Keen on Caffeine

Coffee lovers, rejoice! Wine is, of course, Bordeaux’s signature attraction. But, there is more than one locally distinguished beverage to be found in this city. Bordeaux is home to several artisanal coffee shops, cafés, and roasters, or les torrefacteurs.

Today, I present to you Bordeaux’s Coffee Map or “Porcelain Trail,” if you will. This map marks Bordeaux’s most authentic, exceptional, and inventive coffee establishments. Each offers outstanding service, aesthetic atmospheres, and true craftsmanship in every pour. This map has aided me greatly in discovering some truly remarkable brews, so I had to share! 

Among my personal favorites are Café PIHA and SIP Coffee Bar, as well as Books & Coffee and Saint-James (which are not featured on the map). 

I like to judge a café’s quality on its humble espresso, “Un café, c’est tout!” But, Café PIHA’s signature drinks are concoctions of pure genius. If you’re tastebuds are adventurous, then this is the place for you! 

With their loft seating, WiFi, and laptop-squatter friendly attitude, SIP Coffee Bar is perfect for afternoons spent studying. Their unique cafés filtres are a must try. And, their carrot cake is amazing.

Books & Coffee is the coziest hole-in-the wall café. Curl up with a cappuccino and a good read during their quiet hours, or gather the ladies for a phenomenal, affordable brunch feast on the weekends. I can’t recommend this spot enough!

Next door you’ll find the very stylish venue of Saint-James; decorated with chic tiles, hanging plants, and modern industrial fixtures. Stop here if appearances are your priority. The stained glass windows offer fantastic lighting. Do it for the ‘gram!

I hope Bordeaux’s Coffee Map guides you well. But, when in doubt, follow your nose and follow the locals. They know best!

Images Courtesy of the Instragrams of Café PIHA, SIP Coffee Bar, Books & Coffee, and Saint-James FR (left to right)

The Full Circle of Travel

As a student pursuing a dual-degree at the European Business School in Germany, I have the unique privilege of spending three semesters abroad. I began Part 1 of 3 on January 4th and I marked the end on May 28th. With each of these flights, something very similar – and very stressful – happened. I missed the last connection for the final leg of the journey. I want to reflect on both so that someone may find humor and perhaps advice from my experience.

I moved abroad on January 4, 2019. At a total of 13 hours for the trip, it was my longest to that point and the one for which I was most excited. It seemed to be pretty straightforward – Louisville to DC, 2-hour layover, DC to Munich, 1.5-hour layover, Munich to Frankfurt. And it was. For the first connection. However, on the trans-Atlantic flight, it began to snow in southern Germany. By the time we were set to land, snow and ice had layered on the runway. They had to scrape the runway before we could land. First obstacle. Then, once off, I had to go through Customs and Border Control before racing to my gate. But only, that gate was no longer my gate. I went to the service desk for updated information, and I was sent to the other side of the airport. I hurried off only to find that even though the new gate had a plane going to Frankfurt, it wasn’t “my plane.” Second obstacle. I raced to the service desk, only to be told that “my gate” was four down from the original, on the other side of the airport. I made an honest effort to make it back but came up short. First setback. The only thing to do in this situation is to go to the main service desk, explain what happened, make some fake tears fall down your face (reserve this for if they think it was your fault that you missed the connection), and negotiate to get a new ticket. This is exactly what I did to a resounding success. Except for one thing. No flights could accommodate me, so I was forced to take a 4-hour train from Munich to Frankfurt. Second setback. After two further weather delays of my trains, I arrived at my apartment in the small community of Oestrich-Winkel.

Now in my five months abroad, I came to really enjoy and appreciate Oestrich-Winkel, Germany, and Europe. However, I was excited about the chance to come home for the summer to see friends and family. As such, I booked a flight – Frankfurt to Amsterdam, 1.5-hour layover, Amsterdam to Detroit, 1.5-hour layover, Detroit to Louisville. As before, the first connection went as planned. I boarded my trans-Atlantic flight, got settled in for the long trip, and was anxious to be back on American ground (how naïve to think it would be easy). We were sitting on the runway in Amsterdam, waiting for clearance to take off, when a young man alerted the flight attendants that he was having chest pains and needed to get off the plane. So, as before, the notion that this would be a no-issue flight went out the window. We had to taxi back to the runway, get him off, find his checked bags in the luggage hold, refuel the aircraft, and cool down the brakes. Altogether, this process delayed our flight by about an hour. Unfortunately, this only left 30 minutes for me to alight, go through Customs, find my checked bag and recheck it, go back through security, and find my way to the correct gate. Needless to say, I missed my final plane by about 45 minutes. Thankfully, I had the experience needed to handle this. I marched to the main service desk, explained what happened, and negotiated for a new ticket as before. I landed back in Louisville at 9:30 pm, ready to start the summer!

