Friday, October 21, 2016

Five Things Friday (Ou Cinq Choses le Vendredi) à Bordeaux

Renting an apartment in Bordeaux for two full months is an extravagance, but for years, I have wanted to nestle into a home in France long enough to get a sense of living here, to have time to "waste," if you will, to let Paul sleep in while I read and write my blogs in another room, to snuggle together in the evenings watching Netflix, to spend an afternoon in with books and tea.  We happily squandered our second week here by heading off to Berlin, and we might do another short trip in another direction before we're done, but we're beginning to settle into a happy quotidian rhythm now. Even better, we seem to be moving toward a weekly structure as well. So I thought I'd list Five Things we've been up to here as we play at being temporary Bordelais. . .

1.  Walks in the neighbourhood. . . the weather has been perfect for getting outside and wandering. Sometimes we head out together with a particular destination in mind (heading down to Rue St. Catherine, for example, to buy Pater a  down jacket -- let's just say one can pack too light!). Sometimes he goes out on his own to pick up a copy of Le Monde. And sometimes it's just me and my camera. . . Simple pleasures. . .

2. Apologies to those of you who have already seen this photo on Instagram, but preparing simple meals in our temporary kitchen is un très grand plaisir for us, and the chopping and sautéing and simmering for this ratatouille was especially satisfying. Those white chunks? When we had the veggie stew for lunch the second day, I added feta cheese to mine. . .
We've also been enjoying the local fresh walnuts, even better with a glass of rosé before dinner. . .
Yes, you're right . . . that's the After photo. . .

3. Grocery shopping. I know! That doesn't sound like something one might plan one's travel around, but checking out the various tea boutiques (and yes, there are several very good ones within a reasonable walk from here) to sample possibilities for my morning cuppa, testing the numerous bakeries until we find our favourite loaf, adding an entire vocabulary to facilitate the choice of cheese to round off a perfect day. . . And that's not even considering the entertaining and delectable weekly outdoor markets -- nor, for that matter of the daily one inside Marché des Capucins. . .

At the moment, on the kitchen counter, we've a bowl containing a brilliantly orange-red potiron, a mixture of apples --  3 Belle de Boscop, 2 Canadas (couldn't resist) and 1 Belgrise -- brought home from the St. Seurin market this morning. Beside the bowl is a small jar of Honey, made by bees working the garrigue (next week, I think I'll try the chataigne/chestnut honey). . I love that we've slowed down enough that we wait patiently in line for our turn to point to the fruit and vegetables we want . . . My plan is to make some of these apples into a rustic tart to contribute to a potluck lunch tomorrow, but there's no pastry blender in this kitchen, nor a rolling pin. I know I can improvise with a couple of knives for the pastry blender, and I've got my eye on a crockery pot as a substitute for the rolling pin. Hmmmm . . .



4. And much as we enjoy our simple, daily domestic routine, just the two of us, we're also enjoying a few social interactions.  This charming note, for example, was taped to our door the other day, a thoughtful invitation by our "voisin de passage" (neighbour down the hall). And believe me, her handwriting was much easier to decipher than her rapid-fire French, but the soirée was considerably eased by the generous pourings of Champagne and Scotch (not combined, don't worry!)
 You can imagine that some trepidation was inscribed with each word, as I crafted a response, trying to be sure my adjectives accorded with my nouns, and my tenses were properly conjugated. . . . and one always worries about what idiom's unwelcome connotations one might unintentionally have included, what nasty double-entendres a pen might unwittingly have dragged onto the page. . . .
5. So we arrive at Numéro Cinq, the French lessons we began very pleasantly yesterday afternoon in a splendid coffee-and-tea shop, all bio and Fair Market offerings, pages and pages of possibilities for infusions of leaves and berries and what-not from several continents.  Our conversation began with a simple exchange of basic information about who we are, where we come from and why we want to learn French, and we ranged from there to speak about France's regions, its language(s)'s history, its changing culture, its system of education, and perhaps inevitably -- especially given my husband's predilections -- to talk of the American presidential debates, and then, carefully, we tiptoed respectfully into the current French political situation.
For the time remaining to us in Bordeaux, we're going to try for two lessons a week, with more talk about political structure, about French culture in general, perhaps French film (we're going to head to the cinema one evening very soon, resigned to the reality that much of the dialogue will escape us!), and who knows, perhaps even a nod to Your Blogger's interest in French fashion and style.  Once again, we will get to know someone only through the medium of French, and I find that an absolutely fascinating -- and entirely validating -- phenomenon.  Discouraging, in some ways, as I suspect I must surely appear at least 20 IQ points lower in my second language, but still. . . to think that one can become friends in this way . . . it's quite marvellous to me, still such a novelty.

