With Ed back at work and us still motivated by the joy of having our stuff back, me and the girls get up and ready and out of the door by 11 am. Result! We grab some pizza and pain au raisin from our lovely boulangerie and head over to the tram. I remember that D has told me I need coin change for the tram ticket machine and if I buy a 10 voyage ‘tickart’, it works out cheaper. We have plenty of ‘monnaie’ change from the boulangerie and buy our tickets. Just 5 minutes later and the tram arrives. We hop on it. I am carrying Nina in the Vaude rucksack, as we are still have no buggy. Ed’s Mum is bringing it down soon. I am grateful to be able to get out with the rucksack and find that staying thankful is the only way to stay motivated! The tram is always a little adventure and a nice way to check out all the beautiful buildings along the way. 

We alight at Gambetta and walk around Bordeaux, with Nina generally being well behaved, considering the heat and her irksome teeth. It is good to be out, but tough, too. We visit various ‘immobiliers’ and get a varied response. I guess there is not as much money in renting properties as there is in selling. Some are kind and some are just downright rude, answering the ‘phone mid meeting and serving others. I am aware this is more of a cultural thing and if I want them to pay attention to me, I will have to be less British and demand they serve me and not anyone else.  It is more frustrating as I have Nina to look after at the same time. Once again, I thank God for Ty as she helps entertain the wee one so much. After at least 3 different agencies, we stop at MacDonald’s for a drink. It’s never ideal is it, but you can always rely on it having a toilet with a baby changing area, drinks for kids and free wifi! 

We head home and arrange to meet D and her boys in the local park, called Peixotto. We pop home to get Ty’s bike and walk the short 500 metres to meet them. It’s so nice to see them and feel like we have some other friends here, when Ed’s at work. The heat is pretty unbearable, but we manage to find some shaded areas to base ourselves in to watch the kids. There is a fair sized play area, with swings and slides, in a fenced off section of the park. I am pretty knackered by now and dealing with a crawling baby in a play park is pretty intense. We don’t stay long and head off to the local Casino supermarket to get some supplies.

At home, Ed met us on doorstep. In all we have done approximately 7 hours of walking, for me it has all been with Nina on my back. The day reached 33 degrees and we are hot and just plain exhausted. Roll on tomorrow….

So this morning we piled in the van, with Nina taking up plenty of room in her car seat and Tyla and I squashed up together in what should only have been a seat for one. I justify that this minor infraction is nothing in the grand scheme of things and we manage to get the seat belt round both of us quite easily. Ed tells me that when he was young they had a special car air mattress and he and his brother and sister would sleep in the back of the car on their trips from Brittany to Ireland. Not a seat belt in sight! Funny how things have changed.
We drive near Sauternes to a little village called Noaillon, where a friend’s parents have a holiday home and kindly agree to let us store our stuff there. We drive through a little village called Manhot. This is funny right? Just like when someone falls over, silly play on words never get old! 
It takes us most of the morning to unpack. Ty was pleased to see her bike and had a little ride around, but mostly she looked after Nina, which mainly involved making she sure she didn’t eat too much mud, or crawl off any fo the little walls. I dipped in and out of the packing and helped Ty with Nina. It’s good practice for Tyla to watch Nina, but I don’t expect her to shoulder the responsibility of watching her alone, especially as Nina is a little grouchy and is teething. My breaks are often to breastfeed and in this heat I am doing it as much as she demands. We finally get it all done and head home, exhausted. We bring Tyla’s bike, helmet and a few kitchen and toiletry essentials from our stuff.
 It is good to finally have everything back with us, even if it’s not with with us! 

Whilst we try and find a house, car, other essential ingredients for living, we are very much aware that we will be having to collect our stuff from kent very soon. We have thought about how we are going to manage logistically, collecting the stuff with the the two girls, and had to face the reality that Edwin would have to do the trip alone.

Luckily, he has some amazing friends and one of them, Mael, has agreed to go on the 2000 km (1250 mile) road trip with Ed to the UK. Ed spent hours trawling French van hire sites and at the last minute he phoned a local hire company. They had a van that that was unlikely to be hired before the French bank holiday on Tuesday and so they offered it to him at a lower rate than the other places he found – bonus!

