austin, Part 1

The planning begins in earnest.

After that whirlwind of a month in Dallas, we were ready for a little calm. The drive down I-35, while always harrowing, was uneventful, and we were excited to check in to our next home-for-a-month. This Airbnb in north Austin is in a large condo complex, in a nice treed area. The best part is that we can walk to lots of shops, restaurants, and even a movie theater!

Our cozy, aka small, living room

The condo has two bedrooms and provides us both a nice working space. Even better, I can close the door when I’m on calls, so Phil doesn’t have to tiptoe around or worry that he’ll show up on video. But the very best thing about this place is the acorns.

Plenty of acorns for stomping!

Let me explain. Long ago when we took our kids on autumn walks, we discovered the pure joy of stomping on acorns and hearing them crunch. This caught on, and now we are ace acorn stompers. And this condo complex, full of live oak trees, provides a plethora of acorns. I think it’s a bit like people who like to pop bubble wrap. Anyway. . .

We rented a 5′ x 5′ storage unit last year when we began roaming. Now that we’re planning to move to France, it was time to confront the stuff again. After three trips we managed to empty the unit and bring everything to our apartment. Did I mention that it’s quite small? The entire living room and one of the bedrooms was awash in stuff. But we sorted through everything and made hard decisions about what to keep. Donations went to Goodwill, paintings to family and dear friends, and a few precious items will be shipped to our new home in France.

My mother’s china: going to France!

In early November I had a final business trip I was both dreading and looking forward to: a presentation at a leadership retreat hosted by Thunderbird Leadership Consulting. Back in July, dear friends and former colleagues Dorothy and Amy asked me to present a session on the most intimidating topic ever: “transcendent humility.” I was terrified, but realizing it would be an incredible growth opportunity, I accepted. I read, studied, searched online, and eventually came up with a way of understanding what transcendent humility might be and how it could impact not only healthcare, but the world. 

The conference organizers/hosts

The conference, held in Phoenix at the art museum, was exceptional. About 40 healthcare executives participated, and each session was brilliantly presented. We all came away inspired, and it was a joy to reconnect with long-time friends and make fabulous new ones. We had several interactive sessions, including one that required walking through the museum. It was a lovely place for this event!

An Oscar Munoz exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum

Did I mention there was music? Kevin Monaco and Nate Bachofsky provided music for several sessions. Kevin is a composer and pianist, and his pieces provided the perfect background for grounding, mindfulness, and introspection.

The next exciting thing that happened was giving my notice at work. I didn’t intend to announce retirement this early, but my boss shared some plans about expanding my role, so I couldn’t let him plan without knowing I’d be leaving. So—my last day at work is January 21! And the very next day, Phil and I are moving to Montpellier, France.

A few of the Renestance team members

We hired Renestance, which bills itself as the Swiss Army knife for settling into French life, in December 2020 after attending their two-day virtual educational conference. They are helping us with everything–visas, lodging, language lessons, the whole nine yards. Our primary consultant, Ann-Lii, is from Sweden, so she has been through this process. We met her, along with several other Renestance folks, on our July reconaissance trip to Montpellier. Over wine, of course!

The day after I returned from Phoenix we drove to Houston for a special event: a party! High school bestie Patricia hosted a lovely cocktail party honoring her son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons.

Trishee’s boys

We spent a delightful evening watching the boys play, noshing, enjoying adult beverages, and getting to know Patricia’s lovely friends. Then it was off for a quick sleep before our visa appointment! We completed the visa process and headed to House of Pies for lunch with Patricia before heading home.

Once back in Austin, we raced through the week to get to a very special weekend. First up, on Friday we visited the beautiful house-in-progress of dear friends Jayme and Victoria, followed by dinner at El Monumento in Georgetown. We hadn’t seen them since their wedding in October 2019 (aka the before times), so this was a sweet reunion. I really think we could have talked all night! Also, the margaritas were the best of my life.

Victoria and Jayme

The next evening we had cocktails at the home of our closest Wimberley friends, Danny and Lynn, followed by dinner at El Jardin. As we settled at our table, in walked Barbara, Chip, and daughter Courtney! Barb was my pledge sister in college, and we reconnected as we moved to Wimberley in 2017. We pushed tables together and proceeded to have the best evening ever–but we forgot to get a picture!

Honey and Cora (aka the most beautiful baby in the world)

But the best, the VERY best thing about our time in Austin so far is our granddaughter Cora. She is perfect, and holding her is total bliss. We want as much time with her as possible before we leave for France. Oh, and we love seeing her parents, too!




Family, friends, memories, and wedding bells.

We were super excited to arrive in Dallas, where we raised our family and developed lifelong friends, After a lovely night at the Adolphus, we headed to our Airbnb home for the next month.

We had secured an entire house for this month, because our European kids were visiting! The home was lovely, in a quiet, well-located neighborhood–but the owners had not quite moved out! We had to move their stuff out of the way to make room for a month’s worth of clothing, food, and toiletries, but once that was done we were quite comfortable.

Our home-for-a-month in Dallas

The next day I had lunch with dear friends Joni (aka the bride) and Cara to work on wedding planning. Cara and I had offered to be Joni’s unofficial wedding consultants, and we were also hosting a lingerie shower, so we had lots of work to do before the October 16 nuptuals! Later that week I made a light dinner for Joni’s friends who were doing the wedding flowers. I hadn’t seen Joni or Cara since the “before times” so it was a sweet reunion.

Wedding flowers: serious work being done here.

We were beyond excited to welcome our daughter and son-in-law, who live in Europe and whom we hadn’t seen in almost two years! His parents joined us at the airport for reunion hugs and a few tears. They thoughtfully planned to go home with their respective parents to have a special family-of-origin night, followed by splitting their time between the two families. 

Nic and Amelia, our beautiful, wonderful, brilliant, exceptional kids

The next day the two families (including Nic’s brother, who flew in for a visit) met up for brunch at Norma’s, a long-time favorite diner-style restaurant. We feasted, we laughed, we caught up on two years’ worth of news. We love Nic’s family and have often wished we lived closer; spending time with them is always a joy. Plus, the food at Norma’s is amazing.

My dish from Norma’s: it ended up being several meals!

That weekend was also Phil’s 70th birthday! The small family celebration was understated and almost exactly what he wanted (the “almost” because our other kids, whose baby was almost due, couldn’t be there). After dinner at Chuy’s with Nic’s family, we all went back to our Airbnb for cake, ice cream, and champagne. And a few days later came the most wonderful gift of all: a granddaughter!

The next fun thing in a month of way too much fun was Joni’s bachelorette party, hosted by her daughters. Our group included family by choice, dear friends, and new friends, and it was a wonderful evening. 

