Who’s afraid of marseille?

The Roamers discover an enchanting city

I’ve dreamed of seeing Marseille for many years, largely because of how Julia Child wrote about the time she and husband Paul lived there. However, we had heard lots of negative things about the city: it’s dangerous, there’s a lot of crime, they have a drug problem, it’s dirty, etc. But when we had an expiring credit card benefit, we decided to use it to explore this city. And what a great experience it turned out to be!

Getting there was easy, just 1 1/2 hours on a fast train

We checked into our hotel, the beautiful Intercontinental Hotel Dieu, which overlooks the old port. As part of the credit card benefit, we received a room upgrade, breakfast both days, and a credit to spend (which we used at the bar, of course).

The view from our room

We enjoyed  lunch on a sunshiney terrace nearby before boarding le petit train for a little tour. Our main objective was seeing the basilica at the top of the hill (you can see it in the photo above). Topped with a golden statue of Mary and Jesus (which in the English translation of the French tour narration became “Mary and the Kid”) the Notre Dame de la Guard is magnificent. 

Basilica interior

We climbed about ten thousand steps to arrive at the chapel, where a prayer service (call and response) was in process. 

The chapel during a service

In the basilica I was fascinated by the paintings on the walls and ceiling. Looking more closely, I saw that wealthy people had donated these decorations, I assume in order to be remembered for posterity.

“Donated by the Count and Countess Pastré, 1889”

As gorgeous as the basilica was, the view was even more inspiring. Atop the hill, one can see the entire city. . .

. . .and the sea.

After a bumpy descent, the train dropped us at the old port, where we enjoyed a late afternoon stroll. Then it was on to dinner at Ekume, whose bouillabaise tasting menu we’d chosen as a treat for Phil. We arrived to find that one must pre-order that menu, so we chose a different tasting menu with wine pairings (of course). It was good, but a bit fishy for me. I prefer fish that doesn’t really taste like fish–but Phil enjoyed the meal. I mostly loved the dessert.

This photo doesn’t do justice to the magnificent Escalier de la Gare Saint Charles

The next morning we met our guide for a real treat: a 5 1/2 hour walking tour, Beyond Bouillabaise. To call this merely a culinary tour would be a disservice! We met our guide, Corinne (Coco), at the top of the magnificent train station staircase, where she greeted us (no one else on the tour; lucky Roamers!) with pastries to munch as we strolled.

Just one of the many sculptures on the staircase

We wandered a while, with Coco pointing out historical sites and telling stories about each neighborhood. After stopping for coffee and more treats at a popular square, we continued on to the stunning Palais Longchamp, which is not a palace. You can read about it here.

Palais Longchamp; we’ll definitely return for the museum!

A random hilarious thing happened en route, when we “stumbled” upon a dog’s comment about a right-wing politician (the heir apparent to Marie le Pen, according to Coco).

Doo-doo to the right wing

As we strolled, Coco knocked on a shuttered door, which opened to reveal a crossant maker at work! I was fascinated watching him place a giant sheet of butter atop the dough, folding it and then running it through the machine. And his croissants were among the best I’ve ever tasted!

This delightful gentleman allowed me to take his picture!

We had visited several family-owned shops, tasted multiple treats, and walked quite a bit when Coco announced that it was time for a pre-lunch apératif. We stopped at a 1930s bar for a glass of wine and a bowl of panisses, which are chickpea frites served with a mustardy aoli.

The bar, with original 1930s décor

Delicious panisses

Then, of course, it was time for lunch. Coco took us to a tiny restaurant serving delicious Algerian food. Nadia, the owner and chef, was charming and passionate about her cuisine. We shared a salad followed by crunchy fried sardines. I’d never tasted sardines before and was surprised at how tasty they were! Nadia insisted we return to try her couscous, and we definitely plan to do that!

La Saveur, chez Nadia

After lunch we walked through a wonderful outdoor market where people can buy fresh fish and produce at very low prices. This was a welcome contrast to U.S. food deserts, where it’s hard to find fresh food. We stopped in several more places to sample treats before heading to my favorite stop of the entire tour: a hardware store!

Maison Empereur is not just any hardware store. Covering most of a city block, this 200-year-old institution offers hardware, yes, but so much more: an entire roomful of kitchen knives, a huge kitchenware section, toys, clothing, housewares–even a perfume shop offering the oldes perfumes of France.

Maison Empereur

By this time we were loaded with purchases–spices, tapenades, fragrance, gifts, etc. We headed with Coco to our final stop, La Caravelle, a sailors’ bar from the ’20s. There we had a glass of pastis and enjoyed the fabulous view of the port before bidding farewell to our wonderful guide and walking off the tour treats before dinner.

Dinner. That was weird. I’d promised Phil bouillabaise, and Coco had pointed out the best place to get the authentic dish, a pricey white tablecloth place overlooking the port. Once seated, we were informed that the minimum bouillabaise order was for two people–at 80 euros each! We made our usual excuse (“this is the last XX we’ll ever buy!”) and ordered the dish, along with wine and dessert. 

First we were served several delicious amuses bouches. Then the waiter brought large bowls of broth, along with toasted baguette slices, raw garlic, and rouille (a garlicky sauce). We were instructed to rub the bread with garlic, top it with rouille, and drop it into the broth (think of French onion soup). It was delicious!

First course bouillabaisse

While we were enjoying this, the waiter brought an enormous bowl of raw fish–six different types of fish!–to show us what was coming. We then were served ANOTHER large bowl of broth, this time stuffed with tons of whole or almost-whole fish! It was easily enough for eight people. We hardly made a dent in it, especially since I don’t enjoy oily, fishy fish.  We gave up, but then DESSERT came! My lemon souffle was good, and Phil enjoyed his chocolate concoction. But honestly? Once was definitely enough.

