It’s now more than a year after I moved to Bordeaux. If we’d stuck to the original plan, I’d be packed up and moving to England right about now. But life’s funny that way. New opportunities present themselves and I guess you can’t ever really be sure what doors will open. And so, Bordeaux in 365 Bottles is turning in to Bordeaux in 365 Bottles: Year Two.
Will we stay forever? Who knows. But for now, Bordeaux will remain home and I guess only time will tell.
Tim and I recreated our first trip to Chicago from 17 years ago.
Tim and I met back in the summer of 2000. He was fresh out of boot camp, or whatever you call it, and in the military. I was still in college. That meant we were both poor and super broke all the time. At that time, it was probably a pretty big commitment to even scrounge up enough money for a plane ticket for to visit his hometown of Chicago with him.
I’d never been to Chicago, so we did the touristy things. We went to the top of the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower), Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, took an architecture boat cruise and I was introduced to Taste of Chicago. Of course, there’s a lot more to do in Chicago but back then that was probably all that we could afford. And we had a great time.
We’ve been back a few times together over the years, but aside from a Cubs game if we happened to visit during baseball season, our time was always spent visiting with his family on usually fairly short trips. So 17 years later, we wanted to play tourist again and relive a bit of the best of Chicago. A Cubs game had to be on our agenda. We also spent several different days trying things at Taste of Chicago, had an awesome experience re-visiting the Willis Tower, checked out the Jurassic World exhibit at The Field Museum and went on an architecture river cruise with my mom, who met us in Chicago before coming home to Bordeaux with me.
We also spent a few days in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Tim’s little cousin was getting married on Lake Como and the town of Lake Geneva is very cute. We also checked out some Wisconsin wineries while we were there.
Of course, we’re in a long distance relationship so just getting to see each other is always great. It was only our fourth time we even got to see each other over the last year.
Luxe Adventure Traveler is now profitable enough to start contributing to retirement again.
It’s hard starting a business and it takes a long time before you actually can do more than pay monthly expenses. I left my job at the university I worked for in the beginning of 2015 and I haven’t received an actual paycheck or made a contribution to my retirement funds since.
So it is definitely worth celebrating that all my hard work now generates enough monthly income to pay for all of our business expenses, my living expenses in France and to contribute to a retirement fund again.
The next income goal is to be able to also give myself a little paycheck each month, too.
Reverse culture shock.
The longer we live abroad, the more out of touch I feel every time I go back to the US. And after the last year in France, I feel it more than ever. It’s weird to go back.
When we lived in Italy, we lived in a community with a lot of Americans and it was pretty common to regularly hear English spoken. That is definitely not the case with Bordeaux, and the majority of tourists here come from France and Spain. When I’m speaking English, it’s on the phone with Tim or my mom or with my friends in Bordeaux. Conversations around me are mostly just noise that I tune out, mainly because I don’t understand what’s being said. Also, the French just speak more quietly to one another.
The minute I stepped foot in the US, I felt like everyone around me was screaming. It’s like one of those scenes in movies where it’s like the character suddenly hears everything around them. You can’t even hear your own thoughts as your ears pick up every single conversation around you. It’s impossible to concentrate and I had a headache by the time I reached the peace and quiet of my hotel room.
Aside from feeling like I suddenly had a superpower to eavesdrop on everyone within a 100 meters of me, I had sticker shock at the price of just about everything. First, the airport only gave me 30 minutes of free wifi and then I’d have to pay. A taxi was going to cost me $45 and even the train was $5. I only pay the equivalent of €0.77 to get to the airport in Bordeaux!
Then there’s that tax thing. So it’s always more expensive than what the price says, and in service situations like a restaurant or with the taxi, you also have to tip. I can totally see why it’s so confusing for foreigners. Yes, we have tax also in Europe but it is already built in to the price and there are no surprises at the register or when you get the check.
I never realized just how expensive the US is until we didn’t live there anymore!
The biggest culture shock, though, is just how blasé America is about shootings and gun violence.
Tim and I were in a taxi the morning after the Fourth of July when the news came on to report that there had been over 100 wounded and 14 deaths from shooting incidents the night before. We both just looked at each other and realized why ambulance and police sirens kept us awake the entire night.
And here our families, one side of which lives in Chicago, are always bugging us about whether France, Europe and the places we travel are safe. Yet hundreds of shootings on a single night in a single city didn’t seem to faze anyone.
Something to chew on…
We had to take a driver’s test.
