We voted

Bird sanctuary with a castle view

Every six years French municipal elections are held to choose the local counselors who form the government that then elects the city’s mayor. Any European Union citizen residing in that town can cast a ballot but to vote for the country’s president you need an upgrade to being a full-fledged French citizen. After now living in Carcassonne for almost five years we feel both European and French but we won’t qualify to take that step towards naturalization until we’ve completed that fifth year. In the meantime, we haven’t been totally excluded from voicing our opinion on local issues and just last week we saw the results of one of those votes and we even picked a winner—in fact, four winners! Read the rest of this entry

Whatever suits you

The mayor often wears a suit

When Bill and I were part of the working world in the US, we both had multiple suits that were appropriate for all sorts of business occasions. It didn’t matter if we were interacting with a customer, attending a board meeting, or dining with the president of the company, we could always be dressed appropriately. When we went for our interview at the French consulate in Miami to obtain our visa to live in this country, it was a simple decision of what to wear for a couple of reasons: 1.) To be respectful, we wanted to dress in a businesslike manner and 2.) In preparing for the move from full-time work to retirement overseas, we had already pared down our wardrobe dramatically to just one suit each. Little did we know that four years ago in Florida we were already following a trend that has been in motion in France for nearly 10 years—a 58% drop in the sale of men’s suits. Read the rest of this entry

Flu shot

Time for the flu shot

Whatever happened to administering medications on a sugar cube? Even Mary Poppins knew that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. Although I’m not a fan of needles, I’m even less enamored with getting sick so you do what you have to do. We each received an “anti-grippale” (la grippe is French for “flu”) vaccination letter from the national health service authorizing us to go to the pharmacy of our choice and to pick up the medication at no charge. We then had the option of taking the ready-filled syringe to our family doctor whose service would also be covered at 100% or to make an appointment with the pharmacist to have the injection done there. That’s what we did last year and her fee was 6 euros. Read the rest of this entry

We’re ready

Sparkling wine, coffee and TP

Long before the coronavirus set off an initial round of panic buying, our house was already well-stocked with those things that we use on a daily basis. We both arrived from the US with a hurricane mentality that ensured a ready supply of consumables to last through an unknown amount of time without electricity or water. In Atlanta we had a car so it was easy enough to visit a giant warehouse store, fill the trunk with cases of whatever we needed, and drive that home. Here we’re on foot, bicycle, or city bus so we buy smaller amounts more often. A variety of shops, including a grocery store, are steps away from the house so even during lockdown when we couldn’t venture more than a kilometer (about half a mile) from home it wasn’t a hardship for us. Ironically an out-of-stock situation last year of a vital household product at our local grocery store prompted us to take action back then. Read the rest of this entry

Collioure in 4 days

Our balcony view in Collioure

Earlier this year during the 2-month lockdown, or perhaps even more descriptive in French, la confinement, our desire to travel never lost its appeal. After all, our vacation plans for both April and May fell victim to the virus but that simply gave us more resolve to try again as soon as it was reasonable to board the train for another adventure. Those two trips had each been several hours away, and we’ll reschedule them later, but one destination less than 100 km (60 miles) from Carcassonne, as the crow flies, really caught our attention for this first venture out closer to home. It didn’t take much convincing once Bill showed me the view from the apartment that you see above accompanied by those magic words: by the sea. Off we went to Collioure. Read the rest of this entry

Preixan day trip

Circular Preixan from the town’s website

It’s been months since we’ve gone anywhere further than a 30-minute walk from our front door. In February we were in Florence just before Italy closed its borders and France started a 2-month lockdown when no one could be more than 1 kilometer (half-mile or so) from home. Once travel was again authorised it was initially limited to essential, nearby trips only until the summer vacation season arrived. With that as background we jumped at the chance to go out to lunch with friends Sally and Larry to a village about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Carcassonne. The drive down there may have only been 15 minutes but it was literally the change of scenery that we needed. Read the rest of this entry

Eat your vegetables

Market-fresh tomatoes and cucumbers

For several years we used to travel annually from the US to Europe with a group of friends, one of whom was vegetarian. Paula was always gracious at meal times, never wanting to inconvenience others, but we were all surprised at one Parisian waiter’s suggestion as “mashed potatoes” for her entire meal. Contrast that with our experience at a restaurant in the Dordogne where the Michelin-starred chef said that he “would be honored to prepare something for you” (not on the menu) and indeed created a work of art that was the envy of the rest of us at the table. A change in school lunches this year might just make it easier in the future for the next generation if they decide to avoid eating meat. Read the rest of this entry