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
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
If you’ve ever been in a need-to-know work situation you’ll understand that it’s always someone else who decides when you need to know something and how much they are going to tell you. It was especially frustrating to me when I was in a position that required disseminating information to the general public yet finding out those details from the person in charge was impossible. Luckily that’s all in the past and now it’s up to Bill and me to determine what information we need, how to get it, and will it be in French or English. The region that we live in, called Occitanie, publishes a review every 2 months to inform citizens about government spending, new and planned legislation, achievements in job creation, etc. I was astounded that each issue includes a section called “Political Groups Expression” where all parties, center, left, right, extreme, or moderate get to say their piece. Read the rest of this entry
I was going to save this blog post until later in the year, closer to Christmas, with an appropriate title, something like “Chestnuts roasting”. We were walking home along the Canal-du-Midi and noticed all of these nuts on the ground. Gravity had been our friend because the shells had broken open when they hit the sidewalk and spilled their prizes before us: chestnuts. We knew that’s what they were because they had that familiar deep glossy brown shine that we had seen roasting in huge flat pans at food festivals all over Europe in the fall. The French word for brown is marron, which is typically the same word they use for these treats. Eagerly we picked up as many as we could see, dropped them into our ever-present backpacks and took them home for cooking. Bill dutifully scored each nut individually to keep them from exploding when heated, spread them out on a cookie sheet, and placed them in the oven until the smell alone said that they were ready. Then he tasted one…. Read the rest of this entry
As the crow flies, we’re only about 50 miles (80 kms) from the Spanish border but it hasn’t always been that way. Prior to 1659 the fortress here in Carcassonne along with 5 other area castles known as “The Sons” stood watch over the frontier just a few miles away. After the Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed the division between France and Spain moved south to the highest ridge of the mountain range of the accord’s name where it still remains. Given the centuries of rule that our neighbors to the south maintained in this general region it’s no surprise that their influence still exists today. A celebration of that culture is observed every year in Carcassonne with the arrival of La Féria! Read the rest of this entry