Tag Archives: Bordeaux

First day of classes

Today went… OK. Not great, but not as bad as it looked to be turning out either. I didn’t have classes ’til 11 this morning, so I got up about half 8. I pottered around for a while, had a shower, dried off and starting getting ready, then remembered I’d forgotten to have breakfast – which is quite embarassing. As I’d run out of milk Saturday night, I couldn’t have any cereal, so I had 2 pain au chocolats and water (as I’d also run out of juice and ice tea). I noted down my timetable, and starting doing my hair.

I don’t currently wear a watch as I’m making a new strap, so I have to check my phone or other devices to get the time. My phone has an unfortunate tendency to display the time from the last time you checked it before it refreshes to show the current time. I unfortunately fell for this trap, but didn’t realise until it was nearly quarter to 11. I quickly threw my stuff into my bag, raced out the door, raced back in to get various things, and finally raced down to the tram where I found I’d just missed it and had to wait 5 minutes for the next one.

When I eventually got to the uni, I took some lucky guesses and managed to get to the classroom just as the others sat down. The teacher, a young and very pretty blonde woman, wasn’t the slightest but bothered and said as long as we were there within 5 to 10 minutes it was fine, especially as we were just starting and getting our bearings. The classroom was sweltering, and having practically run all the way from my room, I boiled for the next hour and twenty minutes. The time went quickly, luckily, the lesson being fairly interesting apart from the exercises, which were an introduction to Python and very simple. I have only a very basic grip of Python, but the exercises were very simple and I’d already read through them the night before.

When class ended, I walked up to the tram stop, hoping to go up to Roustaing and get some pieces at the Simply Market there. However, there were so many people waiting to get on the tram, and the tram was so packed, there wasn’t room or time for everyone to get on, me included. Instead of waiting 6 minutes for the next tram, I walked down to the Casino supermarché by Peixotto.

Whoever designed that store should be shot! Nothing is logically placed, and the all the food-y bits are on each end of the shop, with other products in the middle. After wandering round the store for ages and surely covering miles, I managed to get the basics of what I came for. Forgetting, of course, drain cleaner/unblocker stuff and even more importantly, anti-mozzy stuff – I shall therefore be eaten alive for yet another night. I have so many mosquito bites at the moment that I nearly look like I have chickenpox!

I got home at around one o clock, and made myself lunch. At half one I’d finished and was just starting to get ready to head out again. All our timetables are online, so as I was sending a link to Mum, I suddenly realised that mine had changed since this morning, the last time I’d checked. Now it said that there was a ‘réunion d’information’ for the students in the parcours international. Now that’s something else I’ve been trying to sort out – I found out about this the day I’d signed up here for uni, as I’d just found out about and been told there were a few places left and I could submit my dossier if I wanted. I did, but I’ve still never found out whether I was accepted. I’m pretty sure I was, as I’d met the professor in charge of one section, and he had been very enthuastic. I’ve also been placed in the only class in which there are other parcours international students. But every time I’d tried to find out, the offices were either closed or there was a queue a mile long. Anyway, seeing this I got pretty worried – I didn’t want to miss a class the same day I’d been late – so I checked various other pages and copies and noted that the timetable had been updated at 11:06 am that morning (when I checked this morning, it had been updated at 4 the previous morning. Armed with this information, I sent the pdf of the timetable to my tablet, got my stuff and headed out. Then went back to my room because I’d forgotten something. Then went back because I’d forgotten the tablet. And my pencil case broke.

Unfortunately, because of the whole timetable debacle, by the time I got to uni I didn’t have time to sort that out before class, and by the time I’d found the classroom (3rd floor, through 2 corridors and past the group of students who didn’t know where room 310 was either). I was late. Again. Only milliseconds late, and the teacher again didn’t mind, but I was pretty much never late at lycée, and here I was, late twice on my first day! I slumped in a seat at the back (while trying not to create a puddle of sweat around me as it was, again, boiling) and tried to convince myself it wasn’t all that bad. I’m not even going to mention the incident when I tried to answer something the teacher said only to have my voice completely die out on me, and after failing to communicate by squeaks/grunts, going to the board only to not demonstrate my genius. At all. Luckily, I regained a bit of dignity by finished an exercise in a few seconds that took the others several minutes (I know, I know. You may place the flowers over there by the wall with the other tributes to my incredible intellect), and a lady came by saying that there was a ‘réunion d’information’ for the students in the parcours international tomorrow, at 1. Crisis averted!

