It’s been one year since I arrived in France.
It’s been one year since I started this blog.
It’s been one year since I stepped into this exciting stage in my life.
It’s really been one year. Wow.
I want to make this a comprehensive and representative post of the past year, in Bordeaux, in Louvain-la-Neuve, and really, just Europe in general (minus the one month back in Canada).
What changed since I first stepped foot into Bordeaux? What didn’t change? Let’s try chart form.
As another school year has just begun (yup, second year thesis student now!) I thought I’d take a memory trip back and list some “favourites” of the year in photos. This will definitely be a fun entry to write and also to look back on in the future!
Favourite place in Bordeaux
Place de la Bourse at night, by the Miroir d’Eau
Without a doubt, it is the Miroir d’Eau, or Water Mirror by the riverside. I like to take strolls at night after dinner and somehow I often end up here to chill or just watch the reflection of Place de la Bourse in the water while waiting for the mist to come out every 15 minutes. When it is not too cold, I love to take off my shoes and dip my feet into the water, sometimes having water fights with my buddies who come along. It’s one of those places that makes you feel like you’re truly in France, carefree and relaxed.
Favourite building/architecture in Bordeaux
Saint-André (or St.Andrew’s) cathedral as seen from the top of Tour Pey Berland
I cannot comment on St.Michel since I haven’t actually gone inside it yet – was nearby once when I first arrived without realizing it – so I will say Saint-André is my favourite for now. And it really is a phenomenal structure, my favourite catholic church in Europe so far. My friend commented that I probably don’t feel as amazed about it anymore now that I live so close to it and see it every day, but that’s not true at all! The cathedral is so intricate and so magnificent at so many levels that I still marvel at its grandeur even after a year. I do remember promising a special entry for it, and no, I still haven’t worked on it, but it’s on my to-do list and it will be done before I leave this place for good.
Favourite French food
Magret de canard from Bistro Regent in Bordeaux
People usually think of wine, cheese, baguette, and foie gras when French food is mentioned. Yes, I’ve tried all of those, but my favourite French-styled dish so far is a specialty in southwestern France – duck. Of course, I’ve had Chinese-styled duck many a time, with the crispy skin and all, but I fell in love with magret de canard, or duck filet, after having it in Bordeaux. When done right, the meat is so tender and flavoured, and even though the thick skin is not made crispy like in the Chinese version, while complementing the meat, it doesn’t feel fatty at all! Yum yum delicious delicious!
Favourite non-French food
Seafood paella from La Gloria (I think that was the name of the restaurant) in Barcelona
Tough choice between the crispy eisbein in Germany and the seafood paella in Spain, but paella wins. After all, it’s seafood. Enough said, right? Then again, there’s such a variety of paella in Spain that you really have to try your luck to get the one with the best taste. I’ve posted this picture before, but out of the four paella meals I’ve had in Barcelona, this one was the best, AND it was “just” an appetizer (even though it was the size of a main course, which made it that much better). I’d go back to Spain just for its paella!
Favourite homemade food
Homemade mapo tofu
Living away from home forces me to practise my cooking and a year of doing so has honed my skills just a little. I’m particularly proud of the mapo tofu, or spicy chili tofu, that I’ve managed to succeed several times. Simple recipe, great taste! On a side note, Chinese cooking is so much fun; you just toss in whatever you have available and experiment until you get something completely out of the ordinary. It’s a spontaneous form of art, and if I remember, I will write a special entry on food later on with more thoughts on cooking.
Favourite animal sighting
Wandering bird that loitered around our church
If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you’d probably remember that I’ve seen quite a few random animals in various corners of the city. My favourite sighting so far was the little bird that flew into our church on the night of our rehearsal for Chinese new year. The bad news was that I found its dead body laying on the ground the next day…yeah. It was probably trapped inside and died of hunger or coldness…made me sad.
Favourite city aside from Bordeaux
Counting down to the 2012 Olympic Games at Trafalgar Square
It was a choice between Brussels, London, and Barcelona, and I will once again be honest and say (some people will be surprised) London. Why not Brussels? Although a great city, I didn’t experience enough of it and I will make sure I do the next time I head back to Belgium, which is next week. Why not Barcelona? I don’t know, really, it just didn’t STRIKE me enough and didn’t have enough appeal to beat London. I actually can’t believe I chose London as well, but putting aside the people, the place itself was wonderful compared to some other huge cities *cough*Paris*cough*. The architecture was amazing and the museums were free. Give it some credit!
Favourite mode of transportation
Train station at Paris Charles De Gaulle airport
Not many choices here. Intracity transportation happens on foot, by tram, by bus, by car, or by bike, and intercity travel would be either by train or by plane. I’m really only talking about going between cities or countries here, so naturally, train would be the number one choice. After so many flights, I still have that intrinsic fear of being in the air, and would choose ground transportation over air in most circumstances. The seats in a train are also much more comfortable. Plus, all you see in the airplane are clouds 90% of the time, and you’re missing out on so much scenery en route! Why NOT?
Favourite group picture
Worship team POWER! Chilling outside the church after the 2011 Chinese new year evangelical event
As I was reorganizing my pictures the other day I realized that a great number of group photos with friends has been taken in the past year, especially with my fellowship. This was our worship team as of February 2011, taken outside our church after the Chinese new year evangelical event. You can’t see my face in this picture as I was being pushed, but I love this photo for so many reasons. The bright red and purple outfits, the resplendent smiles, the chemistry and friendship between the team members…GO TEAM!
Overall, the first year in Europe has been filled with wonders, adventures, change and blessings. I cannot give enough thanks to God for bringing me here and giving me all these opportunities to serve, and I am wholeheartedly grateful to the friends that I’ve met in the various cities I’ve travelled to. Let’s continue the awesomeness in year 2!!!