Conclusion: delays can and probably will happen. Flights can and probably will be missed. Keep calm and put on a smile (or tears, depending on the situation) and ask for a new ticket. Before long, you’ll be on your way again, loaded with a wonderful story to tell your folks and a perfect subject for your travel blogs!

STUDY Abroad

Moving abroad and becoming a member of a new community and culture is very exciting. The “need” to do and see everything immediately can be overwhelming. Questions like “when should I travel,” “what other countries should I visit,” and “why shouldn’t I skip class to sightsee” can quickly take up home in one’s mind. Through all of these thoughts, one must take a moment to step back and reflect on the purpose of going abroad. Yes, of course, one should take in all of the sights and experience the culture, but one’s studies cannot get lost in the haze. If you want a perfect balance, my biggest piece of advice is this: learn the expectations of the class and the formatting of the examination, be very liberal with the time commitment expectations, and only then, plan your fun stuff.

I make this recommendation from personal experience. No, I am not a bad student. No, I didn’t skip class. But yes, I could have avoided a LOT of stress and days of no sleep if someone had told me this from the beginning. The biggest surprise to me was that my school doesn’t give midterms or homework. The course grade is determined by one’s performance on a final exam (and no, they weren’t multiple choice exams; they were all short response and essay format) or a presentation. Also, please realize that not all classes should be given the same time commitment. Some exams are easy, like my data analysis course, where we could bring a cheat sheet. Other are not. Take, for example, my investments course, which is the hardest course I’ve taken in college. I found the course very interesting, and I felt pretty confident that I could do well with only a few hours of studying the day before the exam. With all of that confidence, I took extended trips to nearby countries and surrounding cities whenever free. I never turned down dinner out with friends, a drink at the bar, or a long, nightly Netflix session. That was until about two weeks before the exam, when I learned from older students that only five students of about 100 passed the exam (before the professor was required to adjust the scores) the previous semester. Calm turned into panic, confidence into fear. Over the next 14 days and 8 exams, I drank approximately 45 cups of tea, 12 bottles of wine, ate 6 bags of Snickers bars, and pulled 3 all-nighters.

For the sake of your mind and body, please learn the expectations and learn them well. You’ll thank me later.

The Wine Capital of France

As a wine enthusiast myself*, I am of course thrilled to be living in the wine capital of France. And I’d be lying if I said Bordeaux’s rich history of wine wasn’t a deciding factor when selecting a study abroad exchange. There are countless different ways for international students and foreign travelers to absorb the knowledge and delight that the Bordelais wine industry has to offer. Below, you’ll find descriptions of my most wine-centric experiences, all of which I highly recommend!

Make Like a Scholar and Study Wine

Incorporate wine into your academic life by enrolling in business electives. Examine and analyze the oenological industry. By studying Wine Marketing, I was able to gain major specific credit all while learning of the fascinating ins and outs behind Bordeaux’s wine economy.

Fine or Fair Dining

Wine is an integral part of la vie en France, especially for the Bordelais, especially when paired with great food. A glass of red sipped with a delicious dish is both routine and celebrated. One of the best ways to immerse yourself into the world of wine is to simply partake! Taste and discover for yourself! Treat yourself to a prestigious grand cru classé at a one of Bordeaux’s finest restaurants or go the more affordable route and order from la carte du vin at a casual apéro bar. A personal favorite of mine is the Vintage Café, featuring an ambient atmosphere, fantastically low prices, and cozy outdoor seating with a view of la Garonne. 

Tour La Cité du Vin

La Cité du Vin is an absolute must see! This interactive museum will expand your wine vocabulary tenfold. Rise to the top floor and finish your tour with a rare, affordable tasting of an awarded wine of your choice. 

l’Intendant Grands Vins de Bordeaux

Take a gander up the narrow spiral staircase of this renowned wine cellar. Feel free to just browse; looky-loos are welcome. The boutique is an attraction in itself, trading bottles upon bottles of terroir specific wines. There’s a bottle for everyone. Some are dry reds. Some are sweet whites. Some are novelty sized, both small and large (well massive really, you’d need a trough to drink bottles of that size). Some are priced at shockingly high numbers, literally climbing into the millions. And some are promoted as staple Bordelais souvenirs. Before you go, be sure to catch the view of Bordeaux’s Grand Theatre from the highest story. It makes for an Instagram-worthy shot. 

Châteaux of the Bordeaux Terroir

One of my most memorable excursions from Bordeaux includes a sunny day spent in the village of Saint-Émilion. Here, I toured the marvelous grounds of Château de Pressac. There are countless more châteaux within the borders of Bordeaux’s wine production region. You can tour the cellars and vineyards of these castles for a fair price, where a travel guide and wine tasting is always included.

