All that jazz

We joined a jazz club. Technically it’s an association as defined by the law from 1901 that states essentially,  “Any citizen has the right to associate, without prior authorization.” I knew from studying for the citizenship interview exam that se réunir (to get together, meet up, assemble) was a guaranteed fundamental freedom of being French. Although I had anticipated that the ban on gatherings would have been by royal decree, it was under the signature of Napoleon Bonaparte that clubs were disbanded. Maybe he didn’t like jazz?

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Catherine’s C list

As soon as we made the decision to move to France we created a spreadsheet with all the cities we wanted to consider down the left hand column and everything we were searching for across the top. We wrote another blog post about that process but briefly we had 16 cities and a handful of must-haves such as a weekly market, a train station, and a water view. The overriding factor that eliminated perhaps a dozen of our choices was that we needed to be within walking distance of all of our needs. That driver’s license that seemed so desirable at age 16 was no longer a requirement; in fact, we wanted to live without a car. Several blog readers have told us that they too are using a chart to compare all of the possibilities and we’ve even seen some of these when visitors have come through Carcassonne. Our new friend Catherine has a lineup of what she would like to find in a new French hometown, be it full-time or part-time. She calls this her C list so let’s see what’s included.

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Do it yourself

Our neighbor is 80 and to celebrate, she had a birthday party. Actually, that’s not correct. She had 2 parties, 1 for friends and 1 for family, and she gave both of them herself in what she says is true French tradition. I’m not sure that everyone here has 2 parties but it definitely is true that if you use the word “invite” it’s your responsibility to pay. It might be out for drinks, to a restaurant for dinner, to the movies or a concert. In this case, the festivities were at her home just across the street but still there was a caterer to book, the wines to order, the flowers and other decorations to arrange, and the clean up after we all left. Oh yes, and a special dessert to pick up.

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What’s the Point?

The magazine article headline that caught my eye was “A New Neighborhood is Being Built in Utah That Looks Like a European ‘One-Car Town’”. This told the story of developing a 600 acre (243 hectares) site in Draper, UT into a pedestrian-friendly town with favor given to bike lanes over cars. Author Andy Corbley said that this was like something he might see in the Netherlands. Realizing that potential residents could balk at going completely car-free, the developers are focused on making the use of an automobile unnecessary within the confines of the community. At least 45% of the city will be covered by greenery including sidewalks, bike paths, and roads that lead to the perimeter bus system with connections to Salt Lake City. Hikers and cyclists will have easy access to the river parkway and to the mountain trail system. In describing the target market, one of those developers said, “They want more urban features, they want to know their neighbors, they want to be part of a community.” Hmm, sounds like us. By the way, this new town is called The Point.

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Happy “apéro” hour

On their way through the south of France, friends Pete and Cameron stopped in Carcassonne, fresh from the Spanish Basque Country that shares a lot of history and culture with its French counterpart right across the border. One of those traditions that they enjoyed was an afternoon aperitivo that included a glass of vermouth made in a town not far from where they were staying. Knowing how much we like taking a picnic on the train, they created a takeout version of the aperitif to share with us and in the photo to the left you can see the result. The gift bag included a bottle of Ugabe vermouth from Artea, an orange to slice for the glass, green olives, and potato chips just as it had been served at a Spanish café. That prompted me to read up on this “before dinner” pause that we knew as an apéro.

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Christmas in Killarney

No, it’s not yet the 25th of December but that song from the 1950s inspired today’s blog post title and a return visit to a welcoming town in southern Ireland. We had been there several years ago with our London friends, Jan and Bob, and we enjoyed that visit so much, we wanted to return. Since both of us are railroad buffs, we took the train from Galway, with a change in Dublin, to arrive in Killarney just before afternoon tea was served at the Great Southern Hotel (lobby photo here on the left). Built in 1854 the hotel name is from its location beside the railway station that was once owned by the Great Southern Railway when they operated all of the trains throughout the Republic. In keeping with the traditions of other grand station hotels we’ve enjoyed, they too have maintained the elegance from the “Golden Age of Travel”.

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La Féria

Here’s a definition: “An annual competitive and recreational gathering, usually held in late summer or early fall that began in the nineteenth century for the purpose of promoting agriculture, through competitive exhibitions of livestock and display of farm products. They have now expanded to include carnival amusement rides, games, and food stands, display of industrial products, and entertainment such as musical concerts.” If the county or state fair came to mind, you’d be correct, although this description got its first application in Seville, Spain in 1847 after Queen Isabelle II gave her permission for a 3-day event for “buying and selling livestock.” Thus La Féria in Spain was born which eventually moved north across the border, including to Carcassonne where today our local fair concludes.

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