Our year started with our New Years’ Resolutions — Alan: continuing studies learning French, taking the A1 Delf test, and reading 52 books in 52 weeks; Tracy: continue French lessons and knit 52 projects in 52 weeks. We both did very good until about April! Alan finished his 52 books plus a few more . . . 96 in total! Tracy finally got organized and began writing the blog pages chronicling our six week journey through Spain on the Camino de Santiago.
Sami was finally old enough for her sterilization surgery and though she was displeased with inconvenience of the whole thing, rebounded very quickly. She’s a tough girl!
Originally our plan was to move to a new city in France every year. However we have so enjoyed ourselves in this beautiful city, we made the decision to stay in Carcassonne a second year. It is still hard to believe that we live in such a beautiful place! There are certainly no regrets about staying a second year, though we are quite excited about moving in 2015 to Argeles-sur-Mer near the Mediterranean Ocean.
Tracy was very happy to start the new year with a working computer, after spending six months of 2013 without one!
Those pesky pages for the Camino de Santiago finally got finished. Tracy worked on them for weeks and was very happy to set the project to a completed status, though they will be getting a refresher edit in 2015.
This month the television was turned on for the first time since moving to France. Once to watch the opening ceremony to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and again for the Superbowl. It was odd after not watching television for such a long time! Our landlord, Jason, graciously provides both local and satellite television so we have access to both French and UK programming. BBC aired the Superbowl live — kickoff was at 1 am our time. We did a modified version of our annual Superbowl spread and stayed up to watch the game — then slept most of the following day!
Charlotte, our upstairs neighbor invited us to a potluck dinner while some of her friends were visiting. Charlotte is a teacher from Oregon who was staying in Carcassonne for three months. Her friends, Lorraine and Norma, had joined her for a couple of weeks and they hosted a get together for all the tenants in the building. Everyone met in the fourth floor apartment which is a beautiful two bedroom with spacious kitchen and living areas and a terrace with stunning views of the city.We were joined by Sophie, a NYC surgeon and Johanna, who was visiting from New Zealand — it was a great evening, full of great conversation and lots of local food!
Later in the month we had our Visa Renewal appointment at the prefecture. Though we were a bit nervous when it was our turn; the people ahead of us were denied their renewal. But, thankfully, all our documents in order and it was a hassle-free experience.
Being art lovers, when the photo van for the Pantheon Project made it to La Cite, we jumped at the opportunity to participate. Carcassonne was one of only eight cities selected and there were hundreds of people eager to participate. Though the line was long, Sami kept us laughing with her enthusiasm to meet every single person standing in line — and their dogs.
Near the end of the month we received an e-mail notifying us that our Visa Renewal application was approved and we picked up our “green” card, which in France is actually pink and blue.
March is a great time to be in Carcassonne, that’s when the Salon du Chocolat et des Douceurs (Chocolate Fair) is held. Amazing and delicious!
For St. Patrick’s Day, we stopped in at the local Irish Pub, “The Celt” for a Guiness Stout (Tracy’s favorite beer). Sami came along as dogs are allowed in nearly all bars and restaurants in France.
April was a great month for news from home. Our son Adam got married to his fiancee, Liz. She is a welcome addition to the family, and we are so happy for them. These two Burning Man alums wore Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy costumes for their wedding overlooking the Truckee River. Rom, Liz’s Husky was also in attendance.
Next came news that Casey had proposed to his girlfriend, Megan. Their proposal photos were done with an Alice in Wonderland theme . . . very cute! And shortly following Casey’s announcement we heard that our niece, Lyssa, was expecting a new baby by the end of the year. Nothing but fun to be had this month!
We made it over to the County Fair at La Cite (Fete du pays de Carcassonne) and enjoyed some very authentic Renaissance Fair action. Music, clothing, food, displays such as weaving, pottery making, musical instruments, and sword fights all set in a medieval walled city!
The WWII Victory Memorial Event was also an excellent affair. Though the weather was a bit cooler than the year prior it was well attended and this year there was a choir from one of the local elementary schools.
By the end of the month, the weather was gorgeous, so we headed over the bridge to a great picnic area for Sami’s first picnic. Sitting at the table, eating food from a plastic bowl, drinking water from a thermos . . . Sami thought we should eat this way everyday!
After reaching the big 5-0 in April, Tracy decided that we needed to take a closer look at our diet. We decided to try a healthier approach and Meatless May was born. Though we didn’t make it the entire month as vegetarians, it did gave us an idea of what foods we could cut from our everyday diets without risk of crazy cravings or panic when trying to cook a meal.
In France, May is tax month, so we dutifully filed our French Tax Returns. We made a day of it with a walk over the bridge to the municipal building where you turn in your tax forms, then a mini celebration with a 1/2 litre of wine at La Casa, one of our favorite local restaurants.
Voting came early this year for us as well. As expats, we have the right to request our ballots early and though the directions to return the ballots were insane, we did manage to do our absentee voting. Another new first!
