Canadian friends are in town this week on a house hunting trip and we were delighted that nature has provided quite the floral welcome for them. That’s been helped by lots of sunshine and some pleasant temperatures that at the beginning of March were averaging around 17℃ (62℉) which is exactly the same as it was in that northern neighbor of the US except there was a minus sign in front of the 17 bringing it down to a chilly 1 degree F. Hopefully that’s just a memory now and they can enjoy some of these scenes from around Carcassonne. There’s an abandoned fruit orchard down by the river which still presents a sea of white and pink as first the cherries and then apples prepare for the season. Even if you’re reading this in the southern hemisphere and anticipating cooler days you can still enjoy the colors here just emerging. Happy spring! Read the rest of this entry
This month starts our fourth year of living in France and I thought that this would be a great opportunity to answer a question that we are often asked, “Why are you so happy all of the time?” A good starting point that might say it all is that we live in the south of France and we’ve just received our residency card renewal to remain here for another year. That alone makes us smile. The procedure was identical to last year (Year 3 begins) which reinforces our other experiences with government and business offices here: follow their rules, give them exactly the documents they want in the order requested and in return you will be treated in a respectful and friendly manner and receive precisely what you’ve been seeking. Who wouldn’t be happy with that? But wait, there’s so much more…. Read the rest of this entry
When you move to another country and pretty much everything you bring with you fits in 4 suitcases and 2 backpacks, you’re going to have to buy a lot once you arrive and get settled in. We sold our house in the US fully furnished, down to the silverware and plates, so we needed a place here that had everything included. We achieved that during our first year by renting a house normally used by weekly vacationers so everything we left behind was suddenly available to us once again. Because it was a compact (read “small”) place, anything new we bought had to have more than one function since storage was limited. I wrote about it in Double or Nothing and we’ve been able to stick with that ideal for the most part. Then we bought our own house and the rules got relaxed a bit. Read the rest of this entry
We’ve just returned from a few days in Burgundy (Bourgogne) well known for their wines by the same name followed by a long celebration weekend a little further north in Nancy. We’d been invited to a birthday party as part of the famille de coeur by our French friends whom we met more than 30 years ago. It was quite touching to be counted in as members of the “family of the heart” and so appropriate for this time of year just prior to February 14. Even the chocolate shop windows were decorated to keep with the theme (or so we pretended) and we’ll share some photos with you now plus much more about our visit to Dijon in the next post. In the meantime we wish you a Joyeuse Saint Valentin! Read the rest of this entry
Tradition plays a significant role in French culture and our neighbors made sure that we didn’t miss out on a tasty one last Sunday. January 6 is when the three wise men were supposed to have arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts on a day now known as Epiphany. The celebration here always includes the Galette des Rois (Kings’ Cake) which is a large, flaky puff pastry filled with almond paste, decorated with an elaborate design, and topped off with a cardboard crown. Baked inside is a tiny porcelain (sometimes plastic) figurine known as a fève which is the French word for “bean” because historically that was the hidden object. Both olives and prunes are grown locally here and seldom come pitted, so we are used to carefully biting into anything that might contain a real “jaw-breaker”. It was that skill that earned Bill his title of King for the Day when he found the âne that you and I might call a donkey. Read the rest of this entry
The theme for the holiday season this year in Carcassonne is La Magie de Noël (The Magic of Christmas) and last week I shared the city’s Facebook post about all of the activities on my own FB page. The comment from our friend Barb sums it up perfectly, “Nice, no holding back there!” and we certainly agree. The Mayor has long held that this should be a family event where everyone could meet up to “share moments of joy and laughter” as you can see on their website page devoted to at least 70 events going on this month: http://www.carcassonne.org/article-page/magie-de-noel-2018?liste Not wanting to miss out on the fun, Bill and I went walking a few nights ago to join in on the celebrations and to see what we could discover.
You probably remember when Julie Andrews as the title character nanny in the film Mary Poppins was trying to get her two charges, Jane and Michael, to clean their room. To introduce the song she begins with “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun” and then the orchestra starts up and you soon hear her sing “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. When you move to another country where they don’t speak your native language it’s important to learn what the local people are saying for a variety of reasons. Once you get past the survival level where you can at least get food and shelter then you can start fitting in with your new neighbors and having fun. But of course, language isn’t the only challenge since there are cultural differences, new rules to learn, and administrative procedures to follow for everything from buying a train ticket to seeing a doctor. Thanks to an online course sponsored by the French government’s Ministry of Higher Learning, you can combine all of those tasks in one place. Read the rest of this entry