If you’ve ever dreamt about owning a gorgeous French apartment, I know of one for sale. Built in the 1600s, with four-meter (13-foot) ceilings, fabulous decorations above the marble fireplaces, balconies, a lovely shared interior courtyard….all renovated according to the strict rules of the historical authorities, Bâtiments de France.

Yes, Carcassonne

The place is the apartment of our former AirBnBs. Due to a number of circumstances which I am not at liberty to discuss, we sold our AirBnBs just before Covid-19 crashed down on the globe. The buyers–nobody, in fact–thought the pandemic would go on as long as it has. I haven’t spoken to the new owners, but I was surprised to see a familiar picture as I perused listings recently. I read them mostly out of curiosity, trying to figure out where they are, to know what is behind the sometimes-inscrutable façades of the buildings here. I sometimes look at listings in other cities, too, but I don’t get to enjoy the detective side of figuring out where they are. Call it real estate porn. There are worse ways to enjoy some moments of escapism.

You can follow the renovation by clicking on the header “Our Renovated Apartments.” I know I need to go back and clean up the blog, fixing the size of photos so they load better and putting in “read more” breaks so you can skim the archives more easily. But this task never makes to the top 10 of my “to do” list and instead languishes down around No. 125, in the region also known as “good intentions.”

There are some gorgeous chandeliers…

It’s technically one enormous apartment, but since we didn’t want parties and because there were two entrances, we divided the apartment into two. The street side we called La Suite Barbès and the courtyard side was L’ancienne Tannerie. It would be simple enough to turn it back into a single apartment. It’s being sold furnished. I miss it terribly–the lovingly curated furnishings, the spaciousness, the ancient tomettes, the ridiculously thick stone walls. I also miss receiving guests, telling them about the apartment, the town, France. Almost everybody was really lovely (the exception was one young couple who went on a bender, got red wine on everything and then went to the airport without saying a word). I even had coffee with some guests and wished they lived closer so we could stay friends.

So even though the apartment is no longer my business, I care deeply that it ends up in the hands of someone worthy. Reach out if you’re interested or know someone who is and I’ll send you the listing.

Outdoor dining is best anytime!

On another note, as soon as we were fully vaccinated we went to the U.S. for the first time in six years. Between the time we bought the tickets and our arrival, Delta (the virus, not the airline…we flew Air France) had changed the game a lot. We were, happily, in a region with low infection rates but they were still higher than in France. We were tested before leaving (free for French residents; 50€ for non-residents). Before the return, we sought out testing, just to be safe, since France didn’t require tests for vaccinated travelers. What a shock. Prices quoted ranged from $200 to $450 per person. We finally found a lab that said it was free, and I sure hope a huge bill doesn’t arrive in the mail later. Every time I pointed out how good socialized medicine is, folks would pipe up that it isn’t free–that I pay via taxes. The rate is 7%, and goes up to 13% for anybody earning more than 2.5 times minimum wage–well, employers pay this tax directly to the government for each employee, but because I’m self-employed I pay mine. Guess how much my ambulance ride, overnight hospital stay and trip to the operating room cost me when I dislocated my elbow last year? Zero, beyond my tax contribution. Although that might seem like a bargain, I sure would have rather paid the tax and not have used any medical services at all.

The other thing was that almost nobody we saw in this part of the U.S. wore a mask, and people looked strangely at those who did (like us). Even at restaurants that had outdoor seating, some refused to serve us outside, leading to much googling and driving around in search of alternatives. It was miserably hot and humid, and it wasn’t much fun to dine while sweating profusely. But we were determined to avoid the risk of indoor dining, especially with people who were so lax. I had a goal of eating either Mexican food or corn on the cob (or both) at every meal, so some restaurants were necessary. Though one of my siblings made some exceptionally delicious vegetarian enchiladas–with fresh corn among the goodies inside. Heaven.

One book I picked up on the trip was “Year of Wonders,” by Geraldine Brooks. It’s a novel about a real village in England that isolated itself for a year around 1666, when it was struck by the Plague. Published in 2001, it predates the current pandemic but is so on the mark about so many things. Plus, it’s really well written. I couldn’t put it down, and read it in two days. And the author is a truly lovely person whom I had the pleasure of meeting years ago. I was remiss in not reading it sooner, but maybe it wouldn’t have affected me had I read it years ago, compared to now. The villagers moving the church services outdoors, everyone standing three feet apart….goodness, what resonance. Also, the various theories of how the illness spread, and missing the mark, so similar to the focus on disinfecting everything (groceries) early in this pandemic when in fact the problem was in exhaled air.

