Author Archives: Bob

Colorful Carcassonne

Art deco former city hall

Although the summer tourist season may have been delayed this year, it’s now in full swing. In a symbolic gesture yesterday the city “opened” the main pedestrian shopping street by opening hundreds of colorful umbrellas and unfurling equally bright sails above the main driving  thoroughfare. Half of the millions of visitors that come here annually to marvel at Europe’s largest walled fortress live in Spain. While France will fully reopen its borders to international tourists tomorrow, our neighbor just to the south will probably wait until the end of the month. That will give restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops just enough time to get used to masks, distancing, and other procedures put in place to keep everyone healthy. In the meantime, here’s a preview of what will be awaiting them. Read the rest of this entry

Plan that trip

Canal-du-Midi from Office de Tourisme Grand Carcassonne

In the old days, when our annual trips to Europe required a transatlantic flight, our planning began more than 11 months in advance because that was how far ahead we could book the airline tickets. We then had almost a year to do all of the fine tuning and to picture how we wanted our holiday to turn out. Once we moved here and started traveling almost exclusively by train, where tickets are generally available only 3 months in advance, we had to change our strategy. No longer did we have months of anticipation but only weeks and according to an article I read last month it’s that period of looking forward to your break that makes you feel better about life in general and specifically about your health, economics, and social situation. With the article titled, “Waiting for Merlot”, I just had to read it.  Read the rest of this entry

Read my lips

Bill models one of the masks he made for us

And we were doing so well. Long before we had any plans of living in France we were watching French movies with the English subtitles turned on so that we could understand what was being said. That was a compromise since the real reason we were renting these films was for the scenery, be it the Eiffel Tower, Medieval castles, or fields of lavender in full bloom; all were really just inspiration for our next vacation. It’s a challenge, however, to read the dialog and try to take in all of the beautiful landscapes sharing the same screen. Then we moved here with access to 100 TV channels broadcast in French with only a few offering some programs subtitled in English but all having the option of displaying the spoken text on the screen for the deaf or hard of hearing. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em so that became our next step in comprehending what was going on. At least we could match up the words we were hearing with those across the bottom of the screen. Read the rest of this entry

On your mark, get set…

Looking forward to walks along the Canal

Tomorrow is the big day when France begins a gradual emergence from nearly 8 weeks of lock down in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. According to government reports, it’s been a successful effort in saving over 60,000 lives and preventing 85% of the infections that would have occurred had there not been a stay-at-home order. Most businesses have been closed but shops that sell food, medications, wine, and/or cigarettes did not have to hang the “fermé” sign on their doors. Delivery services sprang up overnight so we were even able to keep the wine rack full without stepping out the door. When the rules were being written about which shops would be allowed to begin welcoming customers first, guess who made it to the top of the list: hair salons and barber shops. After two months without haircuts and coloring, we gotta look good! Read the rest of this entry

Get your fiber

The city’s website announces fiber installation

When we moved to Carcassonne in 2016 the plan was that all of the city would be wired with fiber optic cable within 2 years and that even the surrounding communities would be covered by the end of this year. Then the devastating floods arrived one night in October, 2018 taking with them lives, portions of villages, and lots of infrastructure including telephone lines. Personnel who had been involved in completing that original coverage plan within the city were understandably redirected to the outlying areas to reconnect those who were now isolated because of washed out bridges, rail lines, and any means of communication. Happily, last month we received an email from our Internet provider that our home was now eligible for fiber and we could schedule an appointment by clicking on the provided link, which we did almost as soon as we opened their message. Next we had to figure out how to cope with the installation in the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown. After a delay of 16 months we were determined to make this work. Read the rest of this entry

Yes, Virginia, there is an Easter Bunny!

Easter chocolates

French folklore says that church bells are silent on Good Friday because they’ve flown off to Rome to see the Pope. When they return on Easter morning they are filled with chocolates that they drop to all of the children eagerly waiting below. Public health travel restrictions this year canceled all of those flights so Plan B(unny) went into effect to ensure that we would all have our goodie-filled baskets today. Our young neighbor went door-to-door, socially distant of course, with an order form from one of the local artisanal chocolate makers who agreed to share the profits with the school system to support extracurricular activities. 

The title for today’s post is an adaptation from an 1897 editorial by publisher Francis Church who was answering a question from 8-year-old Virginia about Santa Claus: “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist…how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.” For safety purposes, we may be temporarily staying home, but with that plateful of chocolates you see above, it’s definitely not dreary. Happy Easter!

Until further notice

Daffodils in our courtyard

We’ve seen those words “until further notice” or to be precise it’s been the French phrase jusqu’à nouvel ordre many times during the past two weeks as new measures have been announced in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The first affected us immediately since it was to close down all schools all across the country. That meant my weekly French classes were canceled as were the English classes where I volunteer that take place in the same building; therefore, in the spirit of Shakespeare, neither a student nor a teacher be. Accompanying that official decree were suggestions about keeping your distance from others, not shaking hands, avoiding gatherings of any kind, etc. but the concept of not being convivial seemed totally foreign. Read the rest of this entry