Bordeaux, je t'aime

Sunday, August 23, 2015

For awhile now, I've been relocating to quite a number of cities. It'd been a constant cycle of :

  • arrive at a new city, 
  • find accommodation/open bank account/get a new sim card, 
  • explore the city and new surroundings, 
  • find new friends, close bank account/get apartment bond back, 
  • say goodbye just made friends, leave... 
Over and over and over again.

In Bordeaux, I've been a lot happier than most other 'temporary' cities I have called homes in the past. It helped that I already knew I had a really good friend close by to help me out whenever I needed to.

Thanks to T, I'd been able to stay at his place for the first month while looking for an apartment. Very fortunate, since apartment hunting had taken longer than is usual for me. He didn't live in the city, but I spent many wonderful hours with his family on weekends when I was still alone and friendless in Bordeaux. Even after I had found groups of friends, he still picked me up to cook me dinner from time to time.

When I wasn't at T's house eating up a feast and drinking ti punches, or drinking wine with my friends after work, I was usually spending time with my housemate. My housemate and I got along so well. We would cook for each other, go grocery shopping, work around each other's schedules. The only thing I annoyed him about is that I wouldn't lock the front door, I think. I got in the habit of not doing it in Melbourne, so I had to undo that habit in Bordeaux. I make sure the door is locked every night, now.

Back in Auckland, I've thought about why I had loved Bordeaux so much, especially as the long distance relationship began to take its toll. How could I replicate it into my new life in Auckland?

