Blog Archives

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

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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

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

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