Blog Archives

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

Toulouse day trip

Pink mansion on rue de l’Echarpe

If we hadn’t already been to Albi, the birthplace of painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, I would have spent a lot of time during our visit to this city bearing a part of his last name trying to find his connection to the Ville Rose (Pink City because of the color of the bricks). As it turns out, the name meant that he was born into an aristocratic family with roots in the area rather than, as the museum in Albi dedicated to his works can confirm, being from there. All the better for us since we now had that much more opportunity to explore the museums, squares, medieval buildings, cafés, and 2000 or so restaurants in a city less than an hour by train from Carcassonne. Read the rest of this entry

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