Blog Archives

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

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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

Staying informed

Our region’s bi-monthly journal

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

Mellow in St. Malo

St. Malo from the sea

We can easily get by train from our part of the south of France to the Normandy coast several times a day but the ferry from there to the Channel Islands only goes once a day outside of the summer season. Since we can choose when to travel, we leave July and August to the families who can only travel together when schools are on vacation. That meant arriving in the port city of St. Malo after the boat had departed for the day but it gave us an opportunity to overnight in a city we’d only seen for a few hours as a side excursion on one our our previous visits to Brittany. Read the rest of this entry

The French (Vietnamese) connection

Our local Vietnamese restaurant

There’s a Vietnamese restaurant a short walk from our house. About a block from there is the family-run Saveur d’Asie, an Asian food market. Out of about 300 restaurants in Carcassonne, at least 6 of them are listed  as vietnamiens in the phone directory where you can also find a Franco-Vietnamese cultural association and a travel agency that specializes in trips to Asia. Considering how many neighbors here have made that part of the world as one of their vacation destinations, that agency must be pretty busy. So what is this French Connection? Read the rest of this entry

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