Bordeaux, France (Part 2)

Stone church with tower topped with a golden spire in Bordeaux, France.
Buildings in Bordeaux.

Before we decided on which cities to visit, we had the options between Paris, Toulouse, and Bordeaux. As you can see, we decided on saving Paris for later.  Kayla and Emily decided to go to Paris the next day because they did not have any classes on Monday. However, the rest of us did and we did not plan on missing any classes (Be Responsible!). Quick advice, if you want to travel, try traveling to places you wouldn’t normally visit. Obviously, I would have visited Paris, but decided to try cities I did not know much about. Which is why our final stop was at Bordeaux.

Breakfast was pancakes served with bananas, whipped cream, organge juice and coffee.
Breakfast at Books & Coffee

After we arrived at our Airbnb in Toulouse, we got ready for the next day before we fell asleep. In total, we probably got 4 hours of sleep. We had to wake up early in the morning and walk around to go catch our bus to Bordeaux. The bus ride felt long, but we were able to catch up on sleep. When we finally arrived at our location, we walked around and tried finding a place to get breakfast. However, I guess it was too early because most places were closed. However, we ended up finding a cute place that was opened called Books & Coffee. I wanted to get a traditional French breakfast but ended up getting pancakes… don’t ask.

After breakfast, we took a tour of the city, which I don’t remember much about, mainly because I was still tired. On this tour, we met some pretty great people, two of whom were teachers. Being an education major, I asked a couple of questions and they recommended I look into teaching abroad. Anyway, we also learned about the city and how it used to be very dirty. Once cleaned, the buildings are the color they have now. On our tour, the tour guide also recommended two places to go wine tasting. When choosing between which cities we wanted to go, Bordeaux was one of them because of the wine. (Reminder: The legal drinking age in most of Europe is 18. If you’re not 18, I’m sorry). However, before we went for wine, we got lunch at a crepe place. We also stopped for macaroons.

Savory Crepe with tomatoes, muchrooms for lunch.
Crepe… this time for lunch.
Vanilla and chocolate macaroons
Macaroons (had to get some because we were in France).

One of the wine places our tour guide recommended was called Vin: Cousin & Compagnie. According to our guide, the glasses of wine were pretty cheap and the customer service was great! We did not end up going to that place for wine. Instead, we went to Le Bar à Vin, which looked classy and had great prices for the glasses of wine. We also decided to go to that one because it was closer to where we were at that moment. This place offered many wines from Bordeaux. I ended up trying a white wine and rosé. Overall, it was a great place to relax after all our walking. I was able to know more about the girls during this time.

Enjoying a glass of rosé wine.
rosé at Le Bar à Vin
Mosaic art inside Le Bar à Vin.
Inside Le Bar à Vin

While we were enjoying our wine, a group of people sitting next to us started looking at us and laughing at us. Since everyone from my group knew French, they knew what they were saying. Apparently, they were making a rude comment about us. We decided to ignore it and not cause a scene. It was a bit uncomfortable but sometimes it is better to ignore some of the things that happen in order to avoid any problems and avoid looking bad in a different country.

After that little incident, we decided to walk to the nearby fair on Place des Quinconces. Our timing was on point because the sun started setting and it looked beautiful (just look at the picture). While we walked around, we decided to have our dinner at one of the stands. We got some doner kebabs with fries on top. It was good but not as good as the ones in Galway from Capital Kebab (the best and my fave food to get when I’m too lazy to cook). After that, we walked some more and Ciara and Kayla decided to go on the ferris wheel. The rest of us waited with their bags.

Deep blue and pink sunset over the buildings in Bordeaux, France.
sunsets in Bordeaux

After this, we came upon a stand with beignets. I regret not taking a picture so you guys can see how beautiful and delicious it looked. Anyway, they made it fresh and had Nutella and Biscoff Spread. I was full and did not end up getting one. However, Ciara got one and let me try hers. It was amazing, especially with the Biscoff Spread. 10/10 recommend. After walking around some more, we went to our hostel and said goodbye to Emily and Kayla. They were going to catch either a train or bus (I don’t remember which) to go to Paris.