February views of Château de Pressac’s vineyards

* Please note that due to the US’s restrictive federal regulations, I have only consumed wine in countries where in which I was legally of age


Arriving to China was very cool, the flight was not that bad, the movie selection was pretty good. I wish I would have slept more on the flight. I got in late Saturday night. Making sure your phone is unlocked is important,mine was not unlocked when I first arrived. i bought a SIM card and portable WiFi device at the airport, I would not recommend doing this. The people helping run the program will help you set up a phone plan while you are here and a bank account. Unlocking your phone is not very hard if you forgot to do it before you arrive, just google how to do it, or you get someone here to do it. I got suckered into a black market taxi and paid way to much for a taxi but it’s okay I learned a valuable lesson. They have an app call “didi” which is like Chinese Uber which someone used to get from the airport to campus. But once I arrived at my destination I got out of the car and just started walking and did not know where I was going at all but thankfully someone saw me and stopped me and helped me. Took me to the right way and helped me all the way to my room. Without her I don’t know what I would have done. Her name is Ma Pu she is Japanese and studying Chinese. I am hoping to see again. The first couple nights I woke up every morning about 4 and I only have been sleeping about 4 hours. Last night (which it is not Tuesday as I am writing this)I finally got some good rest and I feel a lot better today. I am enjoying it here in Shanghai it is a lot different and some people will stare at you

La Petite Ville des Quatre Saisons

One of my most memorable excursions from Bordeaux includes a sunny day spent in Arcachon, France. Arcachon is a charming little village along the southern Atlantic coast nestled in Le Bassin d’Arcachon. Coined La Petite Ville des Quatre Saisons, this fishing village is a favorited destination among the locals of Bordeaux. Only an hour long train away, Arcachon makes for a lovely single day well-spent for international students. Featuring oysters, sand, and humble aesthetics, Arcachon will have you breathing easy between studies.

For your connivence, I offer a simple itinerary to guide your travels. This itinerary combines my own time spent in Arcachon as well as other experiences of my fellow étudiants étrangers.

Arcachon Itinerary

8:00AM Train Departure from Gare St. Jean | Start your travels early, morning birds, and make the most of your day. Tickets can be purchased last minute, hassle-free at station kiosques for just over 10.00€

9:00AM Train Arrival in Gare Arcachon | Simply board the shuttle for a mere 1.00€

10:30AM Brunch Atop La Dune du Pilat | Treat yourself to a pique-nique of bread, jam, and cheese after conquering the barefoot trek up Europe’s tallest sand dune. Sunbathe at the peak, or tumble down the slopes towards La Plage de la Corniche. Whichever you choose, the view is spectacular and free of charge! Return to the city center by shuttle or by bike. 

2:00PM Stroll the Streets of Le Ville d’Hiver | Arcachon is known for its unique division of districts, each one representing a season. Make your way to the central coast by starting further inland. Find your way through Winter Town’s maze of leafy streets. The unique architecture of Winter Town is a free attraction in itself, but if time permits, visit Parc Mauresque or the Sainte-Cécile Observatory.

4:00PM Golden Hour in Le Ville d’Été | Just a few short blocks from Winter Town is Summer Town, the heart of Arcachon. Pop in one of the many boutiques or saunter down the boardwalk. Finish with a perfectly lit photoshoot at the end of one of Arcachon’s many piers. 

6:30PM A Dinner of Oysters Galore | Follow your nose to a restaurant for an early bird dinner. Taste the Arcachon specialty: oysters. Lovers of seafood will be amazed by the spread of freshly caught fish. Le Pitt and Le Cabestan come highly recommended.

8:30PM Train Departure from Gare Arcachon | Arcachon’s station closes sooner than you’d think, so be sure to catch the last train to Bordeaux! 

Bay views over the Great Dune of Pilat

Qu’est-ce que la bise?

As an international student and a foreign traveler, it’s important to be familiar with local customs and traditions. One of the more culturally unique customs of France is la bise: the common greeting gesture of a simple, bright *smooch* against one’s cheek. 

This gesture is an essential part of la vie en France. It’s how the French greet their nearest and dearest and even how they approach their newest acquaintances. La bise is often portrayed and romanticized in cult classics and French cinema. So, it’s not an unfamiliar concept. Perhaps you’re thinking, “After all, if Audrey Tautou can fait la bise, why can’t I?”

For an additional pinch of complexity, the details of la bise vary across France. To master la bise, you should become familiar with the specific etiquette followed by the locals of your particular region. In some cities, folks lean toward the right cheek, in others, folks lean to the left. In some cities one kiss is placed, other cities go so far as to place four. It all depends on the region. For your convenience, I offer the details of my experience with la bise in Bordeaux. This includes regional specific instructions as well as my own personal words of advice. 

In actuality, the concept of la bise is trickier to grasp than you’d imagine. In fact, it’s frequently a cause of culture shock among foreigners. Many find la bise to be too intimate of a gesture in relation to the casual manner in which it’s used. 

