Free association

Festival of Associations

There are over 500 clubs, interest groups, and other hobby alliances, all classed as Associations,  registered with the mayor’s office in Carcassonne. That seemed like a lot for a town of 50,000 inhabitants until I started investigating why there might be so many. A law went into effect in 1901 to ensure that two or more persons were free to organize themselves without fear of persecution by the government. Additional benefits, at least where we live, include members being able to use city property for meetings, free publicity for their events, very modest monetary support, and the ability to hold a garage/yard sale annually. Individuals are prohibited from having what our British friends call a car-boot sale, as its considered unfair competition to a town or village’s small shopkeepers, so being able to raise money for an organization in this way can be vital. Read the rest of this entry

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Saint-Émilion day trip

Monolithic church and bell tower

Although Saint-Émilion is too far from Carcassonne to see on a day trip, it’s only 30 minutes by train from Bordeaux so going there was an easy decision while we were visiting that regional wine capital with a big, bold name. In the US we knew that this region produced some famous and often pricey wines (Château Cheval Blanc,Grand Cru $1000, for example) but in our local supermarket we can find a Grand Cru produced 5 kilometers (3 miles) from that winery for about $10 and many more from the area, without that official superior grade classification, for half that small price and less. It was time for Bill and me to take a trip to see this well-known territory for ourselves and to find out why one British newspaper described it as “the French wine town that’s more beautiful than Bordeaux.” Read the rest of this entry

Bordeaux in 4 days

Inside La Cité du Vin

If I say the words “champagne, cognac, and burgundy” do you think of place names or drinks? That’s a trick question because in France they are both; capitalize the first letter and you have a region or town designation whereas if you pour these into a glass they are something to enjoy with a meal or just on their own. That also works for bordeaux: with a capital B it’s alternatively known as the “second Paris” or as the “capital of wine” while a small b gives you the familiar big, bold red wines that might include grape varieties we know such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and malbec. We had just a few days to discover both the place and the wine. Read the rest of this entry

Is that what I think it is?

Does that say repulsive milk?

I like milk—chilled on my breakfast cereal in the summer or served hot with freshly cooked oatmeal in the winter. When our friend Larry makes chocolate chip cookies there’s nothing better than an afternoon snack of these delicious treats accompanied by a tall glass of cool milk. Can’t get to sleep in the evening? A mug of warm milk always does the trick for me. Bill, on the other hand, is not a fan. He can deal with cream, cheeses of all sorts, and even tolerates a daily serving of yogurt but he runs the other way if he sees me anywhere near the stove with a carton of milk. You could say that he is repulsed by the smell which is why I found it funny to see this Lait Répulsif on a pharmacy shelf. Read the rest of this entry

Nancy in a week, part 2

Alpine section of the botanical gardens

Last Sunday I talked about our trip up to Nancy, France. This is the conclusion of that adventure.

An advantage of buying a city’s museum pass is that it generally saves you money over individual tickets but it also entices you to visit places you might not have otherwise gone. Atlanta, where we used to live, has the world’s largest aquarium and it is truly spectacular so going to the one in Nancy wasn’t high on our list but it was part of the package, so we went. What a nice surprise in a couple of ways. It was well laid out as far as what sea creatures you were seeing and in what environment they generally lived. The bonus was seeing small groups of school children being escorted by teachers and aquarium staff explaining to the youngsters what they were seeing and why it was important to protect the animals and the planet. Read the rest of this entry

Nancy in a week, part 1

Place Stanislas golden gate and fountains

When Bill said that he wanted to buy a museum pass for our trip to Nancy in northeastern France, I got pretty excited. We’d used these in other European cities where we saved money on individual tickets and time waiting in entrance lines. My enthusiasm plummeted when the name of the first museum that we could visit popped up on the tourism website promoting the pass: L’Ecole de Nancy or directly translated, “The School of Nancy”. While historic one-room school houses can be interesting (even Carcassonne has one) to view life as it once was, it’s not what I had envisioned as something you’d typically visit in a city where the word “elegant” often appeared in its description. Then I turned the name around to The Nancy School (think, Venetian, Florentine, or Ashcan School) and suddenly I knew that we were in for a treat. We’d spent hours at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris admiring entire rooms filled with furniture and decorative art pieces designed in the early 20th century with the long, sinuous lines characteristic of Art Nouveau. We were now in this school of art’s hometown for a week with a pass! Read the rest of this entry

Tour de France overnight

The cyclists head out of Carcassonne

Back in elementary school, long before my first trip to France, I had heard about the Tour de France. Based on photos in magazines such as Life and National Geographic teams of cyclists went zooming down snow capped mountain sides and passed through tranquil country roads lined with vineyards, orchards, and fields of flowers. Since this was before 1960 when alcohol was banned for the participants, there was even a photo of 2 riders, bicycles beside them, enjoying a glass of wine at a sidewalk café. Even at that young age it was an appealing sport where you get to ride through beautiful countryside and then relax at the end of the day at a quintessentially French bistro. Little did I know that years later I’d be standing at one of the daily finishing lines and 2 days after that at the next starting line as 176 colorful jerseys went by in a flash. Read the rest of this entry

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