Our dream has been a long time coming. It all started in 1988 when we went to a trade show for our business in Boston. While there, we took a guided tour of the coastline and the guide took us to see a “special” beach house (uh – make that a mansion) that he said the owners had built to look like the medieval city of Carcassonne, France. It was very impressive and when we got back home, we looked it up. Needless to say, the house didn’t look anything like Carcassonne, BUT….we fell in love with the photos of Carcassonne and put it on our list of places to go someday.
Well, as with most people, there was work, and kids to raise, and a business to run and we couldn’t take any vacations together because there wasn’t anyone to watch our business. Finally about 10 years later, I decided to take a French course at the local community college. I was quickly immersed back in our dream again and after one week back in school, I made plans to go to Paris at the end of the course. I spent a week in Paris while Gene watched the shop and fell in love – with Paris, the food, wine, culture and history. After that first trip, I went to France almost yearly, to different areas, and loved all of it, but always without Gene and while I had a good time, it was bittersweet as I couldn’t share it with Gene. In 1999, we asked Gene’s sister if she could watch our shop for 10 days so Gene could come to France with me. She said yes, so I started searching for places to go. I found out that France had 1700 km of canal/river systems and one could rent boats and cruise on them. What an exciting find – perfect for our vacation. We decided to go with Locaboat Holidays who had boats that looked like small barges. All the other companies had cruiser types and I liked the look of the “penichettes” as they called them, they looked more little barges.
(1999 on the Canal du Midi)
After arriving, we first did a whirlwind tour of Paris, as it was Gene’s first time in France – hit all the high points – Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Mona Lisa, etc. and then made our way to the Locaboat base in southern France. We found a base that had an out and back week trip, with the turnaround place being Carcassonne!!! OMG – it was the bees knees! We loved cruising, stopping in small villages for walks to get bread and croissants, eating at fabulous little tucked away restaurants, and seeing all the beautiful old buildings, towns and history. When we reached Carcassonne, we moored for 2 nights and went to La Citè, which is the medieval portion of the town. It was fabulous – we listened to a concert in the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus, watched knights jousting, drank wonderful wine, shopped and dined. Leaving Carcassonne was hard, but we knew that we would be back someday.
I continued to visit France yearly and take some one week French schools, Gene came again for our 25th wedding anniversary, and he came 3 years ago when we rented with Locaboat again, this time in the Dordogne area. It cemented our idea that we would like to retire here and spend at least part of the time on a boat.
As luck would have it – or not – I fell ill in November of 2015 with GBS – Gillian-Barré Syndrome and after coming home from the hospital and physical rehabilitation facility, and learning how to walk again, we decided that we had dreamed enough – it was time to take action. We have spent the last 1-1/2 years paying off our bills and getting everything in order to retire in July of 2017.
This July, 2017, we are going directly to our boat, Penelope’s Ark, for the first 6 weeks and then to our apartment in Carcassonne for the next year. Our plans are to stay for a few years, spending 6 weeks per year on the boat, and traveling as much as we can the rest of the year.
Follow our adventures and see where they lead us………………À Bientôt !!