Blog Archives

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

Ghent in a day

Belfry and cloth maker’s guild house

When you’re already in an architectural gem of a city in Belgium and the guidebook says, “Ghent is just like Bruges…except without the crowds,” then you have no choice but to go and see if that’s true. With a train departing several times each hour to make the 25-minute journey, it was an easy decision to make. If you read last Sunday’s post you’ll know that we spent a delightful week in Bruges so with the opportunity to see another destination included in articles entitled “11 Reasons to visit Ghent over Bruges” and “Ghent or Bruges: Which city is for you?” we wanted to make the comparison. Read the rest of this entry

Bruges in a week

Bonifacius bridge

It was 15 years ago when Bill and I went to Bruges, Belgium and that was for less than 24 hours. At the time we were staying in Paris which is only 2 ½ hours away by train and in those days we tried to pack in as much as possible to our annual two-week vacations. On that same trip we had already spent the week in a Loire Valley castle making driving excursions into the surrounding areas to see at least one other chateau every day, so why not visit another country too? All I can remember from back then is the chocolate, the beer, and the lace. On our recent return to the city we had the luxury of being there an entire week but we also had to sneak in a day trip to Ghent, only 30 minutes down the train tracks. Old habits die hard. Read the rest of this entry

Be prepared

Taking the direct route from Marseille to Carcassonne

It’s been a long time since either Bill or I were actively involved with anything to do with the Boy Scouts but their motto has stuck with both of us and it follows us, especially on our travels. On our most recent train trip coming home from Marseille, an online mapping program showed our route as going on/over/through the Mediterranean Sea rather than on the tracks that hug the shoreline going through Nimes, Montpellier, and other cities you can see on the screen shot here. Luckily we kept our heads above water by consulting the paper itinerary we had printed out earlier to confirm the stops and the times we would be at each one. I like to do the same for city maps that come to the rescue when the mapping app on the phone displays, “Can’t find a way there.” Read the rest of this entry

Banyuls-sur-mer in 4 days

Banyuls-sur-mer from the apartment terrace

Ah, by the sea. Even before we started looking outside of the US for a retirement spot, our spreadsheet of must-haves included being on/near/having a view of water. At the time, the beautiful Florida home of one of Bill’s sisters could have technically qualified on all three of those points. A similar house for sale right next door to her had a one million dollar price tag and while that would have been fun, we decided to expand our horizons across the Atlantic to France. In Carcassonne we’re a 5-minute walk from either the river or the canal, so we’re definitely near the water but you still can’t look out our windows and see the birds gliding across the surface or fish jumping out to catch insects. However, if one of those birds were to fly from our house directly to the Mediterranian Sea, that’s only 67 km (42 miles), where lots of vacation accommodations await with the promise of “les pieds dans l’eau” or “your feet in the water.” Read the rest of this entry

Two, two, two trips in one

Ax-les-Thermes in the Pyrenees

Bill will readily admit that he’s not an early riser unless, as our friend Pete says, there’s a treat at the end. When you combine our favorite form of transportation, the train, with bargain fares of one euro per person, and the chance to visit two cities along scenic rail routes, that’s one big treat. It was enough to coax him out of bed at 5 AM three weeks before we wanted to travel to snag those cheap tickets as soon as they went on sale. Where were we headed? It might seem strange that during a summer with record-breaking high temperatures we would visit a town known for its hot springs, but we wanted to see this area in the Pyrenees before its other attraction arrived: snow. Read the rest of this entry

Not today, Satan

A medieval carved head to scare the devil out of you

Comedienne Bianca Del Rio, sometimes known as Roy Haylock, uses the phrase, “Not today, Satan, not today” when things haven’t gone as planned but she’s determined not to let the devil get in her way. We had that kind of day recently. Today’s blog post was supposed to be about a day trip to a hot springs spa town in the Pyrenees with a stopover on the way home in a once fortified Roman town with a 10th century castle still towering over it. We got as far as Toulouse, about an hour into the trip, when we discovered that our connecting train had been cancelled and later departures were likely to suffer the same fate. We then invoked what is second-nature to us and something we discovered that many French people admire about Americans: an inclination to turn a negative situation positive in an effort to make something successful. Even our friends here have confirmed to us this perceived cultural difference we had read about. 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