Category Archives: Travel in France & beyond

How to saddle Oxford

Oxford’s Trout Inn

We’d been to Oxford several times before, but never with a guide. Friends Sue and Michael invited us to spend a couple of days with them seeing the sites that we had not already visited. Fresh from our time in Sheffield we happily donned our hiking boots instead of our Saddle Oxfords, and set out to see more of the town. Fish and water became the theme as we set off out of town along the river on a clear day that quickly turned rainy.  To escape the weather we dashed in to the Perch pub for a fireside beer before continuing on along the canal to our ultimate goal, the Trout Inn. More beer and a delicious early dinner followed. Read the rest of this entry

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On the cutting edge in Sheffield

Ordering a beer with Pete at the Sheffield Tap

Whether it’s kitchen, pocket, or hunting knives, scissors, razors, or even letter openers, if it’s sharp, it has probably been made in Sheffield, England since at least the 14th century. The local football team is nicknamed The Blades. There are restaurants that keep with that naming tradition including Cutlers, Silversmiths, Cross Scythes, and Steel Foundry. There’s even a Grindstone Pub. There are at least 2 dozen breweries in town such as Steel City, On the Edge, and Toolmakers. Thanks to our friends Gaynor and Pete, who were the reason we went to this north-central English city, we got to sample real ale all over town. Read the rest of this entry

Take the last train to London

London’s St. Pancras train station awaited us

On most days of the week it’s possible to take one train from the south of France all the way through to London, arriving in time to join the after-theater crowd for a late dinner. It starts in Marseille, so from Carcassonne you have to take one other train to catch the 3:15 PM Eurostar departure, and that’s exactly what we did last month. We are close enough to walk to the airport here from where we could fly directly to London, but we love the train. It’s relaxing, you can show up at the station a few minutes ahead rather than hours before departure, you depart from and arrive in the center of town, and leisurely drinks, snacks, and meals can be enjoyed with plenty of leg room while listening to music, reading a book, or just gazing out the window as the landscape glides by. Read the rest of this entry

Day trip to Nîmes

The arena of Nîmes

Writing this blog is a lot of fun because it gives us a chance to share our experiences and perhaps help others who are considering a move to France. We have an extra boost when someone who reads our posts gets in touch to say that they will be in town and could we all get together for a drink or a meal. Often people are passing through Carcassonne so it’s easy to meet at the main square and then settle in at one of the many cafés there. This summer Anne and Eliot were staying along the Mediterranean’s Côte d’Azur (you know—Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez, to name drop a few) and asked about meeting up somewhere between our home and theirs. A quick check of the map confirmed that we’d be spending the day in Nîmes. Read the rest of this entry

Fill-er-up

Sparkling wine in Limoux

There are many advantages to not having a car. The most obvious ones revolve around money. If you haven’t already paid for the vehicle then there are monthly loan or lease payments plus your insurance bill to go with that. In the US, although we didn’t have to take our 2 Hondas in for service very often, each time we did it always seemed to average 400 dollars. Parking fees for us are now nonexistent. I once paid 40 dollars to park for an hour and a half in midtown Manhattan one evening. There are no repair bills to consider for minor dents and scratches that aren’t worth turning into your insurance company. No tokens to buy to feed into the meter at the automatic car wash. And of course, no gasoline. The average cost of essence in France is 1.37 euro per liter which equates to 4.35 dollars per gallon, but that still doesn’t mean that we don’t get to say fill-er-up! Read the rest of this entry

Sun and ice

17th century ice house entrance

If asked to name a French king, the first one that comes to our minds is Louis XIV, the Sun King. After all, his association with the majestic Palace of Versailles certainly makes a memorable impression even 300 years later. He turned a hunting lodge in the middle of a forest, 13 miles (21 km.) from Paris into a massive administrative and entertainment complex for his own delight and that of the court in general and ambassadors from other European countries. A popular after dinner event of the time, and an additional way to demonstrate the king’s seemingly limitless power, was to serve fruit-flavored ices to his guests, even in the middle of the summer of the 1600s, at least a century before artificial refrigeration was in use elsewhere. To ensure a ready supply of ice wherever he traveled in France and to those wealthy enough to court his favor, the King authorized the construction of glacières (we would call them “ice houses”) in 1659 and there’s one about an hour’s drive from Carcassonne. Read the rest of this entry

Where 20 = Wine

Wine aging in barrels in the cave

Ask any French person to name a famous American highway and you’re bound to hear “Route 66”. Hollywood has done a wonderful job of creating a mystique around this classic USA road trip that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. Bill spent part of his youth growing up along it and he always gets smiles, nods of approval, and an enthusiastic “Oui!” whenever that comes up in conversation. There are numerous websites, guidebooks, photo essays, and blog posts, all in French, dedicated to navigating this 2400 mile (3900 kilometer) pathway. If you reverse that original question and ask us to name a famous French highway, you will certainly hear “Route 20 Corbières”, the wine road. Read the rest of this entry

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