Ed sets off early Monday morning and I set the day aside to be on call for him, as I am going to need to book the ferry and hotel, when he gets nearer to the North coast of France.

While I wait for his return, let me fill you in some little anecdotes about the container. So, when we were looking for quotes for our container, we were quoted a door-to-door service by the shipping company. A long story short – they quoted us few thousand and when they had our belongings, they then requoted us $11,000!! We fought and fought (and fought), which was uber stressful, but managed to get the cost down to $6000. However, they would only deliver it to the port. Fair enough. We would be happy to get a van over to Southampton to collect our stuff, if it saved us around $4000.

‘Southampton?’, I hear you say. Yes, Southampton. Most companies ship to the port local to the Isle of Wight, but not this company. They would be sending our stuff to Kent. Having had a mini melt down about this, when we thought we would be living on the Isle of Wight, it actually turned out to be at our advantage when we realised we would be moving to France. Kent is much closer to Dover. Dover is the cheapest route from UK to France. Win win.

All right, Snappy??

Anyone having experienced imports will be familiar with all of the paperwork. Standard for any business transaction. Now, this is always a little bit more difficult to do when you are dealing with morons. Bring in Sophie. Sophie is dealing with our container at the destination port. She messes up our invoice, causes me about 2 hours of extra work trying to figure out where she got her figures from and then relaying it all back to her, so she can correct it. She apologises and then tells me she has noticed we are importing an alligator head, which may be a problem when it comes to HM Revenue and Customs.

The story is that we had some lovely friends in Slidell, who had a lovely friend called Mark. Mark is a typical, indigenous Louisiana local. He loves nature, sweet iced tea and hunting. His friend gave him some alligator heads and he generously offered us one, as a souvenir of the Louisiana experience. I don’t believe I ever would have bought one, but we were touched by his generosity and we accepted.

We packed it and agreed to declare it on our import paperwork; if it got through, it would be a bonus. I don’t like being caught out and I’ve seen enough Border Patrol to know that it’s not pleasant being stopped by Customs.

So, Sophie tells me this maybe a problem and tells me to call customs for advice. They in turn, tell me that I may need a vet’s certificate (hang on, it’s definitely dead); they also ask me to call CITES and DEFRA (which scares me a little bit, as I am beginning to feel now have become little more than an unlicensed poacher); oh and just to be sure the tax man doesn’t miss out, they tell me to call the VAT helpline too.

I spend a whole morning on this calling all the numbers. it appears that everybody is clueless and as per, with these types of things, I am transferred, put on hold, transferred again, asked to wait, given a few more numbers and then, voila, a lovely man from CITES in Bristol gives me the code that says my alligator head is definitely legal, definitely dead and I am not a Safari Game Poacher, about to be lynched by Border patrol. Oh, and I’m not voluntarily calling VAT to pay tax on anything, especially not the head of a long dead alligator.

I call Sophie back to give her the code. She tells me she knows that code and if she were me, she would never have declared it in the first place. Excellent legal advice from a shipping agent.

So, back to Edwin and Mael’s trip. I book them onto a ferry, book them a cheap and reasonable hotel near the pick up warehouse. I send booking references, phone numbers and addresses to them throughout the day. Once they reach the UK, I start to feel relieved for them, until they drive to the wrong hotel! Same hotel chain, different hotel. They get to the right one eventually about 11 pm.

It has been a little bit of a tough day for me, trying to book everything as cheap as possible, with a little baby clambering all over me all day bored out of her brain. I’d rather have had my day than theirs though. It’s been an epic day for them and they have covered over 1000km. I go to bed praying that the next day will pass without a hitch…

Whilst we have been settling in there has been a constant onslaught of challenges to deal with – not least getting the container from Kent, England, which has all our belongings from our last home in Slidell, Louisiana, USA. Whilst all the stuff from the UK bubbles away, over here, we are constantly searching for a house/apartment to suit our family needs; this mainly means near a nice school and in not too much of a “ghetto” area (did I mention I’m a secret snob?). We are also searching for a car (yes, I am a car snob, too) and I am trying to get my head round the idea of doing what is best and buying a French car!

