So, we’ve hit the 5 week mark since arriving in La Rochelle. There have been SO MANY emotions then I could have ever prepared for in these first few weeks. Every day theres a new challenge, every day is different and every day there is something else to miss and something else to appreciate. I’ll give you an insight to how the first month overseas has been for us.
We caught the train from Paris – La Rochelle which is a journey just under 3 hours. We were picked up by the manager of Ihaias new club, Stade Rochelais, in our new car which is a nice Kia SUV. We’re meant to move into a house that the club sets up for us but its being built in a new sub division and not finished yet so we’re put in an apartment right in the town centre for the next three weeks.
The first week is a total blur of still getting over jetlag, feeling out of sorts and exploring whats around us. The town centre is cute with medieval castles, a ferris wheel, bridges and a couple of boat ports. Restaurants and cafes scatter the waterfront and theres a beach thats a 10min walk away from our apartment. We’ve arrived at the end of summer and its still nice and hot. Ihaia takes the car to training so most days I got out and walked the streets, brought fresh produce from the markets, checked out the shopping and go to the beach. We ate out a lot as there are sooo many places right outside our door, not many were great but we found a few good places. We also had a couple of life admin meetings with the bank etc which take a long time, there is lots of paper work in France. We are lucky as the rugby club sets us up with accommodation, contacts for a bank and they provide our phone sim. The phone service isn’t great here as there are many stone buildings that block it out. While being out and about, we try to get comfortable using the little French we know.
Stade Rochelais had their first game of the season on Saturday and as Ihaia wasn’t playing, he had a couple of promos at the stadium before the game starts so I follow him around for those as I have no idea how to find the seats on our tickets. It was pretty cool seeing the fans, walking around the stadium and getting a feel for the atmosphere at these games. It also took me by surprise that people are allowed to smoke in the stadium too! It was a full house with 16,000 fans in the stands.
This week I joined a gym, yay for some routine! When I went for my first workout it was the first time I felt like I was doing something normal and something that was “easy”, like I knew what I was doing and how to do it. Pretty cool that working out is such a world wide language in a way. The gym I signed up to does a couple of Les Mills classes, which was interesting doing a pump class in French but is awesome as I am definitely more of a class girl. However the first class of the day is at 9.30am (lol, no 5am wake ups for anyone to workout here) buuttt I’ll need to start planning my own work outs and doing them too as theres not lots of variety so that’ll be something new for me!
We’re totally thrown by the timing of most food places, for example, they’ll open 10-3pm then they close and open again from 7-11pm. We are really really missing breakfast foods and somehow keep getting hungry when everything is shut. The eating over here is a totally different culture, we went into a restaurant just for dessert one night and got turned away. Some shops are the same, they close between 12-2.30pm so I do have to be conscious about planning out the day to do jobs when shops are open. Another funny (weird, annoying) thing was I saw a dress on a mannequin in a shop and went in to ask if I could try it on and the lady said no. Lol. I don’t get some things.
We ventured out and found a big supermarket and some department stores. I had to use Google translate a lot in the supermarket and some things I opened at home were definitely not what I was expecting! I tried to buy some ingredients to bake banana&choc muffins but brought the wrong butter and the words for “baking powder” on Google translate must have been wrong because that was not what was in the packet! So massive fail. At the moment it’s hard planning meals/writing a shopping list as when you get to the supermarket, they either don’t have something you want or you’re unable to find it! At the moment we just have to wing it once we’re there to avoid disappointment or frustration. At some supermarkets you have to price your fruit and veggie in that section on a machine and I didn’t know that and got turned away from the checkout to go back and do it. Grrr. Its the small things!!
We feel superrrrrrr homesick near the end of the week. The first few weeks of figuring things out, so much being different, the language barrier, the way the French do things, all just get very overwhelming.
WEEK THREE & FOUR
I finally got behind the wheel of Keith the Kia this week (of course we’ve named our car). I’ve never driven on the other side of the road before and its definitely going to take some getting used too as I keep veering to the side I’m used too and get dangerously close to the curb or parked cars. The street lights are different here, they’re not ahead of you when you stop, they’re inline with you and theres a lower set of lights so if you’re the first car you can see the light. I have to seriously think at roundabouts too! Its all opposite! Ihaia wasn’t the best passenger driver so maybe I’ll try again by myself next time.