After class ended, I searched around downstairs for someone to ask about whether I had been accepted or not. The guichet unique was packed (the second years were signing up) and there was no-one free to talk to me and I couldn’t figure how to get into the sécretaire pédagogique‘s office. I finally went to the office where I had signed up in the first place, and talked to the secretary there. Apparently only the directrice or directeur of that section would know, so she should took my name and phone number. However, it’s currently nearly half past 9 and I still haven’t heard anything. My first class tomorrow is split between international students and the others, so I’ll just show up at the international class and see whether I get thrown out or not.

Having done what I could there, I ran over to the bibliothèque universitaire where I guessed the rather cryptic ‘Recherche Documentaire’ was taking place, only to arrive just as the librarian appeared to show my class around. I filed in behind the others, and pretended I had been there all along. We then had a guided tour of the library, which was quite impressive and new, and had a brief lesson on how to use the online catalogue and databases. At twenty past four I finally headed home, where I collapsed on my bed and slept until 6, when my grumbling stomach finally roused me.

I now plan on repeating exactly that, except not getting up ever until tomorrow morning, so goodnight!

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A Picnic At Peixotto Park

One thing I forgot to mention about Friday is that during the presentation, the director of the university came in and, among other things, reminded us not to drown ourselves in the Gironde. Apparently 8 young adults, 6 of them students drowned during night’s out in Bordeaux over the last few years. This explains why when I went to the bank with Mum earlier this summer to sort out finances and stuff for uni, the lady warned me not to drown in the canals…

Also, as I was looking up some articles about this, I saw this article: http://www.sudouest.fr/2012/08/30/la-force-arrive-en-ville-807099-2780.php . Apparently last night I missed a Star Wars flashmob at the place des Quinconces. It took place at quarter past 8 and was organised by practitioners of a french martial art called Canne de combat’ or ‘Savate‘. The enthuasists of this sport are often compared to Jedi knights from Star Wars, so they decided they might as well be Jedis! It’s a shame I missed this, it would have been great to see!

My Star Wars-less day wasn’t very exciting. In the morning, I went to the Mériadeck Centre Commercial to continue my quest for Cheap Peanut Butter. The peanut butter at Auchan was indeed cheaper, but at €4.34, not cheap enough! I did get some oil, oats and caramelised peanuts, so the trip wasn’t all bad! Auchan has an a very cheap area, called Self-discount, which looks great for skint students as it has loads of really, really cheap edibles.


Oats, peanuts and sunflower oil from Auchan, which came to about €3


Unfortunately, as my current ‘fridge’ is a baking tin full of water with a damp teacloth draped over it, I can’t buy anything in bulk, or that needs proper refridgeration. This, along with the rather dismal cooking facilities (one hotplate which never takes 15 min to boil a small pot of pasta – and this is after spending 5+ minutes just trying to turn it on!) is starting to be quite frustrating. I had been planning on maybe making a big batch of something Sunday night and then eating that during the week, and I had been really looking forward to being able to bake for myself… I think most of the other students in this residence have bought their own ovens, fridges and the like – judging from the sounds of cooking coming from rooms, the many notices downstairs salling fridges, etc. and the many appliances I’ve seen being carried into rooms while people were moving in!

After leaving Auchan, I pottered around the rest of the shopping centre which was full of all sorts of shops, including a H&M, a Quick and aven a Claire’s Accessories! My shoes were rubbing so, being the responsible and ever prepared student I am, sat down and stuck a plaster on what remained of my heel, then quickly regressed to the age of 7 years old and headed in to the Claire’s. In there, I found a selection of flavoured lipgloss – something I’d been looking for for ages! I treated myself to a €2.50 Claire’s brand ‘Cookie Dough Ice Cream’ lip balm, which unfortunately smells more like playdough than cookie dough, and doesn’t taste of anything, as I discovered when I got home. Oh well, it comes in a cute pot!


