What did we buy?

Charcoal or spinach?

With the luxury of an open-air farmers’ market three days a week being about a 15-minute walk from our front door, our refrigerator is typically full of a variety of fruits and vegetables that we’ll use within the next few days. Occasionally we’ll be following a recipe that either asks for something that isn’t in season or specifies a frozen ingredient. That was the case when Bill was making a quiche Florentine and the cookbook author recommended chopped spinach from the grocer’s freezer section. We could have picked up some beautiful dark green leaves at the market but then that would have involved guessing about how much to buy, then chopping and cooking it. The ready-to-go version seemed to make much more sense until we opened the package and out poured what appeared to me to be green charcoal briquettes. Bill’s impression was a little more “earthy” since they reminded him of “road apples”, especially after the horse had consumed large quantities of fresh grass.What did we buy? Read the rest of this entry

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Follow that canal

Castle steps from the 11th century

Now they’ve done it; they’ve bought a car. Whenever our friends Sally and Larry have rented a car for a distant journey they always have a day or two left once they get back to Carcassonne before the vehicle has to be returned to the agency. Bill and I have benefited from those bonus days by being taken on road trips to towns, villages, monuments, and scenic views that we couldn’t easily reach by train or bus. An email will suddenly appear in our mailbox asking if we’re available on a certain date, and if so, be ready for a mystery tour. Two weeks ago we got just such a message and when we replied with an enthusiastic Oui, back came the response to bring a camera, comfortable shoes, and money for wine–just like the instructions we got for those elementary school field trips years ago…except, maybe, for that wine money part! Read the rest of this entry

Germany in France

Canal in Colmar, France

The story goes that in the summer of 1935 Walt Disney went on a grand European tour that took him through England, France, Germany, and Italy. He was apparently greatly inspired by what he saw, especially in the majestic castles that each of these countries had to offer, so much so that Cinderella’s Castle that opened 20 years later in California’s Disneyland is said to have been based on what he encountered on this trip. From what I’ve read, a Disney official did confirm that Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle was a great influence but we’ve seen other castles claiming that they too were etched into the memory of the creator of Mickey Mouse. I don’t know if that’s a bit of “Washington slept here” European style but his theme parks and films do sometimes show images we might associate with England…or is it Germany…or maybe France? Read the rest of this entry

Need anything?

Exercise mats become carpet pads

We have some very kind readers of this blog. About once a month we’ll get an email from someone who has been following our adventures saying that they will be staying in or at least passing through Carcassonne and could we get together. Because it’s in the heart of town, we generally meet them at the 18th century fountain in the main square and then settle into one of the many surrounding sidewalk cafés for an espresso or a glass of local wine. It’s very rewarding to chat with someone who has sought out the information that we try to provide for Americans considering a move to France. One question that always pops up in advance of one of these get-togethers is “Can we bring you anything?” with the follow-up question in person over that coffee or wine being “Do you miss anything from the US?” After two years of living in France we can now say without hesitation, “No”. Read the rest of this entry

The taxes are here

Tax forms in a plain blue wrapper

Since today, April 15, is traditionally Tax Day in the US, it probably sounds odd for us to say that we were happy to see our French income tax forms arrive last week, but that’s exactly how we feel. Last year was our first time to report our revenue and it turned out to be relatively simple as I wrote about in the blog post You can run, but…. We filled out the paper forms, following a guide in English that we purchased, and deposited them directly into the huge mailbox in front of the Center of Public Finance office just before the mid-May due date. According to the treaty between our 2 countries, generally speaking, you pay tax based on where you earn the money and since our income is all from US pensions, we anticipated that only Uncle Sam would be sending us a bill. Four months later we were pleased to discover that the French government agreed and sent us a letter to confirm that; however, one important piece of information was missing from that document. Read the rest of this entry

The games we play

Cable TV & Internet boxes

About a month before we left the US our Internet provider notified us that the price on our basic service was going to increase to $145 per month. This was the minimum bundle offered giving us high speed Internet access, 300 television channels, and 200 minutes of landline calls within the US. The first year that we lived in France we were in a house that included wi-fi and TV in the rent so that charge was not a concern. When we bought a house, however, Bill started investigating getting us hooked up to the outside world and we were both amazed. He found a package with the second largest provider in the country that gave us high speed Internet, 200 channels, and unlimited calls to most countries around the world, including the USA for a monthly fee of 17.99 euros. As the end of that 12-month contract approached, bringing with it a price increase, it was time to play that same game we were used to before: seeing if you can find a cheaper price. Read the rest of this entry

Wine, women, and song

A student pours wine for Sally and Shell

Earlier this month we began our third year of living in France. The most frequent comment we heard about that blog post revolved around how fast time goes and we agree completely. In Carcassonne that is especially true on weekends, even in the winter, when there are so many choices of activities that we must decide what not to do rather than searching for something to fill the days. During the summer vacation months of July and August, millions of tourists arrive to visit the massive fortress here, parts of which are still standing from the days that Romans picked grapes in the nearby vineyards 2000 years ago. While I would expect there to be plenty to do during the summer, it was a pleasant surprise to find out how much the city has to offer off-season and last weekend was no exception. Read the rest of this entry

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