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Perpignan day trip

Overlooking Perpignan from the castle

Although we’re less than 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Spain, we can’t get there from here because our favorite mode of transportation, the train, doesn’t cope well with climbing to the 3400 meter summit of the Pyrenees where the border runs along the mountaintop. When we’re going that far south, the tracks first head east towards the Mediterranean before turning to Spain and passing through a city that has existed on both sides of the border: Perpignan. Not unlike Montpellier, where there is little evidence of the 2000-year-old Roman influence found in so many other locations in France, this southern capital wasn’t  established until the 10th century. Read the rest of this entry

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Montpellier day trip

Rose window at Montpellier cathedral

Much of France has a definite Roman and Greek history, especially near the Mediterranean Sea where they established colonies in the 1st millennium BC. The remains of amphitheaters, triumphal arches, and city gates from the era abound. Even in Carcassonne where we’re about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the water’s edge, at the base of the giant fortress that overlooks the city you can still the clay bricks laid over 2000 years ago. Somehow, Montpellier, the 7th largest city in the country, was bypassed by those early invaders, not being settled until around 985 AD. We only knew this regional capital from having visited the immigration office there soon after we moved across the Atlantic, so we happily accepted an invitation to lunch with friends that would give us the day to leisurely look around. Read the rest of this entry

Rennes-le-Château day trip

View from the Magdala Tower

If you’re a fan of the novel by Dan Brown called The Da Vinci Code you’ll know that a large portion of the book takes place in France, mostly in or near Paris. We’ve both read the book and seen the movie twice and even walked friends and family around the nation’s capital to places integral to the story such as the Louvre and St. Sulpice church. Then we moved to Carcassonne only 28 miles (45 kilometers) north of a village that I’ve long associated with this thriller that was inspired by the bestseller The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. According to this book, it was here that the local priest found a fortune in gold coins, much of which, the legend continues, remains buried in or near his tiny hilltop church plus proof of the marriage of Jesus to Mary Magdalene who bore their child. Author Dan Brown skillfully wove these bloodline details into his novel and suddenly the village of Rennes-le-Château sprang to life. We decided to join the 100,000 other yearly visitors who travel to the foothills of the Pyrenees to see what we could find. Read the rest of this entry

Follow that canal

Castle steps from the 11th century

Now they’ve done it; they’ve bought a car. Whenever our friends Sally and Larry have rented a car for a distant journey they always have a day or two left once they get back to Carcassonne before the vehicle has to be returned to the agency. Bill and I have benefited from those bonus days by being taken on road trips to towns, villages, monuments, and scenic views that we couldn’t easily reach by train or bus. An email will suddenly appear in our mailbox asking if we’re available on a certain date, and if so, be ready for a mystery tour. Two weeks ago we got just such a message and when we replied with an enthusiastic Oui, back came the response to bring a camera, comfortable shoes, and money for wine–just like the instructions we got for those elementary school field trips years ago…except, maybe, for that wine money part! Read the rest of this entry

We’re going to Pézenas

A street in Pézenas

Our friends Sally and Larry are sneaky. They know how much we enjoying seeing parts of France that we haven’t been to, especially when we can go there by our favorite mode of transportation, the train. They also know that despite there being over 3000 stations in a country smaller in area than Texas, we still need a car to visit some villages, towns, and especially picturesque places. To the rescue they’ve come, inviting us along for day trips out of Carcassonne when they’ve rented a car to take visiting friends or family around. Usually they let us know well in advance but sometimes they “kidnap” us for the day and just tell us to be ready to leave at a certain hour. It was one of those surprise adventures that got us to a “City of Art and History”, Pézenas. Read the rest of this entry

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

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

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