Blog Archives

Corsica, top to bottom

Dramatic cliffs and crystal blue water in Bonifacio

Before we moved to France, the only thing that I knew about Corsica was that it was an island in the Mediterranean Sea where Napoleon Bonaparte was born. Now that we live here it’s hard to turn on the TV or open a magazine without seeing a beautiful image of crystal clear blue water, mountain cliffs above the sea, or lots of smiling faces enjoying afternoon drinks on a terrace looking out on all of those same marvelous views. Pair that with the universal reactions we got from everyone here when we mentioned that we’d be going to the island and you could wonder why their tourist office even bothers advertising. The place sells itself. English words like “beautiful, magnificent, fantastic” and their French equivalents rolled easily off the tongues of those around us. It was definitely time for Bill and me to visit this magical spot from which one person said, “you won’t want to come back.” Read the rest of this entry

Accidentally in Avignon

Pont d’Avignon from the île de la Barthelasse

“You can’t get there from here,” is what the French rail website might as well have said when we were trying to get home from last week’s trip to Aigues-Mortes. Caught up in the excitement of staying on board our own boat, we anticipated that our return to Carcassonne would be as easy as the outbound journey. Unfortunately what should have taken a bit over 2 hours in travel time was showing up as 16 hours because of layovers, connections, and being sent up to Paris to catch the night train that has only seats, no sleeping berths. We then learned that because of track repairs no trains would be running for 3 days in the direction of home so it was time to get out the map and see where we could go. Since we knew that there were trains running northbound in the direction of the capital, it didn’t take long to settle on Avignon as the place to wait until the rails were once again open. Read the rest of this entry

Public transit survey

City bus at the castle. photo © Ville de Carcassonne – Julien Roche

Beginning in March of next year all public transportation in Luxembourg will be free to residents and visitors alike. No more tickets to ride the buses, trams, and trains within the borders of the country. The government hopes to ease some of the traffic congestion and the resulting pollution that results when 60 percent of the workers who commute use their cars. Later this summer the French parliament will take up the same issue for this country and in preparation, some members of the Senate have begun gathering opinions from the public. We only found out yesterday that you have just until the end of this month to answer an online survey (link below) regarding the possibility of free transports en commun here as well. Read the rest of this entry

Scenic route to Clermont-Ferrand

Lecoq Park entrance in Clermont-Ferrand

Our motto might be, “If there’s a train station there, we’ll go. If it’s via a scenic route, we’ll go there twice just to take in all of the views from both sides of the train.” In the case of Clermont-Ferrand, a city in central France that’s been inhabited since prehistoric times, we didn’t even have to backtrack because we went up one set of tracks (la ligne des Causses/de l’Aubrac) and came home on another (la ligne des Cévennes), both of them colored green on the map to indicate journeys not to be missed. In store for us were tracks clinging to the cliff sides, wide gorges with rivers below, tunnels, castles, a viaduct built by Gustave Eiffel in 1885 and a dinner reservation that first evening at the most popular restaurant in town. Read the rest of this entry

Trains for Christmas

TGV departs Carcassonne station for Toulouse

Fond Christmas memories are centered around trains, stretching from childhood right through 3 years ago when we sold our Atlanta house and all of its contents including the HO gauge model trains that Bill and I had collected over the years. The first engine I remember was a steam locomotive that even emitted puffs of white smoke for realism. That was followed by a bright yellow Union Pacific diesel. No smoke but the passenger cars came with interior lights that added one more touch of realism. When I got a job with British Rail, naturally we had to have our own version of the Flying Scotsman. It didn’t take long to add the Orient Express to our collection and once France became a yearly vacation destination we had a TGV. Who wouldn’t want a miniature version of a train capable in speed trials of going 574 km/hr (357 mph)? Every December we would set up the track around the base of the tree and then try to figure out how to fit all of those engines and cars into that little space. Now our hardest decision with life-size trains is where to go next. Read the rest of this entry

Annecy, France in 2 days

Sailboats on Lake Annecy

We’ve been wanting to visit Annecy at least since we moved to France two and a half years ago and probably long before that given how many travel videos about this country we used to watch in the US. Since the train is our preferred mode of transportation and it generally takes 2 changes to get there from Carcassonne, we’ve put it off. When Bill was planning our trip in northern Italy he saw that on our return we could stop overnight in Annecy and then get one direct train from nearby Lyon to our station at home. If it really were that easy (true confession at the end of this post) then we were off to see this city in the Alps! Read the rest of this entry

Milan in 2 days

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II domed roof

One of the best tips I saw online about visiting Italy was that your trip should not be rushed. You should take the time just to observe the life going on around you. Of course, this advice was accompanied by a photo of a canal-side café table bearing a glass of wine and a plate of tapas. With that in mind, I took my Top 10 list (19, really) of what to see in Milan compiled from our two favorite travel websites, and pared that down to half its original size. Surely we could make it to nine sites in about 2 days time, right? Considering that we were in one of the world’s fashion capitals and only about a 20-minute walk from a showcase of designer-everything, it made sense to head for Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a soaring iron and glass arcade built beginning in 1865 and at the time was Europe’s largest shopping arcade. Read the rest of this entry

A new life in Lille

Tales of a Brit who moved to northern France

Southern Fried French

Two American Guys & Their Dog Move to France

wcs

Two American Guys & Their Dog Move to France

Chez Loulou

Two American Guys & Their Dog Move to France

The Vicious Cycle

A man searches for meaning...in between leg shavings

Post-Industrial Eating

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An Italian Point Of View

Alan and Tracy's Expat Adventures