French Breakfast with pastry.
Finally got my French Breakfast
French Breakfast with pastry, jams and butter.
Another breakfast pic

The next morning, we had time for some breakfast before we had to head to the airport. During our tour from the previous day, the guide told us breakfast at Karl was a must because of their affordable prices and their traditional French breakfast. I was finally able to get the breakfast I wanted! Also, the food pics turned out great! After breakfast, we caught the bus to the airport and waited to head home. I loved France so much and can’t wait to go to other cities in the future.

Tall narrow stone spires.
more pics from this trip 🙂
Stone Buildings in Bordeaux
Cute building everyone was taking pics of.
Student posing in narrow street surrounded by stone buildings.
Random pic of me.


Student standing in the large city courtyard with large stone buildings in the background.
Another pic








Narrow Streets lined with tall stone buildings with many windows.
Really loved how this photo came out so I had to share.
Group of girl students with the river in the background.
With the girls.


Back to Campus

Kia ora!

I am back on campus at the University of Waikato after two months away from campus, staying in Thames with people who have become so important to me. I had no idea that the lockdown, something so uncertain, frustrating, and overwhelming would end with me forming some of the most wonderful relationships with my New Zealand whanau (family in Te Reo Māori–the Māori language). I am so lucky that I had such a wonderful place to stay and was able to build such special connections. In the last few weeks that I spent with them, we went on a drive around the Coromandel Peninsula, went fishing for snapper, and played lots of games! 

A view of the blue ocean with a blue sky and sparse white clouds behind. There is a green tree in the foreground.
I am already missing the beautiful views of the ocean in Thames!

The drive around the Coromandel Peninsula was absolutely beautiful! Exploring the area had been something that I wanted to do before I even arrived in Thames, and had actually been my original plans for the Easter weekend–before the lockdown. During the lockdown, we couldn’t go out for a drive, so we waited until we finally got to Level 2 to explore. It was a perfect day with great weather. We ate a tasty fish and chips meal and got to stop for all the beautiful views.

The Coromandel Peninsula is a popular vacation spot for Aucklanders, especially during the Christmas holiday, which is summer here. During that time, the roads are packed, but when we went, it was busier than it had been in a long time due to the lockdown, but was still relatively quiet. I am so happy that I got to have this adventure, even with all of the disruption that happened during this semester. 

A view of a green hill with the ocean behind it and the blue sky.
One of the first viewpoints that we stopped at. It was a clear day, so we could actually see the Auckland skyline in the distance.
A green hill with a tree and the blue sky behind it.
Another amazing view while driving around the Coromandel. New Zealand is such a beautiful country!

The day after we went on the drive around the peninsula, we got up early in the morning and went fishing for snapper. We left at 4:45 AM and drove out to the boat launch site with the brother of my wonderful host. He took us out on his boat into the Firth of Thames, which isn’t open ocean, so luckily I did not get seasick, which I was a little worried about, since I do get motion sick when riding in the car. We went out while it was still dark, so I had no idea which direction we were going. The ocean was kind of rough while we were driving out, so I got splashed and was already wet before we had even started catching any fish, despite wearing a waterproof jacket! I was a little worried I had made a bad choice to go along, because I was already cold and wet and we were still trying to find a good fishing spot! 

The ocean with a blue sky with clouds and golden sun
The sun coming up while we were out on the boat