Joni and her squad

The dinner was held at Town Hearth, a hip Dallas restaurant (is “hip” still a word?) where the beautiful people go to see, be seen, and enjoy great food. We may or may not have driven the waiter crazy.

Before dinner, on our best behavior

After that we headed to the Crescent Hotel, where we continued the party in Joni’s suite until we were politely asked to keep it down. We then proceeded to the lobby, where we may or may not have driven others crazy. We finally ended the evening after 2am, which seemed appropriate at the time.

Later in the evening. . .

The next week I had a business trip to St. Louis, and when I returned it was T minus 4 days until the lingerie shower, for which I was doing the food and flowers. Cara hosted at her lovely home, made  killer mai tais, curated the music, and provided the beverages and desserts.

Shower flowers

We had decided on the menu, and I made as much food as possible in advance. Still, it was a mad rush to get everything ready!

Shower food, lots of it!

We managed to finish everything just as the first guests arrived. It had been over 40 years since I’d attended a lingerie shower!


The shower was great fun, and Joni received some beautiful gifts. It was wonderful to see old friends after so long, and to welcome new ones. Joni has an amazing circle of friends in her neighborhood–so great I was wishing we lived near them!

Can you tell Cara and I coordinated outfits for the shower?

Shower done, it was time to focus on the main event: the wedding was less than two weeks away! Fortunately, a business trip was cancelled, so I had a bit more time. After a quick day trip to meet our granddaughter, and a lovely dinner with our dear friends-who-are-family Carol and Richard, it was all wedding, all the time.

The wedding planners and the bride

The rehearsal had gone well, and the rehearsal dinner at Lava Cantina was perfect.

Joni and Scott at the rehearsal dinner

We packed up everything from Joni’s house and headed to the venue. The wedding was the first held at her neighborhood amenity center. We had to move all the furniture, decor, and Halloween decorations out to turn it into a wedding venue, but fortunately we had several strong guys to help with the heavy lifting. Cara had orchestrated everything to the minute, and for the most part it went accordingly–thanks to great vendors, friends and helpers. Joni’s friends did a spectacular job on the flowers! Once we got all the reception tables set up, we were thrilled with the space.

Reception space, ready to go

Joni was escorted down the aisle by her grandson, Landon, and her bridesmaids were daughters Jamie and Lindsey and granddaughter Ava. 

Joni and Landon

The wedding, held at sunset by the lake under a beautiful pergola, was perfect. 

A beautiful beginning

When my Apple watch died before the wedding it had already recorded 22,000 steps–and that was before Cara and I had orchestrated the wedding and reception! Plus, of course we HAD to join in the dancing. The next morning we could barely walk. So we rested on Sunday, and then celebrated our last evening in Dallas with a reunion dinner. 

“Sweeties” dinner

This was a group of life-long friends who met when we all worked at Sweetwater Health Enterprises, the company founded by dear friends Marsha and Bob. A special treat was having Michael, our IT genius, join from California. These people are precious to Phil and me, and the dinner, held at May Dragon, the favorite restaurant of our wonderful late friend Gwyn Harwell, was a treasure. We caught up on everyone’s lives, toasted our friend Gwyn, and soaked up the joy of special friendships.


And with that, we bid farewell to a crazy, fun-filled, momentous month in Dallas. Saying goodbye to Amelia and Nic, who spent that last night with us, was less hard than usual because we will see them in France in a few months. And I didn’t even cry!


on the road again!

Finishing up our pre-retirement Grand Tour

Denver was so great we (sort of) hated to leave, but it was time to continue on our journey. Before we ever even conceived of becoming Roamers, we had discussed doing a “Grand Retirement Tour” when I retired, crisscrossing the US and visiting friends along the way. Recently we realized that we’ve already been doing exactly that! Beginning with an Atlanta dinner with Philip and Erin, on to Raleigh with old friends Lloyd and Janet and favorite colleagues Michael and Sarah and Norm and Marie, continuing through Thanksgiving in Plymouth with our Cummings Clan, on to Phil’s old friend in Savannah, Dorothy and Amy in Santa Fe and Phoenix, cousins Karyl, Matt, and Dafid, as well as dear friends Gracelyn and Ralph and Beth and Wade in California, a visit from high school bestie Patricia in Hawaii, several days in Santa Clara with Karyl and Matt,  randomly running into Phil’s sister Pam and husband Roger on the Oregon coast (!), fun in Portland with nephew Connor and his girlfriend April, as well as high school Wild Woman Tina, and friends Cathy and Pat, then great times in Seattle with Sue and Mitch, as well as Rob and Liz, on to Denver where we had visits from Lynn and Danny and Michael and Carmen, San Diego again with Karyl and Matt, Las Vegas with friends Pilar and Rene–WOW! We are reminded of how rich we are in friends and family.

And it didn’t stop there. In the ten days of travel from Denver to Dallas, we had dinner in Kansas City with dear friends/former colleagues Deb and Mike and his wife Renee. Then we were off to Tulsa for a few days with bestie Beth and her partner Wade, where I got to help Beth’s sister Jenni with a baby shower for Beth’s daughter Sydney. Several of the guests were friends I’d not seen in ages, and it was wonderful to honor Syd, who’s been like a daughter to me since her birth.

Baby shower giggles

It was a brunch shower, and I made individual fritattas and fruit salad, served with croissants I did NOT make. But the star of the show was the gorgeous petits fours that Jenni ordered. Her baker made them to match the napkins!

Jenni’s beautiful petits fours

We loved the time we spent with Beth, Wade, Syd, Sean, and little Cora. Cora is a big fan of nicknames; Wade is Wade-o, Phil is Philio, and I’m “the other one.” She cracked us all up constantly.

Cora’s grilled cheese sandwich tower

We, of course, were very well fed in the days we spent with Beth and Wade. She’s a wonderful baker, and Wade is a great chef. He runs a meat business, Luther Brown Meats, and we were treated to several of his products. We had some memorable meals with this “family by choice.”

One of Wade’s beautifully presented plates

While in Tulsa we also got some quality time with dear friend and Wild Woman Linda. We walked, we chatted, we lunched, and best of all, we visited Tulsa’s Gathering Place, a world class public park offering exploration, beauty, gorgeous architecture, and much more. Our 50th high school reunion, originally planned for 2020, was cancelled again due to COVID, so the opportunity to spend time with my high school friend was truly a gift.

The Gathering Place: a wonderland for kids and adults!

We said goodbye to our Tulsa crew and headed to visit my brother Larry and wife Leanna, taking a slight detour to see Price Tower, the Frank Lloyd Wright skyscraper in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Phil is a huge Wright fan, and it was definitely worth the trip to see it. After a quick lunch, we headed on to Arkansas for our visit with Larry and Lea.