After leaving Meriadeck, I set off looking for a secondhand bookshop ‘La Bouquinerie‘  by Gambetta. I found it easily enough, but it wasn’t quite as cheap as I was hoping. They had a nice, but small english book collection, and while they didn’t have ‘Speaker for the Dead’ by Orson Scott Card, the sequel to ‘Ender’s Game’ whiwh I’m currently reading and really enjoying, I bought a copy of ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy, a nice pose-y book to read on the tram.


Treats to celebrate a first week on my own!

I went home, and seeing as it was quite hot (méteo was saying around 32°C) didn’t go out again that afternoon. In the evening, as I was getting rather stir-crazy, I decided to go have a picnic in Peixotto Park, which is about 2.5km away. I made some pasta – I found a little shortcut for this: I added boiling water from the kettle into the pan with the pasta instead of starting with cold water. This helped and even with the pathetic hotplate I managed to get the pasta done in less than 15 min! I added the rest of the jar of bolognese sauce, and shoved various cookies and sweet things into another tupperware lunchbox thing, grabbed my helmet (see Mum, I’m being careful! :P), got my bike out the bikeshed and set off. I rode along the cycle lane as far as it went (it stops at Arts & Métiers), then cut through the campus to arrive just opposite the park. There was an unfortunate infestation of couples in the park, but I found a quiet-ish spot near a few families (and a very unimpressed cat on a leash) and settled down to read and eat my impromptu picnic.


My gourmet pasta!

The view from where I sat – there’s a duckpond just out of sight in the background.


And a cat on a leash!


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Yesterday afternoon I headed out again, this time to the TBC centre at Arts & Métiers, a few minutes on the tram from here. I just missed the tram as I walked down to the closest tram stop (I could have caught it, but I didn’t feel like running…) , so instead of sitting there and waiting, I walked down to the next tram stop, Francois Bordes, and got on the tram there. Unfortunately, as soon as I got off the tram at Arts & Métiers, I saw the was a long line coming out of the TBC office, covering half the pavement. I went and joined the queue anyway, but an employee who was talking to people in the line told us that everyone wouldn’t be seen in the hour left before they closed. She told me I could either do it online, or come back some other time.

I went back to my room, tried to figure out how to work the hot plates in the kitchen, commiserated with someone else who was also new, and also trying to figure out how to get the hot plates hot. While he went off with his pan and glass of rice, I persevered and when he came back 15 minutes later, I’d finally got the tomato soup boiling.

Here’s my very first ‘home’-cooked tea!

And so, at quarter to 7 this morning (I meant to get up at 6:30 but my alarm didn’t go off…), I got up and started getting ready to head out to the office at Gambetta. After a few mouthfuls of cereal and a quick phone to wish my little brother luck for his first ‘proper’ day at college, I eventually headed out. Again, the next tram at my stop wasn’t for a few minutes, so I walked to the next one and got on there. I felt very student-y, wearing boots, my denim shorts, a t-shirt and a plaid shirt (that I got for 2 euros at Carrefour  – I like cheap things 🙂 ), and with my hair up in a student-y bun, reading a copy of Ender’s Game that I pinched off Dad…

At about 8 I got to the office, where there was already half a dozen people waiting or talking to the employees. Luckily there were 4 employees working, and after a few minutes waiting, my turn came and I starting sorting out my new tram card. It was a lot quicker and easier than I thought, and I even managed to write my very first cheque all on my own! I wasn’t expecting to get the actual card for at least a few days, so I chose that it be activated on the 10th, next Monday. She did give me the card straight away, but I might as well use up the 7-day tickarte the parents got me and start using it next Monday, on my first day of classes at uni.