It was then that we spotted a barge, which I expected to be like the cargo barges that I see on the Columbia River or taking goods across the ocean. Everyone was so excited to spot the barge and wanted to go fish next to it, which I did not understand, because the barges that I am used to would not make for a good fishing spot. As we got closer, though, I realized that this was not a cargo barge. This was a mussel barge, harvesting mussels from the farms that are all across the firth. They were pulling up long ropes covered in mussels, while machinery stripped the mussels, filled huge bags with them, and then dropped the ropes back into the sea. We dropped our fishing lines and within seconds, there were snappers on the hooks. The waste from the mussel barge attracts the snappers, making it the ideal fishing spot. We were the first boat out, so we had the best spot, right next to the barge. Within minutes, other boats started to show up, and there were about twenty five boats, all crowded together, trying to keep from hitting the barge and each other as the waves tossed us around and pulling up fish almost faster than we could manage. Fishing by the mussel barge lasted about twenty minutes before they finished the farm and sped off to go unload their harvest. In that time, we caught about twenty eight good sized fish. We moved into another area and reached our limit, thirty five fish, within the next fifteen minutes. I even caught a few and took them off the hook myself! In the US, I do not really fish much, I am usually the person who goes along but doesn’t fish, so this was a crazy experience for me. To fish for snapper in New Zealand, you do not have to have a fishing license, each person just cannot catch more than seven fish per day. I really enjoyed going fishing, and as soon as we started catching fish, I forgot that I was cold and wet, and by the end, the sun came out and I was warm. It was a really nice time!

A large boat harvesting mussels. There is a crane on the boat and the sea is rough.
The mussel barge. We got much closer to it to fish!
Fish in a cooler
Thirty five fresh snapper fish

Later that day, we made raw fish, which is sort of like ceviche. We cut the fish up and soaked the pieces in lemon juice and salt to cure. You could see a visible change in the fish as the color changed to a more opaque white hue, much like when it is cooked! We mixed it with cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and bell pepper, and then tossed it all in coconut cream. It was delicious! We also had Māori style fry bread, eaten with butter and golden syrup, which was so tasty. I went back for seconds and thirds of that meal!

We took the remaining fish fillets and the rest of the raw fish to family and friends around town, so at the end, we had a meal of fish and then none left. This is the normal way of doing things here, if you are fortunate enough to get a large amount of a food, you share with your friends and family to make sure that they have enough to eat too. Everyone shares with each other, which means no one hoards and no one goes without. I thought this was a great way to care for others and very selfless. I asked, and was told that this is just the way they do things here, why wouldn’t you want to share with those that you love?

White fish in white sauce with sliced veggies
The delicious raw fish!
Golden colored bread on a white plate
Hot, fresh fry bread

Now that I am back on campus, I am focusing on finishing up the semester! My final for my Māori culture class is next week and then in the next three weeks, I have an essay and a test for my Anthropology class, and a rewritten essay for my Food Writing class. I cannot believe that this semester is already coming to an end, I feel like I just got here and the semester was so different from what I thought it would be. I have been spending so much time with my friends on campus and we have been catching up after not seeing each other for such a long time. This weekend, we are planning a night out for my birthday, since restaurants are open with social distancing guidelines. 

A green tree and an orange tree in front of white buildings and a clear blue sky.
It is getting into autumn here, so the trees on campus are turning colors. My internal clock expects spring, so this is a strange sight for me!

I am proud of myself for handling all of the disruptions and disappointment that happened this semester. A lot of positive things came from this time, like new relationships and personal growth. I wish that I could stay here longer because I could really settle in and get my plans back on track, but I am lucky to have had the time that I did! Here is to making the last month in New Zealand amazing! 

Stay healthy and safe!


Toulouse and Bordeaux, France (Part 1)

Map of the city
Map of Toulouse

It has been a long time since my last post. Things have been crazy with finals, COVID-19, and returning home (more about that on my next post). Before all of that happened, my friends and I had an amazing trip to France!

After the trip to London, I had a trip to Toulouse and Bordeaux booked. It is a good idea to book trips in advance if you know what weekends are available. Sometimes, it is better to spontaneously book trips. This trip was booked right after the London trip. London was fun, but I was exhausted after the trip. I needed to catch up on sleep and have a day to do absolutely nothing.

For this trip, I had to meet Kimi and a couple of other friends at the Galway bus station in the middle of the night (2:30 am). Our flight to Dublin left around 7 am, which meant we would arrive at our first destination (Toulouse) in the morning. during the bus ride, I was not able to get any sleep. On the plane, I was able to get some sleep but the flight was short.  Sleep was nonexistent for any of us on this trip.  Besides sleep, I also had to worry about language because I do not know any French. My vocabulary consisted of ” Bonjour, oui, and, merci”. Thankfully I had Kimi on this trip who knew a bit of French. Enough to get us through. We also had the Google Translate App which helped us translate menus and other important things.

