Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bordeaux National Opera Ballet Company - Interview with one of their Dancers

Oliviero Bifulco 
dancing with the National Opera Ballet of Bordeaux

This is a post I'm really excited to share as we are in the middle of the Holiday season and one of my favorite traditions is to see the Nutcracker ballet. I have seen many productions through the years both at the professional level and the student level. Each one is unique but all are so enjoyable. This year in Bordeaux, we are fortunate enough to have our local Company-The National Opera Ballet of Bordeaux perform the story.  The last time they did this was in 2011. 

Through the wonders of social media (always nice to share good stories!) I connected with one of the newest members of the company and Oliviero was nice enough to share his story with me.  I hope you enjoy reading about him and more importantly - I hope you have an opportunity to  see him dance in the Nutcracker Ballet or in other ballets later this year in Bordeaux.

Oliviero is from outside of  Milan, Italy and just arrived in Bordeaux last August.  He has danced since he was 10 years old and by 12, he had entered the famous LaScala Theater Ballet School in Milan.  One would think that perhaps he might have always wanted to be a dancer, but really he shared that he started dancing just for was something to do - an activity to try. He found he was good at it and encouraged to continue.  By 11 he was entering and winning competitions.  Initially, he stuck with it as he doing well but he also found he was working with people who encouraged and inspired him - they lived their passion.  That just made him more passionate to dance.
 As a mother and former guidance counselor, I was moved by this young man's poise and maturity.  He's living his life doing something that he's passionate about.  He further appreciates how dance has changed his life and at the same time guides his life.  He shared that he truly understands how working hard can help you achieve great things.  He's excited about his opportunity to dance in Bordeaux.  
His maturity, grace and ability to express himself seemed far beyond his 19 years. Not only does he speak fluent English, but also French in addition to his native Italian.  At the same time, he's a down to earth guy, who loves social media, going out with his friends and enjoying life, like any other young man his age.

He loves all kinds of music, too many to name just one kind but one of his favorite singers is Beyonce.  He also loves the arts - going to museums - taking in art, history and masterpieces of the past.  

He said that he wouldn't be where he is today without the support of his family.  He truly appreciated his mother's encouragement and his parents committment to allowing him improve his dance ability by attending La Scala and pursue what steadily became his dream.

He's inspired not only by his family but by other professional dancers - Roberto Bolle  of the American Theater Ballet for his commitment and versatility with dance.  He' s also inspired by Xiomara Reyes, a cuban female dancer also with the American Theater Ballet Company.  Both dancers live their passion and work hard to achieve their success.  This ethic is what Oliviero says he finds rewarding and inspiring.  It's become part of who he is today.  After speaking with him, I couldn't agree more - he embodies these values and definitely seems to live them in his dance.  

I hope you have enjoyed learning a little more about one of the dancers with the Bordeaux National Opera Company.  If you are in the Bordeaux area, you can see him perform the Russian Dance in the Nutcracker and he will be in other productions later this year. (Having seen him in the Dress Rehearsal - I have to say he's an excellent dancer and so fun to watch!)

It was refreshing to meet a young man who is following his dream, appreciates life and is passionate by everything that is around him but also strives to keep moving forward. According to Oliviero, life is a journey and experiences build upon each other.  He's so appreciative of his path, the insights he has gained, people he has met and opportunities he's had.  It was truly refreshing to interview and listen to him.  

On a final note -  He's also really enjoying the city of Bordeaux and all that it has to offer - and after speaking with him - I'm not surprised!  

*Photos copyrighted and furnished by Oliviero Bifulco

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Christmas Season in France-with New & Old Traditions

Celebrating new Traditions in France
Place Pey Berland & the Cathedral Saint Andre
I am writing this particular post as part of the Multicultural Kids Blog - Christmas in Different lands Series - but I'm also excited to share with everyone how we celebrate the holiday season in France.