La Bise in Bordeaux: Instructions

In Bordeaux, you begin by placing your right hand on your opposite’s right shoulder so as to firmly ground yourself. Gently place your right cheek against your opposite’s right cheek, making a *smooch* sound before switching to to place your left cheek against your opposite’s left cheek, following with another *smooch* sound. After my many awkward attempts before mastery, I share with you six areas of advice: 

  1. La bise is not a cheek kiss. Your lips should never touch your opposite. There should only be cheek-on-cheek contact.
  2. La bise is traditionally practiced between pairs of two women and pairs of one man and one woman. Men traditionally greet one another with a handshake.
  3. Following the rules of the T – V distinction is a good rule of thumb when deciding who to greet with la bise. Those who you address tutoyer, fais la bise! Those who you address vouvoyer, ne fais pas de la bise!
  4. When in doubt, take it slow and steady with deliberate movements. You don’t want your lips, your hands, or your head (yes head, I’ve accidentally knocked skulls with someone) to accidentally fall somewhere else. 
  5. The sound of your *smooch* should be loud. La bise is just plain weird if it’s not audible.
  6. If you’re truly not comfortable with la bise, know that a handshake is a perfectly acceptable alternative. I’ve adored adopting the gesture of la bise to greet my close, personal friends. However, as someone who is more physically reserved, I find la bise very uncomfortable in the early stages of relationships, especially with men. Often, men have attempted to pressure me into la bise. This has actually been the cause of quite the controversy concerning the etiquette of this gesture. Given my own unpleasant experience, I felt it was imperative to share with any other fellow female travelers that, even as a foreigner, you are by no means required to practice la bise. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten the argument, “Oh, but you want to be as the French, non?” Oof… in short, I’ve found insisting on a handshake diffuses the situation with ease.

All in all, I very much recommend trying your hand at la bise while in France. With practice, this greeting can become a noteworthy achievement of your French cultural emersion. But remember, you must find your own personal balance between new and exciting foreign customs and your own native customs.

PSA: It’s YOUR Study Abroad

Choosing to study abroad is scary regardless of how many people will tell you it is the opportunity of a lifetime. Most of the people that you will talk to haven’t been in your shoes and therefore, they don’t necessarily understand the complex emotions that might come with leaving home. It is very important to keep in mind that this is your experience and it doesn’t have to meet anyone’s expectations but yours.

Not everything is going to go right. You might decide on a location just to find out that they don’t have your program or you might find the perfect flight just to refresh and realize that it is suddenly $1,000 more expensive than it was 5 minutes ago. It is going to be fine. There are so many thing that you have to get in order before you are ready to go abroad. Don’t let one thing deter you from having a positive outlook on the experience.

Finally, consider what YOU want. You can ask the opinion of everyone that you know but this is ultimately your trip and you won’t be happy if you do what you are told rather than what you are comfortable with. If money is the problem, apply for scholarships. If your family isn’t on board, explain to them how important this is to you. Everything will fall in place if you listen to what you want.

What I Wasn’t Told To Expect

There are a lot of things that you plan for when you know that you are going to live in another country for any period of time. You plan out how to get cash in the proper currency before arriving. You plan to say goodbye to your friends and family for a bit. You do not plan where you’re going to buy your pillow that first night.

I arrived to my accommodation knowing that there were many essentials that I was going to have to purchase. I think that just comes with the fact that you are expected to pack 5 months worth of items in 50 pounds or less in order to get here in the first place. I knew that I was going to need bedding, towels, kitchen essentials, shampoo, etc. I did not know that I was going to go to three stores and none would have a duvet that would fit my bed. The first night I slept with the smallest blanket that only covered my feet and arms at the same time if I curled into a ball. Scotland is not a warm country either and I sure was reminded of that fact throughout the night. The moral of the story is that even though that night sucked, I work up the next day and figured it out. Even if one night isn’t the best, get up the next day with a good outlook. I figured somewhere had to have a single duvet and I just needed to find that place.

What I also wasn’t exactly expecting was the fact that when I did happen to find the duvet, I was going to have to walk with it all the way back to the accommodation. In the US we really take our cars for granted. If something is over 10 minutes away we will drive. In most European countries, people walk everywhere. It is normal to have a 30-40 minute walk in the cold and think nothing of it. This includes when you go shopping for clothes, groceries, or even a duvet. I am under the strong belief that this completely sucks but you get used to it rather quickly.

Also they make you pay for bags and to go coffee cups because the environment is important to them. So bring your own if you don’t want the extra charge. I had so many TJMaxx reusable bags that would have saved my life (and wallet) if only I had thought to bring them to Europe.

Finally, Scotland is windy, hilly, and my favorite place on Earth. That’s that.