Blog Archives

Eat your vegetables

Market-fresh tomatoes and cucumbers

For several years we used to travel annually from the US to Europe with a group of friends, one of whom was vegetarian. Paula was always gracious at meal times, never wanting to inconvenience others, but we were all surprised at one Parisian waiter’s suggestion as “mashed potatoes” for her entire meal. Contrast that with our experience at a restaurant in the Dordogne where the Michelin-starred chef said that he “would be honored to prepare something for you” (not on the menu) and indeed created a work of art that was the envy of the rest of us at the table. A change in school lunches this year might just make it easier in the future for the next generation if they decide to avoid eating meat. Read the rest of this entry

Until further notice

Daffodils in our courtyard

We’ve seen those words “until further notice” or to be precise it’s been the French phrase jusqu’à nouvel ordre many times during the past two weeks as new measures have been announced in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The first affected us immediately since it was to close down all schools all across the country. That meant my weekly French classes were canceled as were the English classes where I volunteer that take place in the same building; therefore, in the spirit of Shakespeare, neither a student nor a teacher be. Accompanying that official decree were suggestions about keeping your distance from others, not shaking hands, avoiding gatherings of any kind, etc. but the concept of not being convivial seemed totally foreign. Read the rest of this entry

The lights of Lyon

Lyon Cathedral 2019

“You know, it’s dangerous for us to watch TV,” is what Bill said to me last month when he asked me what I wanted to do one evening. That response was prompted by my suggesting that we view one of the two programs we sometimes record: Ëchappées Belles (Beautiful Escapes) and Les 100 Lieux Qu’il Faut Voir (The 100 Places You Must See). They typically feature destinations in France and we even keep a rail map near the television just to see if can activate our motto, “if there’s a train station, we can go there”. Such was the case when the familiar sight of Lyon appeared on the screen. We’d been there in the spring of 2017 but the sparkling lights, decorated yule trees, and the small wooden chalets of the Christmas Market made it look different and inviting, as did the Grand Illuminations. Read the rest of this entry

Chocolate Thanksgiving

Bill went to buy a turkey

One of the many advantages of living in a neighborhood with shops is that we can buy almost everything that we need on a daily basis without having far to go and easily on foot. Our fruits and vegetables all come from the Saturday market, 15 minutes away, but in two minutes or less we can be at the fish shop, butcher shop, greengrocer’s, bakery, newsstand, wine store, or a small but well-stocked supermarket. It’s there that we can often find turkey breast or legs year round  but we have to go a bit further, and only at this time of year, to find the entire bird. That was Bill’s mission last week because one of the large supermarket chains, on the edge of town, was featuring fresh turkeys. So, one morning while I was in language class he hopped aboard a 1€ bus, rode for 15 minutes to a shopping complex, and came back with the 9 boxes of chocolates that you see in the photo. Read the rest of this entry

When October goes

Colors along the Aude river

American songwriter Johnny Mercer left behind many unfinished compositions when he died in 1976, one of which Barry Manilow turned into a hit 8 years later under the title of today’s blog post. It’s a rather sad tale of a childhood in the distant past and a lost love that’s always brought back to mind when the leaves fall and “the snow begins to fly”. Add in a melancholy melody and you can understand why part of the refrain goes, “I turn my head away to hide the helpless tears….” Luckily in Carcassonne when the calendar changes from Halloween to All Saints’ Day, everything is a bit brighter than in the song. Read the rest of this entry

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in 3 days

One of the remaining water wheels in town

There’s a TV show that we watch here called Affaire Conclue (roughly, Done Deal) that’s kind of like the program Antiques Roadshow, but with a twist. Members of the public bring objects from their home to the studio in Paris where an auctioneer provides a bit of history about the item and then sets a value that she/he thinks it would bring if put under the hammer. The bonus is that in the next room a panel of collectors, flea market stall holders, and decorators is waiting to bid on what has come in that day and with cash in hand hopefully take their bounty home. They filmed an extended 2-hour version of the show in a town in Provence nicknamed “Capital of antiques and flea markets” that’s only a train ride away for us, so we were off for a long weekend in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Read the rest of this entry

Holiday? Let’s have a fête!

The covered market parking lot filled with people, food, and drink

Rumor has it that the French have a whole lot more time off from work than Americans do. It is true that many full time employees here receive 5 weeks of vacation each year while we know folks back in the “old country” who struggle to ration out their 2 weeks, combining them with weekends or other holidays to stretch the break a little longer. With annual trips to Europe, often to France, Bill and I were lucky to have had employers with much more liberal leave policies. But what about nationwide holidays known as public or bank holidays or in the US, federal holidays? In America there are 10 with an 11th day added every 4 years for Inauguration Day. In France it’s 11 and if any of those fall on a weekend, too bad, it’s not moved to the closest Friday or Monday so employees don’t get the day off. Last Thursday we celebrated one of those jours fériés that wasn’t on a weekend with 2 festivals; one in the lower town where we live and the other in the upper Medieval walled city that overlooks us. Read the rest of this entry