This month marked one year since I moved to Bordeaux. And what a year it was. At times I felt like that year flew by, yet it also feels like I’ve lived a lifetime in the last year.
I was never under any misconceptions that moving to a foreign country would be easy. But I did think it would be a bit easier than it has been. After all, I did survive seven years in Italy before I decide to give France a go.
I learned a lot of lessons in this past year. Lessons like sometimes you need to let people help you. Lessons like making the most of every day. And lessons like putting yourself out there, even when it feels like the most uncomfortable thing in the world, can bring about some of the best friendships.
I got a mention in the NY Daily News
My friend Katie, who is a freelance travel writer, came to visit Bordeaux on a river cruise in April with her mom and sister. Instead of taking the Bordeaux city tour offered through the cruise ship, I offered to meet them and take them on a tour.
We visited some of my favorite spots, including a little preview of several places that will be on my Bordeaux Bites & Bottles Food Tours. It was great getting Katie and her family’s reactions, plus showing them around to the city I’ve come to love so much.
Katie wrote a story about her trip for the NY Daily News and I got quite a lovely mention about my food tour and guiding skills. I’ve got to say that it’s pretty awesome getting press for the tour company I’m still in the process of launching.
I renewed my visa. Finally.
If it feels like déjà vu that I’ve mentioned this before, it’s because I started the process to renew my visa and obtain my carte de séjour back in February.
If I weren’t now applying to change my status to an entrepreneur in France, I’d be celebrating that I wouldn’t need to do any sort of residency paperwork until next March. That’s right, I would have had a whole eight months paperwork – and more importantly – frustration free.
At first, the renewal process seemed way too easy. I mailed everything off and promptly received a receipt that everything was in order. I had to wait three months for my renewal appointment, and even that was a piece of cake. I had everything, and was even over prepared with anything extra that I thought they might request.
Waiting for my actual carte de séjour to arrive from Paris back at my prefecture should have been the easiest part. All I had to do was go pick it up.
But there is a fee I pay for the privilege of living in France as a legal resident. It was €250, though it increased to €269 during the four months it took to actually complete my renewal process.
In France, we pay such fees with essentially a stamp called a timbre fiscal. So I purchased the additional €19 in timbre fiscal and brought my receipt for the €250 I had already paid. Makes sense, right?
Not in France! They would not accept the receipt for the €250 I paid online. I left frustrated and near tears at being kicked down when I finally thought I had things figured out.
I returned the next day with the stamps and was handed over my carte de séjour, just in the nick of time for me to fly internationally on my next trip. Having it in my hand and sliding it into the slot in my wallet truly felt like a little battle won.
Most Popular Post
I had a girl’s day planned with one of my friends, and when it was just to hot to even move without feeling like you were about to have heat stroke, we decided a movie was the best activity. At least the movie theater would be one of the few places around Bordeaux that actually have air conditioning.
As the first 10 minutes or so of Wonder Woman played, I couldn’t help but thinking how beautiful Themyscira is. Clearly, the island was a work of CGI but I knew I’d be googling to find out where in the world served as the inspiration for the magical island.
Then the scene where Hippolyta is holding a young Diana on the terrace of the palace came on and I knew instantly. I knew, because I’ve stood in that very spot more than once. It was the Villa Cimbrione on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
And that inspired our most popular post of the month.
Most Popular Instagram Photo
I must admit I’ve been extremely frustrated and disillusioned by Instagram lately.
If don’t work in influencer marketing, you might not be on the up and up with what’s been going on with Instagram. And if you only use it for fun, you probably don’t care. I’ll spare you the boring details of explaining just how many influencers buy their followers, likes and put on more of a farce than just their constant stream of jealousy inducing photos implies their lives are actually like.
We, meanwhile, have never bought a single follower. We bust our ass to only put out our very best photos and take the time daily to work on organically growing our following. Yet, our posts continually reach fewer and fewer of the people that follow us.
I even took a week off from posting just because I was so frustrated with it all.
But I did have fun meeting a group of mostly amateur photographers who love Instagram at the Saint-Émilion InstaMeet I participated in with Saint-Émilion Tourisme and IgersGironde. That’s where I took the photo below, while we visited the Cordeliers Cloister for a tour and tasting of the only sparkling wine produced in Saint-Émilion.
I’ve been there many times before, but I had never had the chance to actually tour the tunnels that snake below and learn the history of how this former monastery came to be a sparkling wine producer.
Bonjour from Saint-Émilion! We hopped over to the Right Bank after a few days of the 1855 Grands Crus Classé of the Left Bank. We’re here with @mysaintemilion and @igersgironde for an InstaMeet. One of our stops was the @les_cordeliers33. Did you know that Bordeaux also produces a sparkling wine called Crémant de Bordeaux? ??
