(The charming and historically-rich Languedoc Roussillon region provides visual vistas like this.)
It’s a new mecca for Americans who wish to live elsewhere, sampling an international lifestyle. And better news yet: Living there supposedly costs under $500 a month to rent a lovely place in that region. “Where is it?“ you ask. Languedoc, France, in the southwestern part of the country, is the new region being touted as one of the “Best Places Outside of America to Retire to“…(It’s one of several hyped in the link below).
Oh, I don’t want to live there from this point on; I just think it’d be fun for a while.
I must say: The whole notion intrigues. I can see me now in the French countryside, easel set up, as I paint pastoral scenes all about, for “Isn’t this the land of that French impressionist, Matisse?” Yes, the last time I was in France some 24 years ago, I hurtled along the country’s central roadway system, on the opposite side (the one they drive on), trying to avoid being taken out by insane drivers.
Defensive driving there means one similarly runs at speeds of 100 kilometers, on 2-lane roads built for half that speed. If you don’t keep up, you flirt with death. Even Citroyens (they look like matchbox cars) rev up their little engines and blur past; it’s the French way of life.
Further benefit? Because I’ll immerse in their culture, I’ll get a real chance to use my French (I minored in that language in college). Years ago, on an earlier trip to that country, I used it sparingly and never got to the point of fluency (when one “thinks in French.”) We weren’t there that long.
My most prescient memory of a language glitch was our first night when we visited the Eiffel Tower. I stressed over the exchange rate I couldn’t understand (the franc was still in use), but the clerk behind the glass booth had no patience and angrily dismissed me, waving me away.
When she thrust my change at me and the paper blew off with a gust of wind, I resorted to the only phrase I knew: “Tu es laid (ugly) and tres stupide!” To drive home my contempt for her, I’d used the familiar “tu” for servants and underlings, thus adding to the insult, instead of the polite “vous.” It got the proper reaction. She went ballistic, and I hurried my little group away and into the elevator for our ride to the top.
It wasn’t nice of me, but I was tested beyond the max.
I must say, that experience worried me as I’d heard (before our trip) the French dislike Americans. Happily, I found that rude woman the one exception as all others were gracious indeed. Maybe they just really sympathized with the fact I was a lone woman, traveling across Europe, with 3 kids in tow (two were 15; one was 5). That was the trip where I brought a friend for the older one.
But here’s what I found remarkable on that journey: the countryside is still as it was hundreds of years ago. Highway signage is almost non-existent, towns appear “quaint;” stonework is everywhere (cobblestone streets, churches, cottages). Modernization has not confounded its charm, as was evident when we visited the walled medieval town of Carcassonne.
I remember driving past numerous fields of sunflowers, rolling hills and pasturelands, thinking: “Of course, this panorama invited the masters of art; it even calls to me to replicate it.” Fortunately I had a camera.
Over that period, I took amazing shots of the countryside, with its gorgeous vistas. Stone archways beckoned, caught in the best light of day (early or later) where the shadows mix in a thrilling juxtaposition of light and shadow; flowers spilled out from rich window boxes adjoining farmhouse kitchens; fenceposts listed, dotting the landscape where cattle lazily grazed in verdant green fields.
“Do I want to go back?” Of course. But only for a while. I want to see if life there still remains as it was. But I don’t wish to make my permanent home there, for there’s far more of the world and my own country I want to see.
But for the money (under $500 a month to rent a beautiful home), one can easily have: idyllic surroundings, medical care second to none, and a community of Americans bent on similar mission. For all those reasons, I’ll take it.
If you wish to come along, let me know, and we can form our very own community where we gather and share experiences. You can start by e-mailing this post to friends who might consider (buttons are below). But then again, our forming a transplanted community of Americans would obviate my stated intention of learning how to speak French fluently, and I do wish to accomplish that.
Why? I never want to be reduced to fumbling for a response to a clerk who is rude and dismissive (the one at the Eiffel Tower). But I’m not really sure that that alone is good reason to seek fluency in a foreign language.
In fact, I’m pretty sure it isn’t.
Now, tell me what you think of my idea? “Voulez-vous venir avec moi?” Do you promise to try and speak only French? Comment spot is beneath the post…Check in and let’s begin to plan for our own American community in Languedoc region. Won’t we have fun???
And here’s AARP’s info on this retirement destination: http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/livable-communities/info-07-2010/best-places-retire-france-languedoc-roussillon.html
The photo to the right shows the kind of matchbox cars that blur past you along the French countryside. Younger daughter, Amanda, stands before one to give it size perspective. She probably also liked the fact its color was similar to that of her hair.
And here’s what I’m talking about with beautiful stone archways that catch the light at neat angles. Those are my daughters, huddled in the corner, trying to hide from my camera. I took this picture 24 years ago when they were 16 and 6, in Carcassone, when the 3 of us went on a 5-country expedition, all by ourselves.