This will be our 4th Christmas that we have spent in France and our first in a new home and also the first where the girls will split their time between myself and their father.  Due to this new family circumstance, I am extremely aware of the traditions we have as a family and how to blend our cultures together, yet at the same time maintain continuity for my girls.  I know when I look back on my Christmas memories - I have some fond ones and some traditions that have also shared with my girls.
Prior to moving to France, our holidays were what I would consider "very American" with a few French touches-  house decorated inside and out, beautiful tall tree all decked out in memorable ornaments and tinsel.  We would celebrate the holiday either with my parents and/or friends - having both a large Christmas Eve dinner (French style) and then a nice Christmas day dinner (American). The girls would all get up on Christmas morning, toddle downstairs and be in awe of what Santa had delivered.  Similar to how I grew up, we opened stockings first and then have a light breakfast and open the rest of the presents.  We often went to a church throughout the advent season (although missing Christmas eve - often due to the early time of the service and our French Christmas Eve dinner).  Other traditions which we enjoyed in the US were afternoon tree trimming, cookie making, enjoying a performance of the Nutcracker, enjoying a Victorian street walk in our town along with a breakfast with Santa at the Festival of Trees.  There was often snow on the ground - very Norman Rockwell.  Giving the feel of a quintessential American Christmas.  

Holiday dinners
Fast forward to Christmas in France - similar but different.  Due to a packing snafu when we moved here - none of our beloved Christmas ornaments & decorations moved with us.  That left me with the task of starting over with ornaments on the tree.  It also meant that our house would not have the same familiar feel or memories that the decorations each year brought us.  But  my creative side took over and for that first year, the girls and I painted and decorated white balls to put up on our tree. Although they missed their beloved ornaments (collections that were started from birth), they marveled in the fact that they got to decorate and create new ones.  Each year for the past few years, we have added additional ornaments to this new collection and it has created new memories for us. Our tree has become more "French" and as we have learned by looking at other people's trees - they are pretty simply decorated here - gold, silver, red or green balls tend to be the norm.  The trees are also smaller (due to space issues) here.  Houses are also not decorated on the outside.
Place de la Comedie - Bordeaux
So what are our new traditions here in France?  First off - one of the things I notice in France is the lights!  The city of Bordeaux and every quarter and town all have lights up and down the streets. There are also decorated often with lit up trees in town squares.  It's stunning and so beautiful - often mesmerizing and really gives that Christmas feel.  One can walk downtown any night and just take in the beauty of the lights.  We have often taken a late afternoon/evening to go walk around the center of Bordeaux.  It's just looks so different during the holidays.  In certain town centers - Christmas music can also be heard from the public loud speakers, again putting everyone in the holiday mood.
Cours Intendance - Bordeaux
In addition to the city lights - Bordeaux, like many other European cities, has a Christmas market.  It's set up right in the city center on Allee Tourny, adjacent to the Place de la Comedie.  The market is open each day during the whole month of December.  Again, it's just so fun to go walk around, browse at the artisan gifts and other seasonal items.  A unique place to find great Christmas gifts.  After one walks around the Christmas market - it's also fun to just window shop in Bordeaux.  The stores here still keep the tradition of decorating their storefront windows with beautiful holiday decor and special displays.  This whole experience is very European to me.  
The girls at Place de la Comedie
Another fun tradition here in Bordeaux is ice skating.  Yes, you read that correctly - we have an outdoor ice skating rink that sets up next to Cathedral Saint Andre.  This is a great family fun outing.  The weather may not be the coldest here and we don't have snow - but there is just something about ice skating at the holidays! We often make it down to the rink 3 or 4 times.  This year - my oldest will be heading there herself with friends to enjoy some teenage time together.  It's especially pretty at after dark as the town is lit up all around you.

Advent Candlelight Holy Communion Service
We also celebrate Advent here.  As I've said in a previous post - I am a pretty spiritual person and although I don't attend church weekly - there are certain times of the year that it provides that extra spiritual balance.  The Advent season is one of them.  Our Anglican Church in Bordeaux does a couple very special services - the first being The Candlelit Advent Holy Communion Service and the second the Advent Carol Service.  Both services are a time to reflect on the holidays being a time for giving - not just receiving.  In previous years, we have attended these services and it's worked out nicely this year, that the 2 services fall on the weekends that the girls are with me.  We attended the Communion service the other night and it filled us up with Christmas spirit.  It was a beautiful way to start the holiday season.  I have been impressed with my girls that when asked if they wanted to attend, they all said yes- of course. For them going to church is just one part of their holiday traditions.
The yummy chocolate Advent Calenders
Advent calendars are really big here in France.  They range from the simple chocolate Advent calenders counting down to the 25th to more elaborate bags or boxes holding little goodies each day.  I grew up with a wooden Advent tree where we would hang an ornament on each day as we counted down to Christmas - so I was thrilled to see these calenders here.  At this point, I have chosen to just keep it simple and the girls enjoy their little pieces of chocolate each night.