From the airport, we purchased bus tickets to take us to the city. Once we got off the bus, we decided to walk around and explore on our own. One of the first things we did was look for a place to eat because we were all hungry! First, we ended up at a Greek place. We were looking for breakfast meals but this place specialized in lunch and dinner meals. We only got drinks and small pastries here and decided to keep looking. We then ended up at a sandwich shop and decided to eat here, because our day would be long.

The Pink City... La Ville Rose
Toulouse aka The Pink City aka La Ville Rose
Walking the streets of Toulouse
Walking the streets of the pink city.
Crossing the Bridge
Walks across the bridge before the hail storm started.

After our brunch, we walked around the city but then the rain started. None of us were prepared for it, so we had to find a place to stay dry. Once we found a place, we had to stay there for around 10 minutes. After the rain stopped pouring like crazy, we walked some more and ended up at different cathedrals. We also took a walk around the river and crossed some bridges. While we were crossing the bridge, it started hailing hard and we had nowhere to go. Of anything that could happen on this trip, this was probably the worst. The hail was hitting us at full speed and we couldn’t turn back because we were halfway across the bridge. Our only option was to run to the end of the bridge, but we still had a long way to go.

Walks by the river
Walks by the river.
Inside the cathedral
Cathedral in Toulouse
Cathedral… if you zoom closely, you can see little figures spitting out the water from the rain.

After that, we decided to go to a cafe to stay warm and avoid the rain/ hail. While we were at the cafe, we started planning for dinner and needed to find the location of our Airbnb. We wanted to eat dinner as close to the place we were staying as we possibly could. That way, we wouldn’t have to walk a long distance very late at night.

Wine bottles
Wine from a small shop we stopped at.

Before our night plans, we walked around some more and looked inside more cathedrals. We also stopped at gift shops to buy souvenirs. We ended up getting postcards, key chains, wine openers, and other small things. I ended up getting a tote bag with some images of Toulouse and it has become my favorite thing I have bought! Throughout the day, I got to know more about the other girls that were on this trip!

Delicious dinner at La Gouaille.

As night came, we started walking towards the restaurant. The restaurant we went to was Restaurant La Gouaille. The person serving us was very kind and helpful to us, especially because he knew that we were not fluent in French. He recommended some of the dishes and I ended up getting a chicken dish that came with sweet potatoes, rice, and a salad. Before our food came, we all had a salad and some bread. The bread was warm and the salad had a lot of flavors. At that point, if that was all I had for dinner, I wouldn’t complain. It was THAT good. We also ordered some wine to share between us. Afterwards, we were just sitting and talking and the restaurant started to get busy. The person helping us asked us if we can go to the bar area because others wanted to eat. He felt bad about doing that but we understood. He ended up giving all of us a free shot of rum. By now, it was almost time for us to check into the Airbnb.  Ciara and I decided to walk around for a bit more. While we were walking, we came upon a small place that had crepes. Since we were in France, we decided to get crepes.

After this small adventure, we decided to head to the Airbnb with the other girls. The place we got was a small apartment and it was so cute! If I was living alone and had my own place in France, this apartment would be it. I regret not taking any pictures of this place. We were all tired and showered before we fell asleep. We had to wake up early the next day to catch a bus to Bordeaux.


I don’t remember where I took this picture but I loved this building!
Flowers at a cute flower shop we came upon.



A Move to Level 3

Kia ora!

A lot has happened since I last wrote. New Zealand has moved from Level 4 to Level 3. This does not change my situation much, as I am not yet allowed back to campus housing and everyone who can work and learn remotely is still being asked to do so. We can extend our bubbles by one person if necessary, and we can travel a bit more in our region if need be. In a few days, we should know if we are able to move to Level 2 and when that will be. At Level 2, I will be allowed to return to campus. I have a little less than two months left in New Zealand and I am determined to do as much as I can in the time that I have left. Since we can travel a bit more in our region, I got to go mushroom hunting and rock fishing! We went out to some paddocks owned by the family of my wonderful hosts and picked mushrooms. I don’t really enjoy eating mushrooms and I was worried I was picking the wrong mushrooms the whole time, since I don’t eat them. I was assured over and over that I was picking the right ones and that they were edible. It was such a cool experience, because I had never picked mushrooms before!

