Béziers in 2 days

We had our second Pfizer vaccination two weeks ago so with a promised effectiveness of 94.6% against Covid-19 we felt comfortable in getting back to our favorite pastime: travel. After all we moved to Carcassonne to have easy rail access to the rest of France and into the neighboring countries. While we wait for border crossing restrictions to be eased it made sense to stay within the “Hexagone” as this 6-sided land is often called. With several direct trains a day and a journey time of only 44 minutes, a visit to Béziers seemed reasonable. Classed as one of the oldest cities in the country, from at least 675 BC, it was time to head to within 12 km (7.5 miles) of the Mediterranean Sea to discover what 2700 years of history has to offer.

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Walk a mile (or 5)

It’s been over 50 years since a Japanese inventor released his health-craze-creating pedometer that shared its name with that of the company that produced it: 10,000 Steps.  A study back then addressed the importance of walking and another was recently released that confirms those initial results: if you want to live longer and healthier you need to literally “take the steps” to do so. Apparently neither the intensity nor over what period of time daily that you exercise affects the results but it is cumulative; that is, compared to 4000 steps, taking 8000 steps reduces mortality by 51% or 65% for 12,000 steps in a 24-hour period. Since we don’t have a car we’re used to walking and given the long-distance travel restrictions we’ve had over the last year, seeing our local area on foot has been our main outdoor recreation. With 2000 years of history on our doorstep and a guide published by the city to lead the way, we’ve had plenty to explore right here at home.

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Get the notary on the line

Le Bugue
Le Bugue

In the 2008 movie Mamma Mia!, hotel owner Donna Sheridan comments that her soon-to-be son-in-law will be publicizing her Villa Donna to the world by putting her “on the line.” She claims to be current with the new technology of “the Internets” wondering why no one has invented a machine that makes the beds. We had a similar thought recently regarding those “Internets” when we had to have several documents notarized for use back in the US. Given that a notarial act must generally be conducted within the state where the notary holds a commission, it was going to be a challenge with the Atlantic ocean between us and travel heavily restricted. Time for an “on the line” search for a solution.

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Double shot

No, not a double shot of whiskey, cappuccino, an amusement park ride in NJ, or even “of my baby’s love”. How about the Covid-19 vaccine, or at least part one. People especially prone to disease or otherwise fragile were the first to be inoculated and now it’s being rolled out to the rest of us as fast as it becomes available. Dentists, medical students, lab technicians and even veterinarians have been recruited to use their skills in getting everyone covered. Our booster shot is scheduled for a month from now and then what? Given that we have a year’s worth of travel to catch up on, that’s pretty simple to answer; except, as we hear so often from our French friends, it’s complicated.

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B1 to be one

To apply for French citizenship requires a lot of documents. Some of them you have to request from the US, such as your birth certificate while others like your electric bill can be printed out at home. None of that is really challenging but anything that is not already in French has to be officially translated. There is one item, however, that does involve some work: 400 hours or about 18 months of study is what I’ve seen estimated online. An applicant must prove that she or he can operate independently in the French language, understand main points in conversations, cope with most situations that could arise while traveling in the country, and describe dreams, hopes, ambitions, and opinions with supporting reasons. This intermediate level is classified by the CERL (Cadre Européen de Référence pour les Langues) as B1 and this week I received my successful test results.

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Flowers and chocolates for Easter

In France, the end of Lent is called Pâques, a word derived from Latin for food, pascua, while in modern day English, Easter may have come from the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre. Despite the different names, the day itself is celebrated in a similar manner in both cultures with egg hunts, baskets of candies, and a big family meal often featuring lamb. We took advantage of the beautiful weather to get some photos of the flower beds and the window displays of the chocolateries in Carcassonne. Whether you are waking up this morning to chocolate bells or fish as we are in France or rabbits, hens, and eggs (or maybe even marshmallow Peeps) we wish you Joyeuses Pâques!

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France’s favorite village

France 3 TV program

To be called a “village” in France the population must be less than 2000 people and the houses can’t be further than 200 meters apart. According to the Mayor’s Association, that describes 29,000 places around the country and even if you lower the number of inhabitants to 500 you are still left with 18,000 communities. Each year television channel France 3 runs a contest to whittle down those thousands to just 14: one village to represent each region in mainland France and one from overseas. Now that the shortlist has been announced the fun begins because everyone (as far as I can tell) gets to vote for their favorite village, link below. Continue reading “France’s favorite village”