Hello, friends and family,

Our heartfelt thoughts are with all of you who are affected by the Coronavirus. By now, it’s everyone.

As you all know, on Tuesday March 17 at about noon, “confinement” started here in France for at least the next two weeks. Jeff and I are well, our pantries and wine cellars are well stocked. Here’s the view from our terrace – a lovely place to be. And below I’ll share a little bit about life in confinement.

View of Carcassonne's castle
View of Carcassonne’s Castle from our terrace

Confinement means we need to stay at home, unless we carry a physical piece of paper – an Attestation – with us any time we leave the house. (See below.)

People are not panicking, friends are in contact with each other, and as of Tuesday March 17, shelves at our stores were well stocked.

Attestation Needed

Our confinement is similar to that in the US, although, if we ever leave our homes, we EACH have to carry official ID and also an official attestation (ATTESTATION DE DÉPLACEMENT DÉROGATOIRE) (CERTIFICATE OF DEROGATORY MOVEMENT) that we fill out ourselves – no need for an official to fill it out – stating why we’re out and about. And if we go out two times in one day, we need to have two ATTESTATIONS.

Police are seriously controlling people and cars that are out and about. If we don’t have our Attestation, fines right now are 135 euros (much less than Spain’s 3500+ euros)

Reasons we are allowed to leave our homes

Reasons we are permitted to leave our houses are (this isn’t an official list. Just my translation) 1) Work if you can’t work at home 2) To go to stores of first necessity (groceries, pharmacies, and a few others) 3) Leave your home for health reasons (doctor, pharmacy)  4) Leave your home for compelling family reasons (to help family members)  5) Leave your homes for physical exercise, close to home. So glad excerisise is an option, especially since we live so close to the River Aude and Canal du Midi.

We’re spending most of our time at home.

Staying at home

Today, Jeff painted one of the metal railings around our terrace, and part of our black metal front gate. I did a lot of weeding in the garden.

Neighborhood sounds

Usually when I’m gardening/weeding, I listen to my French lessons – audio, headset. But today I really enjoyed hearing the sounds of the out doors.

Our two neighborhood blackbirds were singing their lungs out.

Something woke up the two chickens that live in the garden three houses down, and these chickens sqwaked for 10 minutes to tell the whole world about it!

Our next door neighbors, Frederick, who is a fast-speaking 40-something year old policeman, bald and freckled (so he must have had red hair in his younger days), and his lithe wife Sevorina, who always sounds like she’s singing when she speaks, were in their back garden with their teenaged son and daughter. They’re putting in a pool, so there were the sounds of some power tools.

I heard their kids playing ping-pong. The family was listening to French radio and two of the songs I heard were “What is God was one of us” and “Don’t you forget about me” by Simple Minds.

Their daughter must have been very frightened, or stung, by a bee at one point, because she let out a very prolonged mix of screaming, crying and laughing – and Frederick had a good veerrryy long laugh at her startled reaction.

I heard other children playing, more power tools, the sounds of someone digging in their garden and doing more house projects, some more birds singing. Lawn mowing.

Spring is springing, flowers, plants and our ivy on our house are coming to life. It’s so nice to feel that life is normal, even when we know it’s not.

What I’m Thankful For

Ivy be gone!

One of the many things that I’m so grateful for during this confinement is that I finally had Laurant and his partner, who I affectionately, and for good reason, call Spiderman, come to the house in February and cut the ivy way back on our house. The ivy, omnipresent, big and fluffy, speedily crawling up to and over the roof, was one of my biggest “house fears.” And now with it cut way back, I feel I can almost contain it on my own. I’ll post more photos later, but you can see the undertaking below. Geeze, the way Spiderman was hanging on the outside walls of our home – scary and amazing! And, with our confinement, they couldn’t come here now. So glad we did it when we did.

Ivy removal from our home

Our newly-built apartment for rent is done!

Many of you know that we’ve spent the last six months building out an apartment on our ground floor, for an AirBnB / Booking.com rental. Well, irony of all ironies, it was finished two weeks ago – just in time for the Corona Virus. Yeay!

And I’m sooo glad it’s finished! Imagine if it was three – quarters finished when this confinement started – who knows when workers could have come back to finish it.