We made great use of our Internet service this month while watching two of our kids graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno. Our daughter-in-law, Liz, graduated on a Friday with her bachelor’s degree in Social Science and our son, Casey, graduated the following day with his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. We were able to watch the ceremonies via the university’s live feed.
Towards the end of the month, Tracy was browsing through the web site where she found our current apartment and found a lovely two bedroom cottage near the coast of the Mediterranean. Within minutes we made the decision to contact the owner and within hours had the wheels set in motion for our upcoming move to Argeles-sur-Mer.
June was all about family. Our son, Casey’s, graduation gift was two round-trip tickets to Paris. We traveled by train a day early to meet them upon arrival. We spent a few days seeing the sites around Paris, the Eiffel Tower, Arch de Triumph and even made it over to the Palace in Versailles. As luck would have it our travel to Marseille was during the middle of a train strike! Hopping onto a very full, high-speed train that was standing room only allowed us to not miss any of our scheduled site-seeing. In Marseille, we took a ferry out to see Chateau d’If and tried some of the local dining options. Then we were off to Rome for three days to see the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Pantheon. Alan’s friend Ron and his wife, Cindy, were in Rome at the same time and we were able to meet them for lunch at a restaurant near the Pantheon. We had a great time visiting the Vatican and the Vatican Museum even though it rained the entire time we waited in line! Our favorite was the necropolis tour under St. Peter’s Basilica. We spent the rest of their trip in Carcassonne and visited La Cite, one of the nearby Cathar castles (lots of climbing!) and a little town called Mirapoix which has a great historic district.
Though July was a very slow month as we took some time to recover from all our travels in June we had the unique opportunity to see the Tour de France from our own neighborhood. Segment 17 of the 2014 Tour de France started in Carcassonne just up the block from where we live!
We were off to Paris again near the end of August to meet up with Tracy’s aunt and uncle. We booked an apartment for their visit and were pleased to be upgraded to a nicer apartment just three blocks from the Eiffel Tower. We spent a few days hitting many of the sites, Notre Dame, the Grand Palace, the Pantheon and more before taking a train to Versailles to pick up the rental car.
We drove from Versailles to Mont San Michele for two nights and visited Mont San Michele as well as the beaches of Normandy before heading back to Carcassonne for a couple of days. After just a few days in Carcassonne we were off to St. Jean Pied-du-Port where Tracy and her aunt, Deb, started their Camino de Santiago journey through Spain. A modified trek this time, a week at the beginning of the Camino Frances – St. Jean to Logrono – then an overnight train to Sarria, and a week walking from Sarria to Santiago. It was a beautiful journey, though much more rain than the 2013 trek.
Tracy returned from the Camino with Deb in mid-September, flying to Paris to see Deb off back to the States then taking the train to Montpellier where she met up with Alan and a very excited Sami! We spent some time walking around Montpellier and found a lovely promenade area near the train station.
Things were quiet in October, Sami got her shots updated but the rest of the month was spent telling stories from Tracy and Deb’s Camino journey and the differences between the two hikes.
We got word via Facebook that our niece, Lyssa, and her husband, Chris, had their baby. A boy, Zedekiah, whom they call Ki for short. He is super adorable and is dearly loved by his big sister, Selah.
We spent most of the month working on various projects that we wanted to complete before the end of the year and hitting the local market for the last of our favorite fall vegetables while they were still available. December usually brings a change in selection and late summer and early/mid-fall seem to have most of our favorite options.
Thanksgiving rolled around and no turkeys showed up at the grocery store. Not wanting to be too bummed on one of our favorite holidays we opted for chicken and added some yummy French desserts as a bonus. Chatting with family was the highlight of the day!
The first Saturday of December was the official start of the Christmas market which is a family favorite – hot wine, roasted chestnuts and Christmas music, in English. The city goes all out with decorating and it is a magical time of year here. This year we even participated in the Torch Parade, an evening walk with real fire torches beginning in La Cite and ending in Place Carnot to celebrate the official start to the Christmas season of festivities, beginning with the tree lighting ceremony!
Christmastime is always the hardest part of year to be away from our family and friends and though we video chat with them, it’s not the same as a big, long hug from our loved ones. We celebrated with a nice dinner at home, Christmas movie classics, and video chats with family. A nice Christmas.
Near the end of the month our landlord, Jason, brought by a tenant-to-be who will be renting the apartment after we leave. We met up with Carol a few days later for drinks and began a new friendship with someone who we hope to spend more time with in the new year.
New Year’s Eve was celebrated with a delicious champagne that Alan found at the local market and a turkey dinner! Turkeys were finally available in the grocery store just before Christmas and since it is just the two of us, we opted for turkey breast rather than an entire turkey!
We toasted to the new year, our new apartment near the sea, our amazing expat life and all our friends and family. Sami had ice water and turkey and brought in the new year with a bit of barking, a lot of ball chasing, and a few extra treats!
As per usual, we did not get everything on our list of goals completed this year, but are hoping to get a few of them completed early in 2015. With all our hobbies, goals and projects each year we are constantly amazed that we ever had time to work!
Here’s to 2015!