France’s favorite village

France 3 TV program

To be called a “village” in France the population must be less than 2000 people and the houses can’t be further than 200 meters apart. According to the Mayor’s Association, that describes 29,000 places around the country and even if you lower the number of inhabitants to 500 you are still left with 18,000 communities. Each year television channel France 3 runs a contest to whittle down those thousands to just 14: one village to represent each region in mainland France and one from overseas. Now that the shortlist has been announced the fun begins because everyone (as far as I can tell) gets to vote for their favorite village, link below. Continue reading “France’s favorite village”

Where to retire in France

From Andernos-les-Bains tourism office

Bill and I have lived from one coast of the US to the other and several places in between. Each of these relocations was a work-related transfer with little leeway on the city of choice. Our final move within America, while still revolving around jobs—as in looking for them—gave us the opportunity to make our own decision about the place. We used an almanac that rated cities across the country on numerous factors such as cost of living, climate, housing, and employment. When it came time to retire in France we consulted a number of “Best of…” lists that covered the same criteria for this country and one of those rankings was published last month in the newspaper Le Figaro. For retirees, the five points they considered were the demographics and attractiveness of each of the 50 included cities, access to health care, the quality of life, housing, and services directed toward seniors. What was at the top of their list? Continue reading “Where to retire in France”

Attractive cities

The attractive village of Rochefort-en-terre in Brittany

Radio station Europe1 had on their website an article that was headlined, “The Three Most Attractive Cities in France.” Since Bill and I enjoy traveling, especially here in this country, I was anxious to read about some new destinations. The lead-in said that at the top of their list of 30 places were Besançon, Orléans and Saint-Étienne while Bordeaux was at position 20, Paris at 26, Nice at 28, and Nîmes at the very bottom. Interestingly, we have visited all of those cities that came in at the low end, some several times, and always found them inviting.  In contrast, we only knew one of the top cities, Orléans, because we stayed overnight at a pet-friendly hotel when we moved here with our dog, Heather, and were driving from Paris to Carcassonne, but that doesn’t really count. What that headline meant, we thought, was lots of new discoveries to make…until we read the rest of that first paragraph. Continue reading “Attractive cities”

Confirming the big decision

Safe harbors, literally and figuratively. This is Le Bono in Brittany.

During the 15 months after Bill initially asked “Why don’t we move to France?” we did a lot of online research to make certain that we were headed in the right direction. Before we boarded that Paris-bound Air France flight in Atlanta with our dog Heather and almost all of our possessions in 4 suitcases and 2 backpacks we had looked at dozens of websites, blogs, surveys, and government documents to be as informed as we could. Now that we live here, one online newspaper that we look at daily is The Local that gives news and tips in English on succeeding in another country. In one helpful article they assembled a list of reasons why this land well known for bread, cheese, and wine might just be the best place in the world to retire. Since we’ve now been here for a bit over 2 years I thought it would be interesting to see if we agreed with their list. Continue reading “Confirming the big decision”

And the winner is….

The fortress at Carcassonne

After seeing a July post about a trip we had taken to nearby Narbonne, blog reader Rebecca commented that she’d driven by that city many times, and it sounded as if it were worth a stop. We certainly agree, especially given that Narbonne appeared on our original list of cities that we might want to move to. Long before we ever considered moving overseas, we tried to create in Atlanta one aspect of European life that greatly appealed to us: a village. No matter what country we visited from France, to Germany, Italy, England, Scotland, or Wales, we always started in the big cities but managed to find outlying areas that charmed us. Of course each culture was different but there was always something that brought the residents together and in the UK the heart of every small town we went to was the village pub. It was no surprise then that “village” appeared as one must-have item on any new place that we would call home. Continue reading “And the winner is….”

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?”

France it is, but why and where?

Once we returned from Florida, right after Thanksgiving 2014, knowing that we were going to move somewhere we started looking for ideal places to retire. The website of US News & World Report offers quite a few options if you’re searching for sunniest places, historic places, or even wine lovers places, to list a few. One of the ideas mentioned online was where to retire on Social Security alone which averages a bit over $1200 per person a month according to the Social Security Administration. In that top-10 list were several northern US cities that we had already eliminated in our desire to avoid the snow. Delving deeper into that same website we discovered an article about the “other” south of France, meaning the Languedoc-Roussillon region which is further around the Mediterranean Sea towards Spain than the more well-known Cote d’Azur that includes Nice and Cannes. The paragraph that really piqued our interest said that in the city of Carcassonne a couple could expect to spend about 1000 euro (there’s that magic $1200 price) per month on all living expenses including rent, utilities, food, and insurance with money left over for entertainment and dining out. Continue reading “France it is, but why and where?”