Author Archives: Bob

Venice in 4 days

The Grand Canal by the train station

There are many cities around the globe that either have the word “Venice” as part of their actual name or use it in an effort to attract tourists. In that second category we have several listed as the Venice of the North, including the Netherlands’ Amsterdam, Brugge, Belgium, and Manchester, England. To the west in Ireland are Shannon and Monasterevin and to our south is Aveiro, Portugal and Empuriabrava, Spain. Not to be left out, France has Nante, Sète, Annecy plus Colmar and to the east across the border is Bamberg, Germany. We’ve been lucky enough to travel to almost all of those places and when we lived in Los Angeles, a short bus ride took us to the beach at Venice and on the opposite coast we even had Venice, Florida on our list of possible retirement spots. There are apparently 11 cities with that name in the US but Italy has only one and it was time to see the “real” one. Read the rest of this entry

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Genoa in 4 days

The hills above Genoa

Given that our destination was on the Italian Riviera and is the second largest port on the Mediterranean Sea, it seemed only fitting that our journey would begin at the Sea’s largest port and hug the coastline of the French Riviera. In keeping with that theme, we started on a French train from Carcassonne and transferred to the Italian Thello once we arrived in Marseilles. Familiar sounding city names such as Cannes, Nice, and Monaco appeared outside the window on the passenger platforms where we stopped but then after emerging from a tunnel the station names took a definite change in spelling. First we saw Vintimille, then Sanremo, Diano, and Alassio meaning that we were definitely in Italy with dinner waiting for us that evening in Genoa. Read the rest of this entry

Universal health care

Carte Vitale brochure

Everyone who lives and/or works in France is required to have health insurance. In fact, it’s treated as a fundamental right in the Constitution with the Preamble stating that the Nation “shall guarantee to all, notably to children, mothers and elderly workers, protection of their health….” When applying for our visa that allowed us to stay here during the first year we had to prove that we had health insurance coverage that would take care of any emergency situations plus pay for sending us back to the US for treatment of anything serious and/or long term during the one-year validity of our visa. A common benefit of travel insurance is repatriation to the country where your trip began, so a policy for that was easy to find and accepted for the visa application. Once you’ve lived in France for at least 3 continuous months you become eligible to apply for Protection Universelle Maladie that we think of as universal health care and we have now been accepted. Read the rest of this entry

Oktoberfest in France

Mayor and family from Eggenfelden, Germany

Bill and I have a long history with Germany. Soon after we met I somehow convinced him to go with me to an intensive, full immersion course in Cologne to learn the language. He was even courageous enough to telephone the non-English-speaking family we were going to be living with to tell them our arrival details. In the 30-some years since then we’ve returned many times, always traveling by train to discover another part of the country we had never visited. Having said that, Munich has appeared on our itinerary more than once including a few days one year at Oktoberfest. It was exactly as we expected, if not more, but we figured that a single stopover there would be enough. Then a few weeks ago our neighborhood wine merchant (caviste Jean) asked us if we were going to Oktoberfest. The quizzical look on my face led him to hand us a flyer about the celebration we went to on Saturday night. Read the rest of this entry

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

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

Renestance

French Lifestyle Dream

A new life in Lille

Tales of a Brit who moved to Hauts-de-France

Southern Fried French

Two American Guys & Their Dog Move to France

wcs

Two American Guys & Their Dog Move to France

Chez Loulou

Two American Guys & Their Dog Move to France

The Vicious Cycle

A man searches for meaning...in between leg shavings

Post-Industrial Eating

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An Italian Point Of View

Alan and Tracy's Expat Adventures