Thursday, December 15th

We’ve been looking for a momento to remind us of our time here in Languedoc…..and we finally found it.  It’s a painting by a local artist of the bridge in Le Somail…..a green and white boat (looking very much like our “Joie de France”) rests comfortably on the bank of the canal.

Here’s our photo of the same bridge….taken a few days ago……

“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats” ~ Kenneth Grahame

 
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Wednesday, December 14th

We had an appointment with the veterinarian in Carcassonne this morning.  Felix has come to equate his pet carrier with suitcases and a trip to Chateau Miaou….. so, with nary a suitcase in sight, he wasn’t sure why he was being put into the carrier.  He quietly pondered this strange turn of events during the 45 minute journey.   

As usual, the directions we had printed from the internet didn’t jive with reality and we were hopelessly lost…..eventually finding our way by what I call “the Braille method,” feeling our way around until we happen upon the right road.    

The veterinarian, Dr Broy, was boyishly handsome and, more importantly, spoke English.  After explaining the purpose of our visit (a “healthy pet certificate” for Air France), he escorted us into an examination room, opened the door of the carrier and beckoned Felix out.  Felix, acutely aware than no good ever comes from rooms that smell of antiseptic and alcohol, wouldn’t budge.  Craig tried to coax him out to no avail……so Dr Broy tipped the back of the carrier up…..and, like molasses out of a jar, Felix started slowing oozing out…..inch by furry inch.  As more and more Felix became visible, Dr Broy laughed and said “He is a big cat.”  When Felix was finally fully on the table, Dr Broy took his temperature (oh, the indignity), checked his mouth and eyes, palpated his underside, weighed him (8.2 kilos!) and pronounced him “healthy.” 

With certificate in hand, we headed back to the cottage…..driving through the little village of Trebes. We’d been avoiding this town since last March, when we witnessed the Plane trees that lined the canal being cut down.  It’s just been too sad to drive by these barren banks.  But today we were elated to see hundreds of trees being replanted!  

According to signs on the support posts, these Plane trees are disease resistant. Estatic is too mild a word to describe how happy this made us…..once again, there will be life along the canal.

A little further on, we spotted this sign…..

I’m not sure who put it up or why it was written in English, but the “Occupy Movement” is truly worldwide if it’s found it’s way to the sleepy Languedoc.

 

 

 

“If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees” ~ Hal Borland

 
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Tuesday, December 13th

Filled with soon-to-be nostalgia, we spent the day driving through Languedoc…..fixing this beautiful countryside firmly in our mind’s eye….

 

“Gonna take a Sentimental Journey, gonna set my heart at ease.  Gonna make a Sentimental Journey to renew old memories.” ~ Les Brown, Ben Homer, Bud Green

 

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Monday, December 12th

Caryl and Jean Michel stopped by this morning.  After much catching up and lots of laughter, the conversation turned to the immediate task at hand…..buttoning up the cottage up for the winter. 

They departed a few hours later and, with plans firmly in place for closing up the cottage, we got on to the business of moving back to California.   

When we booked Felix on our flight to San Francisco, Air France advised us to check the animal import requirements of our destination…..we did and found that as long as Felix looked healthy, we would have no problem bringing him back to the US.  But, when we called Air France today to verify Felix’s reservation, we were told that Air France requires a “healthy pet certificate.” 

Swell.  What to do?  Ah ha!  Contact Chateau Miaou for help and advice?  We did and were given the name and phone number of a veterinarian in Carcassonne.  Craig dialed the number and hopefully asked, “Parlais vous Anglais?”  Yes!  There were English speakers there!  Craig explained what we needed and procured an appointment for Wednesday morning.

After that, we scheduled appointments with the utility company and the moving company…..on December 23rd, we’ll be in our new home in California with lights, hot water and furniture.  Everything’s falling into place for our return to California…..we should be thrilled, shouldn’t we?

“All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves.”  ~ Amelia Barr

 
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Sunday, December 11th

A charming English couple living in the Black Mountains agreed to buy our chair and footstool…..and, to save them the time and trouble of finding the cottage, we offered to meet them halfway…..near Carcassonne.  Craig whisked the cat hair off the cushions, loaded the pieces in the car and off we went.

Brenda and Simon were waiting for us when we arrived at the agreed upon meeting place, a car park on the Aude River.  We chit-chatted about this and that….and found them to be an absolutely delightful couple…. it’s a shame we won’t be able to get to know them better. 

With business done and Carcassonne so close, we couldn’t resist one more trip to “la Cité.”  