Price Tower lobby

Larry and Lea were in the throes of renovations on their beautiful lakeside home, so we spent most of our time out and about. We only had two days, but we packed a lot of fun into them, exploring new restaurants in the area, catching up on over two years’ worth of chats, and generally enjoying our time together. We made a day trip to Eureka Springs, which Phil and I had never seen. Along the way, we had one of those serendipitous experiences that seem like gifts from the universe, during a visit to Martin Greer’s Candies. Dr. Greer, a retired artist and professor (his father founded the company, and now his son makes the chocolates), came in to welcome us to the shop and we learned about his art career. “Care to see my studio?” he asked. Of course that was an irresistible offer, and we were not disappointed. Cartoons, paintings, animation cels–it was all there. We felt as if we’d snagged a private museum tour! 

We pulled ourselves away and headed to our next stop, Thorncrown Chapel. Hidden in the woods, this beautiful small chapel is a popular wedding site. Well worth a quick visit!

Thorncrown Chapel

From there we headed on to Eureka Springs, a quaint village full of shops and restaurants. We especially enjoyed exploring the Crescent Hotel, a beautifully preserved 1886 hotel and spa.

Lovebirds at the Cresent Hotel

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the Buttered Biscuit, a favorite from a previous trip, before saying goodbye and heading out for Dallas. We were beyond excited for this part of our trip, as our daughter and son-in-law will also be visiting from their home in Sweden. As a treat, we spent our first night (using points!) at the Adolphus. There we made friends with talented bartender Justin Wells, who recommended dinner at Billy Can Can. In fact, since he works there part time, Justin arranged for VIP treatment–reservations at the bar, where we could watch the action! We had a wonderful, top 20 meal there and were treated like royalty.

the bar at Billy Can Can: “Before Death Drink”

We each had an appetizer, main course, and dessert, and everything was exceptional! I enjoyed it so much I forgot to take pictures after the appetizer. 

Appetizer: deviled eggs six ways

Our ten days on the road between Denver and Dallas were indeed memorable. Now we’re happily ensconsed in our Dallas Airbnb, and I can’t wait to share the stories!



Heading to the hills

The Roamers travel to the mountains. Lots of mountains.

Our time in Seattle finally came to an end. We bid a sad farewell to our friends and a joyful “Later, Sucka!” to our crappy apartment, grabbed a last Seattle coffee, and were on our way.

Our first stop was Medford, Oregon, where we’d stopped for a business meeting on our way up to Portland. It was smoky but fortunately not on fire, so we enjoyed an early dinner and slept fast in order to be on our way early the next morning. We then headed to San Francisco, where I had splurged (with points) on the Hotel Adagio, a Marriott Autograph Collection property that advertised a beautiful rooftop deck. Turned out, though, that the rooftop deck was only available to the guest who reserved the suite that opened on to it. So much for truth in advertising!

This photo might make you think you can visit the rooftop, but you’d be wrong!

Of course we still enjoyed our brief visit to San Francisco, with lots of walking (hills!), a visit to the immersive Van Gogh exhibit (great but overhyped and overpriced), and a wonderful after-dinner drink at John’s Grill, one of the oldest restaurants in town. The 30-something bartender, who hailed from  Argentina, regaled us with stories of the time Jack Lalane visited and punched a waiter in the stomach just to test his strength. He also introduced every 40-something waiter as his son, which cracked us up. 

Van Gogh exhibit

Our next stop was San Luis Obispo, where we’d had lunch on our way north. It was so charming we had to return to see more of it. Again, I splurged with points on a Marriott property, and this time we were not disappointed. While we had to wait almost two hours for our room to be ready (staffing issues), we were given drink vouchers so headed to the bar to wait. After dinner in the most beautiful interior courtyard we’d ever seen, we headed back to the hotel for a delicious sleep.

Our Vespera Resort room in SLO

The next morning we couldn’t wait to hit the road, because we were headed to San Diego for another visit with cousins Karyl and Matt–and nephew Connor was there, too! As usual, their hosting would impress Pearl Mesta, and we had a wonderful, albeit too short, couple of nights with these dear ones.

Dinner by the pool with wonderful cousins

Just one of the weird sights en route to Las Vegas

Our next stop on the way to Denver was Las Vegas, a place we normally don’t like. But this time we were excited to visit dear friends Pilar and Rene, whom we met as Boston neighbors. Our hotel was another splurge, the Delano, where we had a beautiful suite with two bathrooms.

Our sweet Delano suite

Before heading to dinner at Pilar and Rene’s we visited Skyfall, the bar on the 64th floor of our hotel. Naturally, we had to have Vesper martinis!

Vesper martini at Skyfall. What a view!

We had an unforgettable evening and fabulous dinner with Rene, Pilar, and their beautiful rescue dog Jet. They promised to visit us when we settle in Montpellier (well, probably not Jet), so our farewell was not so sad. Early the next morning we set out for Denver, our home for the next month.

Driving to Denver

Our apartment was everything we’d hoped for, and a wonderful change from the Seattle place: affordable, convenient, in good repair, and with a dedicated parking spot. We had one day to settle in before leaving for a business conference in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Coeur d’Alene view from our hotel room the first day

We arrived and checked in before boarding the boat for a dinner cruise, where we spent the evening getting acquainted with the other attendees and their spouses. The next day we were astonished to look out the window and see smoke from the California wildfires. It was so strong we could smell it!

Same view, second day. Smoky!

Despite the smoke, we had a wonderful time. The town is quaint, the lake beautiful, and the hiking very nice.

My colleague Sally and I on a hike in Coeur d’Alene

Conference over, we bade goodbye to our new CFO friends and headed back to Denver to greet our first guests.

Sunset from the plane. My first business trip in 18 months!

We were excited to welcome our dear friends Danny and Lynn, who spent a couple of nights with us in Denver during their annual August “Get the hell out of Texas” trek. Danny Jones is an extraordinarily gifted artist with whom Phil has studied, and his wife Lynn was the first to welcome us to Wimberley when we were deciding to move there. They quickly became friends-who-are-family, and we had a wonderful time exploring Denver together–especially the Denver Art Museum. 

A painting on display at the Denver Art Museum

After promising to spend time together when we’re in Austin, we said goodbye to Danny and Lynn. Next up was a very, very special visit. Carmen and Michael worked with us over 20 years ago, and we hadn’t seen them (aside from a quick lunch with Michael in 2007) since they left Dallas for their own “Carmichael Travels” adventures. Years later, with Australian citizenship completed, they moved back to California. And they made a special trip to Denver to see us!

The restaurant where we had dinner with Carmen and Michael

They arrived Thursday evening to have dinner at our place, and on Friday we had a wonderful dinner at Le Bilboquet, one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever seen. It was wonderful to pick up where we’d left off, and even better to find we enjoyed them more than ever! We hated saying goodbye but hope to see them again when we’re in Dallas, where Michael works.

