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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A second statue from France

In Bordeaux

Scheduled for arrival in the port of New York today (but delivered early, on Thursday) is the second Statue of Liberty that France has sent to the US in the last 135 years. The first, of course, has stood on Liberty Island since its inauguration in 1886 welcoming new arrivals to America’s shores. Following a stopover to stand beside its much taller inspiration (46 m/151 ft.) the shorter replica (2.83 m/9.3 ft.) will continue on to Washington, DC where it will be displayed to the public in the ornamental gardens, visible from the street, at the residence of the French ambassador to America. That seems fitting since Ambassador Philippe Étienne was instrumental from the beginning of the process.

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Five to ten

From the Service Public website

Although today’s blog post title sounds like a prison sentence it’s far from it; in fact, just the opposite. It refers to the ability to apply for a 10-year residence card after having lived in France for five years. We reached that milestone at the end of February and now we are holders of a Carte de résident de longue durée-UE or something similar in the US might be called a “green card”. Our French one is blue but no less significant. Previously we needed to renew our card annually to stay here legally but now we’re set for the next decade. So besides not having to pay a renewal fee of 269 € every year, what are the other advantages?

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Béziers in 2 days

We had our second Pfizer vaccination two weeks ago so with a promised effectiveness of 94.6% against Covid-19 we felt comfortable in getting back to our favorite pastime: travel. After all we moved to Carcassonne to have easy rail access to the rest of France and into the neighboring countries. While we wait for border crossing restrictions to be eased it made sense to stay within the “Hexagone” as this 6-sided land is often called. With several direct trains a day and a journey time of only 44 minutes, a visit to Béziers seemed reasonable. Classed as one of the oldest cities in the country, from at least 675 BC, it was time to head to within 12 km (7.5 miles) of the Mediterranean Sea to discover what 2700 years of history has to offer.

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Walk a mile (or 5)

It’s been over 50 years since a Japanese inventor released his health-craze-creating pedometer that shared its name with that of the company that produced it: 10,000 Steps.  A study back then addressed the importance of walking and another was recently released that confirms those initial results: if you want to live longer and healthier you need to literally “take the steps” to do so. Apparently neither the intensity nor over what period of time daily that you exercise affects the results but it is cumulative; that is, compared to 4000 steps, taking 8000 steps reduces mortality by 51% or 65% for 12,000 steps in a 24-hour period. Since we don’t have a car we’re used to walking and given the long-distance travel restrictions we’ve had over the last year, seeing our local area on foot has been our main outdoor recreation. With 2000 years of history on our doorstep and a guide published by the city to lead the way, we’ve had plenty to explore right here at home.

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