What A Wonderful World

https://www.grand-carcassonne-tourisme.co.uk

This is my response to Michele’s Soundtrack Tuesday question over on Songshine, where she asks us:

What’s your favorite city (besides home)?

Everybody thinks I’ll say “Paris”, don’t they?

But Paris has one major drawback. The climate. It’s about the same there as the UK, and ideally I’d want somewhere warmer. I’ve walked on the beach by the side of the Med in March, wearing nothing more than a long-sleeved tee – that’s the kind of weather I’d want.

When I was healthy, one of our most-visited cities was Rouen, in northern France – it’s only thirty miles from the coast and was an ideal place to weekend – but again, that’s the Channel coast. Same climate as here. Or, places like Saint-Malo, also on the north coast of France. Sublime in the summer but I’ve been there in December, and… trust me!

I’ve visited other cities with potential but I don’t know them well enough to label them favourite. These include New York City, Gent, Alkmaar, Luxembourg too, I guess, although it was very expensive. Plus all of these have the same climate issues.

There is a common thread of France, with many of them. I probably know it better than I do the UK. The climate improves as you travel south. So, favourite cities, which do have the climate might include Toulouse or Montpellier, down in the south-west. I’ve also had wonderful times at Carcassonne and a place called Brive, but by European standards, these are towns, not cities.

There aren’t many places that I took a dislike to – most of the time I’ve left before I had the chance – but one was Washington, DC, when I worked there back in the Nineties. I have friends there now who assure me that I didn’t see its best side. Florence was a beautiful city but I couldn’t stand how everybody was running around like a mad thing. I expect they’d say the same about London. Anyway, I got out quick. Perpignan was in my favoured part of France, but I was always disappointed by the city. I suspect I’d like nearby Barcelona, just over the border, but I’ve never been.

I think if I were pushed, I’d say Carcassonne is my favourite. It’s superb, just of itself. A gastronome’s dream – I have to eat quite bland food now, so that makes food all the more important. And is about an hour away from everywhere. Big cities like Toulouse, to the north, and probably, to the east, not much further to Montpellier. An hour from both Atlantic (west) and Med (east) coasts – Biarritz, nestled right down in the corner, boasts a former emperor’s summer palace, and you can see why. And, to the south, the incomparable greenery as you make your way to the foothills of the Pyrenees. Not to mention, the superbly-preserved medieval “old” city just a few kilometres away.

Photo of the old town of Carcassonne

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21 comments

  1. I wonder what you would think of the Australian climate. Okay. That’s too broad. Let’s say Sydney- I think they call it sub tropical. It’s a long time since I lived there but I think a Sydney winter is pleasant. There are cold days but really it’s not cold. Summers are nice near the harbour but on the Western Plains, you may as well live in an oven. We spent Christmas of 2019 in a house on the northern beaches. In most places, that summer was hell. But in that house it was very liveable. But of course you have to be rich to live there.

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    • Funny, I do wonder about Australia… whether it is possible for somewhere to be “too hot” these days? Just since I always feel cold. Dunno.

      Mrs B and I discussed this and decided that the ideal situation was to have several houses and to move with the seasons. If only…

      When I was in the US, I had a deep longing for culture. Nothing there was more than a few hundred years old. I missed Europe. I can’t help wondering whether I’d feel the same in Australia.

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      • Yes. If you only think of white history, Australia is very young. Indigenous culture is among the lowest known but unfortunately we whites did our best to hide/destroy/ban most of it.

        Believe me 45 degrees C is too hot.

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              • Sure. I just think the past explains the present. Or at least in part. I wouldn’t have this lovely home if there hadn’t been colonisation. Well goodness knows I probably wouldn’t exist. I don’t think ibshould shrug off the past like it didn’t happen. Actually I was listening to a podcast saying that all the remembering (at a community or national level) is unhealthy and can promote long term grudges. I get that. But I think to some degree that point of view is a luxury more readily taken up by people who haven’t been persecuted. I can’t imagine saying to an aboriginal person ‘the past is the past. Let it go.”

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                • We should use the past to guide what we do in the future, but we can’t change it.
                  Your last sentence, what do you say to an aboriginal? You know, the past happened. If anything, it’s just a good thing now that people recognise that sections of society have been wronged. But we can’t do anything to change that. All we can do is to learn from it.

                  I can feel immensely guilty about things that I’ve done, but I’m now going to feel guilty about something some guy did a few hundred years ago. I can say it was wrong, but I’m not going to feel guilt over it.

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                  • I don’t think I feel guilty. To be honest I don’t know what I would say to an Aboriginal person about the past. Probably just that I”m sorry for all his/her people suffered. I’ve decided that, for a writer, I’m a real words klutz when it comes to speaking, especially if I feel awkward or under pressure.

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                    • “How do we make it right for present and future generations?” is about all we can say.

                      Where the subject gets interesting is when we start to talk about reparations… Whether we just wipe the slate clean, or whether there is compensation. While I have not myself done anything to feel guilty of, I have certainly benefitted from things like education, which might exist as a result of the UK plundering other countries.

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