Josephine Baker and the Panthéon

On this coming Tuesday in Paris there will be a ceremony honoring the memory of American-born and French-naturalized Josephine Baker. Her remains will stay in the municipal cemetery in Monaco while a monument will be placed inside the Panthéon. The current building, completed in 1790, was designated the following year as the final resting spot for those who have made significant contributions to the nation including politicians, authors, scientists, and Resistance fighters. In August, French President Emmanuel Macron announced who would be joining Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Louis Braille, Marie Curie, and Simone Veil, among only 73 others.

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Getting prepared

There’s an online forum that I look at each morning (one of our Favorite Links in the right column) where expats living in or moving to France can pose questions and share their experiences. One of the threads that caught my eye is entitled “Why France? And why not…” which the moderator had hoped would generate a discussion about why people would want to move to this country in particular rather than elsewhere in western Europe, for example, or even just change locations within their homeland. That latter point, she notes, would avoid any dealings with immigration and keep you in familiar surroundings (food, language, culture, friends) that could be especially important for retirees. Since it’s a forum for people who already live in France or are seriously considering moving here, it didn’t surprise me that the conversation went somewhat off-topic pretty quickly. Instead of addressing what other countries did or did not offer, most people wanted to talk about what drew them here and especially explain how they might have better prepared themselves for the leap. 

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The almost perfect vacationers

One of the online French newspapers that I look at each morning always has a “View From…” section where they summarize an article written in a foreign newspaper about life in France. The topic is often politics but there are a fair number of discussions regarding food, wine, and culture. A headline that caught my eye was “The French, those almost perfect vacationers” in the section “View from the United Kingdom”. I was really curious to see why this writer from the London-based The Daily Telegraph would rate our new neighbors and friends as the ideal holidaymakers. I became even more intrigued when I saw that the title in English in the original newspaper story was actually “The beautiful corners of France that the French don’t want you to know about.” Lost in translation?

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Bram in 1 day

From Carcassonne the railroad tracks go east, west, and south. In the last 6 years while living here we’ve used them to travel to other countries as far as London, Amsterdam, and Venice. Within France they’ve taken us to the borders with all eight surrounding countries plus the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel, and the Mediterranean Sea. Although we’ve passed by the next station down the line from here, originally called Eburomagus (Yew Market) by the Romans in 600 BC, we were always on the way to a distant destination. With a journey time of only 10 minutes and a rail fare starting at 1 euro, it was time to hop aboard and visit the town now known as Bram.

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Halloween beets

October 31st isn’t much of a holiday in France but it does seem to be growing in popularity. At the supermarket you might spot a few bags of miniature candy bars individually wrapped or as you can see in the accompanying photos, chocolate shops decorate their windows with sometimes creepy displays as did the tourism office (featured photo above). This year the city will be hosting scary stories this afternoon at the castle inside the walls and Chateau de Pennautier, just outside of town (photo and link below), got dressed up for the occasion too. This will be our sixth Halloween here and we’re expecting the usual number of trick-or-treaters that we see every year: between zero and one. For us it’s just an excuse to buy a bunch of Snickers. That aside, I wanted to see what, if any, history All Hallows Eve had in France and if they had anything similar over the years. Thanks to the website My Parisian Kitchen I found some answers.

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Valence in 1 day

We get inspiration for our vacations from a variety of sources. Our train map of Europe that highlights the scenic routes is our number one choice. TV programs such as “100 Places You Must See”, “Beautiful Escapes” and “Invitation to Travel” give us plenty of ideas, sometimes in other countries, but right now we’re staying closer to home right here in France. In the US we were frequent watchers of house hunting shows and that habit hasn’t changed but here each episode begins with a quick overview of the city being featured where you get a bird’s eye view of the most picturesque parts. When we saw canals, fountains, Parisian-style architecture, cobbled streets, and open squares filled with sidewalk cafés we knew that we would have fun in Valence.

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Mâcon in 1 day

We used to live in the Atlanta, Georgia area not too far from the city of Macon that was named for statesman Nathaniel Macon in 1823. Now that our home is in France, we’re still fairly close to a city with that same name except this one has a circumflex accent mark (^) and its origin dates to around 50 BC when Julius Caesar referred to it in Latin as Matisco, meaning “wooded hill at the water’s edge” that gradually evolved into its present day form by the middle of the 18th century. Coinciding with that time period was when native son and author Alphonse de Lamartine was his most prolific and we followed numbered bronze plaques honoring him on a heritage trail to trace 2000 years of history.

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