Next week  we will be trimming our tree.  This year, I have been lucky enough to be connected with someone who has field full of trees.  So for something new, the girls and I will be headed 45 minutes from here to pick out our tree and cut it down.  I'm looking forward to this experience and the fun of choosing the tree together.  We will then come home and decorate it together - as we have always done.
Christmas morning

One of the "American" traditions that we did bring with us was "Elf on the Shelf".  Now this didn't exist when I was little, but started a few back in many households in the States.  We started ours when we moved to France.  If you are not familiar with the concept - it's a little felt elf that visits your house for the month of December.  He comes with a book that explains that he reports back to Santa each night and can not be touched or he will lose his magic.  The idea is to move him around different parts of the house and he can even get into a bit of mischief now and again.  Yes, I definitely am the parent who wakes up panicked at 4 am realizing that I forgot to move the elf!!  But to watch my youngest each morning come downstairs and look around to find "Lolly" our elf is magical.  It's also been fun to enlist the help of her older sisters, who assist in "Lolly"'s adventures.

Our town also hosts a series of events the weekend before Christmas including music, choirs, and a mixture of family activities.  Last year's theme was winter activities and they has fun simulations of snowboarding and sledding for kids to try.  There were also old-fashion childrens' games and a tent with chocolate covered fruit or marshmallows to sample.  The chocolate came from a wonderful fountain!  We have gone to these activities each year - so they have become a part of our new traditions here.
Fun town activities in Pessac
Old Fashion Wooden Children's Games
Holiday traditions are important to me and living in France has been about creating new ones, yet blending some American ones in also. Hopefully ones that when my children look back on their childhood, they will be full of fond memories and fun times.  
Chocolate fountain
Snow-boarding practice!
Yes, this Christmas marks the first time their father and I will not be celebrating together and they will have to split their time between two households.  Even though, this will be different for all of us, it's another opportunity to create something new.  Since Christmas Eve dinner is the more traditional holiday dinner in France - they will be spending that day with him and his family.  They will return to my home late in the evening, so they will wake up on Christmas morning and be able to come downstairs and see what Santa has brought.  (That hasn't changed - no matter which country we live in - and even though - I have 2 older girls who play along for their youngest sister - it's still the magic of Christmas that they love!!)
My mother, myself and my girls - last Christmas
The fun Santa hat....
The girls and I will enjoy Christmas Day dinner together with my mother who will be visiting from the States.  Christmas for us also just doesn't end on that day - it's also about spending the vacation together.  Enjoying special time with each other and the relaxing nature of time off.  

I hope this post gives you an idea of how the holidays are celebrated in France - we may not be the typical family as we include some American aspects along with taking part in many of the French traditions.  
Ice Skating at Place Pey Berland
I wish everyone a very happy December and if you follow my blog on a regular basis - I will be sharing more about our December activities and other aspects of French life here.  Please feel free to subscribe via email, if you have not already done so.

Look for other posts from different lands through the following link and on each day in December & explore the world and it's cultures during the holidays:

Yes, I do miss the snow here in Bordeaux - but we can still pretend!!  Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving, The Fall and what I am Thankful for

Time to Reflect - 
 I can't believe it's Thanksgiving already!!  This Fall is just zooming by....I guess the more you enjoy life, the faster the time goes!!  My goal this Fall is to try to get a blog post up at least once a week.  Still working on that but knew I needed to update with what has been happening here.

The post is mostly a photo essay to share the beauty of the Fall - but to also reflect on the spirit of the season.  Would love to see comments on how the Fall has been for so many of you and also what your reflections may be this season.
 I have to say - we have had a GORGEOUS Fall!  I know we have only lived here 3 years - but I don't remember the previous seasons to have so much color  - both in the foliage and even with the skies!  Beautiful reds, oranges, yellows and rich deep pinks and purples in the sunset and sunrises!
 This past month has been sprinkled with working in Bordeaux and in the surrounding wine regions.  I really feel spoiled to be able to not just enjoy the beauty here, but to be able to share it with our clients.  This past Sunday, I did some guide training in the Medoc region and not only enjoyed the stunning architecture of these gorgeous chateaux, but I was also mesmerized by the colors!

