Moving to Bordeaux's Eco Quarter

Well, we have settled into our apartment in Bordeaux. There is an amazing view over the lake which has a beach and walking tracks. The building is only a few years old and the Ginko quarter was built with green spaces and sustainable living in mind (solar panels, efficient central heating, designed to maximise sunlight et cetera). Apartment living is quite different for us kiwis and brings its own unique set of challenges, although the area of the apartment is bigger than our house in Christchurch. The main issue is that we are constantly worried about the kids running around and making a lot of noise (and annoying the seven floors of people under us). It is hard for the kids not having a garden but it just means a walk to the park, lake or down to the shops.

View from our balcony

This week we have been wading through the mire that is the bureaucratic system in France. One day was spent getting Mr 6 enrolled in school (which involved taking the tram into town and finding the education office, taking a number, waiting in the appropriate area for an interminable length of time, speaking to a disapproving lady and getting an official letter to take to the local school). We have also applied for a French bank account. This meant signing about six different forms, an hour long appointment and the account will take about two weeks to be operational!

Check out my post on What you need to know to move to France, get a bank account and get the kids into school

After that, I took Mr 6 to the school where we had an appointment with the principal (Directeur) who was very nice and, we discovered, could speak English very competently (he corrected James writing "a airplane" to "an airplane"). We were given another small wad of paperwork to do, including application forms, authorisation for online images, authorisation for class outings etc. He asked Mr 6 about fifteen questions to guage his ability to understand French. He seemed impressed with Mr 6's reading and writing level. He was interested to hear we were from Christchurch, as he had heard about the Rugby World Cup being affected by the Christchurch earthquakes. We were given strict instructions to buy an"assurance extrascolaire" policy to protect Mr 6 if anything should happen while he is under school care but not at school. This is one of the many compulsory insurances in France and (we were told) was definitely not covered under our travel insurance.

Our son has had two days at school so far and we are so proud of him, navigating the many hurdles he is facing. The teacher does not speak English. The children write in linked up writing, which is even a challenge for us to decipher (let alone write). The school day starts at 8:30am and we pick him up for lunch at 11:30am for two hours of lunch at home (no snacks allowed at school!). Then he goes back to school for two and a half hours til 4pm. Phew - lucky it is only a two minute walk from home! He seems happy though; he is a social kid and loves to be in a routine. The other kids have been asking him heaps of questions and there is a boy from another class who can speak English.

Example of French writing taught in school

In between, we have had a bit of a look around Bordeaux. Choosing a city to base ourselves in from New Zealand was basically like closing our eyes and pointing to a spot on the map. However, it seems to be a good choice so far; it is close to lots of attractions (the Bassin d'Arcachon, Beziers), and it is a lovely city. From what I can gather, Bordeaux has had a rejuvenation since 1995 with the new tram system and the Mayor "asking" the citizens and building owners to get the soot on the facades of historic buildings cleaned up (a bonus for us). The whole city is a UNESCO-listed world heritage site, with charming eighteenth-century buildings everywhere you look. There has also been a replica of the frigate l'Hermione docked in the Garonne River this week. In 1780, the original took La Fayette to announce aid for the colonies (which ultimately helped them win) in the American Revolution. This was pretty interesting to see up close. We took Mr 6 to a science museum featuring an exhibition of giant, moving dinosaurs. Miss 2 was not quite so enamoured of them when she woke from a nap to see the giant beasts looming out of the dark, grunting and growling.

We experienced the feast for the senses that is the market at the Quai des Chartrons. We wandered along the promenade lined with ripe produce of many colours and bakery stalls full of sweet cakes, pastries and giant loaves. Our noses were full of the smells of raw fish, hot chips, freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh bread. The vendors cry their wares and "sledge" each other in loud voices periodically.  A lunch of paella and chips (with sangria for the adults) to a background of live clarinet music was absolute bliss to top off the experience.

Missing you all (and Marmite)!

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Fountain in Place de la Bourse

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