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! Read the rest of this entry
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. Read the rest of this entry
To get things rolling again after the 2-month lockdown because of the coronavirus, the city of Carcassonne is in the midst of implementing a 7-point plan that covers much of the activity in town. Schools reopened last month although parents initially had the option of keeping their children at home and using a multitude of online resources to continue their education. That’s an important consideration since those same parents who are able to work from home are encouraged to do so. City Hall is again welcoming guests and all other public services should be back in place by the end of June. Associations, that already play a vital role in the daily lives of citizens and were especially helpful during the pandemic, will receive additional support. One initiative that caught our eye is aimed at getting people back into the small shops that line the streets both up in the walled Cité and down in the main town where we live. All this past week (and into next) it’s been possible to use half-price vouchers in all of those stores. Read the rest of this entry
Although the summer tourist season may have been delayed this year, it’s now in full swing. In a symbolic gesture yesterday the city “opened” the main pedestrian shopping street by opening hundreds of colorful umbrellas and unfurling equally bright sails above the main driving thoroughfare. Half of the millions of visitors that come here annually to marvel at Europe’s largest walled fortress live in Spain. While France will fully reopen its borders to international tourists tomorrow, our neighbor just to the south will probably wait until the end of the month. That will give restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops just enough time to get used to masks, distancing, and other procedures put in place to keep everyone healthy. In the meantime, here’s a preview of what will be awaiting them. Read the rest of this entry
And we were doing so well. Long before we had any plans of living in France we were watching French movies with the English subtitles turned on so that we could understand what was being said. That was a compromise since the real reason we were renting these films was for the scenery, be it the Eiffel Tower, Medieval castles, or fields of lavender in full bloom; all were really just inspiration for our next vacation. It’s a challenge, however, to read the dialog and try to take in all of the beautiful landscapes sharing the same screen. Then we moved here with access to 100 TV channels broadcast in French with only a few offering some programs subtitled in English but all having the option of displaying the spoken text on the screen for the deaf or hard of hearing. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em so that became our next step in comprehending what was going on. At least we could match up the words we were hearing with those across the bottom of the screen. Read the rest of this entry
Tomorrow is the big day when France begins a gradual emergence from nearly 8 weeks of lock down in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. According to government reports, it’s been a successful effort in saving over 60,000 lives and preventing 85% of the infections that would have occurred had there not been a stay-at-home order. Most businesses have been closed but shops that sell food, medications, wine, and/or cigarettes did not have to hang the “fermé” sign on their doors. Delivery services sprang up overnight so we were even able to keep the wine rack full without stepping out the door. When the rules were being written about which shops would be allowed to begin welcoming customers first, guess who made it to the top of the list: hair salons and barber shops. After two months without haircuts and coloring, we gotta look good! Read the rest of this entry
French folklore says that church bells are silent on Good Friday because they’ve flown off to Rome to see the Pope. When they return on Easter morning they are filled with chocolates that they drop to all of the children eagerly waiting below. Public health travel restrictions this year canceled all of those flights so Plan B(unny) went into effect to ensure that we would all have our goodie-filled baskets today. Our young neighbor went door-to-door, socially distant of course, with an order form from one of the local artisanal chocolate makers who agreed to share the profits with the school system to support extracurricular activities.
The title for today’s post is an adaptation from an 1897 editorial by publisher Francis Church who was answering a question from 8-year-old Virginia about Santa Claus: “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist…how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.” For safety purposes, we may be temporarily staying home, but with that plateful of chocolates you see above, it’s definitely not dreary. Happy Easter!