And there you have Five Things for this Friday in Bordeaux. Were I to go on to 6 or 7 or 8, I might tell you about the bikes we have managed to borrow and I might mention the vineyard visits we've been invited to join friends on tomorrow, or even to sketch and paint the vase of resplendently coloured dahlias I brought home from the market today. . . But Five's probably enough for now, right?

And you? Is your week ending well? Have you plans for the weekend? If you're looking for something to read, I should tell you that my latest post on my reading blog is replete with recommendations -- if fall weather's getting stormy where you are, curling up with a book is the perfect answer!


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36 comments:

  1. What bliss! Domestic life in another country is such an experience. I really enjoy having social connection with local residents. I am off to the Writers' Festival today where I will be escorting Carol Shields' daughter and grandson. They have compiled essays by CS on writing. "Startle and Illuminate" is the title. This event is
    sold-out so I might not be able to stay. Volunteers can attend any event where there is room free of charge so there is a need to stay flexible and to enjoy the ambiance. I have been up since 4:00 am reading The Mayor of Casterbridge for one of my book groups. I have read Tess and Jude but the Mayor is new to me.
    I'll wander over to your reading blog before I make coffee. Enjoy the week-end!

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    1. I'm very happy to be here in Bordeaux, of course, but I'll admit to twinges of envy of you lucky folk at the VIWF -- next fall. . . .and to escort Anne Giardini , what a privilege. I hope you can find a spot to stand for the event. . . I read The Mayor many years ago, tried to get through it a few years ago but didn't persevere. Good luck!

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  2. Only a short wave from here (where the weather is ghastly) to tell you that an empty wine bottle makes an excellent rolling pin. Of course you have to wash off the label first.

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    1. My opinion,too. Proven!
      D.

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    3. Thank you! This is what I did, and it worked, although I missed the weight of my marble pin. . . .In a pinch, though, it was great to have your advice.

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    4. I see someone beat me to that. If your wine bottle has a screwtop - those are spreading to much better wines; no longer a sign of the cheapest plonk - you can also fill it with water, which will provide quite a bit of heft.

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  3. I love grocery shopping when abroad - things from the store are my favourite souvenirs, so I can have an everyday reminder of our trip (or at least for as long as the items last). I found your neighbour's note almost impenetrable - I can only imagine how difficult I would find a conversation, so kudos to you and Pater.

    This evening I will stay up past midnight to await my husband's arrival, back from a week in Prague. As a result of his layover in Munich, I'm looking forward to reading 3 German magazines this weekend!

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    1. Of course you'd easily be able to read such a note in German, though, Patricia, and have no problems at all in conversation.
      Yes, I'm with you on the grocery shopping as souvenirs -- for example, I love the rough brown sugar cubes you can buy here and not find easily at home -- and I often like the packaging as well. We're limited, of course, in the carry-on. . . good thing your husband isn't and you'll have those magazines to ready -- enjoy!

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  4. You sound so happy, Frances. This mini-life you have set up in France, what a satisfying way to get to know a region. This weekend I will be immersed in family and domestic duties, but I hope to find an hour or two for reading; my bookgroup meets next Tuesday, and I have not finished this month's book, partly due to it becoming lost under a silt of magazines, fabric, other books, and then a pile of laundry dumped (temporarliy...for four or five days) on top of all that. Enjoy the markets, the socialising, the cooking (rub the pastry ingredients between the fingertips until a sandy consistency is reached, if no mechanical aid is to hand) and the making friends x

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    1. We really are, Penny -- we find it very satisfying.
      You sound very satisfied as well with that immersion in the domestic -- it's a good time of year for it, isn't it!
      And thanks for the extra tip re the pastry -- it's usually my specialty, so a bit frustrating trying without any of the usual helpers, but it worked, although the appearance was beyond homely. I think I'm going to try making another one for us and keep working until I can make something here that I'd be proud to bring to a potluck. . . . do you not worry about the finger-rubbing making the fat too warm too quickly? I used two forks and that seemed to do the trick.

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    2. To be honest I have always used just my fingers, but remember I am making pastry in a temperate climate which will make a difference, and I tend to have cool hands ("cool hands warm heart", was what I always heard in my youth...perhaps not so much now!). I use fat straight from the fridge, cut in to very small cubes, so the time spent handling it is minimal x

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    3. I might just try this method with my next attempt -- after all, what is there to lose when my guy is willing to do the tasting. . . and quite happily, as well.

