May was the month that started out in a literal sandstorm in the desert in Oman, then turned into a shitstorm back at home. As a travel influencer, I post the pretty photos (that usually took 20 or more attempts to get that perfect shot) and paint the carefree picture of a life of perpetual vacation. But I started this Bordeaux in 365 Bottles series to show what’s happening behind the scenes, and May sure was a doozy.
I had just copied all my photos over to my MacBook Pro and formatted the memory card when my MacBook shut down. Thinking the battery must have just died, I fished my plug out of my suitcase and fired it back up…to a white screen with a blinking gray file folder with a big, fat question mark in it. Hmmm. So I held down the power button to restart and held my breath while it rebooted. When the same file folder appeared again and again, I took to Google and tried the solutions I found. But I knew it was all pointless. This also happened on one of the 27 holidays we have in France in May.
So the next day I rushed my MacBook down to the Apple Genius Bar, where every tourist that had unloaded off the cruise ship seemed to be in line waiting for something. They took my number and told me they’d call if they could get me in, but probably not and I should come back at 10am on Monday.
Monday I was waiting at Apple five minutes before they opened. They checked out the connector that connects the hard drive to the motherboard, which is the thing I was hoping would be the problem. It wasn’t. The Genius Bar got it working, but by the time I walked the 5 minutes back to my flat, the file folder was blinking at me all over again.
After a second opinion with another repair shop, it was determined that there’s a problem with my motherboard. We pulled my external terabyte hard drive out, where thank God I had anything of importance, and jerry-rigged the hard drive to another connector to get it working. Amazon had a case to pop my external hard drive in to at my door in two days (would have been the next day, but there was yet another French holiday). I’m going to need a new MacBook and who knows how long the jerry-rigging will hold out. Hopefully a few months because we hear Apple will be releasing a 2018 MacBook Pro toward the end of this year. In the meantime, I still have my iMac to work on and I didn’t lose anything on either of my hard drives.
When I went to pick-up my jerry-rigged computer, my Audi TT decided it would have some issues. It’s something with either the clutch, which was just replaced in December, or the gearbox. Definitely not an issue I can just drive around with or wait on, so my car has been at the Audi dealership already for a week. Just as there is a wait list for parking spaces in Bordeaux, there is a wait list to be seen by the mechanic.
As if that weren’t all bad enough, I came home to find out that something not at all glamorous had moved in to the basement of my building . Apparently every couple of years Bordeaux has a problem with mice, and a friend said they too were having a problem with mice in their building. I’ve never even seen one, but the ground floor real estate agency assured me the mice were down there having a party. I don’t know and I sure as hell wasn’t opening the basement door to find out either. But I’m imagining that scene in Ratatouille when the old lady discovers the army of rats that have been living with her.
The city has a service for this exact problem where they send someone to clean out the nests. My door remained firmly shut while I listened to the exterminators tramp up and down the basement steps two floors below me. Hopefully that’s the end of it. And here you thought living in France was nothing but a glamorous existence of sipping wine and eating pastries.
As several friends back across the pond pointed out, things could always be worse. Yes, yes they could. But sometimes your shitstorm just sucks, even if the problems are “first world problems”.
Ironically, I hate talking about myself and especially talking up Luxe Adventure Traveler. In reality, I often wonder how it is that more than 2 million of you come and read what we have to say on here. But part of this job is putting myself out there in the public eye, and that does involve doing interviews and being our own public relations department.
I get so nervous when another writer requests a phone interview. When they email me with a set of questions, I can write up my responses and then send them to about five friends to see what they think before polishing up the interview and sending it back off into cyberspace. But with the phone, I have to sound confident and coherent when I really feel awkward and inadequate. Then I sit around anxious about whether the interview made the editor’s final cut, and what dumb things I don’t even remember saying made it in to be immortalized on the internet or a magazine until the end of time.
In case you missed all the ones I’ve been sharing over on our Facebook Page:
Dating Advice interviewed us and then gushed all about how our itineraries help couples plan the perfect trip with a mixture of luxury and adventure. I did a phone interview and spoke to the editor-in-chief at Dating Advice. She couldn’t have been sweeter and seriously made me blush over how fabulous she professed our site to be.
I also had several quotes in a story about food tours in AAA’s Westways Magazine.
I was on Amateur Traveler Podcast Episode 607 all about Budapest.
And Limitless Pursuits called us the “classiest travel blog on the internet.” I don’t know about all that, but we sure do appreciate that they think so!
Renewing my French residency
I survived another trip to the Préfecture for my annual French residency renewal. Yes, survived.
I swear they like to change things up just to test how much you really want to be in France. I checked my dossier, then checked it about 20 times more in the week leading up to my appointment, and felt I was over prepared as I have been the previous three times I’ve been through this now.
I’ve never been required to have a copy of every single page of my passport that has an entry/exit stamp on it. In the past I’ve only needed copies of the identity page, the original French residency visa that is in my passport, and my very first carte de sejour which was a sticker and also in my passport. But this time they wanted 2 copies of every page with a stamp. Which, as you might imagine, is about 30 pages now.
I’ve always presented my electric bill as proof of address, but now the electric bill isn’t an acceptable form of proof of address any longer. I didn’t have another utility bill that is acceptable and dated within the last 3 months with me.
My finger prints are also always a problem. I can’t even use the finger print identification on my iPhone and they had a horrible time capturing my prints with the machine to verify me to my previous prints on file. I was sweating bullets when they finally registered on the scanner but then one finger didn’t match. But we scanned all my prints again and the second time they all matched.
