Boxed in

Last year during the lockdowns when we were supposed to stay home or at least not venture far away, it was easy to get that “boxed in” feeling. Luckily our house has a courtyard where we could be outdoors whenever we wanted and right in our own neighborhood there are shops of all kinds so getting in supplies wasn’t much of a problem. One of our favorite wine stores, however, is more than the 1 kilometer distance that we were asked to stay within and while we could go further for any “essential” purchases (yes, this is France so wine fell into that category) we didn’t want to push our luck. An email from that very store changed everything. While at the time they were unable to have tastings they could offer free delivery so that you could enjoy tastings at home, and that’s exactly what we did. It not only enticed us to try a variety of different wines from the 700 winegrowers in their cooperative, but also their range of everyday wines in boxes.

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There’s a geyser in France?

While it might not have the magnificence of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful, those same kinds of underground boiling waters that put on a regular spectacle several times daily in Wyoming do so here as well. In the town of Vals-les-Bains, south of Lyon, La Source Intermittente erupts every 6 hours and might qualify for a must-see list, according to a survey commissioned by airline company Icelandair. They had the survey company OnePoll compile a Top 20 list of places that people wanted to visit on a vacation once it was safe to travel after Covid. While the 2000 participants had a wide range of destinations, there was definitely some agreement. Most felt that they were ready for adventure after spending more than a year doing nothing and were only now realizing the importance of getting away. They wanted to take spectacular photos, visit another country, and number 14 on the list, see a geyser. That made me curious about how many of the other 19 desires could be met in France.

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Limoges in 1 day

Before Bill and I visit a city we have never been to we try to discover as much about it as possible. What is its cultural heritage, what historic sites are there to see, where will it be convenient to stay and what restaurants offer something that we can’t find in Carcassonne, what makes it interesting and/or famous? That’s how we found out that today’s featured city was the birthplace in 1841 of French Impressionist painter Auguste Renoir. The Romans knew it in 10 BC as Augustoritum in honor of the emperor Augustus, it has a French and European-winning championship basketball team, and is headquarters for the electrical supply giant Legrand. There’s even a US connection since its sister city is Charlotte, North Carolina. While all of those are notable, they aren’t the first words that spring to mind when you say “Limoges”; however, we think that “porcelain” certainly is. 

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Rodez in 1 day

Bill and I go to the open air market each Saturday not just to get the week’s supply of fresh fruit and vegetables but because it’s a lively social event and one that’s observed in thousands of towns all over France. We’ve even picked up supplies at neighborhood markets in Paris when we’ve been there on vacation and rented apartments with kitchens. It’s such a popular event that it was on our list of must-haves when we were searching for a place to live and there’s a website (link below) devoted to market days and locations. It was there that we looked for the information to decide on which day to make a visit to Rodez while we were staying in Toulouse and could make easy one-train day trips from there.

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Montauban in 1 day

To promote tourism in our part of the south of France, the regional government of Occitanie invited cities with “remarkable architectural and/or natural heritage or perennial cultural events” to join in a 5-year program called Grands Sites Occitanie. Forty “majestic, authentic, wild or legendary” places were chosen, naturally one of which was Carcassonne given its status as the best preserved medieval walled city in Europe. Many of the 40 sites are accessible by a direct train from Toulouse so we decided to stay a few nights there to avoid making connections. For our first day trip we chose Montauban which like Toulouse is nicknamed a “pink city” because of the proliferation of buildings made from bricks of that color. But why?

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Applying for citizenship

Home in France for 5 years

Now that we’ve lived in France in a “habitual and continuous manner for five years” it’s possible to apply for citizenship. That time requirement can vary, for example, if you got your university degree here, or have a French sibling, spouse, or parent/grandparent/great grandparent but in my case it will be a Demande de naturalisation par décret (Request for naturalization by decree). That just means that I have to be integrated into the community, have a sufficient knowledge of the language, history, culture and society, as well as the rights and duties conferred by French nationality and adhere to the principles and values of the Republic. Whew, sounds like a tall order so I’d better get started!

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The Tour returns

In its 118 year history, the Tour de France has made an overnight stop in Carcassonne 10 times, twice since we’ve lived here and this weekend made the third. The city has been making preparations for the arrival for months and the most recent evidence of this was the installation of umbrellas (photo above) in the official race colors of solid white, yellow, and green, plus white with red polka dots all along the main pedestrian walkway through the middle of town. These provide a nice bit of shade from the summer sun plus lend even more cheer to the festivities. Running perpendicular to that, the principal driving street was not left out since it boasts an endless stream of dangling flowers well above the car roofs. All was in place by the time the first of 168 riders rolled over Friday’s finish line having made the 220 km (137 miles) trip from Nîmes in about 5 hours.

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