Bill and I have a long history with Germany. Soon after we met I somehow convinced him to go with me to an intensive, full immersion course in Cologne to learn the language. He was even courageous enough to telephone the non-English-speaking family we were going to be living with to tell them our arrival details. In the 30-some years since then we’ve returned many times, always traveling by train to discover another part of the country we had never visited. Having said that, Munich has appeared on our itinerary more than once including a few days one year at Oktoberfest. It was exactly as we expected, if not more, but we figured that a single stopover there would be enough. Then a few weeks ago our neighborhood wine merchant (caviste Jean) asked us if we were going to Oktoberfest. The quizzical look on my face led him to hand us a flyer about the celebration we went to on Saturday night. Read the rest of this entry
In every big city in the US where we lived, each year there would be a big food festival always called “Taste of…” and then you could fill in Chicago, LA, Philadelphia, Atlanta, etc. Typically restaurateurs, sometimes hundreds of them, would gather for a weekend to dispense small plates of their best creations to entice you to come for a full meal at their establishments. After 25 years I still remember the remarkable taste of a Margarita made with only fresh ingredients instead of reconstituted sweet and sour mix. That simple recipe has long been a mainstay on our bar. At the end of September for the last eight years the French government has encouraged communities across the country to celebrate all the aspects of gastronomy including the people and their knowledge that make this possible. Last weekend Carcassonne was one of the thousands of communities to participate in the nationwide Fête de la Gastronomie. Read the rest of this entry
We look at the city’s website every morning to find out what’s going on around town. Somebody once told us that in a French town if the mayor’s office doesn’t know about something then it doesn’t exist. Although we typically search for cultural events such as art exhibits and concerts or tasting festivals of regional foods and wines, it’s here that we discovered the AVF (Welcome Wagon) for new arrivals, sports facilities such as tennis courts and swimming pools open to everyone, and city bus schedules. When our trash can accidentally ended up inside the collection truck along with its contents, guess where we found how to order a replacement that arrived 2 days later. Now that school is back in session, a special note at the top of the front page caught my eye: School lunch menus. Other than curiosity, we have no real need to know what the kids we say bonjour to everyday on our street are dining upon, but this country does have an international gourmet reputation so let’s see how early that begins. Read the rest of this entry
Last Sunday I talked about our trip up to Nancy, France. This is the conclusion of that adventure.
An advantage of buying a city’s museum pass is that it generally saves you money over individual tickets but it also entices you to visit places you might not have otherwise gone. Atlanta, where we used to live, has the world’s largest aquarium and it is truly spectacular so going to the one in Nancy wasn’t high on our list but it was part of the package, so we went. What a nice surprise in a couple of ways. It was well laid out as far as what sea creatures you were seeing and in what environment they generally lived. The bonus was seeing small groups of school children being escorted by teachers and aquarium staff explaining to the youngsters what they were seeing and why it was important to protect the animals and the planet. Read the rest of this entry
With the luxury of an open-air farmers’ market three days a week being about a 15-minute walk from our front door, our refrigerator is typically full of a variety of fruits and vegetables that we’ll use within the next few days. Occasionally we’ll be following a recipe that either asks for something that isn’t in season or specifies a frozen ingredient. That was the case when Bill was making a quiche Florentine and the cookbook author recommended chopped spinach from the grocer’s freezer section. We could have picked up some beautiful dark green leaves at the market but then that would have involved guessing about how much to buy, then chopping and cooking it. The ready-to-go version seemed to make much more sense until we opened the package and out poured what appeared to me to be green charcoal briquettes. Bill’s impression was a little more “earthy” since they reminded him of “road apples”, especially after the horse had consumed large quantities of fresh grass.What did we buy? Read the rest of this entry
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
The story goes that in the summer of 1935 Walt Disney went on a grand European tour that took him through England, France, Germany, and Italy. He was apparently greatly inspired by what he saw, especially in the majestic castles that each of these countries had to offer, so much so that Cinderella’s Castle that opened 20 years later in California’s Disneyland is said to have been based on what he encountered on this trip. From what I’ve read, a Disney official did confirm that Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle was a great influence but we’ve seen other castles claiming that they too were etched into the memory of the creator of Mickey Mouse. I don’t know if that’s a bit of “Washington slept here” European style but his theme parks and films do sometimes show images we might associate with England…or is it Germany…or maybe France? Read the rest of this entry