Feeling very grown-up and proud of myself, I bought myself a pain au chocolat from a little ‘La Mie Câline’ shop I saw yesterday, which I ate sitting on one of the benches in the central square by the Cathédrale Saint-André while reading my book. Just as I was getting up to leave, a nice lady sat down next to me and started asking me if I was interested in some pamphlets she had. We have our ‘own’ Jehovah’s Witnesses back on the farm who pop round occasionally – mainly to see the animals rather than convert us, I think! – and leave us those little magazine-y things, so I recognised the titles and replied that I already had a few at home, and that yes, I had read some, and no, I wasn’t interested, and I didn’t mean to be rude, but I was just leaving… The lady was very polite and let me go with a smile. I think that while their religion isn’t the healthiest mentality, especially not for women (like most religions), all the Jehovah’s Witnesses I’ve mean are genuinely nice and well-meaning, so I try to be as polite as possible talking to them, especially as they probably get a lot of rudeness on a daily basis.

I decided to check out an Aldi on the other side of Bordeaux, across the river, so I set off in what I thought was the right direction (but wasn’t – at all!)  towards Porte de Bourgogne, where I could get a tram across the river and to the Jean Jaurès stop. After about wandering around happily for about a quarter of an hour, I eventually gave up, and got on a tram at Quinconces, where I’d ended up, to the Porte de Bourgogne tram stop where I switched from line C to line A and finally set off in the right direction. Unfortunately, they had neither the Festy Croc crisps nor the cheap peanut butter I was looking for. I did however get 2 own-brand ‘Milk Shake’ for 67 c each.


I drank the chocolate one on the way to the tram stop (I decided to walk down to Galin instead of going back up to Jean Jaurès), and it was, suprisingly, delicious! The trip wasn’t a waste of time; I’ve located the store, and got some delicious fudz!

Back at Porte de Bourgogne, I got off and walked back to the Hôtel de Ville stop where I got on a line B tram direction Pessac centre to go home. On the way back, I stopped off at Roustaing to get some things from the Simply Market there. I paid and used my new ‘Be Simply, Be Happy!’ fidelity card, and again, felt very grown-up!

While waiting for the tram back, I was approached by a pregnant lady asking for money. I was rather confused as she seemed to be well-dressed, but as no-one else at the tram stop gave her anything, and I wasn’t sure what to do, I pretended I couldn’t speak French… Not having French as my first language does have some benefits! I’m still not entirely sure what to do in situations like that – I don’t want to be mean or uncaring to someone in need, but France has a good healthcare and social system, so I’m pretty sure if she really needed help she could get some. Thoughts?

I finally got back to my room at 11. Here’s my morning’s haul:


Note the TBC tram card- I’m a real ‘Bordelaise‘ student now! I got the poppyseed (graines de pavot) demi-baguette and coeur de boeuf tomato for lunch. And no, those aren’t cookies you see – they’re, errr… celery! Celery cunningly disguised as cookies! I got the two newspapers as I was walking through Bordeaux (although there’s often lots of people giving them out at tram stops in the morning), but I haven’t read them yet. I’ve spent 2.34€ on the pain au chocolat and milkshakes, and just under 5€ on the shopping. I’m not entirely sure if I’m budgeting well or not, but hopefully I’ll have that mastered by the end of the month.

When I got back to my room, I made myself some popcorn for no other reason than because I can! Having made it, I realised I had no sugar or salt, or any other seasoning to put on it. The tomato soup powder tasted strange, so I made myself hot chocolate flavoured popcorn, because that’s all I had!

It’s already Wednesday! I was worried this week would pass slowly and that I’d have nothing to do, but so far it’s going fast! I’m really enjoying myself so far, and not feeling homesick – although I suspect I might this weekend, as while I’m used to being away from home during the week, I would always be home on the weekends. I do regret not being able to see my little brother off to collège and be there to really see what he thinks of it…

One more day ’til my rentrée on Friday, when I’ll hopefully get my timetable and find out what class I’m in and stuff. I’m going to wait ’til then to start sorting out a new Judo club, as by then I’ll know when I have free evenings – I also think there’s a university Judo club, so I plan to find out more about that then.

