How much is that house in the window?

Real estate agency window listings

Long before we moved to France, we visited here annually. We generally stayed in one location for 2 weeks, typically renting a fully furnished house or apartment so that we could pretend that we actually lived in that city, town or village. Fruits and vegetables from the weekly open-air market; fresh bread from the bakery around the corner; fish just off the boat right next to the harbor; frequent walks around town saying “bonjour” to shopkeepers or even local residents we had seen before. A favorite activity on at least one of those strolls through the city was to stop at the real estate agencies and look at the listings in their windows and then dream about owning a home there. That practice came in very handy when we finally moved to Carcassonne and lived in a holiday home for the first year while we were deciding what to do. We knew after less than 2 months here that this would definitely become our new hometown. Continue reading “How much is that house in the window?”

Not too taxing

Copper street lights at the train station

Now that we’ve been homeowners for more than a full calendar year, it’s time to talk about paying the taxes. We’ve never been ones to shy away from “render(ing) unto Caesar” since we understand the importance of sharing the cost of maintaining a civilized society. For example, when we take the city bus or a regional train instead of using a car, we might be helping the environment but at a fare of only 1 euro/dollar per trip, a lot of people are chipping in to make that possible. So where does this money come from and how do we pay our portion? Continue reading “Not too taxing”

The big move

Bill and the big, little van
Bill and the big, little van

We’re in. There’s still a month to go on the lease of our rental house but we wanted to be into our own place to start the new year. That will give us plenty of time to thoroughly clean what we’ve called “home” for the last 11 months before we turn it back over to the landlords. It also means that if we get any last minute out-of-town guests before March 1st, they can stay there instead of stepping around unpacked boxes, over cans of plaster and paint, and through ladders leaning against the walls. Just as we did a few months ago, we rented a van, only this time instead of going to the supermarket to pick it up we literally crossed the street from there to a rental car agency. Continue reading “The big move”

That crashing sound

A wall shelf unit without its shelves or doors
A wall shelf unit without its shelves or doors

Last night after dinner I was sitting here typing something for the blog when a frighteningly-loud crash seemed to be happening right beside my head. Instantly the thoughts of an airplane going down or a car wrecking or a building collapsing filled my brain. Then in the next few seconds I realized that the reason it sounded so close was because the sound had indeed come from an arm’s length away: part of a wall cabinet had come loose and had fallen towards the floor. Luckily a table was directly below and helped to cushion the fall. But what made all the noise? Continue reading “That crashing sound”

When 7+7=15

A street in our neighborhood
A street in our neighborhood

In French when you talk about a two-week period you will most commonly hear “15 days” because they include the day you are currently in. Since we’ve now been in the house for quinze jours I thought I’d update a few of those early day posts. Let’s start with the one that’s generated the most interest and concern: Stone cold. Continue reading “When 7+7=15”


The key to a successful new life in France is a bank account. With it you can go anywhere and do anything. Without it you are stuck, dead in your tracks. Almost all of your bills are paid directly from it and your income is put directly into it. Your debit card is tied to it and you use that “carte bleu” to pay for everything from restaurant meals, to train tickets, to supermarket purchases. Even your monthly rent or mortgage payment comes right out of your account and into the landlord’s, perhaps at the same bank, and there’s the rub. Continue reading “Catch-22”

Carcassonne it is, but why and where?

So why Carcassonne? First, there’s the climate. On average, it’s 10 degrees F cooler in the summer and 10 degrees warmer in the winter than Atlanta. No snow! There’s a fresh fruits and vegetables market three days a week in the main town square that’s within walking distance of any apartment or house we are likely to rent, as is the train station and even the airport. There are a dozen super/hyper markets around the edge of the city all accessible by sidewalks, bike paths, or the 1 euro bus. For water access there’s the Aude river and its parks, the Canal du Midi with tree-lined walking/riding paths, and a huge lake for swimming. For history, how about living beside two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Canal du Midi, opened in 1681 and Europe’s largest medieval fortress that is a town unto itself. Each summer the city hosts a 6-week long music festival with dozens of concerts weekly, many of them free. Famous singers known throughout Europe plus worldwide names like Elton John, Sting, and Bob Dylan have performed. Did I mention that Carcassonne sits in the middle of France’s largest wine-producing area? Talk about living in wine country! Continue reading “Carcassonne it is, but why and where?”