Blog Archives

Tour de France overnight

The cyclists head out of Carcassonne

Back in elementary school, long before my first trip to France, I had heard about the Tour de France. Based on photos in magazines such as Life and National Geographic teams of cyclists went zooming down snow capped mountain sides and passed through tranquil country roads lined with vineyards, orchards, and fields of flowers. Since this was before 1960 when alcohol was banned for the participants, there was even a photo of 2 riders, bicycles beside them, enjoying a glass of wine at a sidewalk café. Even at that young age it was an appealing sport where you get to ride through beautiful countryside and then relax at the end of the day at a quintessentially French bistro. Little did I know that years later I’d be standing at one of the daily finishing lines and 2 days after that at the next starting line as 176 colorful jerseys went by in a flash. Read the rest of this entry

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The umbrellas of C…?

Pedestrian shopping street in Carcassonne

Did you ever see the movie from the 1960s starring Catherine Deneuve entitled The Umbrellas of Cherbourg? It takes place in that French port city along the Normandy coast and tells the story of two young lovers separated by war and then reunited years later. By the time the soldier returns, however, the woman has married someone else although it is clear that she still longs for her first love.  The film features the song I Will Wait for You but that clearly didn’t happen as the two main characters go their separate ways. Flash forward 50 years to a much happier take on that theme, at least as far as those umbrellas are concerned. Read the rest of this entry

Wine, women, and song

A student pours wine for Sally and Shell

Earlier this month we began our third year of living in France. The most frequent comment we heard about that blog post revolved around how fast time goes and we agree completely. In Carcassonne that is especially true on weekends, even in the winter, when there are so many choices of activities that we must decide what not to do rather than searching for something to fill the days. During the summer vacation months of July and August, millions of tourists arrive to visit the massive fortress here, parts of which are still standing from the days that Romans picked grapes in the nearby vineyards 2000 years ago. While I would expect there to be plenty to do during the summer, it was a pleasant surprise to find out how much the city has to offer off-season and last weekend was no exception. Read the rest of this entry

Learning a language for real

The sidewalk café; a living language lab

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

All dressed up

Jeff de Bruges chocolates for Christmas

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!

 

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The dog who walks himself

The dog with the green collar

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

Christmas magic in Carcassonne

Christmas magic from the city’s website

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

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