I’m quite tired now, so I think I’ll stay in and finally unpack and sort all that out. I was planning getting something else sorted out tomorrow, but I can’t remember what… Hopefully by then I’ll have remembered!

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I set off this morning with 2 main goals: get a carte TBC from the TBC centre at Gambetta and check out the Simply Market at Roustaing.

After about 20 minutes on the tram, I got off at the Gambetta stop, and promptly got lost. Well, not really, but I couldn’t find the TBC centre. After pottering around for 15 min, I called home to see if Mum or Dad could look it up online for me, but no-one was in. After a bit more searching, I finally found a map which indicated where the TBC thing was, set off and got lost again. I hadn’t really paid much attention to street names or anything, but I set off in what I thought seemed like the right direction, turned a few corners and finally found it. I called home again to say I’d found it, poked my head in, and called home again to say it was too crowded and that I’d head back at a later date.

I found my way back to a tram stop, buying some postcards and marvelling at all the shops, and got off and Roustaing, just across from the supermarket. Walking in, I felt a lot more at home than I had in the Casino supermarket – this was my kind of thing: cheap crap, and lots of it!

After a bit of wandering around, I finally found some flip-flops and some cardboard folders (chemises cartonnés à rabats) that I’d been looking for (the chemises for my schoolwork and the flip-flops for the showers in my résidence). I realised I was going to need a basket so went back to get one. I made my way through the shop, picking up the things I needed – which was quite hard as I had no idea where anything was – and tried not to grin inanely as my mantra of “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing!” went through my head. I actually find that quite fun – trying to look like I know what I’m doing while looking round and trying to spy on people who do actually know what they’re doing, all while trying to get whatever it is you’re trying to do done.

I’m not sure if that actually makes any sense…

One of the things on my shopping list was peanut butter. I love peanut butter, but haven’t actually had any in a while. We usually rely on friends or family from the UK to bring us some, but as my cousin and his family (one of our usual ‘suppliers’ ) hadn’t come over, we ran out much earlier than usual this summer. After searching the entire store twice, I finally found the peanut butter, hidden between the honey and the jam. Sadly, though, it was nearly a fiver and a not very nice brand, so I decided to go without for a while. Sometime this week, I plan on heading to an Aldi on the other side of the city, (partly because I’ve been sent on a quest for ‘Festy Croc’, a brand of crisps, by an Australian friend, and also because it should be nice and studenty cheap!) so I’ll have a look for cheap peanut butter while I’m there.

I was very proud of myself, as this was the first time I’d ever gone shopping on my own, and for myself. I was also pleased with my budgeting, as my haul only cost just under 20 euros. 🙂 Maybe I won’t starve after all!

Here’s what I bought:



And here’s my current ‘fridge’! (I bought the cheap crap cheese slices because I thought they’d last longer out of proper refrigeration what with the packaged and inevitable additives they’re pumped full of)


I headed back out to the tram stop, to get the next tram direction Pessac, to go home. While waiting, I broke off a bit of the demi-baguette that I’d bought to nibble on. A pigeon was pecking around near my feet, so I threw it a few crumbs. Another pigeon soon appeared. Then another. And another. And.. you get the gist. A half dozen or so pigeons were soon pecking around the platform. Not wanting to become known as the local pigeon lady, I made sure not to drop any more crumbs, and busily pretended I couldn’t see them until the tram arrived. 

On Friday, the accueil of the MISMI (Mathématiques, Informatique, Sciences de la matière et Ingenierie) is at 9:30. I plan to be there at 9, so on the way back from the supermarket I checked how long it would take to get from the Béthanie tram stop to the Doyen Brus stop, where I get off. It takes 3 minutes, so allowing for any possible delays, I’ll try to be on the tram by 8:55 and therefore out of my room by 8:45.

I’m debating heading to Arts et Métiers, where there’s another TBC centre, so as to get that in motion today, or just getting up early tomorrow morning to beat the crowd at the central one. I don’t particularly want to get up early, but I do need to finish unpacking soon…

Either way, I’ve had quite a productive morning.

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