This is where even my very bad French, smiling, being super apologetic and listening to every word of advice while intently nodding along and agreeing that you are unprepared are pays off. Since everything else was in order, the woman kindly made the copies of the passport pages I was missing for my dossier. She also accepted an old internet bill I had in last year’s dossier that I brought along and verified by allowing me to sign in to my account online and show her my address matched.
It’s been about two weeks since my appoint and I’m still waiting for the decision if I will be approved for my next year of residency.
If I am, I only have to do this one more time next year, and then the following year I am finally eligible to apply for permanent residency.
Most Popular Post
Guy, I managed to write seven – yes, SEVEN – new posts since I got home from Oman. And that’s even with the drama over my MacBook biting the dust. It’s a serious achievement, because I only published 16 new posts total from January through the end of April. To say I got motivated is an understatement, though I still have a backlog of things to write about like Cyprus, the hinterland of Pays Basque and loads about Oman.
It just takes me longer to write these days. I used to pump out a new post five days a week and then go to work at my university job about 50 hours per week too. And I don’t really know how, but I definitely wasn’t writing these comprehensive guides and itineraries like I have been for the last two years. In fact, I’ve been going back and combining all those articles on every little activity we did into our 3-day, 5-day and week long guides that you can find on our new Travel Itineraries landing page.
Two of our most popular posts are our guides to the Best Places to Stay in Iceland and the Best Places to Stay in Bordeaux. Since it’s evident from the loads of hotel booking we get for both destinations every month through our Booking.com affiliate, I decided to repeat the magic and round up all the hotels and castles we’ve stayed in and recommend in Italy. Let me tell you, living in Italy for seven years racked up over 100 different hotels in Italy alone. So since we stayed in a bunch on the Amalfi Coast alone, I put together a guide with our recommendations just for the Amalfi Coast.
And this is why you don’t always reinvent the wheel. Not even a week old, it was the most popular new post of the month. So if you’re planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast, we’ve got you covered!
Most Popular Instagram Photo
I’ve been going on for a few months about how disillusioned I am with Instagram. So I finally just stopped investing time in to a platform that wasn’t doing much but frustrating me. (Probably why I had more time to write seven new posts in May <insert smirking emoji>.) Now I post because I want to and I also stopped caring that the photos just don’t get as many likes as they once used to. It’s made it a fun platform for me to be on again, and even though it serves a business purpose it still should be a fun social engagement tool.
Tim celebrated his 37th birthday and we appreciate everyone that commented both on Instagram and Facebook sending him birthday wishes!
What I’m Drinking This Month
It’s true that Oman is mostly a dry country, but there was wine and cocktails available at all of the hotels that I stayed at. Since I was also doing a lot of diving, I don’t drink the night before I’m diving either. But we always try to stay local when it comes to wine, beer and spirits. I couldn’t pass up trying some wine from Lebanon, and I tried the 2016 Massaya Rosé. It was quite nice with the red berries and just a subtle bit of spice and it paired great with the Omani seafood grill I was having for dinner that night.
Aside from that my friend Leah, who traveled with me for only the first week in Oman, and I shared a bottle of Domaine Doudeau-Leger Sancerre. Two American girls living in France and sharing a French bottle of wine on their last night in Oman together seemed a fitting end to our Omani adventure.
And that was all, folks!
Bottle Count: 470
Coming Up in June 2018
I’m super excited to be home in France for more than an entire month! I love Bordeaux and I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected for a few months now. After Emma passed away, I basically stopped going on walks around the city unless I was headed to a specific destination. Our multiple walks each day played a huge role in how I came to know Bordeaux so well so fast.
My mom arrives in just a few days and even though this is now her fourth trip to Bordeaux, I love playing tour guide. We’ll be out and about, plus the bi-annual Bordeaux Fête le Vin is happening while she’s here. It’s my second one and the 20th anniversary of the festival that runs for more than 2 kilometers down the quay. You can believe we’ll be out every night for the four consecutive nights of fireworks, tasting all the wine and taking in all the events. Bordeaux is also hosting the Tall Ships Regatta during Bordeaux Fête le Vin and we’ll be on one of the tall ships on the final evening for a deck party as the spectacular fireworks show closes out an incredible four days.
This is also the time of year that it’s most spectacular out in the vineyards with the vines green again and all the flowers in bloom. I’ve got several châteaux visits I’ll be doing to add some really unique new ways to go wine tasting to our Guide to Bordeaux. And I’m finally writing a long overdue guide to Saint-Émilion after checking out a few more activities there. I don’t want to give too much away, but these visits will involve tree houses, tuk tuks and a motorcycle sidecar. And I might just be spending the night in a giant wine vat.
I’m also taking my mom to Biarritz and Pays Basque. We’ve got some things planned there perfect for a mother-daughter getaway like a spa day.
We found an error fare when we booked my mom’s flight, and it was honored. But she’s arriving and departing from Paris. So I’ll finish off her visit by joining her in Paris overnight and then I’m taking a day trip to Champagne from Paris with one of my favorite tour companies.
I am taking just one little quick trip at the very end of the month to Ibiza, Spain. I’ve never been there and I’m trying out a service offered by a new partner we’re working with called Boatsetter. They kind of like Airbnb for yachts and yacht owners let us folks that only wish we owned a boat charter a yacht (with or without a captain). So if you’ve got any tips for Ibiza, send them my way!