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Oktoberfest in France

Mayor and family from Eggenfelden, Germany

Bill and I have a long history with Germany. Soon after we met I somehow convinced him to go with me to an intensive, full immersion course in Cologne to learn the language. He was even courageous enough to telephone the non-English-speaking family we were going to be living with to tell them our arrival details. In the 30-some years since then we’ve returned many times, always traveling by train to discover another part of the country we had never visited. Having said that, Munich has appeared on our itinerary more than once including a few days one year at Oktoberfest. It was exactly as we expected, if not more, but we figured that a single stopover there would be enough. Then a few weeks ago our neighborhood wine merchant (caviste Jean) asked us if we were going to Oktoberfest. The quizzical look on my face led him to hand us a flyer about the celebration we went to on Saturday night. Read the rest of this entry

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Taste of France

Fonte family olives

In every big city in the US where we lived, each year there would be a big food festival always called “Taste of…” and then you could fill in Chicago, LA, Philadelphia, Atlanta, etc. Typically restaurateurs, sometimes hundreds of them, would gather for a weekend to dispense small plates of their best creations to entice you to come for a full meal at their establishments. After 25 years I still remember the remarkable taste of a Margarita made with only fresh ingredients instead of reconstituted sweet and sour mix. That simple recipe has long been a mainstay on our bar. At the end of September for the last eight years the French government has encouraged communities across the country to celebrate all the aspects of gastronomy including the people and their knowledge that make this possible. Last weekend Carcassonne was one of the thousands of communities to participate in the nationwide Fête de la Gastronomie. Read the rest of this entry

It’s always fun to compare

From the city’s home page

We look at the city’s website every morning to find out what’s going on around town. Somebody once told us that in a French town if the mayor’s office doesn’t know about something then it doesn’t exist. Although we typically search for cultural events such as art exhibits and concerts or tasting festivals of regional foods and wines, it’s here that we discovered the AVF (Welcome Wagon) for new arrivals, sports facilities such as tennis courts and swimming pools open to everyone, and city bus schedules. When our trash can accidentally ended up inside the collection truck along with its contents, guess where we found how to order a replacement that arrived 2 days later. Now that school is back in session, a special note at the top of the front page caught my eye: School lunch menus. Other than curiosity, we have no real need to know what the kids we say bonjour to everyday on our street are dining upon, but this country does have an international gourmet reputation so let’s see how early that begins. Read the rest of this entry

Free association

Festival of Associations

There are over 500 clubs, interest groups, and other hobby alliances, all classed as Associations,  registered with the mayor’s office in Carcassonne. That seemed like a lot for a town of 50,000 inhabitants until I started investigating why there might be so many. A law went into effect in 1901 to ensure that two or more persons were free to organize themselves without fear of persecution by the government. Additional benefits, at least where we live, include members being able to use city property for meetings, free publicity for their events, very modest monetary support, and the ability to hold a garage/yard sale annually. Individuals are prohibited from having what our British friends call a car-boot sale, as its considered unfair competition to a town or village’s small shopkeepers, so being able to raise money for an organization in this way can be vital. Read the rest of this entry

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

Confirming the big decision

Safe harbors, literally and figuratively. This is Le Bono in Brittany.

During the 15 months after Bill initially asked “Why don’t we move to France?” we did a lot of online research to make certain that we were headed in the right direction. Before we boarded that Paris-bound Air France flight in Atlanta with our dog Heather and almost all of our possessions in 4 suitcases and 2 backpacks we had looked at dozens of websites, blogs, surveys, and government documents to be as informed as we could. Now that we live here, one online newspaper that we look at daily is The Local that gives news and tips in English on succeeding in another country. In one helpful article they assembled a list of reasons why this land well known for bread, cheese, and wine might just be the best place in the world to retire. Since we’ve now been here for a bit over 2 years I thought it would be interesting to see if we agreed with their list. Read the rest of this entry

I’m looking over

Looking across to the medieval walled Cité

When we were both in the travel industry we worked with a woman named Anne who specialized in trips to western Europe. To convince potential customers of the value of going with her company, she had cleverly calculated the cost of spending several days at a famous amusement park in Orlando, FL to see castles and landscapes created in a Hollywood studio to compare with a similar journey to England, Germany, or France, for example, to see the genuine massive fortresses that were in place centuries before a well-known mouse first piloted that steamboat. Anne succeeded well with that reasoning and we have long believed that history has much more meaning when you live it rather than just read about it. We needed that philosophy planted firmly in our minds last week to provide the push we needed to climb the 232 steps to the top of St. Vincent’s tower. Read the rest of this entry

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