A paddock with green grass and a blue sky. A pine tree is in the background of the image.
The paddock where we went mushroom hunting.
A red bucket with white mushrooms in the bottom, held over green grass.
Picking mushrooms!

I also got to go fishing from the rocks at the beach, which is allowed in Level 3. We woke up  and drove about ten minutes to a nearby beach at 6:00 AM. I got to see the sunrise, which was beautiful. We were fishing for snapper, and we did not catch any because the season is coming to an end, but it was so wonderful to get out of the house and be in the fresh ocean air and see a beautiful sunrise. 

The ocean coming up to dark colored rocks with a sunrise in the sky behind them. The sky is pink and blue with a few clouds.
The sunrise over the ocean at Whakatete Bay, where we went fishing.
A fishing pole stands in the rocks with the ocean in the background. The sun is just starting to come up and the sky is deep purple and blue.
One of the surf fishing poles, just waiting for a bite when we first got to Whakatete Bay.
The sun is beginning to rise over the mountains. The mountains are dark and the sky is deep purple with some pinks.
The sun rising over the mountains. I couldn’t resist sharing one more beautiful picture!

One issue I have recently run into is that of prescription medication! I brought 90 day supplies of my prescription medicine with me into New Zealand, which is the most that you can legally bring with you. We had planned for my mom to send me refills of my prescriptions when I ran out, and her sending of the medicine kept getting pushed out due to my insurance in the US and the Level 4 stopping the delivery of packages here in New Zealand.

She went to mail my prescriptions today, and then we learned that sending prescription medicines via the mail is actually illegal! It completely makes sense that it is illegal, and so I have had to reach out to the Student Health Center at the University of Waikato to see if they can prescribe my medication to me here. Living without my medication will not necessarily threaten my life, and so I am really lucky that I don’t have more serious conditions. However, taking my medication does greatly improve my life and I need to figure out how to secure those prescriptions here. I hope that if anyone reading this story is planning to study abroad, you consider how you are going to get your prescription medicine while abroad, if you need any medications! I am going to get this figured out, so it will not end up being a big deal, but rather just something to learn from. 

Small red fruits in a plastic bag.
A new fruit I got to try! Everyone here calls these guavas, and they are not what I would think of as a guava, but I don’t know what else to call them! They are sour and sweet and so delicious!

Last week, I used feijoas, my favorite fruit here, to make a loaf (like banana bread) and a cake! I covered them with cream cheese frosting, and they were DELICIOUS!! I loved getting to make something and share it! I love cooking, and it always makes me feel better to make something in the kitchen!

A feijoa loaf, a baked good, with cream cheese frosting on top, still in the pan.
The feijoa loaf, covered in cream cheese frosting.

I also made my speciality – calzones. They are my family’s favorite thing for me to make and they always request it when I am home. I used my recipe from home, but altered the fillings a little with what we had available here. They turned out amazing and everyone loved them! Usually, in the US, I serve them with a pizza style tomato sauce on the side to dip into. When I said that here, my hosts went to the fridge and brought me back a bottle of ketchup, which they call tomato sauce here. I had to backtrack and say I needed something like pizza sauce, but unfortunately, everyone in New Zealand seems to be making pizza, because tomato products are one thing that the grocery stores are consistently out of. They ended up eating the calzones with barbecue sauce, because they put that on their pizzas here. They loved them, and that is all that matters to me! 

Three calzones, fresh out of the oven on a baking tray.
Calzones in New Zealand, fresh out of the oven!

I am hoping for good news in the next few days regarding a move to Level 2, since for the last two days, we have had ZERO new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. That is absolutely incredible and I am so thankful to be here and be so safe during this scary time. I hope that you are all healthy and safe. Keep washing your hands and practicing social distancing!

A pink rose blooming with greenery in the background.
The weather has been unseasonably warm, and the roses are still blooming!