I “shutter” to think

The house that I grew up in had shutters on the windows. To be precise, these were wooden slatted frames screwed into the wall beside the windows and served simply as decoration. In fact, every house that Bill and I have lived in, both in the US and in France, has had them as well but with one major difference: here the shutters open and close so you get window protection as well as ornamentation. And it doesn’t stop there since the hot summer sun is prevented from streaming into your home, meaning that in many situations there’s no need for air conditioning to be comfortable. For the two of us who came from Atlanta where it seemed that we were in cooled air buildings 24/7, that’s been a pleasant change.

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Narrow dog to Carcassonne

Walking along the canal in Carcassonne

A few years ago when we were playing the Who-What-Where-When-Why retirement game, I thought that there was only one of those Ws unanswered. After all, it was just us making the decisions and we already had a timeline so the one thing left to do was to finalize the location of our next house. By that point we were pretty sure that we wanted to live in Carcassonne so we started reading everything that we could find about this medieval city. There were travel guides, history books, bicycle routes, photo pictorials, and a best-selling historical thriller trilogy by Kate Mosse. Then at the library I saw the book Narrow Dog to Carcassonne by Terry Darlington with the tagline, “Two Foolish People, One Odd Dog, an English Canal Boat..and the Adventure of a Lifetime.” Hmm, that kind of fit our situation since we were two people and one dog about to move to another country 4000 miles away. All that we were missing was that canal boat so it was time to investigate what life onboard might be like.

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France’s favorite village

France 3 TV program

To be called a “village” in France the population must be less than 2000 people and the houses can’t be further than 200 meters apart. According to the Mayor’s Association, that describes 29,000 places around the country and even if you lower the number of inhabitants to 500 you are still left with 18,000 communities. Each year television channel France 3 runs a contest to whittle down those thousands to just 14: one village to represent each region in mainland France and one from overseas. Now that the shortlist has been announced the fun begins because everyone (as far as I can tell) gets to vote for their favorite village, link below. Continue reading “France’s favorite village”

Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly

From the government’s website on aging

One of our local newspapers had an article entitled, “How much does it cost to be old in France?” so I just had to read that. With homage to Ethel Merman’s character Annie Oakley on Broadway, aging just seemed to me to be a natural process with no admission charge. However, if you want to stay for the whole show you have to pay the price which depends on where you sit from the orchestra to the balcony. It also depends if you are like 85% of the French who say that they want to spend their retirement years at home rather than moving to group living arrangements or to a medical facility. A website that specializes in banking and insurance for seniors (Retraite.com) teamed with another site that helps people live and age well at home (Silver Alliance) to calculate the costs. Continue reading “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly”

We’re ready

Sparkling wine, coffee and TP

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. Continue reading “We’re ready”

Open house

Open the window in the village of Limeuil

“Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash” are words that we generally associate with a Christmas poem so this may seem an odd time of the year to mention them. They describe, however, exactly what we’ve been doing at the house all summer long. Sunrise is around 6:00 AM and by then we have indeed “torn open the shutters” and opened all of the windows plus even the doors that give access to the courtyard. While we are both fans of the light that has famously drawn artists to the south of France for centuries, in this case we are seeking something else: cool morning air. We can let in this genuine breath of fresh air and thanks to thick masonry and stone walls, capture it to keep us comfortable for the rest of the day. Free air conditioning! Continue reading “Open house”

Retiring overseas

Chambord castle

Our friend Larry tipped us off to an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal that addressed the topic of retiring abroad. The newspaper contacted about a dozen of their previous contributors who had written pieces about moving from the US and settling elsewhere in the world. Because most of those original articles were so optimistic about this big change in life the editors were especially interested to see if that initial enthusiasm continued years later ranging in time from 4 years to 14 years in residence. Some discussion suggestions were provided such as what’s changed since you’ve moved and what advice do you have for others considering living outside the country, but to get things rolling they asked everyone, “How did your decision to retire overseas turn out?” Continue reading “Retiring overseas”