Blog Archives

Venice in 4 days

The Grand Canal by the train station

There are many cities around the globe that either have the word “Venice” as part of their actual name or use it in an effort to attract tourists. In that second category we have several listed as the Venice of the North, including the Netherlands’ Amsterdam, Brugge, Belgium, and Manchester, England. To the west in Ireland are Shannon and Monasterevin and to our south is Aveiro, Portugal and Empuriabrava, Spain. Not to be left out, France has Nante, Sète, Annecy plus Colmar and to the east across the border is Bamberg, Germany. We’ve been lucky enough to travel to almost all of those places and when we lived in Los Angeles, a short bus ride took us to the beach at Venice and on the opposite coast we even had Venice, Florida on our list of possible retirement spots. There are apparently 11 cities with that name in the US but Italy has only one and it was time to see the “real” one. Read the rest of this entry

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Genoa in 4 days

The hills above Genoa

Given that our destination was on the Italian Riviera and is the second largest port on the Mediterranean Sea, it seemed only fitting that our journey would begin at the Sea’s largest port and hug the coastline of the French Riviera. In keeping with that theme, we started on a French train from Carcassonne and transferred to the Italian Thello once we arrived in Marseilles. Familiar sounding city names such as Cannes, Nice, and Monaco appeared outside the window on the passenger platforms where we stopped but then after emerging from a tunnel the station names took a definite change in spelling. First we saw Vintimille, then Sanremo, Diano, and Alassio meaning that we were definitely in Italy with dinner waiting for us that evening in Genoa. Read the rest of this entry

Saint-Émilion day trip

Monolithic church and bell tower

Although Saint-Émilion is too far from Carcassonne to see on a day trip, it’s only 30 minutes by train from Bordeaux so going there was an easy decision while we were visiting that regional wine capital with a big, bold name. In the US we knew that this region produced some famous and often pricey wines (Château Cheval Blanc,Grand Cru $1000, for example) but in our local supermarket we can find a Grand Cru produced 5 kilometers (3 miles) from that winery for about $10 and many more from the area, without that official superior grade classification, for half that small price and less. It was time for Bill and me to take a trip to see this well-known territory for ourselves and to find out why one British newspaper described it as “the French wine town that’s more beautiful than Bordeaux.” Read the rest of this entry

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

Mellow in St. Malo

St. Malo from the sea

We can easily get by train from our part of the south of France to the Normandy coast several times a day but the ferry from there to the Channel Islands only goes once a day outside of the summer season. Since we can choose when to travel, we leave July and August to the families who can only travel together when schools are on vacation. That meant arriving in the port city of St. Malo after the boat had departed for the day but it gave us an opportunity to overnight in a city we’d only seen for a few hours as a side excursion on one our our previous visits to Brittany. Read the rest of this entry

Take the last train to London

London’s St. Pancras train station awaited us

On most days of the week it’s possible to take one train from the south of France all the way through to London, arriving in time to join the after-theater crowd for a late dinner. It starts in Marseille, so from Carcassonne you have to take one other train to catch the 3:15 PM Eurostar departure, and that’s exactly what we did last month. We are close enough to walk to the airport here from where we could fly directly to London, but we love the train. It’s relaxing, you can show up at the station a few minutes ahead rather than hours before departure, you depart from and arrive in the center of town, and leisurely drinks, snacks, and meals can be enjoyed with plenty of leg room while listening to music, reading a book, or just gazing out the window as the landscape glides by. 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

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