It feels good to be home, especially at the rentrée, when the start of the school year signals the return of “normal” life even for those without students in their household. The market was bustling with locals loading up their shopping trolleys rather than tourists shooting photos. I didn’t splurge on figs, so delicate, and instead went later to a copse of trees I know on the edge of a field in the country. The ground was covered with fallen fruit. I picked about 10 small figs and ate a few more on the spot, along with some wild blackberries that were nearing the end–starting to get a little hard from the hot, dry weather. I never expected to love figs. I knew them only from Fig Newtons and dried figs, equally revolting. Kind of like prunes and plums, where you can’t believe they are the same fruit.

On the plane, I saw a few good movies–“J’accuse,” with Jean Dujardin about the Dreyfus Affair, and “The Good Liar,” with Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen. You know they are great actors, but they are so natural that you forget it and are sucked into the story, which was enticing on its own. I also finally saw “Le Diner des Cons,” which was a little too madcap for my tastes, but still good. And “La La Land,” which I hated. Well, it was too banal to deserve an emotion like “hate,” but it was formulaic and I just don’t appreciate “Hollywood” movies. There are some movies coming out that I would like to see: “Délicieux,” supposedly the story of the first restaurant (in France, of course), set in 1789; and “The French Dispatch,” by Wes Anderson. I might venture, double-masked, into a very early showing of those two.

Sigh. I miss it!

How was your summer? Does life feel normal to you?

54 thoughts on “Dream Home?

  1. It’s great to read you again!! And glad to hear that you managed to go on a (safe) visit overseas!
    Summer was great – a good year in the potager, and a good season with the concerts in Saint-Chinian!! That said, normal it felt not! I’m fairly flexible in my outlook, but I don’t want to have to be scanning health passes at every concert for the next x years, nor do I want to wear masks indoors and outdoors when seated etc. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that somehow we’ll get through this before too long! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree that it would be hard to get used to over the long term, but to get this pandemic over with as quickly as possible I am willing to mask and be vaccinated and continue precautions. Relaxing too soon is just going to make it drag on, and possibly mutate into worse forms.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi there Midi Hideaways! I’m a friend of Kevin and Karen’s …. I love my health pass! It makes me feel more secure, and wtf we all need more security these days!
      bonnie now in provence

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I didn’t know you’d sold the apartments. I have admired them greatly and can imagine how much you miss them. I’m interested myself as I have wanted to move to Carcassonne from Charente for some years but think they’d be beyond my measly budget, sadly.

    I haven’t been to the States in three years, and have a grandchild born in July ‘20 whom I’ve yet to meet. It sounds as frightening as I thought it might be.

    I adore figs, but we had to cut down our fig tree as it was taking over the garden so I’ll be planting a small one next Spring. Some of the films sound great, thanks for the tips!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have an inkling of how you feel–we had a whole gang of great-nieces and great-nephews who were born after our last trip. Only one little baby (so delicious to hold….and I’m so sad to have missed out on holding the others), and the rest are little balls of energy with tons of personality, who make me wish we lived closer. Though I’d rather they pick up and move here than us moving there!


  3. Ah sorry you had to sell those 2 lovely apartments. You put so much time and energy into making them perfect. I hope too someone falls in love with them and appreciates your efforts. Back in the States after 6 years must have been a bit of a shock. We are so divided and traumatized by all that has taken place these past years, that I can’t imagine how it seemed to you. I bet you were happy to get back home!
    Happy to hear from you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Everything seemed to become a political issue. And there seem to be fundamentally opposed ways of looking at the world, one with empathy (and noting how past wrongs may have led people to being in disadvantageous situations) and another very Puritan, very vindictive, where the only people allowed to make a mistake, even one based on good intentions or based on good faith, are those who already have all the balls in their court and all the silver spoons in their mouths.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, and no room for error or social media will kill you. We are now a society of rude and cruel people. Yet, there is much we do for each other when the need arises. I have to remember the humanity of most people is still there under the surface.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Having stayed in your La Suite Barbés, I can attest to it being a “dream home”. It is exceptional in every way. If only I had a friend who wanted the two bedroom flat, we would snap up the one bedroom in a heartbeat. Sigh…

    We were the lucky recipients of a cup of coffee with you on Place Carnot…and so much more. You are a gracious hostess, Catherine. I hope you get to host guests again, if that is what you want to do, in the future.