The fresh scent of pine greeted us as we crossed it’s drawbridge.  We thought that on a Sunday, especially one so close to Christmas, the walled city would be packed with visitors, but no….the cobblestone lanes were almost empty.  Many shops were closed…..some because it was Sunday, others for the season…..not to reopen until “Printemps”…..until Spring.

In the stark Winter light, with barren trees and no crowds around us, we saw la Cité as if for the first time…..and it was beautiful.

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter. something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” ~ Andrew Wyeth

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Saturday, December 10th

I had a fabulous time today!  I spent the entire day baking Christmas treats for our friends here in France.

I’ve come to love the whole process of cooking……searching for the perfect recipe, checking the cupboards for the necessary ingredients, creating a market list, shopping for what’s needed…..then chopping, creaming, basting, blending, marinating, mixing, sauteeing, sifting…..whatever the creation requires. I love the ambrosial scents that fill the air and waft through the cottage. I even enjoy the inevitable clean-up.  For me, cooking is a soul-satisfying endeavor.

And so very different from the job I left behind in California…..where, at the end of the day, piles of paperwork surrounded me. As one project was completed, two more were started. Although I found gratification in each finished assignment, with no end in sight, a true sense of accomplishment was missing.

But not so with cooking……

 

German Christmas Gingerbread; Italian Fig Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” ~ Harriet Van Horne

 

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Friday, December 9th

 Our friend Sue came over this morning to help us try to cancel our subscription to SFR…..the company that’s been providing our telephone service and wi-fi internet access.  

We had heard that cancelling services isn’t always easy in France…..so we began the process last week at Sue’s house.  Sue dialed the SFR’s helpline and, after diligently following their directions to press button after button, was finally informed…..by a recording…..to send them an email.  

We returned home and I scoured SFR’s website for an email address.  It took hours of wading through screen after screen.  I found information (all in French, needless to say) on upgrading service, on replacing broken equipment, on how to pay your bill…..but there was nothing on how to cancel their service.  

With nothing to lose, I sent an email to the Payment Questions helpdesk…..informing them (in my best Google Translated French) that I don’t speak French but will moving back to the US and need to cancel our service.  Two days later, I received a reply! 

What did SFR say?  That I must call their helpline to begin the process and, since I don’t speak French, perhaps I could ask a French speaking friend for help.  And what phone number was I told to call?  You guessed it…..the same one Sue had called a few days ago.

It’s like deja-vu, all over again.

So that’s why, on this crisp Autumn morning, Sue was at the cottage dialing SFR’s number…..again.  But this time…..this time, she got through!  

Through to a recording…..that advised there was an eight minute wait.  She waited and waited and waited…..as the recording continued to advise her of an eight minute wait.  

The eight minute wait was neverending!  Would the phone’s battery be strong enough to last?  Was this SFR’s last ditch attempt to prevent cancellation?   

Then, just as Sue had stopped pacing and comfortably settled in on the couch, a customer service rep finally answered.  Sue spoke, she listened, she spoke, she listened, she wrote, she listened…..this went on for, ummm….maybe 8 minutes.  When she finally hung up, she told us we’d have to send a letter (with return receipt requested) advising SFR that we need to cancel our service and, to avoid their €45 cancellation fee, we would also need to provide proof that our next residence will be in the US.   After SFR receives the request, we’ll have 10 days to return their equipment to a location they’ll specify.  Hmmmm……perhaps we should have started this cancellation process a little sooner.  But, onward we proceeded…..and a letter (with a copy of our lease) was in the mail (with return receipt requested) by lunchtime. 

That done, it was time for a little fun.  We’d watched the construction of Polygone in Beziers over the past few years and, from it’s sleek look, assumed that it was a performing arts center.  Not so….it’s a shopping center!  We’d been wanting to check it out and since there’s no time like the present (especially for us right now), off we went. 

The spaces in the underground parking garage were surprisingly spacious (even by European standards)…..Craig could actually drive straight in to a space.  And this garage sported something I’ve never seen before….. “Family Spaces”…… made a little wider to give families with small children some extra elbow room.

Polygone was très chic.   Escaltors rimmed with pink neon whisked us up to the three-level, multi-use, open-air gallery.  

Christmas was in the air…..with a North Pole display, Père Noël in his sleigh and petite Christmas trees fronting each store. 

One of their water features replicated the Fonseranne Locks…..a staircase of eight locks on the nearby Canal du Midi.

The window displays were mouth-watering……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

as was (according to Craig) their poster-girl……

 

The third level had a lounge area (replete with warm blankets to guard against the chill)

…..and lots of restaurants (shhh….don’t tell anyone, but I think Bob’s Big Boy ran away to France…..who can blame him?)

 
 
“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping” ~ Bo Derek
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