Blog Archives

Wine, women, and song

A student pours wine for Sally and Shell

Earlier this month we began our third year of living in France. The most frequent comment we heard about that blog post revolved around how fast time goes and we agree completely. In Carcassonne that is especially true on weekends, even in the winter, when there are so many choices of activities that we must decide what not to do rather than searching for something to fill the days. During the summer vacation months of July and August, millions of tourists arrive to visit the massive fortress here, parts of which are still standing from the days that Romans picked grapes in the nearby vineyards 2000 years ago. While I would expect there to be plenty to do during the summer, it was a pleasant surprise to find out how much the city has to offer off-season and last weekend was no exception. Read the rest of this entry

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Ugly potatoes

An ad for “ugly” potatoes & apples

Food is always a topic of conversation, especially in a country that is world famous for its cuisine. We can walk to the open air market on the main square in town 3 days a week and have our pick from fruits and vegetables grown locally or from Spain only 2 hours south. If we need something from further afield or perhaps an item that isn’t in season in this hemisphere, there are plenty of supermarkets that we can easily get to on foot or by a short bus ride that offer products from around the world. We get their weekly advertisements either through the mailbox or online so that we can see at a glance what’s being featured. It was one of those ads that caught my eye when I saw a word that I recognized “moche” but never expected to see mentioned along with food: ugly. Read the rest of this entry

We’re going to Pézenas

A street in Pézenas

Our friends Sally and Larry are sneaky. They know how much we enjoying seeing parts of France that we haven’t been to, especially when we can go there by our favorite mode of transportation, the train. They also know that despite there being over 3000 stations in a country smaller in area than Texas, we still need a car to visit some villages, towns, and especially picturesque places. To the rescue they’ve come, inviting us along for day trips out of Carcassonne when they’ve rented a car to take visiting friends or family around. Usually they let us know well in advance but sometimes they “kidnap” us for the day and just tell us to be ready to leave at a certain hour. It was one of those surprise adventures that got us to a “City of Art and History”, Pézenas. Read the rest of this entry

On the border of Christmas markets

Welcome to the Christmas markets of Strasbourg

When we moved to France in 2016 it was the year of our 30th anniversary. Well before we knew that we’d be living overseas we came up with a variety of possibilities for celebrating that happy occasion. We’d had lots of fun on cruises so a transatlantic crossing, sailing from California to Hawaii, Greek Island hopping, and a big friends and family reunion cruise all made it to the list. Since we had rented European castles together with friends a few times, having a big Downton Abbey style party somewhere in the countryside with friends from both sides of the Atlantic sounded great. So did rail trips, especially if they took us to wine destinations like Bordeaux or Cognac where we had not yet been. What about combining cruising and the train with a trip on the Rhine river, returning on the tracks running beside it? If we waited until December we could fly over for the Christkindlmarkts (Christmas markets) in Germany and  les marchés de Noël in France. So many choices. Read the rest of this entry

Fill-er-up

Sparkling wine in Limoux

There are many advantages to not having a car. The most obvious ones revolve around money. If you haven’t already paid for the vehicle then there are monthly loan or lease payments plus your insurance bill to go with that. In the US, although we didn’t have to take our 2 Hondas in for service very often, each time we did it always seemed to average 400 dollars. Parking fees for us are now nonexistent. I once paid 40 dollars to park for an hour and a half in midtown Manhattan one evening. There are no repair bills to consider for minor dents and scratches that aren’t worth turning into your insurance company. No tokens to buy to feed into the meter at the automatic car wash. And of course, no gasoline. The average cost of essence in France is 1.37 euro per liter which equates to 4.35 dollars per gallon, but that still doesn’t mean that we don’t get to say fill-er-up! Read the rest of this entry

Sun and ice

17th century ice house entrance

If asked to name a French king, the first one that comes to our minds is Louis XIV, the Sun King. After all, his association with the majestic Palace of Versailles certainly makes a memorable impression even 300 years later. He turned a hunting lodge in the middle of a forest, 13 miles (21 km.) from Paris into a massive administrative and entertainment complex for his own delight and that of the court in general and ambassadors from other European countries. A popular after dinner event of the time, and an additional way to demonstrate the king’s seemingly limitless power, was to serve fruit-flavored ices to his guests, even in the middle of the summer of the 1600s, at least a century before artificial refrigeration was in use elsewhere. To ensure a ready supply of ice wherever he traveled in France and to those wealthy enough to court his favor, the King authorized the construction of glacières (we would call them “ice houses”) in 1659 and there’s one about an hour’s drive from Carcassonne. Read the rest of this entry

Where 20 = Wine

Wine aging in barrels in the cave

Ask any French person to name a famous American highway and you’re bound to hear “Route 66”. Hollywood has done a wonderful job of creating a mystique around this classic USA road trip that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. Bill spent part of his youth growing up along it and he always gets smiles, nods of approval, and an enthusiastic “Oui!” whenever that comes up in conversation. There are numerous websites, guidebooks, photo essays, and blog posts, all in French, dedicated to navigating this 2400 mile (3900 kilometer) pathway. If you reverse that original question and ask us to name a famous French highway, you will certainly hear “Route 20 Corbières”, the wine road. Read the rest of this entry

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