    Glad to hear you were able to visit the US. That gives me hope. We are braving the “friendly skies” in November. You can suppress the travel bug only so long. 🤞🏻

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sadly, no Carcassone this trip. We’re trying to keep it simple. Will be staying in Paris for two months. Day trips, maybe.

        You are a fabulous ambassador for your adopted city, Catherine. Best wishes in all that you do!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Your posts are a much-missed treat! Sorry to hear you sold the apartments (but what great timing!) as I always dreamed of vising Carcassonne again, staying there and meeting you. Oh well. Also sorry your trip to the US was a nasty shock (hope the Mexican food compensated somewhat). We become more numb to it as a coping mechanism. I’m considering a trip to Germany to see Christmas markets this winter, and I think I’d feel far safer there than I do here…
    Glad to see you back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Germany has excelled in getting people vaccinated and in always keeping infection rates low. Plus Christmas markets are outdoors. So a good choice!
      My reaction to the U.S. was mixed. There were the politics and flippancy toward the pandemic, which is just going to make it drag on longer. I had some excellent food, not just Mexican but also Thai and Italian (all sorely absent from Carcassonne). Anything ready-to-eat from a supermarket was revolting–very industrial. I was in some gorgeous old neighborhoods with mansions and huge trees that touch over the middle of the streets and BLM signs in the yards, but then there were the new subdivisions that looked like sets from some dystopian movie. I know new housing is needed, but OMG these places are horrid.


    I have heard about that book must read!
    Glad you got back to the good old USA!!!SORRY you encountered a few rough spots!
    I didnot like FIG NEWTONS either growing up and it took me years to try a REAL FIG!WHAT A DIFFERENCE!
    STAY WELL……….as for your question…….I’ still waiting for summer to arrive!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Corn on the cob! I miss fresh corn. A couple of days ago, here in Uzès, I saw some for sale for 1.50€ per cob. It looked tough and I just couldn’t!
    I am planning on going to visit my sister in Wisconsin in 3 weeks, so I am happy to hear about your trip. Hoping all goes well and I will wear my mask as much as possible. Good luck with the sale of your property. I’m sure it’s bittersweet. Bon courage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I a in Provence, near Carpentras, and you can buy genuine fresh corn on the cob, in its husks, at the weekly market there, for a small price. They are from Spain. What a treat! The supermarket ones are worthless……

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Restate porn! Love that! I know how you feel about wanting your beautiful apartments to find a great home. When I sold my beloved Little House on the ranch five years ago, I knew in my gut they weren’t the right people, but the price was right and for cash. Since then neighbors have told me what they’ve done to my Little House. If I could, I would have them arrested. It’s beyond bad taste. It’s a sacrilege. I’m the only one I know who wears a mask and takes the rules seriously. My town, San Antonio, Texas, had 5,611 new cases just yesterday!!!!!
    xoxox, Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is much to bemoan about Texas at the moment besides people prolonging the agony and inconvenience of the pandemic by helping it continue to spread. I am waiting for the day when taxi drivers stop picking up any female between the ages of 11 and 55 just in case.
      The people who flipped my parents’ home did sacrileges similar to what you describe. From MCM gem to flip city. Blech.


  9. We did make it to Corsica this year! Yeah! Fully vaccinated and with the pass sanitaire at hand we feel liberated. As if, for a little while, on the beach and in the sea, COVID doesn’t exist. I am jealous that you could fly to the US. For us it is still impossible to visit Toon and Betti and I do miss them :(. On our way northbound we will have a week stone carving near the Drome. All very nice and with safe distance to other people. Very sorry to hear that “your” place is on the market again, although I trust that you have set up nicely in the new place. Love, thea