What I’m Drinking This Month
I started out this month with the intention to get to 365 bottles. And with Vinexpo on for four days, I thought racking up another 99 bottles of wine would be easy.
But then the heat wave hit. It was friggin’ hot, y’all. Temperatures soared and five days straight the temperature teetered near 100°F. It was too hot to even think about drinking wine. Hell, I didn’t even want to taste and spit. I could only think about guzzling down as much water as possible – and at times I even considered pouring it right over my head.
So, I didn’t reach the 365 bottles this series is named for. But, I did rack up quite an impressive number in a year and my liver probably needs the rest.
I lived here nearly a year and had never actually had a glass of wine at Bar à Vin, the wine bar in the headquarters of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux (Bordeaux Wine Council). I probably should have been shunned for never having been to the place to try wine in the city. I made up for it with two glasses, both from the Médoc, though I didn’t note which châteaux they were. 2009 and 2010 were both very good years and are drinking nicely now, so try to look for those years when selecting a Bordeaux wine from a winelist.
I also spent two days in Margaux visiting various châteaux. The wonderful owner, Nathalie, at Château Kirwan arranged a gourmet lunch with several of her friends and business partners. We had Château Prieuré-Lichine Bordeaux Le Blanc 2016 paired with rillettes d’Esturgeon, a type of local caviar blended with crème fraîche and topped with chives.
Then we had Château Rauzan-Gassies Marguax Grand Cru Classé 2008, a second growth from the 1855 Médoc classification, paired with a melon gazpacho and jamon, melon and cherry tomato skewers.
Our main course, a chicken thigh, was paired with Château Prieuré-Lichine Margaux Grand Cru Classé 2010. It’s a fourth growth château from the 1855 classification.
We also had Château La Tour de Bessan Margaux 2011, and to pair with dessert, my birth year vintage had been decanting. We enjoyed Château Kirwan Margaux Grand Cru Classé 1980, which is a third growth from the 1855 classification.
I joined Nathalie and her partner, Bruno, for dinner at Café Lavinal in the Bages village and we shared a bottle of Château Mauvesin Barton Moulis-en-Médoc 2011.
The next day before I headed the 20 minutes back home to Bordeaux, I toured Château Marquis de Terme and tasted Margaux Grand Cru Classé 1981 and 2012. At their tasting, they pair with chocolate and it was fantastic, especially with the older vintage.
I already mentioned the Saint-Émilion InstaMeet and touring Les Cordeliers. We tried three different crémants: Brut 2012, Brut Rosé 2013 and Brut 2011. I really like their rosé, in particular.
We also visited Château Ambe Tour Pourret for a tour, tasting and lunch. Since it was such a hot day, we also tried Cuvée Royale Brut Crémant Célene and Château Ambe Tour Pourret 2012. I also discovered one of my new favorite French cheeses at the lunch, which is reason enough to visit the Bar Fromage at the château again!
I did manage one tasting event during Vinexpo, mainly because I’ve never actually been inside the Grand Theatre and the tasting was being held there. And since I live down the street, I could hardly make an excuse not to go.
- Château du Tailhas 2011 and 2014
- Château Certan de May de Certan 2010
- Clos de la Vielle Eglise 2011
- Château La Fleur-Pétrus 2014
I finished out the month with a review of a new-ish restaurant, where I tried Lillet for the first time. It’s a wine based apertif from a small village just south of Bordeaux. And, of course, I had a glass of Château de Pez 2010 with the lunch.
Bottle Count: 289
Coming Up in July 2017
I’m off today, actually. Tim also officially leaves South Korea today, and before heading to his next assignment in England, he’ll meet me in Chicago for a week.
It was 17 years ago, but I’m fairly certain that our first trip ever together was to Chicago. It’s his hometown, he already had a visit planned with him family and he convinced me to join him for part of it.
That visit was the only time we actually had to do touristy things and see the sights in Chicago. We went to Taste of Chicago (a food festival of mega proportions), the Willis Tower when it was still called the Sears Tower, met Sue at The Field Museum, watched the dolphins at Shedd Aquarium and took an architecture boat cruise.
We’re sort of recreating that trip, though if you would have told me 17 years ago that we’d be invited as media to Taste of Chicago, a VIP experience at the Willis Tower and on an architecture boat cruise I probably would have laughed at you. We can’t wait to play tourist in Tim’s hometown and tell you all about it.
After Chicago, Tim will go to England and start to get settled there.
My mom is flying to Chicago and then coming back to Bordeaux with me for her third visit. We’re planning on being pretty busy in the 10 days she’ll be here with châteaux visits, a trip out to Cap Ferret and I’m putting her puzzle solving skills to work at Bordeaux Escape Hunt.
I’ll finish off July exploring Toulouse with Toulouse Tourisme. It’s just two hours away and I’ve passed by a handful of times now. I can’t wait to discover this southern French city on a little city break.