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  5. I second Eleonore's recommendation of a wine (or other) bottle as rolling pin. (We lovers of pie and wine are a resourceful bunch.)

    Plans for this weekend, last weekend, and likely as many weekends as we have before the snow flies...raking, raking, and more raking...there are still trees that have not shed their leaves...

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    1. Yes! I love seeing the commitment here to a decent slice of pie to go with the wine.
      And you haven't much raking time left, have you? There have already been some snowfalls in BC (the interior and the north, not on our coast, of course) -- surprisingly early. . .

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  6. As Penny says, you sound very, very happy.

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  7. Sampling life in France is a long cherished dream of mine, Frances, and I would be interested to know how you went about organising your stay in Bordeaux (incidentally, the birthplace of my children's paternal grandmother). Perhaps we will do something similar soon, although our pet family might not be too thrilled. Even a month would be a wonderful taster! Enjoy the ambiance, the french lessons and the wonderful french markets. Live the dream!

    We haven't really planned much this weekend, so it will be a combination of potting up all the winter plants I have been accumulating before it gets too cold - already there is a hint of ice in the air - reading by the wood burning stove, walking the dogs in the Suffolk countryside and cooking lots of warming, nourishing food. Have a wonderful time x

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    1. Marianne, if you can believe it, this has all come about through blogging -- a friend I "met" through our mutual blogs invited us to visit Bordeaux, we loved the city and mentioned to her that we'd be interested in visiting again, for longer, and that we'd love to find a home to rent for a few weeks -- and the rest, as they say, is history -- she connected us with friends willing to let their places. Otherwise, I think we might try AirBnB or -- and we're seriously considering this for future trips -- do a home exchange again (did one 25 years ago when we took the kids to France)
      Those weekend plans sound comforting, really -- getting ready for the Scandinavian hygge. . .

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  8. What a wonderful idea to spend a good long time in another country - long enough to have time to spare and to get into the rhythm of the local life. Hope that the weekend brings you much to enjoy.

    For me, it'll be some last minute gardening before the weather turns cold and a trip to a quilt show with some good friends. Having met through our common interest, we now find less to detain us in our mutual hobby and more in spending time together. Much tea and cake will be involved.

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    1. I love the way you put this -- "less to detain you in your mutual hobby and more in spending time together" -- how fortunate!

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  9. What a lovely vicarious journey with you in Bordeaux. Wishing you the best on the French lessons and so enjoyed seeing your sweet RSVP. A sewing guild chapter meeting is on my schedule, yeast waffles, gardening and a hike and I hope some sewing room time.

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    1. If I may butt in here - Jane M, it sounds like you should be coming along to our quilt show with us... if you're in the area, there's a space in the car... (I just followed you across to your blog - love your post on eco dyeing but cannot add my comment as the system won't accept my Wordpress name or my own. Happens a lot, alas)

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    2. Wonderful! See Dorothy's comment at my last post -- two blog-readers who took their meeting here into Real Life and are becoming IRL friends.

      I'm off now to google "Yeast waffles" . . .

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  10. It was always my dream,to live a month or two in a foreign country (and it only happend when I was a young girl,spending three weeks in Germany),more than one-so I always try to feign domestic life for a couple of days!
    This sounds perfect to me! It would make wonders to your French- just relax and take it easy and just speak,it will come naturally-because I know that you've taken it serious enough to learn everything perfectly till now :-)
    A little socializing for me,as usual,this weekend :-)
    Dottoressa

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    1. It's so much easier to "feign domestic life" (I love this phrase you use) when one has a kitchen available, isn't it?! And thank you for the language encouragement. . .

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    2. You're welcome :-)
      And I make pastry very often only kneading with hands and no,butter (or margarine) is not melting (room temperature before using) too quickly :-)
      D.

