Monthly Archives: October 2016

Houses I must resist: 2

Although most of the houses we have been tempted by so far have been small town houses, I continue to hanker after a garden. It doesn’t have to be big, but if we are going to be setting our flag on a piece of land in France long-term, I want to be able to sit outside at a table under a tree – or at least in the shade of a small amount of greenery.

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Lunch under ancient olive trees

This afternoon, being a Wednesday with no school commitments, we had arranged with two of our new resident Quillan friends and keen randonneurs to take a walk up into the hills beyond Ginoles.

I’ve always found walking groups a great way to meet the locals, as well as to get to know the area – and it’s an excuse to speak French over something less transactional than the groceries.

  Our destination was off to the top right of the photo, at the level of the cliffs. 

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Pruning of the plane trees 

On our first trip to Quillan we arrived to winter bare plane trees and watched as they budded and bloomed over the first weeks of Spring. This time we arrived as they were at their fullest glory, and watched as they were pruned back to bare trunks. The square remains as beautiful as I remember – veiled or otherwise.

  The Place de la Republique in all its shady, green-fringed loveliness at Summer’s close. Continue reading

A match made in heaven

One of the first things most people ask us when we tell them our plans is: Where are you going in France? When we tell them we are going to a small town called Quillan, about 40km due south of Carcassonne, the next question is Why?

So why Quillan? And why back to Quillan? On the one hand it’s a thoroughly researched choice. On the other hand, there’s something entirely random. And then, there’s the chance that fate has a hand…

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A French education 

Tomos went off to school this morning with a face like thunder. It’s his second week and reality of French school life is setting in.


The lady on crossing patrol saw his face and raised her eyebrows: ‘What’s eating him?’ was the gist of her remark. ‘Oh, he doesn’t particularly want to go this morning,” I replied. “He’s a little anxious’. ‘Why, does he have worries?” she asked.

Yes, he has a few worries. Going to school is one thing. Plenty of kids have trouble just with that. Going to school in a different country, in a different system, in a different language, where you have no friends, is another entirely.

But Tomos is up for it. Whether or not he is worried about it, whether or not he grumbles about it, he still puts one foot in front of another, and goes anyway. I admire his resilience, and his goodwill, which is enabling us to have this second experience of living in France.

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Being up for it

Over the last two weeks Tomos has faced some challenges. He has traveled to the other side of the world to a place where he knows no-one, other than his mum, and has enrolled at the local primary school in Quillan. It can’t be easy, given the travel, social, language, cultural, and academic issues.

Tomos could not have anticipated each particular challenge over the past two weeks and the challenges to come in the months ahead, but he knew from previous trips the scale of the challenge. He knew roughly what was he was letting himself in for.

Surprisingly, he went into this adventure willingly. Enthusiastically, in fact. Why would he do that? Continue reading

Passing time at the Cafe du Fleuve

One of my favourite pastimes is people watching. Whether at home or while travelling, I like nothing more than to sit in a cafe and while away several hours over a drink, watching the world go by. These days I spend more time in towns and cities anywhere in the world on this activity than on typical sightseeing, and don’t regret it for a minute. Last time I was in Paris on my own I didn’t visit a single monument or major sight in two days but wandered and cafe hopped. It was my most memorable visit to Paris yet.

We are spoilt for choice in Quillan with various cafes, bars and restaurants scattered across the town, including two cafes and a bar in the place de la Repuplique alone. I frequent both cafes, depending on the time of day, my mood and the position of the sun, so this is not to say the others are not good, but my personal favourite remains the Fleuve.

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A place to call home

For the next few months we will call a small piece of French soil, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, home. A four-storey stone house, including bed and breakfast, it is a very different proposition to our  1890s Victorian villa in Wellington, New Zealand.

  The house sits under the watchful eye of the centuries-old Chateau de Quillan.

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