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think I know exactly how you feel about your appartment. We sold our French dream house after a looooong wait and couldn’t even go back and take some of the stuff still in the house due to the pandemic…. oh well – life is live!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. we wrote it off; we also don’t have any space now so that was the only thing to do. AND it’s no longer an abode with any history as was our 1920 beauty but a functional rental from the 1980th.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Welcome home, ToF! And you do surprise me that “good intentions” sits near to 125 on your to-do list – so high, hahah! But quelle surprise for you to see your lovely apartments staring back at you on the interwebs. I hope their eventual new owners will love them like you still do. It’s not something that’s high on our shopping list, but if things were otherwise …

    “Year of Wonders” was such a great read! I remember you saying you knew GB. If you haven’t read it already, Robert Harris wrote a fabulous book on the Dreyfus affair, “An Officer & a Spy”. If it wasn’t a true story, as they say.

    We saw “Les diner de cons” when it came out, back in the days when we used to see many French films. I just had a quick check and was shocked to see it came out in 1998! Where does the time go??

    What fortuitous timing for your trip to see family, ducking and weaving waves of pestilence. (And $450 covid tests?? Crazy talk.) I hope you had sufficient fill of the Mexican and Asian foodstuffs while you were away as I gather there isn’t much joy in that department where you are. Summer is … coming, for Spring’s Hay Fever has arrived. Normal life is more or less the order for me, except if I was a mad keen shopper/diner out/traveller. And what were those things called dinner parties? And for why did we have them? I evicted our dishwasher last year and the dining table is now permanently occupied with sewing projects. No room at the inn for visitors now, even if they were allowed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, dinner parties! Even for people who aren’t terribly extroverted, gathering with a few friends is more nourishment for the soul than the food on the table is for the body.
      I must check out what you have been sewing. Very jealous of your talents, but not enough so to practice the craft so my results aren’t wretched. I stick to curtains–straight lines.


  12. Glad you were able to return to the US, even if your experience was mixed. I can only imagine. It’s the one country I have no desire to visit ever again, despite the many lovely friends there. But hey, family….I get it! Must feel sad to see the apartments you worked so hard to renovate up for sale again. They are stunning. As for us, life is beginning to feel a tiny bit more normal now that we’re vaxxed and able to go out more. Pourvue que ça dure!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I would love to find out more about the apartments. Looking to leave California as the smoke from all of the wildfires we have had for the last 3 years isn’t good for my health. Would you please send me a link to the listing? Thank you, and I’m sorry you had to sell. I followed your posts about refurbishment and in particular I remember how so very proud you were of the curtains.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I understand how you are feeling missing your Airbnb! We had a B and B in the states, Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri, for 18 years. We have since returned to Iowa to be near our children. I miss our beautiful home and beautiful lake setting. But what I miss most is meeting and conversing with people from all over the world who came t stay with us. It was a blessing to be able to serve our guests for so many years.

    I’m sorry that you encountered some trying times on your trip to the States! Yes, many people mistakenly believe their individual rights supersede anything else. They are mistaken! I guess they don’t teach Social Studies anymore where I learned that mine person rights are secondary when the common good is concerned!

    I hope that you can help your “sellers” to find the perfect buyers. The couple we sold our B and B to changed everything inside and , in my opinion, it was atrocious!
    p.s. I so enjoy your blog!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m happy you were able to visit family and so sorry your visit was a mixed bag. Living here in the states, it is much the same. Some topics cannot be broached, even with (perhaps especially with) one’s kin. Decades of resentment and distrust from one “side,” ignorance and disdain from the other, have burgeoned into a hateful (and lethal) impasse for all about a thing that should have, and once would have, brought us together to work toward a solution for the common good. Covid will end, eventually, but there will be other, more difficult challenges ahead. Will we as a people be able to meet them? I fear for the answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hello from the USA. The pandemic has had enormous effects on economies, culture, schooling, as we all know. Will things ever get back to the way they were? Maybe. Personally, ever since we got vaccinated, my wife and I have been eating indoors at restaurants, going to movie theaters, etc. We’re trying to have a pretty normal life.


  17. Yes, the divided states of America. Some of the best figs where walking along a promenade in Nyons, to visit the local olive cooperative. As they were hanging over the owners fence, I couldn’t not help myself, yum. If the link for the apartment is still up, would love to see it. Trying to explain ‘socialized’ medicine to my fellow union railroaders was damn near impossible, so I’d always ask them how they liked their local fire departments. That went right over their heads.

    Liked by 2 people

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