Note to self: 38 hours travelling is a very long time (but it is worth it!)
Our apartment on campus.
There’s nothing quite like arriving in a new city accompanied by the glares of the locals. Your two year old screaming at top volume for a two hour flight is almost guaranteed to do this, but with the jetlag that goes with travelling halfway around the globe (and I wasn’t joking about the 38 hours) everything is a bit surreal. Things only get worse when you read a sign saying there are special swine flu forms to fill out if you’re from Australia and then you can’t work out how to release the luggage trolley even though you’ve got the right change. In the midst of all this, a friendly face holding a sign with your name on it when you’d been trying to calculate the cost of a taxi fare does wonders for the mood.
First impressions of Bordeaux (Talence, the university area south of the city) were not particularly impressive. While there is some interesting architecture, most of this area is reminiscent of post-war Eastern European construction – lots of grey, concrete buildings that look like they were built en masse in a hurry, as if someone had decided that Bordeaux needed a
Science faculty, so one was built in two weeks. On first glance many buildings look abandoned, but on closer inspection, I realise that hiding behind the run-down exterior and acres of graffiti they are still very much in use. (The brown buildings to the right are actually different science buildings - there are three identical in a row! The graffiti-covered medical centre took me by surprise - here's hoping the quality of care is better than the quality of the exterior.)
The campus itself is very open – lots of space, but none of it particularly pleasing to the eye nor well-used. I find this quite curious as all of the other
French cities (and indeed European) that I have visited don’t seem to waste a single square centimetre of space.
In stark contrast to this underlying feeling of decay, the ultramodern tram
cuts through the campus with a remarkably efficient service. In central
Bordeaux the trams run on ground power – like a third rail that is only live when the tram is on it – to avoid filling the streetscape with overhead power lines. The trams run from 5am until 1am and don’t bother having a timetable as they are so frequent – every few minutes for most of the day. We’re lucky enough to have a tram stop just outside the front door (to zip us out of concrete and graffiti land and into the beautiful city centre). (The ENSEIRB building is quite interesting with it's antenna on the roof in the shape of a boat and a pod-like entrace, but it has already been infected with the graffiti skin disease. I hope it stands the test of time better than the Science Faculty.)
Despite the grey of the campus, and the fact that there isn’t a bakery around the corner (is this really France?), I rate the lifestyle quite highly due to the food. I’m always amazed at the quality and price of so much of the food in France, especially the cheese (aah, sigh of relief from my taste buds, unpasteurised), bakery and deli produce such as terrines. For this very reason (and rule no. 7 in our apartment: it is forbidden to cook in the apartment, despite having a kitchen with saucepans and stovetop!) we have decided not to cook, but live on salad, delicious cheeses, hams, terrines, oysters .... sorry, I digress, but we did enjoy our slice of terrine forestière last week (made from goodness knows what meat with a sprinkling of herbs and wild mushrooms).
The cheese is also magnificent. One of Kent’s all-time favourites Le Rustique is currently lurking in the fridge. A strong, non-pasteurised, camembert-style cheese that barks each time the fridge is opened. It’s neighbour is a goat’s cheese log that is being consumed at an astonishing speed. To accompany all this stinky cheese, the fine croque (crunch) of a freshly baked French baguette is one of life’s simple pleasures, and at less than 1€ there’s no excuse for eating stale bread. We’re also enjoying the croissants, pains au chocolat and various other delicious treats that threaten to enlarge our waistlines to gargantuan proportions.
Saturday’s adventure is to the Marché des Capucins, Bordeaux’s main food market, which promises to fill our shopping bag with all kinds of delights.
(Please excuse the page layout - I'm still learning to blog! Amie)
Gabe & Lucie happily sharing their double bed!