The heat is on

Bill tends the fire to keep us warm at Chateau de Ranton

According to the refrain of singer Chaka Kahn’s 1997 number one dance single, Never Miss the Water, “you never miss the water ‘til it’s gone”. We would add the word “hot” to the song to make it especially relevant to us. We have a tankless water heater, truly not much bigger than that breadbox of days gone by, that gives us an endless supply of hot water to our sinks, shower, and radiators…except when it doesn’t. That was the situation recently when the 9-year-old circulation pump started making funny little noises that gradually grew into louder bangs each time we turned on a faucet or changed the setting on the thermostat. In the 4 years that we’ve lived in France we’ve never needed to call a repair person, thanks to Bill’s handyman savvy, but this was beyond even his skills. Time for an expert. Read the rest of this entry

Attractive cities

The attractive village of Rochefort-en-terre in Brittany

Radio station Europe1 had on their website an article that was headlined, “The Three Most Attractive Cities in France.” Since Bill and I enjoy traveling, especially here in this country, I was anxious to read about some new destinations. The lead-in said that at the top of their list of 30 places were Besançon, Orléans and Saint-Étienne while Bordeaux was at position 20, Paris at 26, Nice at 28, and Nîmes at the very bottom. Interestingly, we have visited all of those cities that came in at the low end, some several times, and always found them inviting.  In contrast, we only knew one of the top cities, Orléans, because we stayed overnight at a pet-friendly hotel when we moved here with our dog, Heather, and were driving from Paris to Carcassonne, but that doesn’t really count. What that headline meant, we thought, was lots of new discoveries to make…until we read the rest of that first paragraph. Read the rest of this entry

Retiring overseas

Chambord castle

Our friend Larry tipped us off to an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal that addressed the topic of retiring abroad. The newspaper contacted about a dozen of their previous contributors who had written pieces about moving from the US and settling elsewhere in the world. Because most of those original articles were so optimistic about this big change in life the editors were especially interested to see if that initial enthusiasm continued years later ranging in time from 4 years to 14 years in residence. Some discussion suggestions were provided such as what’s changed since you’ve moved and what advice do you have for others considering living outside the country, but to get things rolling they asked everyone, “How did your decision to retire overseas turn out?” Read the rest of this entry

Number 1, again

The Eiffel Tower at night

It didn’t surprise us to see a headline that read, “French Nationality Ranked No. 1 Globally for 8th Year” with the story continuing that for the eighth consecutive year France was at the top of a worldwide nationality list. We knew that with 90 million annual international visitors the country had more tourists than any other. After all, it’s hard to beat attractions including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, and even both of our own UNESCO World Heritage Sites— the medieval walled city of Carcassonne and the Canal-du-Midi—all in one landmass area about the size of Texas. So, we were pleased to see this continuing recognition but we didn’t know what it meant. What is the Quality of Nationality Index (QNI)? Read the rest of this entry

Our not-so daily bread

Just out of our oven and still warm

When we first moved to Carcassonne we ate at least one baguette, sometimes two, fresh from the bakery every day. It just seemed the right thing to do. After all, we could be out in the neighborhood, morning, noon, or night and see someone carrying a baguette home, often with the end bitten off since it’s hard to resist that delicious crispy crust right out of the oven. So, how many calories are in a baguette? On average, 700. That’s a significant portion of the 2500 calories we’re supposed to eat every day but our dog Heather made sure that they didn’t stick around for long since she took us on some very long walks twice a day. Sadly she was only with us for the first two months we lived here, so we had to find a substitute for those extended outings. I got a treadmill and Bill got a bicycle and although we continued to travel by foot, we had to take more drastic measures: no more daily baguettes.  Read the rest of this entry

A Carcassonne Christmas

Joyeux fêtes!

Just the other night we were walking home from dinner with friends at a ski resort and realized just how lucky we are. Something about that sentence doesn’t sound right. Walking home, yes. Dinner with friends, certainly. Lucky, definitely. Ski resort, not exactly. As you’ll be able to see in the photos below, Carcassonne is decked out in its finest for the holiday season. There are four major centers of lights and attractions around town plus plenty of side streets and shop windows that echo the excitement. The city has constructed a giant scaffolding structure at Place du Géneral de Gaulle, on top of which is a chalet-style restaurant and stationary ski lift cable cars with dining tables inside that would fit right in on a mountainside in the Alps, hundreds of kilometers from here, but we had a view of the medieval walled Cité with Père Noël pointing the way. The best news for us? Everything starts about a 10-minute walk away from our front door. Read the rest of this entry

Country sounds

Goats do roam in Carcassonne

We recently had to replace our house exhaust fan and I was astonished at the sound level rating for this new device on its normal setting: 15 decibels. For comparison purposes, a pin dropping rates 10 decibels while a whisper is 30; so it’s pretty quiet. A second surprise was that although there’s an exhaust outlet in both bathrooms and in the kitchen, there’s only one motor mounted in the attic and connected to each room by duct work. In every house in the US in which we lived each room had its own independent fan/motor, all of which we replaced anytime that we moved because they were always so loud. By chance, the same morning we were preparing to do the work in our attic, I saw in the newspaper that noise levels were being addressed elsewhere in the country, but with a twist.  Read the rest of this entry

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