Bordeaux in 365 Bottles, my monthly recap of being an American expat in France and running a travel blog as a career, went on quite the hiatus. The last one I published was in June 2018. I meant to resurrect Bordeaux in 365 Bottles with a June 2019 edition. It would have been excellent timing since we had quite a few life milestones that month like our 10 year anniversary of moving to Europe, the 10 year anniversary of starting our blog and the 3 year anniversary of me moving to Bordeaux… but life also got in the way.
So here we are. It’s the beginning of October; summer is like a distant memory of a time that just flew by. Not really surprising since we’ve had a ton of changes to our life. This year, 2019, will go down as a year that will be hard to top. And yet, a whole new chapter has begun.
We bought a house!
If you follow us on our Facebook Page and Instagram, then you probably saw our big news. We bought a house! Technically we bought an apartment – but unless you’re a millionaire who can afford to buy an entire building in the center of Bordeaux, you buy an apartment.
It was a process that took nearly five months from beginning to end. It was around the end of March that we seriously decided to look in to the process, if we could qualify for a mortgage with a French lender and what our budget would be.
I visited our new home for the first time on April 17th. It was actually the very first apartment I looked at, and when I walked in I immediately knew it was exactly what I was looking for. It was my Good-on-Paper apartment. It checked nearly all the boxes. It was in nearly perfect condition and we wouldn’t even have to paint before moving in. It had all those little details that make a French home look like a French home. It even had not one, but three balconies all looking out at a Bordeaux monument. But this was the very first apartment I saw. I wasn’t ready to fully jump in until I saw what else was out there.
Bordeaux is a hot housing market. I knew we didn’t necessarily have a lot of time to make a decision to put in an offer, and Tim was still in England. I really wanted him to be able to see the apartment before we decided and we both wanted to see what else was out there in the same price range.
I looked at about a dozen more apartments over the next two weeks. It was an experience that could have been an episode of House Hunters International. Most of the apartments were in desperate need of an entire refurbishment that would have added at least another 30,000 – 50,000 on to the purchase price. After living for the past year with a major demolition and refurbishment to the two other apartments in my building, I had zero interest in living in a dusty construction zone for even one more day.
Then there were the weird apartments. One apartment, although nice and renovated, had no windows. It only had a few skylights. I need to be able to see outside, ventilation and a breeze is important when there’s no AC, and our real estate agent said it would be extremely hard to sell because of this quirk. Another apartment, which I actually really loved aside from the kitchen being painted a horrible dark red shade, was in a building with four full-time Airbnb rentals. There was zero hesitation on ruling that apartment out because of potential Airbnb problems. Another apartment that had a lot of potential burned in a big fire that consumed nearly an entire city block just a week or so after I’d looked at it. I gave up after I visited a duplex that even I, a woman standing just 5’2″ tall, couldn’t even stand up straight in.
The very first apartment I’d looked at, although a little smaller in square meters than we were hoping to find, was a true gem among a lot that were either comedic or just downright scary.
And so we put in our offer, and dove head first into the process of buying real estate in France.
I handled the entire process from beginning to end. There were days I was so frustrated I had breakdowns over paperwork. Especially the last month leading up to when the closing was scheduled, every day something came up that inevitably took me no less than three hours to do. Buying an apartment in Bordeaux had become like a full time job that exhausted me to my very core.
Now it’s been nearly one month since we closed, got the keys and moved in. All those frustrating days were worth it. I look around daily at the French details or I sit out on the balcony I’ve wanted since I moved to Bordeaux just over three years ago, and I think this is my home. I own this place and it’s the beautiful French apartment I dreamed of one day having. I never thought we’d actually own a home in France!
If you want to see the full tour inside our new apartment, head over to our Instagram profile and check out the highlight “New Apartment” on our highlights reel.
I’m sure we’re in for some adventures in home ownership ahead, especially the first time something goes wrong and I no longer have a landlord to call. And our building itself is one of Bordeaux’s UNESCO listed buildings, so that adds another level when it comes to dealing with the exterior. But for now, everything is great and we’re in love with our new home.
Tim retired after 20 years of service with the US Air Force
The other major life change for us – and mostly for Tim – is that he retired after 20 years of service in the US Air Force. He had just a small retirement ceremony on June 3 at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, Englang, where Tim had been stationed since late 2017. I unexpectedly cried hearing the list of his career achievements as my heart swelled with pride for all he’d accomplished.
To celebrate his retirement and new-found freedom, Tim had been planning a trip for basically the past year. For years he’d wanted to do the Mongol Rally, an annual car rally adventure to raise money for charity that begins in Europe and ends in Ulan Ude, Russia. There was no time like just retiring to take two month for an adventure like this.
Tim completed the Mongol Rally
The Adventurists, the brand that runs the annual Mongol Rally, claims that it has an average completion rate of 70%. There’s no stats for how many teams actually completed the 2019 Mongol Rally, but Tim was one of the teams to reach the official finish line.
He did it solo, though he made friends with other teams along the way and traveled with them at times as a convoy. In all, he traveled through 22 countries and drove 18,710 miles from Bordeaux to Ulan Ude, Russia and back over 71 days.
Check out his Mongol Rally post with highlights from each of the countries he visited and stay tuned for him to write more about his trip.
Most Popular Instagram Photo
I’ve been fairly disillusioned with Instagram for quite a while now. No one seems to see our photos, so I just don’t post as often. Now that they’ve starting encouraging business accounts like ours to use their pay-to-play model, only a tiny percentage of our followers even see our content.
You can help small businesses like us (and other small businesses you may follow) by double tapping to like posts. That helps us get seen by a larger percentage of our followers. I mean, you probably followed us because you like what we post and want to see it, right?
Of course, anytime we post a photo of Bordeaux’s Miror d’Eau and Place de la Bourse, it usually goes nuts. That was certainly the case with our most popular photo posted in September. But I actually posted it again because I had been talking a lot about packing up my old apartment on Instagram Stories and kept getting messages asking me where I’d bought the big canvas of the Miror d’Eau hanging on my wall. I didn’t buy it anywhere – it’s actually the first photo I took of the Miroir d’Eau on my first trip to Bordeaux in 2015.
Coming up in October 2019
With buying our apartment and Tim traveling on the Mongol Rally, I spent the entire summer at home with the exception of a few short trips within our region. So I’m super excited to already be returning to Kenya, and that this time Tim will be along for the trip.
You might remember I visited the Masai Mara earlier this year and spent a gorgeous few days on safari there. This time we’re partnering with Elewana Collection, who we partnered with several years ago the very first time we went on safari throughout Tanzania. We’ll be visiting Meru National Park, the Masai Mara again and the Laikipa Plateau over 10 days.