Both of us have a Last Will and Testament on file back in the US where they were drawn up by an attorney familiar with those types of documents. They would be legal in France, although the practicality of executing them here might be challenging. For one thing, they are written in English and while we have copies with us that could be officially translated, they still might need authenticating back through the county clerk’s office where they are on file. To make things easier for one of us (or if we’re both gone, someone else entirely) in the future, we decided to visit a notaire and have him create a Testament for each of us. After all, we live in France and any assets that are left will be donated to a charity here in town so it just made sense, but where would we start?
Coming in second out of 242 isn’t bad. That’s the position that Carcassonne achieved in a “where to live after retirement” study conducted by the newspaper Le Parisien. They compared cities of more than 20,000 inhabitants outside the capital region of Île-de-France, evaluating around 30 different factors that would be important to the 75,000 French retirees who move each year. The authors readily admit that they were unable to account for emotional factors such as returning to where you grew up, settling in an area that’s near your adult children or where you already have friends or where you’ve always enjoyed visiting. After 25 years of annual vacations in France, that last point rang true for us.
It had been 10 years since we had been inside a movie theater. It’s not that we don’t like films; in fact, just the opposite. In the last house we owned in the US we converted part of the basement to a home cinema with a 10-foot wide screen that we enjoyed at least every weekend. In those days DVDs arrived weekly in the mail plus there were kiosks a short drive away that frequently offered a free rental just to get you to try (or retry) their service so we always had an ample supply to watch. To see something that had not yet been released to the home market, however, meant that we had to go to our local multiplex and our last few experiences there convinced us that we’d be happier waiting until it was available to see on our own screen. At times it felt as if more people in the audience were watching their cell phones than the big screen and talking to their seatmates about the latest news flash on social media. A couple of weeks ago we decided to see how going to the movies in France might compare.
On their way through the south of France, friends Pete and Cameron stopped in Carcassonne, fresh from the Spanish Basque Country that shares a lot of history and culture with its French counterpart right across the border. One of those traditions that they enjoyed was an afternoon aperitivo that included a glass of vermouth made in a town not far from where they were staying. Knowing how much we like taking a picnic on the train, they created a takeout version of the aperitif to share with us and in the photo to the left you can see the result. The gift bag included a bottle of Ugabe vermouth from Artea, an orange to slice for the glass, green olives, and potato chips just as it had been served at a Spanish café. That prompted me to read up on this “before dinner” pause that we knew as an apéro.
When we lived in Atlanta, within a few minutes from home we could be shopping in what seemed like every big box store that exists in America. All were open 7 days a week and even some of those welcomed you 24 hours a day. No need to borrow that cup of sugar from a neighbor when you could easily go get a 5-pound bag, or even a 25-pound bag if you went to the warehouse store, essentially whenever you wanted. Of course when you have a car and a pickup truck to transport all of this back to your 4000 square foot (371 square meters) home it’s no big deal. Now our car is a city bus, the truck is a backpack, and we happily live in about one quarter of the space we had before so we’ve adapted our buying accordingly.
When I was growing up, the concept of going on vacation meant that when our dad had a week off from work we would all get into the car and drive for 8 hours to spend a few days with both sets of our grandparents. While there, we might take a picnic to the lake or walk through the woods but otherwise it wasn’t all that different from being at home except that our mother might not have to cook. Those trips continued until I started high school and got a part time job at the public library which changed everything. The responsibility of my first real salaried job meant that I couldn’t necessarily accompany my parents and I was now immersed in a world of books, one of which caught my eye immediately, “Europe on 5 Dollars A Day”, subtitled, “A guide to inexpensive travel.” Genuine vacations were about to begin.
If you own a hotel, restaurant, rental car agency or another travel business get ready to say “bonjour” because the French are headed your way. Apparently 80% of our “neighbors”, near and far, are ready to hit the road after a couple of years of not going, or not being able to go, anywhere. The term “revenge travel” has really taken hold as people are determined to make up for lost time. I know that Bill and I too are caught up in that feeling and in fact got a head start in the last half of 2022 with trips to Spain, Switzerland, and Ireland with more plans ahead. The French have always enjoyed vacationing in this country (hillside village of Eus in this photo to the left), and that’s not changing for 2023 with 1/3rd of the travelers choosing to stay within the borders. That still leaves a lot more people to go to a lot more places, so let’s see where they are going.