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  11. It wasn't until I read Penny's comment that I realised you were talking about missing something that I didn't even know existed. A pastry blender - what is that???
    I'll just repeat - lucky, lucky, lucky!!!
    Lezzles will give you cheese shop recommendations, but I found Tout un Fromage, Place des Martyrs de la Résistance to be good. Just beside St Seurin.
    Actual, real conversation, is the difficult thing. As once advances through the levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (A1 - C2) on which language courses in Europe are based (pausing for a sob about Brexit and the loss of common endeavour), language becomes more and more refined and further and further away from the everyday. So this summer I found that in my AF classes in Bordeaux I was waffling along happily in my level C class about global warming, for and against this and that abstract issue, but then in my host family I would hit a block in chatting about everyday things. And as you say, you don't come across as YOU, the subtle, ironic, informed person you know you are. Having said that, it was fascinating to make friendships among the multilingual group of students, gravitating more towards some than others. We all spoke French to each other as our common language, even the 2 other Brits and me. So we must have been working on cues and attractions beyond the subtly verbal. The Brits and I only exchanged a few words in English at parting on the last day. I was surprised at how very English they sounded, and they remarked on my Scottish accent.
    This weekend? In Edinburgh. Working on my next assignment (I've chosen to compare whisky tourism on Speyside and wine tourism in Bordeaux) and readings. Daughter's boyfriend visiting this weekend (but they're already en route for hillwalking in the Highlands), son working away in England today, husband finishing painting kitchen woodwork. Perhaps a short walk down to the nearby harbour to get away from duties!
    Sounds like you have the most gorgeous weekend planned - full report, please!

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    1. You'll see images of pastry blenders if you google the term -- it's a very simple tool that quickly cuts the fat into the flour, avoiding the problem of overworking and toughening -- and, especially these days, I find it's easier on my wrists. For me, at least, it always yields a very tender and flaky pastry, although I did manage without. . .
      We have a very good cheese shop on Rue Fondaudèdge -- Paul always enjoys consultations with the owner, who very often insists on slipping in a free sample of this or that delicious extra as a customer bonus. . .But next week, we'll peek in at yours when we're at St. Seurin market -- thanks!
      I'm very impressed at your commitment and discipline re studying French formally -- I'm beginning to think about what I might incorporate into my retired life once we're back and settled into our new home. you might be my inspiration.
      Enjoy the busy weekend, but yes, do take a walking break!

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  12. It is such a special experience to be able to live in a strange place (and language) and to have the time and opportunity to make it less strange, to create daily routines and itineraries which allow you to feel you belong there (Longing and Belonging - yes!). I have been lucky to have had this several times in my life: London, Lima, San José de Costa Rica, Oxford, and even Istanbul, if only for two weeks. And when you leave, the place will stay with you forever, with a small blue lining around the images in your mind's eye.

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    1. You're back! Thank you . . . and continuing our conversation from that other post as well. You have been lucky, living in those various places for extended periods. . . . they do become part of you, even if others don't perceived them superficially. . .

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  13. This post seems so contented. I've always loved wandering around markets, and always wanted to stay, and explore and experiment with a little domesticity and exploration of a new place with someone dear. Enjoy.

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    1. That's the word, Mardel. . . contented! It's a very simple kind of travel, and it wouldn't suit everyone, but it's precisely what we need and want right now. Thank you!

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  14. You're living my dream, Frances. When retirement comes we have plans to spend a month or two in France and in Spain, settling into living quarters, and developing that daily rhythm you've found.
    How lovely to be invited out to a neighbour's home. I'm certain that although your tarte aux pommes may not have looked as you'd wished, it tasted delicious, and as you indicated in your email, your willingness to share your vulnerabilities speaks volumes.

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    1. Of course, you've already had extended ex-pat experience, which was a dream of mine unformed until I was already too settled into child-rearing to do the necessary uprooting. No regrets about the life we lived, but I'm so glad to have these few months to play at this other possibility.
      And thanks for the encouragement re the tarte aux pommes -- can you believe that one of the other guests brought a most gorgeous tarte tatin? (I mean, what was I thinking? Bringing an apple pie to a French potluck?! Ah well. . .

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  15. Frances - like Linda I wondered about the pastry blender, but guessed it would be those cutter things. Although I can make pastry by 'rubbing in' with my fingers - I usually opt for my Magimix for a better effect altho dragging the machine from the cupboard , and the wash up can make me try to do it old school. Likewise making cakes where I have gone back to beating with a wooden spoon ( great upper arm workout ), somehow very satisfying and I convince myself that the cake tastes better and lighter that way. Unexpected benefits of downsizing our kitchen storage - and hiding all the equipment. Your Bordeaux sojourn sounds very interesting and more so how your connections have come partially through blogging. I came across you via Linda ( who I came across via Instagram although we live in the same city ), and it feels as if there is a whole world of like minded people out there exploring to hear about. My French language skills are very poor , even though I have worked for the past 2 years for a company that is under French ownership, and so I have many French colleagues . But like so many British people I did not study languages and then have not made the effort to learn, even though i am full of curiosity which I understand is a pre requisite for language learning . So your Bordeaux adventure, and that of others ( including Linda ) give me encouragement even though I fear that I would be about 100 IQ points down if I attempted any kind of French conversation ! Bon courage :)

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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