So we finished decorating it, and just today I posted it on AirBnB! A landmark! Yes, I know no one is going to rent it for many months. But it’s ready and waiting when everyone’s health and travel dreams come true! Here’s a link to our AirBnB listing. And really, when we moved into the house, it didn’t look anything like this. 20 months ago, it was almost a nightmare. Jeff’s vision transformed this place. Before and after photos to come.


Travels Before Confinement

I took trips to Lyon, Castres and Albi in February, long before containment started, and I’m so glad I did! I’ll post more about each trip – loved them all!


Lyon France
Lyon, France


Castres, France
Castres, France


Albi, France
Albi, France

A friend’s email list

One of our local French friends has an extensive email list to expats. He always has shared important information with us – and now, the information he’s sharing is critically important. He’s translating all of the French mandates for us, reaching out to officials to learn more, and sharing what he learns with us. This circumstance and confinement would be much more difficult for us to navigate without his hard work.

He also suggested that since we can’t get together in person, let’s have an on-line party! Love it!

French lessons

Of course, my three French lessons per week are suspended, but one weekly class will continue online tomorrow. Lots of homework has been assigned – just love it!

City efforts

Many shops are open, many are offering delivery, and the city is also developing new delivery options. So, so many positive changes are happening quickly due to our Confinement Circumstances.

Wine delivery

I was very lucky. For almost a year, we have been receiving wine home delivery of our favorite (non oakey, non buttery, of course) Chardonnay (for about 3 euros a bottle) from Antoine at Vignobles de Carsac. It’s only a 12-minute drive from our house, but without a car and no bus service there, bringing back 50 liters of wine is a challenge.

Before the containment started, Antoine emailed me on March 12 and proactively let me know that he had a delivery to make in Carcassonne the next day, and would I like some more Chardonnay? Absolutely!! So we’re stocked for the foreseeable future.

And “retail sale of beverages in specialsed stores” are on the list of shops that can stay open. (As our friend said:  “no excuses for running out of wine!”)

Farmer’s Market

Our big Farmer’s Market was open on Saturday March 14, and when Jeff and I were in town two days ago (Tuesday), two purveyors were there for our smallest farmer’s market. It will be interesting to see if our farmer’s market is open on Saturday. That’s a large gathering, so I’m guessing probably not, but we’ll see.

By the way, the Farmer’s Market is showing signs of spring!!! Strawberries, melons and asparagus!

Jeff and Friends made it home before the borders were closed

Jeff gets home on time

  • Jeff was in the US from Feb 14- 25. I am so thankful every day that he made it home here to Carcassonne before everything went crazy. He comments that airline check-ins and terminals were empty during his Feb 25 flight home, and his seating rows on the plane were virtually empty.

Stories of other friends

    • A UK friend who lives here arrived home from the UK on March 16
    • Two US friends who live here arrived home from Marrakech on March 17, the day of the lock down
    • Two other US/Canadian Friends spent 5 days traveling home to Carcassonne from Morocco – they arrived home yesterday March 18, thank goodness
    • Two other British friends who live here arrived home from India on March 16, again, a day before the lock down.

Our big hugs to everyone – I know you all are taking care of each other, which is the most important thing. Much love! Vibeke and Jeff



  • Lyman Black says:

    What is the apartment like, e.g. size, rooms, etc. and what is the rent? Can it be rented directly from you?

    • Vibeke Arentz says:

      Bonsoir, Lyman, It’s so nice to hear from you. How are you faring during these unusual world circumstances? Thank you for asking about our brand new apartment. It’s about 800 sq ft, with one large bedroom, a spacious bathroom with large shower (no tub), a large kitchen with bar and large kitchen table (microwave, dishwasher, large fridge, lots of counter space), spacious living room, lots of closet space, and a garden view. Yes, one can rent directly from us. On our AirBnB listing, I think I state that it’s between 55 euros and 75 euros per night, depending on the season, but the price will of course be less for longer term rentals.

  • Christie Morin says:

    Love you and glad you guys are safe. Thanks foe sharing a bit of local life from afar!

  • Vibeke Arentz says:

    Hi Christie, it’s so wonderful to hear from you! Yes, things are fine for Jeff and me. Surreal, but all right! There’s something to be said for having lots of storage space! Much love to you, Todd and the kids!

  • Angelika Ilina says:

    Bonjoir, Vibeke. I’m so glad to hear that your AirBnB is ready – how exciting! It looks beautiful.