Snake River Resort, the site of our CSO retreat

The next week was my big project, the second annual Chief Strategy Officer retreat in Jackson Hole. I’d never been there before, and it did not disappoint.

Yes, we did work while in Jackson Hole!

Gondola ride in the Grand Tetons

The meeting was a success, we had a wonderful time, and I was relieved that all had gone well. Time to head back to Denver! Now that our hosting and business travel were done, we had the luxury of exploring on our own.

A beautiful historic house in Boulder

First up was Boulder, where I’d originally hoped to stay (no good affordable Airbnbs there!). We spent a lovely afternoon lunching, strolling, and tasting local wines.

The following weekend we made a day trip to Colorado Springs to see Garden of the Gods and Pike’s Peak.

View from our lunch table at Garden of the Gods

We stopped for lunch at the Garden of the Gods Resort. What a view! But it was just a preview of what we saw as we drove and hiked the site. It’s truly a not-to-be-missed experience. 

Sandy hiking at the Garden of the Gods

But wait, there’s more! I drove us to the top of Pike’s Peak!!! It was terrifying. And when we reached the summit and got out of the car, we had to sit right down and rest. At over 14,000 feet, the air at the summit has only half the oxygen at sea level, and we were seeing stars. 

A dizzying height, indeed!

After a snack and rest, Phil drove us safely down. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience (meaning I’ve done it once and never need to do it again!).

Denver Botanic Gardens water feature

The next day, with our feet firmly on the ground, we visited the Denver Botanic Gardens. This proved to be one of our favorite experiences in Denver, and possibly the most beautiful botanical gardens we’ve ever seen.

If you ever have a chance to visit, don’t miss it!

The following weekend we decided to take a side trip to Aspen. Once again I splurged (using points) on a night at the St. Regis Aspen Resort. What a beautiful property! Our room wasn’t yet ready, so of course we headed to the bar.

Craft cocktails at the St. Regis Aspen bar

Our room was lovely, and after settling in we went for a walk through town. We had a cocktail at the J Bar, a historic saloon in the Hotel Jerome which was the unofficial office of Hunter S. Thompson when he ran for mayor. We followed that with a lovely dinner at an Italian restaurant recommended by the bartender.

Bloody Mary tasting 

The next morning we had an early breakfast and then strolled back to the hotel for a complimentary Bloody Mary tasting, which yielded the best Bloody Marys of our lives. Then we checked out and headed for Maroon Bells.

Maroon Bells

We’d been there before but had forgotten the impact of seeing those majestic mountains rising over the lake. 

We’d intended to spend just one night, but we were having so much fun we decided to spend a second. We couldn’t afford a room at the St. Regis, so we decided to head to Glenwood Springs, where we found a lovely B&B hosted by Stan, a retired entymologist. Stan cooks a mean breakfast!

I forgot to take a picture before starting to eat!

We checked out, had a stroll around Glenwood Springs, and headed back to Denver, stopping in Vail for lunch. And now we’re back in Denver, savoring our last few days here. This has turned out to be one of our favorite stays, and we highly recommend a trip to this exciting, beautiful place! As Phil remarked, “I could live here!”


The good, the bad, and the sad.

We reluctantly left France and returned (20 hour trip!) to our hot quarters in Seattle. It had cooled off a bit, so we decided to make the best of the next four weeks. To be completely honest, we never got over grumbling about our overpriced Airbnb. In addition to no a/c except for the portable unit in the bedroom, it had a hole in the bathroom, the tiniest kitchen, lots of traffic noise, and no parking. I thought I was very clever avoiding the $1000+ cost of parking nearby by finding a parking lot through Neighbor for $200. However, the  outdoor, 24/7-accessible lot turned out to be a condo resident’s garage space. To access it we had to walk, take a bus, walk more, and call the host’s roomate (host was out of town) to come let us in and out. 

Don’t be fooled by the cute photo. This was not a wonderful Airbnb.

We nonetheless settled back in to our apartment, and Phil set up his “studio.” He takes over the dining table in each of our Airbnbs, and honestly, the mess doesn’t bother me at all. . .

Phil’s “studio”

Our first stop was Pike Place Market, where I was astonished to find these gigantic morels! I used to forage for them in Oklahoma with Phil’s dad, and they’re a favorite indulgence for our whole family.

Gigantic morels!

I made them into a wonderful risotto, which we had that evening. The market, despite being a total tourist trap, has excellent local produce, meat and fish, and artisanal offerings, and it’s worth fighting the crowds. 

I forgot to take a picture before I started eating!

Seattle is a beautiful city, but like Portland, it’s suffering right now. While we saw far fewer urban tent communities than in Portland, the people lviing on Seattle streets seemed far more damaged, with so many experiencing major mentall illness. We couldn’t walk a quarter mile without encountering someone shouting obscenities or gibberish. It was sad and disheartening, and we felt helpless to make any meaningful impact.

Beautiful hydrangeas blooming next to broken people.

The one positive of our overpriced, hot, shabby apartment was its location. We were at the foot of Capitol Hill and frequently trudged up that steep hill to discover funky shops, tatoo parlors, S&M supply businesses–and also some great restaurants and coffee bars.

Demon Queen in a shop window

Seattle is also a wonderful city for art lovers. There is art everywhere! We enjoyed several art museums, but honestly, by just walking around the city we saw spectacular art.

A beautiful Seattle building

We loved a special Monet exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, “Monet at Etretat.” I’d visited the museum once before with dear friend Cathy, when they were showing the Stein Collection (works owned by Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo) and was delighted to rediscover some of the permanent exhibit works I’d enjoyed years earlier.

I was moved by this sculpture in the Frye Art Museum 

With friends Sue and Mitch we visited the Museum of Pop Culture (the cool kids call it MoPop), located in Seattle Center, the arts, education, and entertainment center originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair. There was so much to enjoy, but my favorite was the Disney Princess gowns in the “Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume” exhibition. 

Mary Poppins costume

Guitar sculpture just outside the MoPop Jimi Hendrix exhibit

We of course had to sample numerous Seattle restaurants. We had a wonderful Mexican lunch with Sue and Mitch, a memorable tapas dinner with friends Liz and Rob, and a best-in-class burger with Gail & Dave and Sue & Mitch. We also dined solo; one special experience recommended by our son was the Pink Door, near Pike Place Market. With no sign and only a. . .wait for it. . .pink door to identify it, this restaurant is also a performance art piece. During our visit there was no trapeze performance, just a Zydeco band. If you have a chance to visit, don’t miss it!

Beautiful and delicious shared appetizer at the Pink Door

After one particularly long, hot, hilly walk we were in dire need of refreshment and stopped in at Ba Bar. It’s known for its pho and craft cocktails. We shared a refreshing salad and indulged in cocktails that were so good we planned to return! But we ran out of time. . .

My basil cocktail with a cute clothespinned basil garnish

But by far the best thing about our time in Seattle was dear friends. We especially loved our time with Sue and Mitch, who hosted us for a delicious dinner on the deck overlooking their wonderful garden, let us park our car at their house after we gave up on our discount parking hack, invited us to join them at Shakespeare in the Park (“Midsummer Night’s Dream”!), met us for long walks and restaurant meals, treated us to a special restaurant dinner celebrating their son Chris’s birthday, acted as our chauffeurs, and provided advice on fun things to do. Together since junior high, they are my high school friends, and Sue is one of my “Wild Women” group, eleven high school friends who gather annually for a Wild Women’s Weekend.

Sue and Mitch at the birthday dinner

We had some other fun times: visited two botanical gardens, took ferries to Bainbridge Island and Whidbey Island, enjoyed a glass of wine on the grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, wandered through pretty much every neighborhood in Seattle, visited possibly the best bakery in Seattle, and much more. 

Coupeville Wharf on Whidbey Island

So while Seattle had some bad (HEAT! Remember it was 107 when we arrived–and no a/c?!) and some sad (urban stress and homelessness), our experience there reminded us just how fortunate we are. We are filled with gratitude for wonderful lifelong friends, our adventurous life, and our ability to live our best lives together. Next up: on to southern California, Las Vegas, and Denver!

We went to france!

A reconnaissance trip to our future home

In the “before times” we planned a July 2020 visit to Montpellier, France. Our European kids would join us at a lovely, large apartment for a week, where we would celebrate our daughter’s July 4 birthday and explore the city. That didn’t happen, of course, but as soon as France opened to Americans, we rebooked. Our kids couldn’t come, so we revised our plans to explore what we anticipate will be our future home. We had already retained Renestance, a “renesting” consultancy founded by a Californian expat who decided to share her acquired expertise, to help us plan and execute our move. 

We were beyond excited to get there and see the city we’d never visited but through research had decided was right for us. Our plan is to spend the first year there, traveling around France and the rest of Europe, before deciding whether and where to settle down. We had moved into our Seattle Airbnb just in time to “enjoy” the heat wave before boarding our plane.

Air France will not allow you to sleep on the floor!

We arrived Friday afternoon, grabbed an Uber, and quickly encountered our first problem: since our Airbnb was in a pedestrian-only area, the driver didn’t know where to drop us. So he just dropped us off by the highway! There we stood, two puzzled Americans dragging luggage, when a van pulled up. Turned out we were next to the police station, and the van guys work for the mairie’s (mayor’s) office. They spoke virtually no English, and my French is abominable, but somehow we managed to communicate via random words and gestures. These two lovely gentlemen spent the next half hour with us, taking our bags and leading us to a parking garage elevator that opened onto the pedestrian mall, then waiting with us, texting our host, until contact was made. Anyone who thinks the French are unfriendly has not traveled with us! We have only had wonderful experiences with French people–helpful, kind, and gracious every time.

The view from our Montpellier terrace

Our eighth-floor apartment was small, nothing fancy, but we had a lovely little terrace with a view. We quickly unpacked and headed to the nearby Monoprix to grab a few essentials. I needed body lotion so stopped in at the pharmacie, where I managed to misread the label and spend $60 by mistake!

Smells nice, but not worth $60!

We walked to the Place de la Comedie, the main square of Montpellier just around the corner, and stopped at one of the outdoor cafes for a quick dinner before an early bedtime. We had to stave off jetlag because the next morning we were meeting one of the Renestance consultants for a walking tour of the city!

Carousel at the Comedie

A Montpellier pigeon finishes its lunch.

The next morning we met our tour guide, Wim, at the Fountain of the Three Graces and proceeded to an outdoor cafe for coffee and The Perusing of the Maps. Wim gave us the lay of the land, explained the various Montpellier neighborhoods, and recommended some places we could happily live.  Then we proceeded to walk the city, seeing the sights, hearing stories, and learning about our soon-to-be-adopted city.

I love how the streets are decorated!

We saw monuments, fountains, statues, parks, and wonderful street scenes. We walked through an exceptional market where we will definitely be shopping. And we saw so, so much wonderful street art! Wim explained that Montpellier was founded by Protestants who didn’t like to display their wealth, so they installed very few windows in their mansions. Years later, many of these plain buildings were enhanced by trompe l’oeil “facades” that are fascinating, and sometimes disorienting.

On the right side of the building some of Montpellier’s trompe d’oeil art. It looks real, doesn’t it?

Montpellier reminded us of Paris in many respects, especially the Haussmann architecture, the plentiful and beautiful fountains, and the lovely squares. But it’s much smaller and easy to navigate, has lots of sunny days, and is close to both the sea and the mountains. Add the fact that it’s a university town (Nostradamus was expelled from medical school here!) and has lots of culture and frequent festivals, and you can see why we chose it unseen!

Isn’t this door knocker delightful?

An artist known as Monsieur BMX has installed these bikes in buildings all over Montpellier!

The next day we decided to visit the sea. Don’t call the Mediterranean Sea an ocean; that’s a rookie mistake! We took some time to figure out logistics but were successful taking the tram (free on weekends!) and then a bus. We got off the bus too soon so walked the rest of the way. It was hot, so we didn’t spend a ton of time there, but the beach was beautiful and lots of families were enjoying it–crabbing, swimming, and (topless) sunbathing. 

Fun times at the sea!

Part of the justification for this trip was our 40th anniversary. Since we no longer want or need “stuff,” we celebrate with experiences. And of course we needed a fine dining experience in Montpellier! We found that at le Lab, which came highly recommended by Wim. 

First course: I think it was an egg dish. Exceptional!

There is no menu at le Lab. French chef Rayan and his Philipino wife Katrina met in Dubai while working at a five-star restaurant, Wim explained, and now Rayan uses fresh local ingredients to create a multi-course feast, while Katrina hosts and recommends wines. We were seated in a lovely courtyard overlooked by a saint (yep, statue in a church). 

Second course; it had beans and croutons, and was delicious!

After selecting wines and enjoying an amuse bouche, the games began. Each course was spectacular! Rayan came out with each one and explained (in English!) what we were eating. I wish I had a menu, as I’ve forgotten much of it.

This dish was all about tomato–broth, foam, a “tomato”–and I think seaweed ash. My favorite!

Each dish was meticulously prepared, and it was mostly vegetable based. Unlike our experience with tasting menus in the US, we didn’t walk away miserably stuffed!

The only real meat course was veal, with carrots two ways and a delicious broth.

By dessert we’d finished a bottle of wine and ordered champagne for a celebratory dessert. Such an amazing and unforgettable meal! We’ll definitely be back.

Dessert! It was strawberry based but I can’t remember the details. Delicious, though!

The next day we were excited to meet with our Renestance team. Dennelle, Harriet, and Ann-lii were delightful and knowledgeable–and fun! We met at a lovely outdoor restaurant with a wine tasting program where we shared an excellent charcuterie board (cousin Karyl would be proud!) and an assortment of cheeses. It was so reassuring to know that they’ll be holding our hands throughout this transition!

Our Renestance crew! And an empty bottle of wine. . .

The next day we rose early to catch our train to Carcassonne. There we met another Renestance team member, Sarah, for a walking tour of that city. Carcassone is farther from the sea, closer to Spain, and much smaller than Montpellier, so we decided it would be wise to check it out as a possible alternative. 

Masked train travelers

Carcassonne, and Sarah, were wonderful! We enjoyed coffee before heading out on our walking tour. Carcassone is a small city, built around a beautiful central square. It’s best known for its medieval walled city, complete with ramparts, a castle, and tourist attractions. The Tour de France was coming through Carcassonne the next day, and the streets and entrance to the old city were decorated in anticipation.

Decorations for the Tour de France represented each of the jersey colors.

We climbed to the medieval Cite and enjoyed a leisurely walk through the shops. There were restaurants, a hotel, a gorgeous church, and grassy areas where activities for kids and adults were set up. Jousting? Pony rides? Archery? All is available.

The beautiful Basilica of Saint-Nazaire and Saint-Cels

The tour was wonderful! Carcassonne has everything–beautiful architecture, a lovely central square, a Unesco World Heritage site–and Sarah shared that real estate prices are much lower than in Montpellier! We left thinking that perhaps we should consider spending our first year there.

View from the ramparts at Carcassonne

But the next day we were meeting new acquaintances from my Facebook “Americans in Montpellier” group. I had posted a note explaining our reconnaissance visit to the city and asking for recommendations of things we should see/do, and to my delight a couple of folks offered to meet with us during our trip! On our last day in Montpellier, we had coffee with Gwen and Tom, a retired couple from Arkansas who made the big move in the autumn of 2019. They rent a villa outside the old city center wth their cherished dog, and despite arriving just in time for the lockdown, they love their Montpellier life and haven’t looked back. They shared their experiences and advice, and we came away with plans to get together as soon as Phil and I make the move.

My attempt to capture a sunflower field over someone’s shoulder as our train raced to Carcassonne

Then we were off to lunch with Laurence, an early-retired professor who is French but spent many years living in the US. Laurence was a fountain of useful information, and she was especially helpful as we sorted out whether to spend our first year in Carcassonne or Montpellier. In the end, we decided on Montpellier when Laurence explained that less expensive rentals outside l’Ecusson (the old city) would offer more space and parking, with quick access to everything the larger city offers. 

In France, the ice cream treats wear feathers!

So that was our trip! We came away with more knowledge, new friendships, and more eagerness than ever to make a home in this beautiful city. Now we really must get serious about learning to speak French!

On to seattle

Seattle is HOT (and not in a good way…)

The rest of our time in Portland seemed to fly by. We spent some special time with niece Katelyn and her mom, cousin Karyl. We had dinner parties! Three of them: we hosted our nephew Connor and his partner April, then my high school friend and Wild Woman Tina (Wild Women is the name of our high school friends group that gathers annually for a weekend), and finally our Texas friends Cathy and Pat, who were there checking on Cathy’s gorgeous beach house, which is under construction. It was so much fun to shop the farmers’ market and actually entertain guests–so much fun, in fact, that I completely forgot about taking pictures. So here’s a picture of the Chinatown gate.

Chinatown gate

beautiful Chinatown Gardens, well worth the fee

We loved visiting the Chinatown Gardens, which we stumbled upon by accident. In addition to the beautiful, peaceful gardens and ponds, we loved seeing art exhibits like the one below. It was astonishing to realize that these are all made of glass!

Gorgeous glass art

One day while we were walking back from breakfast at Mother’s we spotted two guys posting something on a boarded-up building. As we came closer we saw that it was an exhibit of photographs documenting life in Portland. I got permission to take this picture of it, and if you’re interested in these artists you can check them out on Instagram: @chrisnesseth @brooklyn97202 @ksouder_

Amazing photography, free to all!

But by far our favorite Portland experience was an evening at Darcelle XV. The Guiness World Record’s oldest working drag queen, at age 91 Darcelle, aka Walter Cole, does not disappoint. 

The Darcelle Queens!

We were really excited about visiting Darcelle XV, so we arrived as soon as they opened. We ordered cocktails and dinner–burger and fries for Phil and chicken strips and fries for me, a real indulgence! The food was surprisingly delicious, or maybe it was the atmosphere. Anyway, the show was fabulous. Each performer was exceptional, with some very upbeat numbers and a few ballads that made me teary. But Darcelle, who now performs using a rhinestone-studded walker, is still the star of the show. It was an unforgettable evening, and if you ever visit Portland, it’s a must-see!

Darcelle’s Rhinestone Cowboy, front and back!

We also enjoyed a day trip to see Multnomah Falls. The drive was beautiful, but the entire area was crowded and parking was challenging–but we made it work. How, you ask? By driving on to Washington for cocktails and apps at a rustic resort, where we watched families play and enjoyed the scenery. By the time we returned, in the late afternoon, we were able to find a parking space.

Horsetail Falls

Multnomah Falls

Toward the end of our time in Portland we enjoyed a walking food truck tour. Michelle, our guide, was great and very knowledgeable. She skipped the lines, introduced us to several of the owners, and shared stories of her travels around the world. She takes a food tour everywhere she goes, which is a great idea. We sampled Canadian, Burmese, Slavic, and Bavarian specialties in Portland’s Eastside district. Highly recommended!

Food truck pod on the former grounds of Oregon’s hospital for the insane

We loved Oregon’s street art!

We loved our time in Portland but were also excited for the next adventure. After a final breakfast downtown we hit the road, heading to Miton, Washington to visit dear friend Eileen. Eileen’s partner Cris, who introduced Phil and me and was a lifelong friend, died several years ago, and we had not seen Eileen since his passing. Our visit over lunch was wonderful and bittersweet, as we shared memories, laughed, and cried a little. Cris was a huge part of our lives, and we treasure our friendship with Eileen.

Cloudy last morning in Portland

And then we came to Seattle. Where it was hot. Very, very hot. We waited outside on the sidewalk (did I mention it was hot?) about half an hour until our Airbnb host arrived to welcome us. Our air-conditioned apartment, it turned out, has a portable a/c unit in the bedroom. That’s all. In 107 degree weather. No a/c in the rest of the apartment. So yes, we endured the unprecedented heat wave in Seattle with an indoor temperature of 89 degrees. For several days. Fortunately, at night we closed off the bedroom and were able to sleep in air-conditioned comfort. Well, almost.

Cute apartment, but NO A/C!!!

We spent our first few days in Seattle complaining about the heat, hanging out in our underwear, and walking outside a lot. And sweating a lot. And taking lots of showers. And complaining. But we were also excited, because four days after arriving we left for FRANCE!!! I’ll tell you all about the trip in the next post, but for now suffice it to say we’re back in Seattle and the weather is very, very pleasant. Whew!




Yep, it’s still weird. And wonderful.

The thing to understand about Portland, our nephew Connor explained at our first dinner together, is that it’s all about the neighborhoods. We were dining at Hat Yai, a highly rated Thai restaurant in the Vernon neighborhood, part of Portland’s Alberta Arts District. Highly walkable and filled with restaurants, bars, and interesting shops (tattoos! bars with psychics! cannabis shops with funny names!), it was a fun area to explore. Our home for the month is in downtown, more specifically the Portland State University neighborhood. It’s a lovely area, with a food truck pod just around the corner offering a world culinary tour–Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Italian, Asian, and more–and lots of shops and restaurants. On the other hand, and I don’t know how to write about this, homelessness here is ubiquitous, with more uban campers than we’ve ever seen anywhere else. Evidence of the early 2021 riots is prominent, with many boarded-up buildings, along with businesses that were forced to close due to the pandemic. It’s hard to walk the city without feeling a mix of heartbreak and hope, grief and joy.

We face east but still get a reflected sunset view

Carry-out Thai from Chef Q

Portland is an interesting city. Oregon is known for its natural beauty, and Portland for its parks, yet the city has been battered. Most of the parks are still open, but many beautiful buildings await major repairs, and the city struggles to keep up with the trash load. The International Rose Test Garden is in full glorious bloom (and very crowded during our visit!), and on a Sunday the line to enter Powell’s was a full block long. The hilltop views are stunning, shops with boarded-up windows have reopened, and restaurants seem to be flourishing at last.

Mount Hood as seen from the Portland rose gardens

We’ve been walking a lot. There is always something interesting to see on our treks–graduates’ photo shoots in the parks, traditional Portland fashion (think Doc Martens with short black skirts, fishnet tights, bright green hair, black lipstick, plenty of tattoos, and gauged ears), food trucks of every ilk, and tiny-home villages. And when we’ve done a long walk, maybe 5-7 miles, we reward ourselves with a cocktail. And possibly mini corn dogs.

This gorgeous purple cocktail at The Pharmacy goes great with corn dogs!

Our walk to and from the Rose Garden was one of our favorites. We walked almost eight miles that day. The worst part was when people ran past us as we huffed and panted up the steep hills. Undaunted, we took frequent rests and finally made it. The roses were spectacular, and so worth the climb. 


We’ve also enjoyed the Saturday farmers’ market nearby. With tons of happy people (masks required) and everything from saffron to gorgeous fresh produce to prepared foods, the only problem was deciding what to buy. On our first trip we splurged on fresh morels. Morels have a special meaning in our family, aside from being delicious. Phil’s dad used to forage for them in a special place in Oklahoma. One of my favorite memories is going out with him and hunting for these unique wild mushrooms. Well, not the poison ivy part, but finding them was like winning the Easter egg hunt. Fresh ones are only available in the springtime, and foragers fiercely guard their secret locations. With our treasure, I tried to recreate a dish we had on our first trip to France–morilles a la creme, or morels in cream on brioche. Delicious!

Morilles a la creme on the terrace

A very special highlight of our time in Portland was celebrating 40 years of marriage! Since we’ll be spending a week in France next month (our gift to each other; more on that later), we decided that a meal at a nice restaurant would be the right celebration for June 6. I found a highly rated tapas restaurant, Urdaneta, and we took the 5:15 pm reservation, the only time available. We arrived and were seated outside under an open-sided shelter, where we ordered cocktails and pintxos. And then. . .down came the rain. The wind was so strong it blew my fork across the table, sent the menu flying down the street, and quickly soaked the back of Phil’s shirt. We were laughing so hard we almost didn’t hear when the server came out to move us inside! Once inside and cozy, we gradually dried out while enjoying a wonderful meal. 

Rain-soaked anniversary Phil

Another fun adventure was lunch at the Topaz Farm on Sauvie Island. We’d heard about it from nephew Connor and his partner April, and since we love seeing where our food comes from, we jumped at the first opportunity to visit. Sauvie Island, about the size of Manhattan, is about ten miles north of Portland and sits at the confluence of the Willammette and Columbia Rivers. It’s beautiful, a mix of agricultural and wildlife areas, with nary a gas station on the entire island. We bought sandwiches and wine and proceeded to the picnic area, followed by a visit to the farm animals–chickens, a giant turkey, ducks, a calf, donkeys, and our favorite, goats! After chatting with the critters we walked around the farm and came upon an educational garden sponsored by non-profit Sauvie Island Center, where volunteers were hard at work. We learned about their methods and were invited to help ourselves to flowers and fruit. 

A friendly Topaz farm goat!

We have been so very fortunate. All our travels so far have been educational, safe, and fun. This life suits us to a tee, and we feel grateful each day to be living it. We have about a week and a half left in Portland before we head to Seattle. Stay tuned!

Flowers from the farmers’ market



Santa Rosa, part two

Do we really have to leave?

Wow, how we have loved our time in Santa Rosa! During our month there we fell more deeply in love with the climate, the geography, our apartment–and, ok, the wine. Since I was working (and we were spending all our money on wine), we didn’t dine out much, but the restaurants we did visit were quaint, locally owned, and fun.

The decor at the Omelette Express was fascinating.

A neighbor’s artichokes growing by the sidewalk: tempting!

Sonoma County is wine heaven. One could spend a lifetime there and not get around to all the wineries–but in our month we did our best!

One of many beautiful wineries in the area

We had a lot of fun exploring some of the towns in the valley. Healdsburg was our favorite, but we also loved Sebastopol and Sonoma. And of course, we walked most days. I’ll never tire of seeing so many flowers, many of which I don’t recognize.

This flower was about six inches in diameter; any idea what it is?

In Sonoma we walked the town, had a wonderful lunch at The Girl and the Fig, and visited a couple of tasting rooms. Those visits only added to the challenge of packing up the car–we bought way too much wine!

Jeff Cohn self-serve wine tasting with marble stoppers; Girl & the Fig menu (and bread!); fish at Sinskey Winery

Finally, our time in Santa Rosa was over, so we packed up the car (with great difficulty, but we got all the wine in!) and headed out. We took a few days to get to Portland, and it was a magical trip. Just outside of Brentwood, we started seeing pick-your-own cherry orchards, so of course we had to stop. The orchard was beautiful, with lots of children playing among the trees while the adults competed with birds for the best cherries. We harvested two pounds in about ten minutes!

Cherry picking

Munching cherries along the way, we proceeded to Yosemite, which I’d never visited before. The traffic on the winding road was a bit daunting, and the line to enter the park (with a required reservation) was long. After a 45 minute wait, we were granted entry, and off we went to explore. My first view of the Half Dome was astonishing–people actually climb that! We saw huge, gorgeous waterfalls, and we hiked some of the easier trails. It was all beautiful, although crowded, and we left in plenty of time to get to our destination for the night, Sacramento, before dark. 

Half Dome at Yosemite

The next morning we got an early start, as we’d be driving through the Redwood Forests en route to Medford, Oregon, where I had a business meeting the next morning. Deep into the no-internet and no-cell service zone, a park ranger informed us that the road south of Crescent City, at the Last Chance Grade,  was closed until 5pm. So we decided to make the most of it and spend more time among the redwoods. We hiked the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, which was indescribably beautiful. We learned that these redwoods are the tallest living things on earth, and without the efforts of conservationists they would have been destroyed by logging. 

Giant redwoods make Phil look tiny

The road opened up at 5pm, and after an hour traffic delay we were back on the road. On a particularly winding part of the road, where I was driving very slowly, a bear ambled out in front of us! We mutually evaluated each other before the bear decided we were not to be friends and ambled off into the woods. Phil was able to get one decent picture despite some excited fumbling.

This bear was MUCH closer than it appears in the picture!

After my meeting in Medford we hit the road, heading up the Oregon coast to Gold Beach, our stop for the night. And what a stop it was! I’d booked us in the Borghese Garden Room atEndicott Gardens, which exceeded all our expectations. A B&B resembling a boutique hotel, Endicott is a working farm raising flowers and herbs for hosts Kim and Wes Cherie’s skin care line, herbal teas, and food products. Kim operates the on-site spa, while Wes tends the beautiful gardens, and together they prepare and serve their luscious breakfasts. Wes and Kim were superb hosts, and we hated to leave after just one night.

One of the many gardens at Endicott

But we had more miles to travel, so off we went. The drive up the Oregon coast is beautiful, and there are so many quaint beach towns to visit! We took advantage of the many pull-off spots to get pictures and to soak up the beauty of the place.

Just one of many gorgeous views on the Oregon coast

Bandon was our favorite stop, with a candy factory, multiple galleries, and a creamery. There we learned the legend of Face Rock, as we gazed at Ewauna looking up at the moon. We spent an hour there before continuing up the coast to Lincoln City.

Can you see the maiden’s face looking up to the right?

Our hotel in Lincoln City was a delightful surprise, with a fireplace, a huge soaking tub in the bedroom (!), and a gorgeous view of the ocean. We had an excellent dinner at Kyllo’s Seafood and Grill (try the basil martini!) and decided to watch the sun set by the firepit outside our room.

Fire pit! Ocean view!

I looked over at Phil to find he was looking at his phone. “Why aren’t you enjoying this view?” I exclaimed, ready to chastise him. It turned out that his Oklahoma-based sister Pam had just texted him a photo that looked very much like what we were seeing, and he was trying to find out where she and her husband Roger were. They were in a hotel just half a mile up the road from us! We rushed over to see them for the first time in over a year, and since we’re all fully vaccinated, there were plenty of hugs to make up for lost time.

Happy reunion!

The next morning was packed with business calls, but when I finished my work we met up for one last visit before we headed over to Portland. We settled into our home for the next month and grabbed Chinese carry-out, which we enjoyed on the balcony. We’re happy, content, and ready for this next adventure!

First meal in our Portland home

Santa rosa

City of Roses

After bidding farewell to Hawaii we landed at LAX around 9pm, collected our luggage, and took the shuttle to our airport hotel. Even at 10:00 there was a line to check in! We finally got to our room and slept fast, waking early for the trip to Santa Rosa. We grabbed coffee and walked to the nearby parking garage where Phil was relieved to find our car safe and sound. We had saved hundreds of dollars in parking costs throughNeighbor, which works like an Airbnb for storage, for $172 for a full month! After loading the car, off we went to discover our next adventure. We had a quick lunch stop in San Luis Obispo (super cute town we want to explore!) before arriving at our new home for the next month.

Welcome wine and chocolate from our hosts!

The living room of our home in Santa Rosa

To say we were delighted is an understatement–this place is perfect! On the fifth floor of a 5-story building, our condo has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a beautifully designed kitchen. Oh, and a fireplace! And a balcony! The closest wine tasting room is 150 steps from our building’s front door (yep, I measured), and we can walk downtown to the many restaurants and shops in five minutes.

Sunrise, solitude, and coffee on the balcony make for a blissful morning.

The neighborhood is gorgeous–so many cute homes–and the most flowers I’ve ever seen! “I can’t believe how many roses there are!” I remarked to Phil. Then it dawned on me–duh, we’re in Santa ROSA!

Santa Rosa rose on my morning walk

We’ve tried to take advantage of the beautiful weather and gorgeous area by walking almost every day. One day we took a long hike around a lake and came upon a field full of goats! Our family loves goats (our tradition is to yell “Yo, Goats!” whenever we see one), and they were very kind to pose for me. Also, there was a lot of quite loud farting. By the goats, Phil would like me to clarify.

Things we see on our walks–yard signs, roses, goats (yo!), and cute houses

By far the best part of our time here has been the visit from cousins Karyl and Matt. We always have so much fun with them, and the bond of family is very precious. Determined to cram as much fun as possible into our limited time together, we may have overdone it the first day with three winery visits.

Beautiful cousins!

Phil and I had visited the northern California wine country 13 years ago, and while some things were familiar, a lot has changed. Most wineries now require reservations, and the cost of tastings has gone up! We shared a $55 tasting in Napa and accidentally bought a $75 bottle of wine (we thought we were buying the $30 one, which is still far more expensive than our customary Two Buck Chuck), so after that we stuck to Sonoma County, which is less expensive and less crowded. Our first tasting with Karyl and Matt was at Breathless, which was founded by three sisters and specializes in sparkling wines. 

Breathless tasting with vintage glasses the owners have collected

Vintage Vespa at Breathless Winery

On Mothers’ Day we celebrated together with an early lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Healdsburg, followed by a stroll in the park and, yes, more wine tasting. It was a wonderful long weekend, over far too soon. And now, with only a week left in Santa Rosa, we are already feeling sad about leaving this magical place.

Children in the park chasing giant bubbles on Mothers’ Day: magical!