We have downloaded some apps on the iPhones that we got contracts for in the UK (when we though we were going to stay there) and spend our evenings on the sofa searching through them to find various houses, cars local information etc. I am open-minded and know that finding a place can be difficult as you must give three months notice before you leave a rented place here.

This is the only picture on up on the site, advertising this flat – excellent work Monsieur Estate Agent!

I hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to find a family home, with parking in an ok area. It is student city here and many properties are T1 or T2 (stands for Type 1, meaning one room or studio to me and you). We are looking for a T4 with 3 bedrooms or a 2 bedrooms and an office, and are basing our search around the outskirts of Bordeaux, so that it’ll be easier for Ed to get to work.

The girls and I decide to take a trip down the local Immobiliers (estate agents) here in Talence. Every trip we take out is a little mission, as we cleverly forgot the buggy at Ed’s Mum’s house in Brittany during our last visit there a few weeks ago. Luckily we have the amazing Vaude baby carrier, but I know I look like some weird hippy carrying my poor baby round in the heat. Oh well, we are getting used to making do at the moment and this is no different!

Throughout our visits to about 7 estate agents, we are greeted with a mixed response; some are helpful, some just rude, but the common theme is unless we are prepared to live in a studio apartment, there is little they can do for us.

Feeling pretty dejected, but what can you do?? Onwards and upwards….

Edwin has been working for two days now and is absolutely loving it. He is inspired, challenged by the work and sees a good future career wise in this job. Thank God for that. 

The girls and I have been settling in to our new lives. We are staying in the Teneo Apparthotels in Talence, which are next to a huge 12 screen cinema.  Apart from the hideous stench of smoke in our room when we arrived, we are pretty impressed by the set up here. So, there is beautiful lobby and lift up to the first floor. In our apartment, there is a hallway with big sliding wardrobe and just off the hallway to the left, is a bathroom with shower and sink and a separate toilet. I am a little dismayed at the lack of bath for little Nina, but on the plus side, it is all really clean and pretty new.

Bathing Nina in the bathroom sink
The hall leads into the lounge and dining area, which is probably around 20 square metres and nice and light. There is a round table and five chairs. The sofa is sofa bed – not the most comfortable looking thing I’ve seen, but new all the same. A flat screen Tv and internet connection are a promising sight in the far corner. The window at the end covers the length of the room and has a good view of the world outside, the tram and an comings and goings of all the locals.

Out the front of the building and down some stairs, there is a boulangerie, which sells the best p√Ętisserie and bread that I have ever tasted. This is so convenient, but as we hope to be heading for a Paleo diet lifestyle change soon, I am glad we are going to be leaving it behind at some point!
The apartments and boulangerie 
There is a park just down the road – pretty small, but when you’ve had no access to pavements for nearly a year, even a small park is amazing! 

Well, like with any new place, it is going to take time to get used to the surroundings. Once all the little anomalies, like crossing the tram lines and dodging the cyclists, all becomes normal, I’m sure we’ll feel a lot more settled.

As you will learn about me, I have some particular views about certain things, which maybe confused for snobbery (or may actually be snobbery). Anyway, one of my funny views is about meeting people in contrived situations based on vague similarities, like being a mother or from the same country or even being the same colour. I love my friends (some of whom are indeed British, mixed race and mothers) and I am very sociable, but tell me that I will be meeting a group of English mums as a preferential group of future BFF’s and I would normally run a mile.

However no man (or mother) is an island and I decided to ignore my prejudices and joined an expat website. I was greeted warmly by D, an Irish mother of two boys aged 2, who also lives in Talence. She offered to meet with me the Wednesday after we arrived and also let me know that the rest of the group she had met were meeting up on Friday at the Jardin Public in Bordeaux.

D is lovely. Her boys are very sweet and the eldest is very articulate and observant. D is a mine of knowledge about the simple things I need to know about. She meets me in the local park on Wednesday, and fills me in on local transport, where to buy things, local markets etc etc. I am so relieved that I have found a friend – and one who is on my wavelength, too. It was great to get out with the girls, explore our surroundings and have a purpose.

I think I can safely say that I will always be prepared to challenge my unfounded prejudices.