Between January and June, I will be studying abroad in Bordeaux, France. My classes will be conducted completely in French, and all of course assignments must be written in French, as well. Additionally, unlike Paris, the chances of meeting a fluent English-speaker in Bordeaux is much lower. Although curiosity almost got the better of me, I decided not to research or look at any pictures of Bordeaux before arriving. This was due in part to my experiences during my first study abroad last summer in Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France. I found myself disappointed in the cities that I had heard about and researched thoroughly before arriving, such as Paris and Munich, while loving the new sights and experiences in places I had never even thought to research, like Brussels. I believed that my 5-month experience in Bordeaux might be more enjoyable if everything I saw and all the information I learned about the place was seen and learned for the first time. So far, I have not regretted this decision.
What I have learned about myself since I began my study abroad experiences, however, is that I probably have some sort of travel curse. On my flight to Germany last summer, I nearly missed my flight in New York because I didn’t know I had to find transportation from LaGuardia airport to JFK until about 2 hours before my flight to New York took off. Then, when I finally found the shuttle to JFK, I realized that my ticket didn’t even have the terminal number for my airline, because it was one of the handful of airlines that doesn’t have a set terminal. So, I just randomly picked a terminal and got incredibly lucky with that choice, since that’s where my airline was. Then, on the return trip, there was a freak storm in Chicago that made me have to sleep overnight in the airport and then wait an additional 5 hours for a flight back home. So, needless to say, I wasn’t too optimistic about the flight to Bordeaux. And I shouldn’t have been. Neither Oklahoma City nor Norman had experienced any sort of precipitation, let alone snow, since the winter began. This past Christmas was a dry one. So, imagine my surprise when I look out the window at around 4am and see a literal BED of snow covering the roads, the house, and my car. Apparently, winter decided to really start the one day I needed there to be clear skies. The drive to the airport was long and dangerous, since no one had prepared for the freak storm and the lines on both the roads and the highways were completely covered in snow. That meant that pretty much everyone on the highway was guessing where these lines were, and we definitely almost got hit once or twice on the way to Will Rogers. By some miracle we made it there on time…only for me to find out that a.) This was the first flight of the day which meant that b.) The plane we were using needed to be de-iced, but c.) It couldn’t be de-iced until the pilots and crew were present and d.) The pilots and crew were trapped in their hotel because of the snow. Needless to say, that 2-hour layover in Chicago wasn’t going to be enough and I would have to reschedule my flight. So, after an 8-hour layover in Chicago, I finally made it onto a plane headed towards Madrid, where I had yet another 8-hour layover.
I landed in Madrid and decided to take a look around instead of waiting around for 8 hours in an airport yet again. So, I took the train to the center of the city and did some light exploring. I was way too tired to really retain any of the sights I saw, but I did enjoy the colorful scenery that stook in stark contrast to what I had seen in Munich and parts of Paris. I remember hoping that Bordeaux was a little like that as well. I strolled through a botanical garden while I waited for the museum to open, then abandoned the museum altogether in favor of just ambling around the gardens and then ambling around the city itself. I really wanted to try tapas, since there was a tapas restaurant on every corner, but my stomach was feeling funny from the sleep deprivation and I didn’t want to risk it. I looked around a bit more and then took the train back to the airport and waited to board to Bordeaux.The flight from Madrid to Paris was a strange experience. I heard some people speaking French, others speaking Spanish, some speaking Spanish with a French accent, others still speaking French with what seemed to be a Spanish accent, and then some in-between thing that I couldn’t quite make out, but learned was later another language called Occitan.
I had come a few days earlier than my lodging would let me move in, so I had ordered an Airbnb in advance to give me some time to adjust to my surroundings. This was a very very good idea. I took an uber to the Airbnb, realizing quickly that I was WAY too tired to comprehend let alone speak any French. Luckily, the driver understood the broken French I could speak and we made it to the destination quickly. I didn’t know that we were in the outskirts of Bordeaux, so I figured that it was a very suburban area with very little to do. It reminded me a lot of Edmond, actually. Since it was late at night by this point, I decided to walk around this small town for a few hours and then go to bed.
When I woke up, my Airbnb host had left a pair of tram tickets with a note suggesting that I take the tram to Bordeaux Centre. So, thinking that it would just be a larger version of what I had already seen, I got on the tram and just watched the scenery pass by. I realized quickly that my initial impression of Bordeaux may not have been the most accurate: