Monthly Archives: September 2018

Taste of France

Fonte family olives

In every big city in the US where we lived, each year there would be a big food festival always called “Taste of…” and then you could fill in Chicago, LA, Philadelphia, Atlanta, etc. Typically restaurateurs, sometimes hundreds of them, would gather for a weekend to dispense small plates of their best creations to entice you to come for a full meal at their establishments. After 25 years I still remember the remarkable taste of a Margarita made with only fresh ingredients instead of reconstituted sweet and sour mix. That simple recipe has long been a mainstay on our bar. At the end of September for the last eight years the French government has encouraged communities across the country to celebrate all the aspects of gastronomy including the people and their knowledge that make this possible. Last weekend Carcassonne was one of the thousands of communities to participate in the nationwide Fête de la Gastronomie. Read the rest of this entry

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It’s always fun to compare

From the city’s home page

We look at the city’s website every morning to find out what’s going on around town. Somebody once told us that in a French town if the mayor’s office doesn’t know about something then it doesn’t exist. Although we typically search for cultural events such as art exhibits and concerts or tasting festivals of regional foods and wines, it’s here that we discovered the AVF (Welcome Wagon) for new arrivals, sports facilities such as tennis courts and swimming pools open to everyone, and city bus schedules. When our trash can accidentally ended up inside the collection truck along with its contents, guess where we found how to order a replacement that arrived 2 days later. Now that school is back in session, a special note at the top of the front page caught my eye: School lunch menus. Other than curiosity, we have no real need to know what the kids we say bonjour to everyday on our street are dining upon, but this country does have an international gourmet reputation so let’s see how early that begins. Read the rest of this entry

Free association

Festival of Associations

There are over 500 clubs, interest groups, and other hobby alliances, all classed as Associations,  registered with the mayor’s office in Carcassonne. That seemed like a lot for a town of 50,000 inhabitants until I started investigating why there might be so many. A law went into effect in 1901 to ensure that two or more persons were free to organize themselves without fear of persecution by the government. Additional benefits, at least where we live, include members being able to use city property for meetings, free publicity for their events, very modest monetary support, and the ability to hold a garage/yard sale annually. Individuals are prohibited from having what our British friends call a car-boot sale, as its considered unfair competition to a town or village’s small shopkeepers, so being able to raise money for an organization in this way can be vital. Read the rest of this entry

Saint-Émilion day trip

Monolithic church and bell tower

Although Saint-Émilion is too far from Carcassonne to see on a day trip, it’s only 30 minutes by train from Bordeaux so going there was an easy decision while we were visiting that regional wine capital with a big, bold name. In the US we knew that this region produced some famous and often pricey wines (Château Cheval Blanc,Grand Cru $1000, for example) but in our local supermarket we can find a Grand Cru produced 5 kilometers (3 miles) from that winery for about $10 and many more from the area, without that official superior grade classification, for half that small price and less. It was time for Bill and me to take a trip to see this well-known territory for ourselves and to find out why one British newspaper described it as “the French wine town that’s more beautiful than Bordeaux.” Read the rest of this entry

Bordeaux in 4 days

Inside La Cité du Vin

If I say the words “champagne, cognac, and burgundy” do you think of place names or drinks? That’s a trick question because in France they are both; capitalize the first letter and you have a region or town designation whereas if you pour these into a glass they are something to enjoy with a meal or just on their own. That also works for bordeaux: with a capital B it’s alternatively known as the “second Paris” or as the “capital of wine” while a small b gives you the familiar big, bold red wines that might include grape varieties we know such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and malbec. We had just a few days to discover both the place and the wine. Read the rest of this entry

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