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”.

Continue reading “Christmas in Killarney”

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.

Continue reading “La Féria”

The tablecloths of Provence

If you want to become a French citizen, one of the requirements is to successfully complete an interview with an immigration officer who will ensure that you are fully integrated into the society here. You can be asked questions about history, geography, culture, values, government, current news and politics, and your daily life. A task that I see often mentioned is to name the symbols of France. According to the Livret du Citoyen (Citizen’s Booklet) that we are given to study, those should include the national anthem, the flag, and Marianne the statue of whom appears in every town hall. Additional responses could be the 14th of July, the official seal, the faisceau de licteur design that appears on the cover of passports, and even the rooster. While those seem to be official and easily recognized by anyone living here, you might get a different response if you asked a visitor to this country. Based on movies and personal experiences I bet that you would hear, “the Eiffel Tower, baguettes and croissants, wine and cheese, blue-and-white striped shirts and berets.” Let’s add one more to the list: the tablecloths of Provence.

Continue reading “The tablecloths of Provence”

An Afterwork at the winery

During the Covid lockdowns when one of the few reasons we could leave the house was to make essential purchases, Bill discovered a way to easily take care of one of those required items. A wine store was offering free delivery. We prefer to try new wines before we buy them but that wasn’t an option in those restricted times so we had to create our own tasting events at home for just the two of us. While getting the bottles to our front door was simple enough, deciding which ones to choose was more of a challenge since the store stocks wines from 1250 vintners who cultivate 49 different grape varieties. France lifted its state of emergency surrounding Covid on August 1 so now with all events in full operation it was time to visit this Cave à Vin in person during an evening they called an “Afterwork”. 

Continue reading “An Afterwork at the winery”

Tour de France: City by Bike

In the UK we have seen highway signs proclaiming “Britain’s Tidiest Town”, “Tastiest Cuppa” for tea lovers, and even “Cleanest Loo”, all to indicate that a community had been awarded the nation’s top honor in a certain category. France has similar declarations that are proudly posted at the roadway entrance including “Most Beautiful in France”, “Village in Bloom”, “City of Art and History”, and “Active and Sportive”. The level of achievement, typically from 1 to 4, is indicated by the number of stars, flowers, Olympic laurels, or other appropriate symbols based on the theme of the award. Carcassonne has won many of these and thanks to the Tour de France that whizzed through town last weekend, we also have a bicycle emblem as a Ville à Vélo otherwise known as a City by Bike.

Continue reading “Tour de France: City by Bike”

Flower city

While the French government has a minister in charge of ecology and one for renewable energy, those jobs are combined in Carcassonne with the Deputy Mayor for the Environment, Monsieur Arnaud Albarel. He announced several projects that the city would be undertaking this summer “in its fight for the preservation of biodiversity”. This includes redeveloping all municipal green spaces around parking lots, river and canal sides, and city buildings by using plants essential to pollinating insects, especially bees, plus instituting water-saving methods. For public involvement there are workshops to raise the awareness of young people to the importance of protecting the environment and a contest for residents to decorate their balconies and home fronts with window boxes. In addition to the positive ecological impact, these measures should ensure that Carcassonne maintains its status as a Ville Fleuri, that is, a City in Bloom.

Continue reading “Flower city”

Wine and delights

When we moved to Carcassonne 6 years ago it seemed as if we didn’t have a free weekend. There was always something to do. Naturally there was the city itself to discover but also food and wine fairs, art shows, craft sales, concerts, exhibits, tours, and walks all right on our doorstep to enjoy. As we developed friendships the invitations came for drinks, dinners, and outings of all sorts. That continued for the next few years until Covid arrived and as in the rest of the world everything stopped. During the first of the 3 lockdowns that France went through, even our outdoor fresh fruits and vegetables market was closed. Fortunately most of the restrictions have recently been lifted and the Lions Club Carcassonne Remparts took advantage last weekend of our newfound freedom to hold a Salon de Vins et Délices (Wine & Delights Show) with 20 exhibitors split evenly between wineries and artisanal food vendors. We went three times!

Continue reading “Wine and delights”