 Even back in Bordeaux, the blue sky, the beautiful leaves and the warm weather has been wonderful for one's perspective and outlook.  I feel so grateful to live in a place like this - the beauty constantly reveals itself and the balance of the old with the modern makes it a wonderful place to live!

 The girls have also enjoyed the outdoors this Fall - riding bikes to school, hanging out at outdoor cafes and just having fun together!

 So on this Thanksgiving day - I feel so grateful for my girls, my family and my wonderful friends both near and far!!  I also feel so blessed to have gotten to know so many of you in my virtual community (hopefully someday we will meet in person) - and I can honestly say - so many times your insights, messages, posts and kind words enrich my life in ways I can't even imagine!

It's a wonderful day to reflect on all that we have, all the people  in our lives and the beauty that surrounds all of us!!  So even if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving - know that it's one holiday that just lets us pause, reflect and enjoy our lives with friends and family.

We will be celebrating our Thanksgiving meal on Saturday - sharing our table with Americans and French - looking forward to enjoying a special meal together!!


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dune du Pyla - Beach Fun during Toussaint Break

Time Spent at the Beach is Always Rejuvenating!

As Fall is finally settling into the Bordeaux area, it's amazing to think just 2 weeks ago, we were enjoying the beach on the Dune du Pyla.  I'm taking today - Sunday to look back on a favorite moment during our Fall break.

I've written about the Great Dune du Pyla before - HERE.  It's such a beautiful, amazing force of nature and at the same time so peaceful and relaxing to enjoy.  It's only a mere 45 minutes from our home in Bordeaux and it provides endless entertainment and exercise!! This is a post more about a day in the Fall - just enjoying wonderful weather!

Just look at this photo - who wouldn't be in awe when one arrives there!  

Luckily, on this October day, the stairs were still there - they take them down in the winter due to winds and the slow, steady shift of the dune.  However, for some, like my youngest - it's more fun to climb up the back side on the sand (and even on all fours!)

Once we arrived on the top, we all enjoyed the view and a rest after the long haul up!  I love this series of photos of my youngest.  She just loves the sand!!  Siting in it - running her hands through it, touching it and just plain playing!!

 Even standing up - I love the sand that is falling from her hands!!  A true beach child!!
As one stands at the top and looks South - it's an endless dessert of sand - sloping up from the Atlantic Ocean.  The dune is  2500 meters or about 1.4 miles long.  We have yet to walk along the top - the length of it - but there are many who do.  For many people, it's a place for a great walk, a jog or even a hike - all along the top.  At the end of the day, you often see para-sailing.

The preference of my girls is to go up and over and head to the beach on the other side!! They love the view from the dune, the sense of space and feel - it's not just any beach - it's the DUNE!  Trekking up and over is not necessarily my preference - I'm just as happy to go up and enjoy the view - hang out in the sand and breath the ocean air! I could even sit and meditate on the top.  But not my children, the water calls to them.  The ocean waves, and especially here - it's a bit calmer as the largest waves are broken by a sand island out from the dune. The makes is a nice protected place to swim. Of course, it might be mid - October but when it's 80 degrees out - it's swim time!!
So down we went...down to the water...and my girls couldn't wait to get in the water!!
We met friends there and all the kids enjoyed getting wet.  The water was refreshing but still load of fun!
As you can see, we weren't the only ones enjoying the beach during this Fall break.  Often, this is the school break where families choose to stay home.  But I think since the weather was so beautiful and warm, many made last minute plans to be on the beach for a few days or like us make a day trip!
After enjoying a couple of hours playing in the sand and water - we started the journey back up and over the dune from the ocean side. When one goes up and over, the only way back is up and over! I have to tell you - this is a work out!!
Even my youngest decided that she wasn't really interested in climbing back up and convinced my friend's son to carry her a little of the way!!  Kudos to a really nice teenage boy who was a good sport!!

The hike up and back down the other side takes about 45 minutes!!  Now, the older kids were ahead of us and for them - a bit shorter time to climb up and over.  But it's wonderful exercise and a beautiful view!!

This final photo is my favorite!!  This was taken on the way back after she had climbed up and over!  A happy young lady who along with her sisters loved their afternoon on the beach!!

Happy Sunday to everyone!!  I hope you all are enjoying the day with family or friends and take time to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature that surrounds you!
Ersatz Expat

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