What’s Different in France: The Legal System

One of the first things you notice when you move to France is the difference between the French legal system and the ones we’re more familiar with in the U.S. and the U.K.  For us, it became obvious on our first visits to some of the ruined castles in the Auvergne.  We were surprised by the absence of safety barriers and access controls around piles of rubble, narrow staircases, and open pits in many of the ruins open to the public.  We have pictures of my wife grabbing our 8-year-old son by the belt to keep him from plunging over the top of a castle rampart. 

AT SAINT MENOUX: A MEDIEVAL CURE FOR WHAT AILS US NOW ?

It’s worth going to Saint Menoux just for its fine Romanesque church.  In fact, there’s not much more to see in this bright little hilltop village near Moulins in the Allier département. But my curiosity was heightened as I drove west on the D945 on a brilliant sunny morning in September.  As in so many places around France, there are big brown road signs signaling the attractions you can see in the area around you.  These are usually straightforward: “Château de Billy,” for example, or “Forêt de Tronçais”. The sign for Saint Menoux was a puzzle, though.  Featuring a line drawing of something that looks like a coffin, it says (with no other explanation) “Saint Menoux et son débredinoire”.

An Evening Out in Moulins

It’s almost 8:00, the end of a long travel day, and the heat of a summer afternoon clings to the sidewalk as I walk to the restaurant.  Seen from a distance, it’s not an especially impressive place – on the ground floor of a 60-year-old hotel, a little frumpy but comfortable enough.  The Moulins train station is across the street, so people come by in waves as the trains come and go. I’m greeted by the couple I’ll call Monsieur and Madame.  They’re clearly the owners of the restaurant, and in the course of the evening they will impress me as offering the highest expression of the qualities we love about French restaurant service:  pleasant, a little formal, gliding in and […]

What Draws Me Back To “The Deep Heart of France”?

I’m no psychologist, but I’m always curious about what draws people to their personal passions.  Why does someone love to spend her afternoons knitting while her husband would rather spend the day at a flea market looking for baseball cards?  Why does one friend read serious history books while another reads nothing but thrillers?  Why do I love college football but my cousin only likes the pros? More to the point for this blog:  “Why do so many people have such a particular fascination with France?”  And even more precisely, the question my friends often direct to me: “Why do you care so much about the Auvergne, the Centre, the Limousin, and all the other regions that make up what […]

4 Random Things We Learned in Our First Weekend in France

We decided to launch our French travel experience the second weekend we lived in the country.  We arrived in Clermont-Ferrand on a Tuesday, I went to the office the next day, and we used the first weekend to get settled in our temporary apartment.  By the second Saturday, though, we were ready for a day trip to see what we had gotten ourselves into.Our target for this first adventure?  Le Puy en Velay, one of the most important medieval towns in the deep heart of France.  We’ll see Le Puy in detail in another post – but on the drive there we were startled to see the crumbling ruins of a great castle, sailing like a clipper ship on a […]