Monthly Archives: July 2018

Tour de France overnight

The cyclists head out of Carcassonne

Back in elementary school, long before my first trip to France, I had heard about the Tour de France. Based on photos in magazines such as Life and National Geographic teams of cyclists went zooming down snow capped mountain sides and passed through tranquil country roads lined with vineyards, orchards, and fields of flowers. Since this was before 1960 when alcohol was banned for the participants, there was even a photo of 2 riders, bicycles beside them, enjoying a glass of wine at a sidewalk café. Even at that young age it was an appealing sport where you get to ride through beautiful countryside and then relax at the end of the day at a quintessentially French bistro. Little did I know that years later I’d be standing at one of the daily finishing lines and 2 days after that at the next starting line as 176 colorful jerseys went by in a flash. Read the rest of this entry

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Perpignan day trip

Overlooking Perpignan from the castle

Although we’re less than 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Spain, we can’t get there from here because our favorite mode of transportation, the train, doesn’t cope well with climbing to the 3400 meter summit of the Pyrenees where the border runs along the mountaintop. When we’re going that far south, the tracks first head east towards the Mediterranean before turning to Spain and passing through a city that has existed on both sides of the border: Perpignan. Not unlike Montpellier, where there is little evidence of the 2000-year-old Roman influence found in so many other locations in France, this southern capital wasn’t  established until the 10th century. Read the rest of this entry

The umbrellas of C…?

Pedestrian shopping street in Carcassonne

Did you ever see the movie from the 1960s starring Catherine Deneuve entitled The Umbrellas of Cherbourg? It takes place in that French port city along the Normandy coast and tells the story of two young lovers separated by war and then reunited years later. By the time the soldier returns, however, the woman has married someone else although it is clear that she still longs for her first love.  The film features the song I Will Wait for You but that clearly didn’t happen as the two main characters go their separate ways. Flash forward 50 years to a much happier take on that theme, at least as far as those umbrellas are concerned. Read the rest of this entry

Montpellier day trip

Rose window at Montpellier cathedral

Much of France has a definite Roman and Greek history, especially near the Mediterranean Sea where they established colonies in the 1st millennium BC. The remains of amphitheaters, triumphal arches, and city gates from the era abound. Even in Carcassonne where we’re about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the water’s edge, at the base of the giant fortress that overlooks the city you can still the clay bricks laid over 2000 years ago. Somehow, Montpellier, the 7th largest city in the country, was bypassed by those early invaders, not being settled until around 985 AD. We only knew this regional capital from having visited the immigration office there soon after we moved across the Atlantic, so we happily accepted an invitation to lunch with friends that would give us the day to leisurely look around. Read the rest of this entry

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