  • At least one friend to depend upon to help ease into new life. T was my person in Bordeaux. A was my person in London. It also helped that I'd already lived in France before, so I knew how the systems worked, of course. Both times, they got me started by showing me the places where people hang out. They helped me with lodging while I found a more permanent place. Even after my life looked to be settled, they hung around with me more or less regularly, so they were a constant anchor for me, linking my before-[insert city] with current-[insert city] lives. 
Auckland is an 'old' city for me, as we've been having an on and off relationship since 2007. However, much has changed, especially in the cafe and restaurant scene. I'm lucky that a lot of my good friends are still in the Super City, with several who have, like me, recently moved back. It's been a busy first few weeks catching up with everyone. M is my person in Auckland. I've been crashing at her place until I found my current flat. She sends me news on all these events in and around Auckland. These classes, those concerts. M is definitely keeping my agenda full.
  • Good flatting situation.
    In Bordeaux, I shared a duplex apartment with one French guy who did not speak a word of English. The ground floor had a massive living room, a tiny kitchen, a separate toilet, a storage room, a hall way. Up the stairs, we had our two rooms and the bathroom. Actually, there was a basement and a mezzanine floor as well, but the apartment really wasn't well designed and so those spaces were wasted on us. I did not live with just him, though. Our home always had visitors. During the day, during the evenings, throughout the nights. Most were regulars, though on some mornings I'd come downstairs to find an unfamiliar face sleeping on our couch after a long night out. H always came with a bottle of champagne. G would turn up in the early hours of mornings with croissants for each of us and ask for coffees. J and I shared the cleaning and cooking, though we took a very relaxed approach to both. Mozzarella and tomatoes, gazpacho, and quinoa dishes were our go tos. We once thought about moving to a new place together, then decided we liked the central city location of the apartment. J still says, the apartment is still my place, that I am always welcome. It's amazing how a stranger becomes a friend in such a short amount to time. 
The new flat I found in Newmarket is wonderful. It's conveniently located near the CBD, since I had wanted a change after my six years of tiny drafty apartments. My current place is a two storey house with a huge kitchen and a decent living area. My flatmates are nice, mature young professionals. L is the interior decorator. She brings in fresh flowers into vases, has a taste for country chic furnishings in clean white, and knows the good places to eat in the area. I never know when T is home or when he will be leaving in the morning due to irregular work shifts. We cross paths usually by the front door, on our ways in or out. T is a runner, and a good listener. M and R are a couple who lives downstairs. They have their own quarters - a separate living room, bathroom, kichenette - but they come up from time to time to cook up a big meal. M is a baker and a musician. Actually, so is L. I like that the house is modern and clean. Baking sharing and small chats here and there have been the extent of our flat bonding, so far. Most of the time, everyone is busy doing their own things. Maybe once we get a new TV console, people will start gathering in the common area more. So far, I'm content with the living situation.
  • A new group of regular friendly faces.
    In Bordeaux I got to know a really nice group of friends at a co-sharing space. They were welcoming, they invited me for drinks, included me into their gang. During the week, we'd sometimes have lunch together. On Fridays, we'd go for a beer or two. On Sundays, we'd meet in the afternoon then catch a movie with dinner. Other times, it'd be house parties, in and around Bordeaux. The New Year's dress up party was particularly memorable. They were a fun bunch of such mixed personalities. The roller hockey game, the marathon training and night, the FB group chats.. All good memories.
I am in another co-sharing space now. There are not as many people, so we see the same faces every day. Everyone has their own station here, and is spread apart, which makes it harder to get to know them. We share a coffee machine and grab lunches on Fridays, but often everyone is in a hurry to get back to work - speed eating in food courts or getting takeaways together only to eat at our desks. There's definitely a huge difference between the Bordeaux crew and Auckland one. I don't expect work colleagues to be life friends, though. Will just look for the regular activity mates elsewhere.
  • Another group.When I wasn't spending time with the above bunch, I was usually spending it with two other groups. One was a Spanish group. I met L to do a tandem language exchange, something I'd always done since my exchange year in Paris in 2011. For a set amount of time, you speak in one language, then switch to another, so you both get the chance to practise a language and help the other improve on another. With L, it was English-Spanish. From the very beginning, we hit it off. She was very easy to get along with. She loved dancing even more than me, and did salsa and African dance regularly. It was probably the African dance that made me love her straight away. Also her big laughs. While it started off as a language exchange, it ended being something quite different. One evening we were talking about exercising and ended up signing for our first half marathons. I convinced her to do it with me; she convinced me to practise every week. We were regular running buddies for the 2-3 months leading up to the big night (it was a night marathon), and her many Spanish friends often joined along, either all or part of the way. We would push each other along, distract each other from the pains, and encourage each other as our rhythms and times improved. It was a real team effort. Even after I moved over to London, we kept in touch via Skype, and she lent me her apartment when I came to visit Bordeaux, whether she was home or not. I'm so grateful to have found a friend I would hate to lose, it's not easy to find one who stays despite all the complaining I do in front of her!
L is still in my life, but not as regularly as I was used to in Bordeaux. D was my L during my time in Paris, and she is still in my life, too, but they are both very far away. I'm still working on my Spanish, and am actually making L wake me up on some mornings so we can continue with our languages. In Auckland, my exercise person will probably be not one but three. J for running, S for yoga, M for both. I'm determined to get my flexibility back, then work on the other areas I'm lacking, mainly the core. Slowly, I will become fitter.
  • And yet another group.
    When I am not running with L, I was eating out with K & C. I met K via the co-sharing space, afore mentioned. They were ambassadors for an expats organisation called, 'Internations,' so naturally I got involved, too. We had monthly meetings exploring the various food and cultural offerings in Bordeaux. It was a good excuse to try new restaurants on a regular basis. K & C also came to see me in London, so we got to know each other in different surroundings. I will definitely be catching up with them whenever I get back to Bordeaux. Whenever the next time would be...
Eating out and culture exploring in Auckland usually means M, the same M who is my Auckland person and exercise person. We have a list of cafes we need to try out. We are going to a comedy show next month. I'm going to an opera and a circus show with someone else, though. Apart from M and sis, with whom I catch up quite frequently, my other important person is A. A is the person I save the favourite restaurants for. A is the person who will accompany me to places when no one else will. While M is my Auckland person, A is probably a more of a constant presence in my new life back in NZ.
  • Regular travel opportunities.
    Travelling is so easy when you live in Europe. While in Bordeaux, I made numerous trips to Paris, travelled to places I'd already been, explored new places for the first time, and went over to T's house whenever I was staying in town. It was good to travel to see the same people in different settings. I saw A's family in Brittany, Charentes Maritime, Paris. My French family in Angoulins, Turkey, Paris. T's family in Bordeaux, Arcachon. I love the buzz of excitement in train stations and airports. The stress, the expectations. I stayed in Bordeaux plenty of weekends, too, but getting out of your city is another excitement, an adventure out of your everyday monotony.
It doesn't have to be travelling; breaking the monotony is the important part. My sister goes tramping with a group of friends every weekend, a different course every week. She loves it - it's exercise, she gets to see a new part of the region, and she's with friends. It's wonderful. While her tramping group is a little too hard-core for me - my sister power walks like crazy - I am also looking forward to exploring new parts around my home country. Tauranga next week, Christchurch in three weeks. Hahei and the Southland this summer. Rotorua hopefully before that. I'm definitely focusing on staying in the country a while. Time to get back into driving, once again. I think it's time to make my parents another new regular group of mine, too. I don't see them half as often as I should!

All in all, there is no reason why my life in Auckland should not be as enjoyable as the one I left behind in Bordeaux. I live in a good house, surrounded by good friends, in a beautiful country. If only Auckland was as beautiful as Bordeaux, but it does offer some interesting eating choices. Most of all, I'm nearer my family. Never forget why I came back. 

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