On the weekend, Ihaia is playing his first game for Stade Rochelais in Toulouse so a perfect opportunity to get there myself and also catch up with some friends from home who’s husbands now play for Toulouse. Ihaia left early Friday morning and I had my first night in La Rochelle alone which was scary and I didn’t get much sleep (also kept thinking about the movie “Taken” and the fact that I had no idea what the emergency number was here) but I was up and on the train to Toulouse at 7.45am on Saturday. I had 2 trains to catch and both were around 2 hours. I had 10mins to switch trains at Bordeaux where I asked 3 people directions to my next train and double checked I was at the right platform before I got on the last train to Toulouse! The train attendant was also getting out at each stop and having a quick smoke before continuing his job on board, lol. Smoking is seriously everywhere! Toulouse was so hot compared to La Rochelle, I went into the city and hit a couple of shops that La Rochelle doesn’t have to stock up on some make up and face masks (important). Toulouse is very pretty and I will definitely go back for more exploring! Ihaia and I stayed the night at the Kaino’s house which was lovely and spent Sunday at the markets, eating and catching up with them before we caught an afternoon train back to La Rochelle.
The night we got back, we had to move out of our temporary accommodation and into our permeant house. The house is a new build in a sub division and its about 80% finished, mostly the outside to do but we’re moving in anyway and I’m excited to finally unpack out of the boxes and suitcases we’ve been living out of for 4 weeks. Ihaia and I have really only lived in 1 bedroom apartments for the past couple of years and our house here is 4 bedrooms, 2 stories so we are beside ourselves with all the room (and all the decorating I can do)! All houses here have “volets” on all the windows, to keep in the warmth in winter/keep the house cool in summer and for safety. Its very different using them as we feel locked in like we’re in a siege or something and its weird waking up in the morning to no natural light and no idea what time it could be. Tell you what they’ve been good for though is day time napping, we can black out the room in seconds! We’re lucky the house is new as everything is modern and as clean as a “building site” can be at the moment (although the amount of spiders there are, omg). We’re looking forward to the house being finished and being able to make it a home for a couple of years and can’t wait for our visitors to come over (you know who you are!!).
Stade Rochelais had a game 12.30pm on a Sunday which is Ihaia’s first home game that he’s starting. Although the night before, the team stayed in a hotel in La Rochelle so it almost feels like an away game. I was told that last year the team stayed in a hotel before every home game but this season its only sometimes. I’ve never experienced this before and I have to say that I’m not a fan! It makes it that pretty much every weekend the boys stay away and thats a no from me 🙂 🙂
Its my birthday week! I bloody love a birthday, I don’t think I’ll ever be “its just another day” birthday girl, lol. But its bitter sweet this year as its come up so close to leaving home, friends and family so I’m celebrating with a heavy heart but its my first of many in France and that’s cool too.
This week was all about overcoming fear. I’ve been driving a lot and feel more comfortable with it now, it took about 4 drives before I felt confident with it. I now drop Ihaia at training in the morning and have the car for the day. The roads are small here, they don’t seem built for 2 cars at a time and I hold my breath when there’s a bus or truck coming towards me! There are some odd road rules and crazy drivers, I also don’t know what the road signs say *nervous laugh* but it is what it is. I got a bike for my birthday so I’m learning how to ride that! I haven’t rode a bike since I was little and the other year I tried too and couldn’t (??!!!). There have actually been so many times I’ve wanted to ride – in Hawkes Bay, LA, through Paris and here in La Rochelle, so I’m finally learning on my new Bike called Beau and I’m excited about it! I have a fear of heights so Ihaia and I went on the ferris wheel in the town centre. You stay on it for 3 turns, the first time around was a nightmare, I felt so sick but the other 2 were fine, all for the Gram pic hey!
We went through a carwash this week and it was another thing so different to home! We drove up to the carwash, a worker pre-washes the car, you tell him out of your window what wash you want from the options, he takes your card to pay for it then you drive up to another bit and leave your car in neutral and the car is moved forward through the carwash as it washes and pushes you out at the exit. Honestly!
We’re in Autumn now and we’re making the most of the warm weather we’ve still got hanging on by having sunset picnics at the beach and getting out and about. A couple of the other partners and I started French lessons this week too, 2 hours every week, hopefully that helps me along with the language.
Moving countries is hard to put into words. There are so many feelings and emotions you go through! I have met plenty of great women in NZ that have moved from around the world for their men to play rugby and I had no idea what they’d been through/were going through at the time. You honestly don’t know until you do it. Of course there have been some great times the past 5 weeks for us, realising that we’re actually living in France, seeing, doing and discovering many new things but there are also things that test us daily, often more than once! The tasks that were so simple to me at home are a fight to figure out here, when I leave the house I often have to use Google Translate to get me through a conversation while I’m out and when I do leave the house I have to be ready with a positive mindset to tackle whatever comes my way from not knowing how to pay for petrol to putting the price on my fruit and veg before getting to the cashier! Whew. Its a Saturday night on our 5th week in La Rochelle as I type this and reading back through it, the past 5 weeks have been huge, fun, exciting, frustrating, tiering, the list goes on. I’m saving a lot of pictures and videos of La Rochelle as a highlight on my Instagram so check that out for a visual.
We’ll keep taking it week by week. Until the next update, au revoir. XO