We’d have to try pretty hard to be bored around here, especially on weekends. On Saturdays, even if we don’t really need any fresh fruits and vegetables we still walk to the market just because it’s such an entertaining event. It’s colorful, lively, convivial and we always run into people that we know who want to stop for a chat over a coffee or a glass of wine at one of the many sidewalk cafés that surround the square where the market is held. The marble fountain there, completed in 1771, is typically filled with cascading falls but during last week’s Fresh Attitude festival the water was replaced by many of the fruits and vegetables normally on sale at the booths that jam the square. But that isn’t the only colorful spot in town.
All over France, villages, towns, and cities can vie for the designation of a Ville Fleuri that shows the community’s commitment, through live plants, to improving the quality of life, enhancing the local economy, and attracting tourists, all while respecting the environment. Each June, Carcassonne places 400 planter boxes, overflowing with multicolored flowers, all over town to get the party started. To encourage participation by residents, the city also sponsors a “best planter box” contest, awarding garden center gift certificates to the winners. Our walk home took us by another colorful square and along a main driving route lined with flowers.
Something new and colorful wasn’t limited to the outdoors last weekend. A 5-minute walk from home, we attended the grand opening of the 1600 square meter (17,000 square feet) Sports Hall with room for basketball, indoor football (soccer), volleyball, handball, and badminton. Additional rooms for judo, boxing, and gymnastics were also on display. Many of the clubs in the city were on hand to demonstrate the various sports including the 12-meter (40-feet) tall climbing wall. The mayor and other city officials shared the podium with French football star, Nicole Abar, in honor of whom this building was named.
It’s great living in a vibrant community where economic growth and respect for the environment can coexist. In addition to serving the local area, one of the goals of this new Sports Hall is to attract regional competitions here. Last month we went to the grand opening of the newly refurbished convention center that should draw crowds that might typically gravitate towards cities along the Mediterranean or Atlantic coasts and a new, multi-million euro hotel will open steps from there with great views of the river and the castle. The city’s football (soccer) stadium is in the process of total refurbishment, again with a view outwards to bringing more business in. On a much smaller but more personal scale, we’ve recently been to two new sidewalk cafés, a fish monger, and a fresh fruits and vegetables market that either took over empty storefronts or opened in brand new spaces. We can’t wait to see what’s next.