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!
The street we live on in Carcassonne is fairly quiet. Most of the cars we see are from neighbors who are jockeying for one of the rare parking places that are on only one side of the road. Few large trucks dare to venture past us realizing that they would certainly clip off the sideview mirror of anyone who forgot to fold it inwards although twice a week the skillful drivers of the city’s trash and recycling trucks manage to make it. There’s even a narrow sidewalk on both sides that is typically blocked on one side by parked cars while the other side gives us a place to stand, huddled against the wall, to allow one of those big vehicles passage should they have unknowingly turned down our petite rue. Not too long after we had moved in, it was on that little walking path that we first noticed a small dog with a green collar whom we now call “the dog who walks himself”. Read the rest of this entry
Our neighbor is from Paris and is used to, I’m sure, some really stellar events. After all, growing up in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower has to be pretty impressive yet she remains unjaded. Having moved to Carcassonne for love, her perspective on the world is very down to earth. As an example, for someone who can’t eat dairy products nor gluten she proclaims “but I can eat all of the fruits, vegetables, and meat that I want” and adds “and I’m fond of the local wine”. We can identify with that positive attitude! It didn’t surprise us then, when she told us that although we’d recently returned from Strasbourg, site of Europe’s first Christmas market in 1570, we would still find the festivities in Carcassonne mignon, or in our translated word “cute”. She was right. Read the rest of this entry
On Thursday we went to the dentist for the first time since we moved here and as the French sometimes say “It wasn’t terrible”. In fact, the visit itself was much less traumatic than the buildup in our heads of simply making the appointment. Phoning a business remains a challenge especially when you must explain that you’re a new patient, that there are actually two of you who need to see the doctor, preferably with back-to-back appointments, and because of language classes you can’t show up on Wednesday mornings or Friday afternoons. Granted, all of that is now easy enough to say in French and even have the person on the other end of the phone understand you but the test comes in figuring out their reply. If you’ve chosen a small office you might be talking directly to the doctor, perhaps already busy with a patient, so that just adds to the anxiety. We were delighted, therefore, to find a dental practice large enough to have a receptionist we could talk to in-person, so we walked right in. Read the rest of this entry