Our friends Sally and Larry are sneaky. They know how much we enjoying seeing parts of France that we haven’t been to, especially when we can go there by our favorite mode of transportation, the train. They also know that despite there being over 3000 stations in a country smaller in area than Texas, we still need a car to visit some villages, towns, and especially picturesque places. To the rescue they’ve come, inviting us along for day trips out of Carcassonne when they’ve rented a car to take visiting friends or family around. Usually they let us know well in advance but sometimes they “kidnap” us for the day and just tell us to be ready to leave at a certain hour. It was one of those surprise adventures that got us to a “City of Art and History”, Pézenas. Read the rest of this entry
Long before we moved to France, we visited here annually. We generally stayed in one location for 2 weeks, typically renting a fully furnished house or apartment so that we could pretend that we actually lived in that city, town or village. Fruits and vegetables from the weekly open-air market; fresh bread from the bakery around the corner; fish just off the boat right next to the harbor; frequent walks around town saying “bonjour” to shopkeepers or even local residents we had seen before. A favorite activity on at least one of those strolls through the city was to stop at the real estate agencies and look at the listings in their windows and then dream about owning a home there. That practice came in very handy when we finally moved to Carcassonne and lived in a holiday home for the first year while we were deciding what to do. We knew after less than 2 months here that this would definitely become our new hometown. Read the rest of this entry
Now that we’ve been homeowners for more than a full calendar year, it’s time to talk about paying the taxes. We’ve never been ones to shy away from “render(ing) unto Caesar” since we understand the importance of sharing the cost of maintaining a civilized society. For example, when we take the city bus or a regional train instead of using a car, we might be helping the environment but at a fare of only 1 euro/dollar per trip, a lot of people are chipping in to make that possible. So where does this money come from and how do we pay our portion? Read the rest of this entry
From September through June, which is considered the school year here, I take a weekly French class that’s mostly grammar with a bit of conversation thrown in. It’s an hour and a half with a dedicated teacher who speaks no English to us and has offered to help any student outside of class time adjust to life here whether it’s filling out a form or understanding a law. The total cost for that 10 months of instruction is 30 euros (35 dollars) and as part of that fee I could also go on hikes, walking tours, take dance lessons, learn to play bridge or how to paint, and speak Russian or Spanish, to name a few, all through the AVF. I’ve spoken before in a few other posts about the Accueil des Villes Française, and that has given me a great start, but there’s more… Read the rest of this entry
We went to Strasbourg with the primary goal of seeing the Christmas market and if you read last Sunday’s blog post you will know that we succeeded far beyond our expectations. Not only did this “Capital of Christmas” have one market to commemorate the original one from 1570, there were 10 other sites around town, all celebrating the season. I’d read that the European Parliament chose to meet in Strasbourg because after the end of WWII it was seen as a symbol of reconciliation so important to this new Union. In the process of shopping our way around through the various encampments of vendors in wooden huts in locations around the city we also got to see monuments and other popular sites of the European mecca. Read the rest of this entry
When we moved to France in 2016 it was the year of our 30th anniversary. Well before we knew that we’d be living overseas we came up with a variety of possibilities for celebrating that happy occasion. We’d had lots of fun on cruises so a transatlantic crossing, sailing from California to Hawaii, Greek Island hopping, and a big friends and family reunion cruise all made it to the list. Since we had rented European castles together with friends a few times, having a big Downton Abbey style party somewhere in the countryside with friends from both sides of the Atlantic sounded great. So did rail trips, especially if they took us to wine destinations like Bordeaux or Cognac where we had not yet been. What about combining cruising and the train with a trip on the Rhine river, returning on the tracks running beside it? If we waited until December we could fly over for the Christkindlmarkts (Christmas markets) in Germany and les marchés de Noël in France. So many choices. Read the rest of this entry
To encourage business owners to decorate their shop windows during the holiday season, the city sponsors a contest during December. There is a small local prize for the winner, but from what we understand the motivation is more about being part of the community; joining in with the others rather than trying to outdo someone else. We walked around the main shopping streets and got some shots of our favorites; sometimes the entire storefront and occasionally just one ornament tucked among many. Enjoy the show!