Blog Archives

Christmas is (not) canceled

In the heart of Carcassonne, Place Carnot

About six weeks ago Bill said to me, “Christmas has been canceled.” He had just read an article on the city’s website announcing that the annual festival “La Magie de Noël” (The Magic of Christmas) would not take place this year because of current health concerns. Normally in December we are treated to an entire month of daily festivals, markets, parades, concerts, shows, and displays, plus steaming cups of hot chocolate and spiced wine. While most of that isn’t possible this year, the lights in the trees, the squares, the parks, and the shop windows seemed extra bright in keeping with the Mayor’s message: “Bringing a little joy and lightness in this time of crisis is essential, so that children’s eyes continue to shine.” Wishing you a bright and Merry Christmas! Read the rest of this entry

When you’re in you’re out

English words on a carwash near us

Although the game of cricket isn’t especially popular in France, brushing up on your English certainly is. We both volunteer with neighbors and adult students who want to make conversation in that foreign language they first learned back in middle school but probably haven’t had much opportunity to practice with since then. The BBC is a source that I often consult for classroom ideas and on their Learning English Blog I found the funny and confusing “The Rules of Cricket as Explained to a Foreign Visitor”. It starts with, “Each man that’s in the side that’s in, goes out, and when he’s out, he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out.” Read the rest of this entry

We voted

Bird sanctuary with a castle view

Every six years French municipal elections are held to choose the local counselors who form the government that then elects the city’s mayor. Any European Union citizen residing in that town can cast a ballot but to vote for the country’s president you need an upgrade to being a full-fledged French citizen. After now living in Carcassonne for almost five years we feel both European and French but we won’t qualify to take that step towards naturalization until we’ve completed that fifth year. In the meantime, we haven’t been totally excluded from voicing our opinion on local issues and just last week we saw the results of one of those votes and we even picked a winner—in fact, four winners! Read the rest of this entry

We’re ready

Sparkling wine, coffee and TP

Long before the coronavirus set off an initial round of panic buying, our house was already well-stocked with those things that we use on a daily basis. We both arrived from the US with a hurricane mentality that ensured a ready supply of consumables to last through an unknown amount of time without electricity or water. In Atlanta we had a car so it was easy enough to visit a giant warehouse store, fill the trunk with cases of whatever we needed, and drive that home. Here we’re on foot, bicycle, or city bus so we buy smaller amounts more often. A variety of shops, including a grocery store, are steps away from the house so even during lockdown when we couldn’t venture more than a kilometer (about half a mile) from home it wasn’t a hardship for us. Ironically an out-of-stock situation last year of a vital household product at our local grocery store prompted us to take action back then. Read the rest of this entry

Half off

Shopping at 50% off

To get things rolling again after the 2-month lockdown because of the coronavirus, the city of Carcassonne is in the midst of implementing a 7-point plan that covers much of the activity in town. Schools reopened last month although parents initially had the option of keeping their children at home and using a multitude of online resources to continue their education. That’s an important consideration since those same parents who are able to work from home are encouraged to do so. City Hall is again welcoming guests and all other public services should be back in place by the end of June. Associations, that already play a vital role in the daily lives of citizens and were especially helpful during the pandemic, will receive additional support. One initiative that caught our eye is aimed at getting people back into the small shops that line the streets both up in the walled Cité and down in the main town where we live. All this past week (and into next) it’s been possible to use half-price vouchers in all of those stores. Read the rest of this entry

Colorful Carcassonne

Art deco former city hall

Although the summer tourist season may have been delayed this year, it’s now in full swing. In a symbolic gesture yesterday the city “opened” the main pedestrian shopping street by opening hundreds of colorful umbrellas and unfurling equally bright sails above the main driving  thoroughfare. Half of the millions of visitors that come here annually to marvel at Europe’s largest walled fortress live in Spain. While France will fully reopen its borders to international tourists tomorrow, our neighbor just to the south will probably wait until the end of the month. That will give restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops just enough time to get used to masks, distancing, and other procedures put in place to keep everyone healthy. In the meantime, here’s a preview of what will be awaiting them. Read the rest of this entry

Read my lips

Bill models one of the masks he made for us

And we were doing so well. Long before we had any plans of living in France we were watching French movies with the English subtitles turned on so that we could understand what was being said. That was a compromise since the real reason we were renting these films was for the scenery, be it the Eiffel Tower, Medieval castles, or fields of lavender in full bloom; all were really just inspiration for our next vacation. It’s a challenge, however, to read the dialog and try to take in all of the beautiful landscapes sharing the same screen. Then we moved here with access to 100 TV channels broadcast in French with only a few offering some programs subtitled in English but all having the option of displaying the spoken text on the screen for the deaf or hard of hearing. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em so that became our next step in comprehending what was going on. At least we could match up the words we were hearing with those across the bottom of the screen. Read the rest of this entry