating quickly, messily, unhealthily. 

Or maybe you are joining up with your other half to start a life together. That's great news, but make sure you understand that sharing a place with others means sometimes compromising, and sharing roles. Such as cleaning. I've been in both cases where I was the 'only' cleaner in the household, and also always 'never' one. Things don't end up well, in either cases. 

Your new housemate becomes your new family. Take time to do things together, like Monday movie nights, weekend brunches, grocery trips. I can't wait for my housemate to get back home from his Spanish trip, already. I'm starving!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Travel Tip: Top Five Travel Pet Hates

A random list of things that annoy me when travelling.
  • Forward passenger leans far back during a long haul flight... 
This happens pretty frequently for me, which gets really uncomfortable when trying to watch movies - the screens at the back of the seats don't swivel enough. At these moments when the seat swings back, I give a mental sigh of exasperation and wish I'd been upgraded a class. Which doesn't happen frequently enough.
  • Children 
I love children, I really do, but the cuties can turn not-so-cuties when they start crying all throughout the long flight. What I hate though, is seeing mothers do all the work, carrying the babies around, feeding them, putting them - or not - to sleep, while the dad does not budge a finger to help, but looks slightly annoyed that his daughter was interrupting his inflight movie sessions. Take the kid for a walk around the aisles, dad, calm her down. For all of us, please.
  • Snoring
Snoring doesn't bother me most of the time (my current flatmate is a occasional, but big time, snorer, for example), but I guess when you are squashed into a sitting position for hours, your cranky level goes up.
  • Low battery and no power points in sight
Especially my phone, which has the shortest battery lifespan ever, and it's not just because I use it a lot. Maybe I don't charge it probably? I've tried buying a spare battery, and am looking at portable charger option instead. I've heard pretty good things about this small external battery pack
  • Having too much luggage
Why can't I just be done with a handbag? I hate my bulky laptop sometimes.