Day 1: Canelés and Meeting the French Students

Monday, March 13th 2017


First Meal in Bordeaux

We arrived in Bordeaux around 10AM and tracked down the bus to our hotel. Hungry as we were, some of us headed to the nearby boulangerie, Boulangerie du Forum. Little did I know, it was going to be a pre-assessment of my French knowledge.

I felt pretty nervous to go inside. There was nine of us entering a small boulangerie which most likely did not expect such a large crowd. Or Americans, for that matter. I also figured out at some point that only a few of us knew an adequate amount of French.

When we entered, a lady working there greeted us in French. None of us knew how to respond, so we awkwardly crowded the area. Still tired from traveling and quite out of practice, I managed to tell the lady in French that we still needed time to choose. Fortunately, they understood me phewww. I translated what I could to my group, and we successfully purchased our first meal in France.

Due to the confusion we probably caused, I apologized briefly and the lady cheerfully replied, “Pas de problème (No problem)!” Before I left, a man behind the counter told me to wait and handed me a small paper sack. I was puzzled at first since we didn’t purchase any pastries, but I immediately understood when I opened the bag.

Inside, there was a bunch of cannelés.

I was completely surprised by his kind gesture. Cannelés are a specialty in Bordeaux– a cylindrical pastry made with rum and vanilla. And something I really wanted to try too. 🙂

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My first meal with a quiche and a large cannelé

Meeting our French partners

The next thing for us to do was to meet our French counterparts in the University of Bordeaux chemistry building and work on our projects for a little bit. The walk there was pretty short. It gave me a chance to see the cafés and familiarize myself with the French words written everywhere. I noticed how much more common it was for people to ride their bikes or roller blade in order to move around.

We arrived and the French students were gathered in a room. For the first time, we UC students stood face to face with the UB students. Among them, were my French partners Erica and Aloïs whom I had been messaging with for about a month or so with my UC partner Jackie. Even though we didn’t get a chance to Skype, we could easily pick them out from the group: Aloïs with her short, brown boyish haircut and Erica with her black curly bob.

Erica and Aloïs took us to a nearby conference room. I was worried if there would be communication issues between us, but that went away as soon as we began to work on our project. After a few hours of revising our presentation, we took a coffee break in another room.

There, we discussed the differences between America and France. The roads, American and French stereotypes, how our school system works, and many other things. They were really friendly and curious about America as I was about France. I knew we were going to have a lot of fun together over the next few days.

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The vending machines and coffee machines in the break room.

Wine Bar and Duck for Dinner

All of us decided to go to a local wine bar that was just across the street from our apartment. I was amazed by the wall of wine bottles in the corner of the bar, each labeled with a price ranging from about 20 euros-100+euros. The bartender helped to set up tables and seats for us, and we began to pass out glasses of wine.

I have never really drank a lot of wine before, so I was excited to be in region of France that is known for its wine. I had a feeling I was more of a wine person anyway and being here would confirm that.

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And dinner was fabulous. We went to Le Bistro Régent, a restaurant that was right next to our hotel. I ordered duck steak and struggled to pronounce “Filet de magret de canard grillé” to the waiter because of those rolling r’s. 😳  It seems like the steaks are always served with a side of fries (frites) and salad (salade). Since there were so many of us, they brought out buckets–yes, I mean buckets– of fries and salad for us. I also noticed how slightly different the ketchup and mayonnaise tastes in Europe. It’s not as sweet and vinegar-y as the ones in the US, and more tomato-y… like it should be, no? 😉

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My duck and fries ^o^
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