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On finding our dream home, good food reads and a visit to Bordeaux
For the third installment of my newsletter (I promise after this one I’ll stop counting), I’m going to tell you how we found our home. We also spent a weekend away in Bordeaux and I did some really good reading.
As mentioned in my previous newsletter, it can be quite a hassle to figure out exactly where a house is from listings in France but if you do a bit of Googling sometimes you can find more listings and if you’re even luckier you can find your house on AirBnB (I kind loathe the ‘sharing economy’ but in this case it had to be done).
I’d actually seen the listing a couple of times and the house looked confusing and off to me. Yes! Loads of character, but why did it look so small and have two kitchens? Finally I decided to give the listing a read. And panicked. Because it looked like this might just be The House. It had two kitchens because it is two houses! Just what we wanted!
I prodded the manperson to also have a look, and because he also got more and more excited and concerned. We realised we had to kick a viewing of this house into high gear.
We’d originally planned to visit France in October and look at a few places, hope to find something that worked and then maybe move to France in March. But by the time we spotted Her online August of last year, we knew houses in our price range that met almost all of our demands and with bucketloads of character were in high demand.
So, in the same week that I sold my house in Leiden, and released my book, we drove to the South Charente for a 3 night stay in what is now our new home.
And I’m so glad we did. Who gets to test drive their future home? Staying there enabled to give us a real feel for the place and experience the garden in full swing. It also enabled us to look at everything that was wrong with the place and figure out if we could live with the TGV that wooshes by our house twice an hour a couple of times a day.
We arrived Friday, explored surrounding areas and towns on Saturday, looked at another place on Sunday and met with the realtor on Monday. Basically she came to not-yet our house, we let her in, offered her drinks in not-yet our kitchen as if it was our own, and put in an offer.
This is when she started telling us about the history and ‘issues’ of the house, something I’ll save for the next newsletter (don’t worry, I’ll also explain why this is our Dream Home™).
Bordeaux is only an hour away so we didn’t really need to spend a weekend there, but we haven’t been on vacation since before the pandemic and felt like a little weekend away was in order. A lot of people say Bordeaux is like Paris, but it has a more coastal vibe to me and the people seem friendlier too (sorry Parisians). 10/10 would recommend.
We mostly strolled around and ate, while hoarding books at Bradley’s Bookshop and Mollat and cookery equipment at Alice Délice and TOC. On the way back we stopped at EurAsie and I was finally able to buy precious precious chilies and lemon grass, as well as other Asian foodstuffs I need. A personal highlight for me was the Déstockages Bordeaux, which sells what I think is deadstock ceramics for between 1 and 7 euros. My biggest regret is not visiting Sweet Pepper, a hot sauce shop with a very good selection, so that’s on the list for a future visit.
I’d imagine people are mostly interested in where we ate in Bordeaux. It was a bit mixed bag, as Ulysse informed me France has also been suffering the wreckage of ghost kitchens so there is a lot of shit about.
My main takeaway was that if something is a national chain you probably don’t want to eat there, and if you want good eating tips have a really good browse around Gourmet Shit’s Instagram feed. The No Diet Club food tour also looks pretty cool or you can just see where they go and save those as options to go by yourself.
We did have amazing Argentinean style pizza at Fainà, including a slice of chickpea flower pizza they serve with every other slice, as well as very very good canelés at Cassonade and a solid friendly paced breakfast at Black List Cafe. The highlight for me was Louis Lamour, a bakery we visited on the morning of our departure, my favorite of theirs was a za’atar croissant filled with goat cheese and pine nuts.
Let me know in the comments if you’d like me to compose an open access Google Map (with notes!) for things I’ve tried and liked in Bordeaux, as we can only do so much per visit and I don’t want to recommend things I haven’t tried it’ll be a slow build of places but a build up none-the-less.
Once we got back home I ate Portuguese style mussels, though I’m not sure I’ll be having mussels in France again because I like my mussels thick and juicy and apparently the French like itty bitty gritty mussels. My recipe still stands though.
I’m always reading a bunch of stuff, but the past two weeks to particularly exciting finds were Odd Apples, by William Mullan who I’ve been following on Instagram for a while. I was just expecting gorgeous photography of apples, but William’s depth of knowledge of apples has left me very excited about the apple trees that surround our house, as well as odd looking apples I might come across at farmer’s markets now.
I found a copy of Modern French Culinary Art at The English Bookshop in Saint-Séverin (a secondhandbook shop with very solid offerings if you live in this part of France but can’t read French) a few weeks ago and started reading it last week. It’s very interesting to see how foundational it is. A lot of modern cookbooks either completely ignore a potential lack of experience in the kitchen or focus on kitchen noobs but Pelleprat really goes the distance in explaining everything (and I mean everything), down to what it means to ‘cook’ your something (you don’t cook, you simmer, though on ocassion you may want to flash cook and then simmer).
It’s both surprising and exciting to see that not being a pretentious asshole when sharing recipes has been around for longer then I had previously assumed.
Honestly I’ve just been binging Tiktoks because my brain is NOT on it. As a bit of a crossover to keep it going with this theme of accessible French cooking and TikTok, I highly recommend School of Chocolate (Netflix) hosted by the amazing Amaury Guichon. He’s the guy that builds wild statues out of chocolate and pastry on TikTok and Instagram and because he’s French and a pastry chef I had assumed he’d be a total dick.
I couldn’t be more wrong. Rather than have people expelled from the show for underperforming, during School of Chocolate no one goes home. Amaury insists ‘losers’ stay and learn, going so far as to offer bottom performers additional support each week to help them improve their pastry skills. This makes the show a fine example of how things should be.
I think that’s it from me for this week, three editions in let me know what you think of my free newsletter so far and if there’s anything else you’d like to read about.