Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Week 1

The trip to Bordeaux was not uneventful but was nonetheless a success. Despite near-blizzard conditions, the movers arrived when expected, as did Salvation Army. We sold our condo and returned our car. Owen did not get a chance to say good-bye to all his friends at daycare since the school was closed due to the snow on his last day. Nor did we get to say goodbye to many of our friends. Though, in truth, I hate good-byes so it was probably easier for me emotionally.

There were some minor delays with our flights – a broken jet-way in Denver, needing boarding passes and having to check Owen’s stroller at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris– but we managed to make all our connections with only some minor stress-related sweating (mostly on my part) and running through terminals. The cab driver that picked us up in Bordeaux, Jackie, knowing that we were moving permanently and therefore would have baggage, brought his big car. Our stuff (6 suitcases, 1 stroller, and a carseat) barely fit. I had to direct him from the backseat on lane changes since he couldn’t see his passenger side-view mirror.

The Maison Mercure, our temporary house for the next three months has been upgraded with new furniture in the living room – new couches, light fixtures, coffee table, TV table complete with a multi-system TV, new bedding, and new locks. But nonetheless, it still looks the same – same twin beds in every room, same wallpaper, same peeling paint in the bathroom, same lack of internet or phone. So it has been quite easy to make the adjustment.

We arrived on a Saturday and by Monday we were feeling quite settled. Bags still need to be unpacked but that’s more out of laziness on our part – and the fact that we will be packing them again soon when we find permanent housing. Owen had some minor jet lag that lasted a few nights. Sean and I shared the twin bed in Owen’s room to help him with the transition. We went downtown to the Jardin Publique on Wednesday to check out the bus to the tram option versus the car to the tram option. Mostly so that I don’t feel pressured to drive the Saxo with its manual transmission. And, of course, we went to Auchan (think Walmart in French) to stock up on the necessities that include Honey Nut Cheerios, Nutella, wine, Giovanni Rana pasta. We even managed to find chicken hot dogs and fish sticks so hopefully the food transition won’t be too difficult for Owen.

On Thursday, Sean left for six days in Vatican City for a conference. Owen and I are on our own and we’ve been here less than a week. Fortunately, there is another new astronomer, Pascale, who moved here in September from Germany with his wife, Jasmine, and their 8 month old daughter, Amy. Phew! Another foreigner with a baby and an apartment with internet! Jasmine has already found several child-friendly activities on this side of town. On Thursday afternoon, Owen and I met Jasmine and Amy at La Maison du Soleil. Basically an indoor play gym for 0-6 year olds. They also have an outdoor area with tricycles and wagons so Owen was in heaven. Jasmine and Amy go every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon and Owen and I will join them. On Friday mornings, Jasmine takes Amy to a different indoor gym, Le Ludotheque. Owen had a blast here too. No outdoor area that we saw but they have a train table among lots of other toys. These places seem to be known only to a few and not well publicized. Their websites are only in French (probably why I couldn’t find them during all the googling I did) and even Valentine didn’t know about them and she is due with their first child in a few weeks so has been doing lots of research about baby-related things. The best part is that these places are FREE! We’ve been here a week and we have health insurance and free indoor play space for Owen. Gotta love socialism for some things. Some bureaucracy is not so good. For example, we still don’t have cell phones because you need a bank account to purchase a phone (even the pay-as-you-go kind). And opening an account is not as easy as going into a bank and saying, “here is some money, please open an account for me.” You need documents with proof of employment and address, plus our passports, then we have to wait several days to receive the bankcard and check book. Apparently renting an apartment and buying a car will be a task too but we’re holding off on those at least until Sean returns from Italy.

Ok, so new feature of this blog is the “Word(s) of the Week.” Owen and I (and Sean too to a certain extent) are learning new words everyday so I thought I’d share my favorites. Normally these will be listed on the side but for this first week, I thought I’d post them below too. My words this week are:

Paille – straw (as in the kind you drink with)

Assouplissant – fabric softener (this is a good one to know since we don’t have a dryer and, therefore, no dryer sheets with which to soften our clothes)

Bain Moussant – bubble bath

Owen’s words (aka the words I am learning for Owen’s benefit) this week are:

Tractopelle – backhoe loader. This is a very important word to know.

Montgolfi̬re Рhot air balloon.

Manchot – penguin (not to be confused with the French word, penguin, which, I’m told, are like manchots but can fly. I’m no polar bird expert but maybe penguin is a puffin?)

Nounours – teddy bear

Chariot – wagon


  1. Pingouin (the french word) is in fact a family of birds, that I believe translates into "auk". It indeed includes puffins, razorbills, guillemots (murres) and the extinct great auk.

    Franck (Sean's office mate)

  2. Thanks Franck! I had never heard the work auk. Thank goodness for Wikipedia!