16 Degrees in Winter
Updated: May 27, 2019
It’s February and I have officially moved into my shared house in Bordeaux. I was previously staying with a host from couchsurfer.com, but now I have my own room and my own space. It was really nice staying with Max, the host, as he showed me around the centre of Bordeaux and made me feel at home in a new city. A part of me was worried that staying here wouldn’t be too different from Brussels and I would end up feeling lonely and bored. In fact, it feels as if it is about as different from my experience of Brussels as it is possible to be. Here in Bordeaux the sun shines almost every day and the centre is bustling seven days a week. Unfortunately, in Brussels’ case, given that it is a big commuter city, it was always much busier during the week than it was at the weekend.
I also really enjoy my job quite a bit more than I did in Brussels. I think I’ve really found my calling with teaching. I love pretty much every moment of it – going through things with my students to help them understand a range of concepts, both at a low and high level. It’s nice having a range of abilities, as it means I never teach the same lesson twice. I’m even learning new things about English; there are two students in particular who have a very high level and are challenging me in the way I think about my own language and French. I’ve been coming up with all sorts of imaginative ways of teaching English. I even have cut-outs of Theresa May and the Queen in my office. In Brussels, by comparison, I wasn’t challenged nearly so much, and the tasks didn’t keep my busy. In hindsight, I should have asked for more to do, but given that it was my first internship, I didn’t know that this was considered the ‘thing to do’.
Travel to work is fairly painless, as the tram system is very efficient in Bordeaux and runs very smoothly. I have a 10 minute walk either side of the tram journey, but that means I get some fresh air and - when I get up early enough - I get to see the sunrise (right).
So far, I’ve done a fair amount of walking around just to explore the city and its sights. Bordeaux has a gorgeous Opera House, and is home to the largest square in Europe. Similarly to Brussels and unlike England, there are lots of open spaces and squares. In France there’s a real culture of sitting outside at bars, at least partly because so many people here smoke. I’ve adapted to it somewhat.
Today was 16 degrees Celsius and it felt absolutely boiling. I had ventured out shopping wearing one of my Superdry jumpers (Superdry is a thing in my family because my step-mother works there), thinking I would be too cold, but I ended up going around in my T-shirt for much of the day. It was lovely feeling the sun on my face and knowing that the coldest months of the year are behind me. I only wish I had brought more pairs of sunglasses.
Rue Saint Catherine is apparently the longest shopping street in Europe. I walked down it twice today during my shopping trip. I made a note of a book shop called "bouquerie" that I plan on returning to. It had books piled ceiling-high all over the shop - entirely second-hand, and a lot of them very intellectual. Perhaps I'll be bale to buy some course books. I've already spent quite a bit on hardback books from the vintage market last Sunday. I found a lovely leather-bound collection of Rimbaud's poems. It's gold and black, and in very good condition. I sometimes wonder how I will manage to take back all of my things!
One of the great things about wandering around is people watching. I've always noticed how well French people dress, but now that I live in France, it's becoming more and more apparent. It's difficult to put my finger on, but I think that it's probably the colour schemes - while in Italy it tends to be more the way the fabric is cut. It's just an observation. I've realised, though, that in an attempt to seem more French I've started dressing more like the French women. Women here don't really wear skirts, and only occasionally wear dresses. Fashion is comfortable and elegant, which are two things I'm never going to oppose.