Catherine’s C list

As soon as we made the decision to move to France we created a spreadsheet with all the cities we wanted to consider down the left hand column and everything we were searching for across the top. We wrote another blog post about that process but briefly we had 16 cities and a handful of must-haves such as a weekly market, a train station, and a water view. The overriding factor that eliminated perhaps a dozen of our choices was that we needed to be within walking distance of all of our needs. That driver’s license that seemed so desirable at age 16 was no longer a requirement; in fact, we wanted to live without a car. Several blog readers have told us that they too are using a chart to compare all of the possibilities and we’ve even seen some of these when visitors have come through Carcassonne. Our new friend Catherine has a lineup of what she would like to find in a new French hometown, be it full-time or part-time. She calls this her C list so let’s see what’s included.

Climate—that might be the most challenging to pin down because it seems to be changing. We had considered living in northern France but didn’t want the snow; however, since we’ve been here that’s not been a significant weather factor up there. Our area is classified as having a “Mediterranean climate” that I used to simplistically describe as “cool and rainy in the winter, warm and dry in the summer”. Now we don’t look any further than at today’s forecast no matter what time of the year.

Community—the African proverb that starts with “it takes a village” would certainly be true in our case. It was an easy transition and integration into French society thanks to our neighbors and friends who have warmly welcomed us. We’ve also sought involvement through some of the city’s associations/clubs where you can volunteer, learn a new skill, or just have fun on a day out with other people. We believe that living in a house in a village-like neighborhood rather than in a huge apartment complex in a major city has helped as well.

Care (as in healthcare)—Catherine says that her experience with the French healthcare system has been “first rate” and we would have to agree. There’s universal coverage for everyone living here that’s affordable (8.50€ after reimbursement to see your family doctor) or free if your income is too low. Visiting medical personnel and aides help people stay in their own homes as long as possible. Did I mention that most Sundays we share a bottle of champagne with our 104-year-old neighbor and friend?

Cuisine—there’s not much more to say than that it’s this French word that’s used around the world to describe food: its preparation, its enjoyment, and sharing it with others. There are 627 restaurants in France with at least 1 Michelin star; 118 are in Paris, 2 in Carcassonne, and near us in the village of Fontjoncouse, population 138, there is the 3-star Auberge du Vieux Puits.

Culture—access to art, music, theater, and film. As with restaurants, there’s no lack of activities no matter where you look. Our Museum of Fine Arts showcases exhibits on loan from the Louvre, the Municipal Theater has a full calendar for most of the year, and during the 4 weeks of the summer music festival there are concerts nightly. Larger cities near us like Toulouse (1 hour by train) host operas and symphonies regularly.

Connections—transportation in your locality, around France, and internationally. Our non-scientific rule of thumb is that it takes a population of 50,000 to support a viable city bus system. That’s roughly the size of Carcassonne and we can catch a bus every 30 minutes. It takes about 100,000 people to add a tram system and double that for an underground Metro. For train travel we would choose a location that is served by all 3 types of French trains: local/regional TER, Intercités for medium to long distance at normal speeds, and TGV at high speeds for within France and that cross over into neighboring countries. Because of low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet even smaller communities can have airports that serve European destinations, although overseas flights still depart only from major cities.

Compromise—we’re familiar with this one. That water view I mentioned in the first paragraph never happened, which means now that each time we go on vacation we try to find a place that gives us that perspective. The first year we lived in France we rented a furnished house to make sure that we were making the right decision as far as where in the country to settle. Within 2 months we were searching right here for a home to buy and we just celebrated 7 years in Carcassonne so I guess this is working out OK. Shortly after sending us the above C list, Catherine said that a friend added Chocolate and we can say from personal experience that we have found multiple chocolate shops in every city we’ve visited. The same goes for Cave, the word the French often use for a wine store, again, not a problem. Lastly, we would say that in your new location whether that’s a tiny village or a big city you just have to feel Comfortable.

9 thoughts on “Catherine’s C list

  1. This was helpful. I’m having a most difficult time searching for information. Hoping to vacation in France next fall and look for possible places to live and to talk with hospitals for possible employment. (Biomed)
    It all seems like such an uphill battle but reading your blog makes me think it may not be that difficult.
    Much appreciated

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Chad. Based on our experience, we would suggest that you take your time to narrow down your choices and then use your vacation time to get a feel for the cities that seem most inviting. Hang in there!


  2. Your list is nearly identical to ours, except that the waterview isn’t that important to us. We’re looking at Carcassonne south to Espéraza and will be initially renting in Espéraza. Currently, we are counting down the days as our home is on the market. Once, we have an offer, we will be signing up for EU healthcare and making a visa appointment. My husband has already alerted his work that retirement is imminent. Hopefully, we can be there by May, if not before!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great tips for anyone wanting to move to an entirely different area. And Catherine is a great Catch (note the C word) as a friend! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

Comments are closed.