Once we returned from Florida, right after Thanksgiving 2014, knowing that we were going to move somewhere we started looking for ideal places to retire. The website of US News & World Report offers quite a few options if you’re searching for sunniest places, historic places, or even wine lovers places, to list a few. One of the ideas mentioned online was where to retire on Social Security alone which averages a bit over $1200 per person a month according to the Social Security Administration. In that top-10 list were several northern US cities that we had already eliminated in our desire to avoid the snow. Delving deeper into that same website we discovered an article about the “other” south of France, meaning the Languedoc-Roussillon region which is further around the Mediterranean Sea towards Spain than the more well-known Cote d’Azur that includes Nice and Cannes. The paragraph that really piqued our interest said that in the city of Carcassonne a couple could expect to spend about 1000 euro (there’s that magic $1200 price) per month on all living expenses including rent, utilities, food, and insurance with money left over for entertainment and dining out.
We emailed our French friends who live in the northern part of the country near Germany to see if they knew anyone who lived in that part of France that we were considering and they put us in touch with their friend who grew up in Perpignan, not far north of the Spanish border. As someone very proud of his homeland, he gave us the names of many towns and cities to investigate. The criteria we used to investigate possible retirement spots in the US worked equally well for France. Without a car, public transportation would be vital, including a mainline train station for all of the travel in Europe we were planning. Being able to walk to the market, grocery store, shops, train station, restaurants, to name a few were all requirements. Having water nearby would be ideal. At first we thought we wanted to live in a village for that quintessential sense of community experience while living in a centuries-old stone cottage next to a babbling brook. All of that is indeed possible, even today, but without a car the isolation would become intolerable. As we checked off the items on our must-have list such as walkable, train station, markets, water access, historic, and things to do, the obvious choice became clear: Carcassonne.