Tim and I both had driver’s licenses from Arizona, which happens to be one of those states where the ID will soon no longer be accepted because they didn’t expire until you were 65 years of age. Neither of us has actually lived in Arizona since 2009 and we sold our house there in 2010. Since Illinois is Tim’s home state, I established residency there and we both went to the DMV to get new licenses.
Much to our surprise, we both needed to take the written test in order to get our new Illinois licenses. Neither of us studied, and had we known we could have been reviewing the booklet while we waited half of the morning at the DMV.
Let me tell you, it’s not easy to pass a driving test when you haven’t studied or even driven in the US in many years now. I got a handful wrong, which were actually all the correct answers for how you would drive here in France. Whew! What a relief that I managed to pass and didn’t have to come back to try taking the test again.
Poor Tim had to take two written tests since he also drives a motorcycle. Apparently the motorcycle test is even tougher and they’re less lenient with the number of questions you can get wrong to still pass. But he also managed to pass both, and he hadn’t driven in the US at all since we left in 2009.
Most Popular Post
Dining on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower at midnight all by ourselves was definitely a highlight of our trip to Chicago. We’d also been looking forward to the experience all week for the deep dish pizza alone.
The last time Tim went to Chicago back in 2015, I couldn’t make the trip with him. He brought a deep dish pizza home for us to enjoy together…to Italy. It had it’s own special cooler bag and traveled unbaked, but frozen all the way from Chicago to Venice, Italy. And I’d been hankering for a piece of that stuffed pizza ever since.
Normally, this Pie in the Sky experience would be shared with up to three other tables of guests but we somehow lucked out to have the entire Skydeck to ourselves. It was an epic way to spend our last night in Chicago and should definitely be on your bucket list for your next trip to the Windy City.
Most Popular Instagram Photo
I think just about everyone wants to visit Provence during lavender season. So it’s no wonder that this photo of the Notre-Dame de Senanque Abbey in Provence with the lavender in full bloom was our most popular photo we posted on Instagram in July.
Also, I’ve still been super disillusioned with Instagram. So if you’re not following already, please come over and give our photos some love. And if you are following, we love hearing from you in the comments!
What I’m Drinking This Month
I met up with my friend Lauren, owner of Devour Spain food tours, in Madrid. Since I had never been to Madrid and had an overnight layover, we hit the town on a mini version of her tapas tour. And when there’s tapas, there’s definitely Spanish wine!
We had vermouth to start, then she introduced me to tinto de verano (Spain’s real “sangria”), we had a semi-sweet wine produced by the family-run tapas bar famous for their garlic shrimp and finished out the night at a wine bar with a couple more glasses of various wines.
I dragged my tired ass back to my hotel at 2am. That’s how you take advantage of a layover!
While Tim and I were in Lake Geneva – Wisconsin, not Switzerland – we visited a cute little winery called Staller Estate and tried their wine flight with four different wines each, which we shared so we could essentially taste eight. These are what I like to call fun wines, which you can sit around on patio drinking with friends, but wouldn’t be something you’d age in your cellar. We did like their rosé and picked up a bottle to drink in our hotel room one night.
Back home in Bordeaux, I had a white Bordeaux with oysters and then tried the 2011 Château d’Issan Margaux Grand Cru Classé and 2015 Blason d’Issan Margaux on a private day tour.
Not being able to stay away from the beach and the world’s best oysters, I visited an oyster shack with my mom and friends. We shared a few bottles of rosé while slurping up a few dozen oysters.
I ended my month on a trip to Toulouse, where I was plied with wine at fabulous restaurants and a wine bar awarded the World’s Best Wine Bar 2017.
One really interesting wine I tried, which I was promised would be like no wine I ever had before, was Le Petit Clos des Vents Côtes de Duras 2012. It goes through its entire fermentation process in the bottle and it actually feels more like a cider than a wine. It even tastes like apples, but is wine. It’s slightly carbonated like a cider too. Totally weird, but in a good way!
Bottle Count: 324
Coming Up in August 2017
Okay, between the Seychelles, Nepal and then zipping off to the US, I know you wonder if this girl ever stays home. I do and I have absolutely nothing planned for August but being chained to my desk and doing a whole lot of the less then glamorous part of being a luxury travel writer.
These stories do not write themselves. I was also horrified to find that I still had photos from projects in June that hadn’t even made it off my camera’s memory card yet. So while the rest of the France suns themselves on beaches and leisurely sips their day away with refreshing glasses of rosé, I’m working down of a laundry list of articles that have yet to be written.
I’m also working on a major overhaul of our Iceland content. My goal is to have this project complete before I head back to Iceland yet again in September and have even more to add to our already extensive library of things to see, do and best places to stay.
Exciting and glamorous, right?