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”

Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly

From the government’s website on aging

One of our local newspapers had an article entitled, “How much does it cost to be old in France?” so I just had to read that. With homage to Ethel Merman’s character Annie Oakley on Broadway, aging just seemed to me to be a natural process with no admission charge. However, if you want to stay for the whole show you have to pay the price which depends on where you sit from the orchestra to the balcony. It also depends if you are like 85% of the French who say that they want to spend their retirement years at home rather than moving to group living arrangements or to a medical facility. A website that specializes in banking and insurance for seniors (Retraite.com) teamed with another site that helps people live and age well at home (Silver Alliance) to calculate the costs. Continue reading “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly”

Raise the roof

The original 100-year-old roof

It was 1954 when singing cowboy Stuart Hamblen released his hit single “This Ole House” that included lines such as:

Ain’t got time to fix the shingles

&

This ole house lets in the rain

Until recently he could have been singing about our own house but it was reasonable to expect that after nearly one hundred years, the roof was going to need some repairs. Prior to selling our house in Atlanta we had to have the roof replaced and all of the price estimates came in at about $10,000 for new asphalt shingles on a 4000 square foot (372 m2) 3-story house. Last summer during lockdown we had plenty of time to investigate a similar project here on our 1-story house measuring 1055 square feet (98 m2). Granted, now we had terra cotta tiles (on the main house and on an attached room) instead of asphalt but the surface was about 1/4th of what we replaced in the US so we should have been in for a pleasant surprise, right? Well, the cost certainly was a surprise! Continue reading “Raise the roof”

Are you rich?

The rich countryside surrounding us

How long is a piece of string? How high is the sky? An equally impossible question to answer might be “Are you rich?” but a report came out a few months ago with a potential response for France. An organization called “L’Observatoire des Inégalités” that addresses inequality here and around the world says that you fall into the wealthy category if you make 3,470 € per month after taxes as an individual or 5,205 € per month as a couple. So where did these figures come from and how many people qualify? Continue reading “Are you rich?”

Everything old is new again

14th century bridge leading to Carcassonne

Songwriters Carole Bayer and Peter Allen released “Everything Old Is New Again” in 1974 that went on to be the showstopper when Hugh Jackman performed it 30 years later on Broadway as The Boy From Oz. According to the lyrics, “Don’t throw the past away, you might need it some rainy day.” That rainy day seems to have arrived in the form of Covid-19 in Carcassonne that is fighting the pandemic just like most of the rest of the world. And like everywhere else, this isn’t the first health crisis the area has faced; in fact, they’ve been occurring in Europe since at least the 2nd century with a similar response from the population. Social distancing and confinement to your home have been around for a long time. Continue reading “Everything old is new again”

Where to retire in France

From Andernos-les-Bains tourism office

Bill and I have lived from one coast of the US to the other and several places in between. Each of these relocations was a work-related transfer with little leeway on the city of choice. Our final move within America, while still revolving around jobs—as in looking for them—gave us the opportunity to make our own decision about the place. We used an almanac that rated cities across the country on numerous factors such as cost of living, climate, housing, and employment. When it came time to retire in France we consulted a number of “Best of…” lists that covered the same criteria for this country and one of those rankings was published last month in the newspaper Le Figaro. For retirees, the five points they considered were the demographics and attractiveness of each of the 50 included cities, access to health care, the quality of life, housing, and services directed toward seniors. What was at the top of their list? Continue reading “Where to retire in France”

Christmas is (not) canceled

In the heart of Carcassonne, Place Carnot

About six weeks ago Bill said to me, “Christmas has been canceled.” He had just read an article on the city’s website announcing that the annual festival “La Magie de Noël” (The Magic of Christmas) would not take place this year because of current health concerns. Normally in December we are treated to an entire month of daily festivals, markets, parades, concerts, shows, and displays, plus steaming cups of hot chocolate and spiced wine. While most of that isn’t possible this year, the lights in the trees, the squares, the parks, and the shop windows seemed extra bright in keeping with the Mayor’s message: “Bringing a little joy and lightness in this time of crisis is essential, so that children’s eyes continue to shine.” Wishing you a bright and Merry Christmas! Continue reading “Christmas is (not) canceled”