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

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And the winner is….

The fortress at Carcassonne

After seeing a July post about a trip we had taken to nearby Narbonne, blog reader Rebecca commented that she’d driven by that city many times, and it sounded as if it were worth a stop. We certainly agree, especially given that Narbonne appeared on our original list of cities that we might want to move to. Long before we ever considered moving overseas, we tried to create in Atlanta one aspect of European life that greatly appealed to us: a village. No matter what country we visited from France, to Germany, Italy, England, Scotland, or Wales, we always started in the big cities but managed to find outlying areas that charmed us. Of course each culture was different but there was always something that brought the residents together and in the UK the heart of every small town we went to was the village pub. It was no surprise then that “village” appeared as one must-have item on any new place that we would call home. Read the rest of this entry

La Féria

Dancers from Seville

As the crow flies, we’re only about 50 miles (80 kms) from the Spanish border but it hasn’t always been that way. Prior to 1659 the fortress here in Carcassonne along with 5 other area castles known as “The Sons” stood watch over the frontier just a few miles away. After the Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed the division between France and Spain moved south to the highest ridge of the mountain range of the accord’s name where it still remains. Given the centuries of rule that our neighbors to the south maintained in this general region it’s no surprise that their influence still exists today. A celebration of that culture is observed every year in Carcassonne with the arrival of La Féria! Read the rest of this entry

Before you go

Social Security website brochure

We’ve recently added some more information on our page called “Are You Serious?” that you can access from the tab above. That’s where we’ve assembled an outline of the basic steps we took in preparation for the move and then what we did upon arrival here. With at least a year’s worth of planning before we made the big move to France, we thought that we had everything covered. Actually we did, as far as taking care of our situation at the time but then some things changed and we had to adapt. Opening a bank account at the branch at the end of our street proved much easier than we anticipated compared with what we’d read about the experience of others. Getting money transferred into that new account from our US bank and Social Security benefits direct deposited there too, well, not so easy. 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

Sign here

Post office mailboxes

Seldom do I sign petitions. I’ve never been much of a political activist and you never know what’s going to happen to that list you’ve just signed. In this digital age when nothing ever totally disappears once it’s been put online, something you’ve long forgotten about could come back to surprise you years later. Regularly I do an Internet search of my name just to see if there’s anything new and a link to a petition I joined almost 20 years ago is still right there. A few weeks ago our neighbor Marc came knocking at our door, paper in hand and talking a mile-a-minute, asking us if we’d seen it, did we use it, and did we want to get it back. All we had to do was figure out what “it” was. 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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