Blog Archives

Bill found the donkey

The tiny porcelain donkey

Tradition plays a significant role in French culture and our neighbors made sure that we didn’t miss out on a tasty one last Sunday. January 6 is when the three wise men were supposed to have arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts on a day now known as Epiphany. The celebration here always includes the Galette des Rois (Kings’ Cake) which is a large, flaky puff pastry filled with almond paste, decorated with an elaborate design, and topped off with a cardboard crown. Baked inside is a tiny porcelain (sometimes plastic) figurine known as a fève which is the French word for “bean” because historically that was the hidden object. Both olives and prunes are grown locally here and seldom come pitted, so we are used to carefully biting into anything that might contain a real “jaw-breaker”. It was that skill that earned Bill his title of King for the Day when he found the âne that you and I might call a donkey. Read the rest of this entry

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A light look at Lourdes

The Gave de Pau river runnning through Lourdes

The French word for “heavy”, if you’re talking about feminine nouns is lourdes which is exactly the same spelling as the town in the Pyrenees that is a major pilgrimage site for Catholics. According to legend, Bernadette Soubirous saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary there in 1858 and believers soon started arriving at the cave (grotto) hoping for a cure. Although I have long wanted to visit the town for its historical significance, Bill said that it would “take a miracle” to convince him to go. Given that today’s blog post was supposed to be about our planned but now postponed side trip from Bordeaux to Cognac because the tasting rooms weren’t open during the holidays, I’d say that we achieved that lofty goal. Hop aboard the train with us for our next destination: Lourdes. Read the rest of this entry

Secret, lost, hidden, invisible Bordeaux

Bakery oven from 1765

On our first trip to Bordeaux last summer (Bordeaux in 4 days) we hit most of the highlights that make it to the “must-see” lists for this capital of wine. For our second visit I thought it might be fun to look for some more out-of-the-way places that don’t typically make it to a tourist’s itinerary but would still be interesting for us to see. The title of today’s post includes some of the search terms I used in compiling a lineup of sites, shops, restaurants, views, and other alluring locations for us to stop into or at least pass by. Thanks to a blog post about Invisible Bordeaux (website below) we found several links back across the Atlantic ocean. Read the rest of this entry

Trains for Christmas

TGV departs Carcassonne station for Toulouse

Fond Christmas memories are centered around trains, stretching from childhood right through 3 years ago when we sold our Atlanta house and all of its contents including the HO gauge model trains that Bill and I had collected over the years. The first engine I remember was a steam locomotive that even emitted puffs of white smoke for realism. That was followed by a bright yellow Union Pacific diesel. No smoke but the passenger cars came with interior lights that added one more touch of realism. When I got a job with British Rail, naturally we had to have our own version of the Flying Scotsman. It didn’t take long to add the Orient Express to our collection and once France became a yearly vacation destination we had a TGV. Who wouldn’t want a miniature version of a train capable in speed trials of going 574 km/hr (357 mph)? Every December we would set up the track around the base of the tree and then try to figure out how to fit all of those engines and cars into that little space. Now our hardest decision with life-size trains is where to go next. Read the rest of this entry

Christmas windows

A smiling penguin with his champagne

The theme for the holiday season this year in Carcassonne is La Magie de Noël (The Magic of Christmas) and last week I shared the city’s Facebook post about all of the activities on my own FB page. The comment from our friend Barb sums it up perfectly, “Nice, no holding back there!” and we certainly agree. The Mayor has long held that this should be a family event where everyone could meet up to “share moments of joy and laughter” as you can see on their website page devoted to at least 70 events going on this month: http://www.carcassonne.org/article-page/magie-de-noel-2018?liste  Not wanting to miss out on the fun, Bill and I went walking a few nights ago to join in on the celebrations and to see what we could discover.

 

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It’s mutual, I’m sure

Top-up insurance protection from Que Choisir website

In the October blog post Universal health care, I wrote about how everyone in France must have health insurance. We had received our Carte Vitale, the ID card to show that we are part of the French healthcare system, that we present at the doctor’s office, hospital, laboratory, pharmacy, etc. Coverage is generally 70 percent of the cost of the procedure leaving the patient to pay the remaining 30 percent out of pocket or to buy a private top-up insurance policy that costs between 50 and 100 euros per month per person. Coverage for dental, vision, and hearing problems will increase to 100 percent within 2 years. Anyone who has a long term disease such as cancer or diabetes is already covered at 100 percent as are people who are unable to afford additional insurance. We’ve now signed up for assurance maladie complémentaire more commonly called a mutuelle. Read the rest of this entry

A spoonful of sugar

Course announcement from Fun-Mooc website

You probably remember when Julie Andrews as the title character nanny in the film Mary Poppins was trying to get her two charges, Jane and Michael, to clean their room. To introduce the song she begins with “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun” and then the orchestra starts up and you soon hear her sing “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. When you move to another country where they don’t speak your native language it’s important to learn what the local people are saying for a variety of reasons. Once you get past the survival level where you can at least get food and shelter then you can start fitting in with your new neighbors and having fun. But of course, language isn’t the only challenge since there are cultural differences, new rules to learn, and administrative procedures to follow for everything from buying a train ticket to seeing a doctor. Thanks to an online course sponsored by the French government’s Ministry of Higher Learning, you can combine all of those tasks in one place. Read the rest of this entry

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