France’s favorite monument

Arc

Monuments, do we have monuments! According to the Ministry of Culture there were 45,684 structures in 2020 that had protected status because of their “historical, artistic or architectural interest.” Television channel France 3 annually asks residents to vote on their favorite and this year’s winner was announced on Wednesday night. (If you scroll through the photos below to the bottom, you’ll see who won.) While visitor numbers might be an indication of popularity, that doesn’t necessarily translate into being chosen as number one. Crowds flock to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, Mont St. Michel, and even to our own medieval walled city of Carcassonne which is the fifth most visited place in France. The Favorite Monument winner last year, however, was the Citadel and Lion of Belfort, about 55 km/35 miles from the border with Switzerland and in 2015 it was the Belfry of Arras, two hours north of Paris. Who were the candidates this year?

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A second statue from France

In Bordeaux

Scheduled for arrival in the port of New York today (but delivered early, on Thursday) is the second Statue of Liberty that France has sent to the US in the last 135 years. The first, of course, has stood on Liberty Island since its inauguration in 1886 welcoming new arrivals to America’s shores. Following a stopover to stand beside its much taller inspiration (46 m/151 ft.) the shorter replica (2.83 m/9.3 ft.) will continue on to Washington, DC where it will be displayed to the public in the ornamental gardens, visible from the street, at the residence of the French ambassador to America. That seems fitting since Ambassador Philippe Étienne was instrumental from the beginning of the process.

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Flowers and chocolates for Easter

In France, the end of Lent is called Pâques, a word derived from Latin for food, pascua, while in modern day English, Easter may have come from the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre. Despite the different names, the day itself is celebrated in a similar manner in both cultures with egg hunts, baskets of candies, and a big family meal often featuring lamb. We took advantage of the beautiful weather to get some photos of the flower beds and the window displays of the chocolateries in Carcassonne. Whether you are waking up this morning to chocolate bells or fish as we are in France or rabbits, hens, and eggs (or maybe even marshmallow Peeps) we wish you Joyeuses Pâques!

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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! Continue reading “Christmas is (not) canceled”

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.” Continue reading “When you’re in you’re out”

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! Continue reading “We voted”

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. Continue reading “We’re ready”