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Day trip to Nîmes

The arena of Nîmes

Writing this blog is a lot of fun because it gives us a chance to share our experiences and perhaps help others who are considering a move to France. We have an extra boost when someone who reads our posts gets in touch to say that they will be in town and could we all get together for a drink or a meal. Often people are passing through Carcassonne so it’s easy to meet at the main square and then settle in at one of the many cafés there. This summer Anne and Eliot were staying along the Mediterranean’s Côte d’Azur (you know—Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez, to name drop a few) and asked about meeting up somewhere between our home and theirs. A quick check of the map confirmed that we’d be spending the day in Nîmes. Read the rest of this entry

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Fill-er-up

Sparkling wine in Limoux

There are many advantages to not having a car. The most obvious ones revolve around money. If you haven’t already paid for the vehicle then there are monthly loan or lease payments plus your insurance bill to go with that. In the US, although we didn’t have to take our 2 Hondas in for service very often, each time we did it always seemed to average 400 dollars. Parking fees for us are now nonexistent. I once paid 40 dollars to park for an hour and a half in midtown Manhattan one evening. There are no repair bills to consider for minor dents and scratches that aren’t worth turning into your insurance company. No tokens to buy to feed into the meter at the automatic car wash. And of course, no gasoline. The average cost of essence in France is 1.37 euro per liter which equates to 4.35 dollars per gallon, but that still doesn’t mean that we don’t get to say fill-er-up! Read the rest of this entry

Sun and ice

17th century ice house entrance

If asked to name a French king, the first one that comes to our minds is Louis XIV, the Sun King. After all, his association with the majestic Palace of Versailles certainly makes a memorable impression even 300 years later. He turned a hunting lodge in the middle of a forest, 13 miles (21 km.) from Paris into a massive administrative and entertainment complex for his own delight and that of the court in general and ambassadors from other European countries. A popular after dinner event of the time, and an additional way to demonstrate the king’s seemingly limitless power, was to serve fruit-flavored ices to his guests, even in the middle of the summer of the 1600s, at least a century before artificial refrigeration was in use elsewhere. To ensure a ready supply of ice wherever he traveled in France and to those wealthy enough to court his favor, the King authorized the construction of glacières (we would call them “ice houses”) in 1659 and there’s one about an hour’s drive from Carcassonne. Read the rest of this entry

Where 20 = Wine

Wine aging in barrels in the cave

Ask any French person to name a famous American highway and you’re bound to hear “Route 66”. Hollywood has done a wonderful job of creating a mystique around this classic USA road trip that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. Bill spent part of his youth growing up along it and he always gets smiles, nods of approval, and an enthusiastic “Oui!” whenever that comes up in conversation. There are numerous websites, guidebooks, photo essays, and blog posts, all in French, dedicated to navigating this 2400 mile (3900 kilometer) pathway. If you reverse that original question and ask us to name a famous French highway, you will certainly hear “Route 20 Corbières”, the wine road. Read the rest of this entry

Lots of thyme

Village of Aragon, France

When our neighbors suggested that they pick us up on Sunday to take a trip to Aragon, instantly visions of courtly love, chivalry, and Camelot sprang to mind. After all, it was Catherine of Aragon who was King Henry VIII’s first queen and in her eyes maintained that position despite the rise and fall of others after her. While our destination shared that Queen’s name, we were only traveling about 20 minutes north of Carcassonne instead of 2 hours south into Spain where the Kingdom of Aragon was located and to where Catherine could trace her family roots. Read the rest of this entry

Secret road trip

Sally helps owner Patrick tally up our wine purchases

We don’t have a car and I can honestly say that after having had a driver’s license for nearly 50 years, and an automobile to go with it for most of that time, I don’t miss it at all. That probably goes double for Bill who’s typically been the one behind the wheel. The costs alone including substantial monthly lease or purchase payments, license fees, insurance, fuel, and upkeep are enough to make us grateful that we no longer have to budget for any of that. Add in the hassles of navigating narrow Medieval streets laid out 800 years ago, trying to avoid solid stone buildings inches from you on one side of the street and rearview mirrors sticking out from parked cars on the other plus attempting to squeeze into a pocket-sized parking spot, should you be lucky enough to find that, and the advantage of being on foot becomes even more apparent. Having said all of that, the instant that a friend with wheels invites us on a day trip outside of the city, we’re on it! Read the rest of this entry

Well…Albi

Huge brick cathedral of Albi

Huge brick cathedral of Albi

We had the pleasure of hosting two of Bill’s sisters and one niece on a part of their visit to France and Spain. It was a celebration of Jenny’s passing the first stage of her studies to becoming a sommelier, a specialist in selecting and serving wine, either on its on or pairing it with food. What better place to come than the world’s largest wine producing area to try out those newly-acquired skills? Read the rest of this entry

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