So. Much. Fish.

We waddled back to the hotel, and the next morning we enjoyed another special treat. The Cosquer Mediterranée is an amazing duplication of 30,000-year-old cave paintings discovered by  speleologist Henri Cosquer in the ’90s. The cave paintings, 35 meters below sea level, are being destroyed by water, so they have been meticulously recreated; seated in 6-person modules, we glided through the water in this underground experience that felt as if we were actually in the caves. Highly recommended!

After our tour we headed to Saisons, a Michelin-starred restaurant offering a reduced-price lunch, where we enjoyed a delicious three-course meal with wine for less than half of the bouillabaise experience. Finally, it was time to check out of the hotel and head for home.

We could not have enjoyed Marseille more, and we will definitely return. We loved the diversity, the fascinating neighborhoods, and the friendly people, and we always felt safe. If you have the opportunity, go! You won’t regret it.

Nighttime view from our hotel

Two years!

The Roamers celebrate their second Franciversary

“Does it feel like two years to you?” I asked Phil. “Not at all, it doesn’t seem like we’ve been here nearly that long,” he replied. Our first two years living in France have flown by, filled with fun, friendship, roaming, learning, and some amazing food. 

Last year, for our first Franciversary, we celebrated over a wonderful dinner for two at Bistro la Canourge, inside a gorgeous Montpellier hotel. We enjoyed cocktails first, of course, in the magnificent bar, and we met a lovely British couple dining at the next table.

Bistro la Canourge

This time, our celebration has occurred over several days. First up was a fun and  hilarious dinner party we hosted for friends Margi, Michael, Jana, and Martin. So much laughter! We had a lot to celebrate: two birthdays, our Franciversary, and treasured friendship. I was having too much fun to take any photos, but I’ll tell you about the meal: after enjoying Phil’s sidecars, we had a first course of rosé shrimp, served with a delicious sparkling rosé our friends contributed. The main course was pork Wellington with a beet, feta, and walnut salad (copied from Jana!), followed by a traditional cheese course and finally lemon meringue pie. Oh, and plenty of wine, of course; after all, this is France! We laughed so much our stomachs were sore the next day!

Rosé Shrimp

The next evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner with close friends Jo and Dennis at the beautiful Domaine de Verchant‘s restaurant la Plage. Joined by their exceedingly well-behaved dog Denali, we had a great time catching up and celebrating our lives in France. I hope we get a chance to return in the daytime so we can see everything at that beautiful estate!

And finally, on the actual anniversary of our arrival in France, we celebrated by. . .going to our French lessons! But after that, we hopped in the car for a trip to Narbonne. We arrived too late for the famous covered market, but we enjoyed a nice lunch nearby before strolling along the canal. The best part of our experience was the cathedral, an unfinished masterpiece dating from the 1200s. 

Walking between the former Archbishop’s palace and the cathedral

We rounded a corner and were greeted by a magnificent building, complete with gargoyles of all types. The afternoon sun gave the structure a golden glow.

Gothic arches, gargoyles, and more!

As we entered the cathedral, we heard Gregorian chant (a recording, but still hauntingly beautiful). We proceeded to the choir (the only part of the cathedral that was completed, along with the sacristy and side chapels) and were flabbergasted by the beauty of this place.

The choir

Despite its unfinished state (we’d read that construction was halted because continuing would have required demolition of the city walls, which were needed for protection), the cathedral boasts some of the most magnificent stained glass I’ve ever seen.

Just one of many sections of stained glass

We took the long way home, enjoying the scenery and a magnificent sunset. We’ll definitely return to Narbonne, as there is much more to see!

And the final component to this celebration will happen next week, when we take the train to Marseille for a couple of nights. After two years of living in France, we stil pinch ourselves in disbelief that we’re lucky enough to have this life! We will continue making memories. With gratitude.

Two years ago, approaching our new life

Happy holidays!

Our first Montpellier Christmas Season

Because our beloveds keep up with us through this blog, we are not sending out a holiday letter summarizing our year (although we LOVE receiving those from others!), but through this short post we’d like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday. After traveling most of the month of November, Phil and I decided to stay home and enjoy our first Montpellier Christmas (we spent last Christmas in Stockholm with our daughter and son-in-law). 

When we got home, Phil’s first job (after unpacking, of course) was to finish my early Christmas present: a gorgeous acrylic seascape of one of the beaches near Montpellier. I feel joy every time I look at it!

The beautiful Montpellier seascape Phil painted for me!

To get into the holiday spirit, we had a day trip with friends to the holiday market (called l’Hivernales in French) in Aniane, a medieval village less than an hour away. We arrived at the only available parking spot only to find two women standing in it, trying to save it for friends that “might” be coming. Fortunately, we had our friend in the car, and with her expert French and her very French gestures, which matched those of the two women, she succeeded in persuading them to move so we could park. “It’s good to have an Alpha in the car,” commented her husband.

The view from the parking lot in Aniane

The market was wonderful, offering everything from hot wine (vin chaud) to perfume made by a “nose” who lives near the village, to lovely handmade items.


A view of the Aniane market

We did a bit of shopping before it was time to head to Bistro des Terrasses for lunch. We went all out with the three-couse meal (four courses if ;you count the fabulous amuse bouche-)-duck fois gras, various beef, pork, and fish dishes, and delectable desserts–and, of course, plenty of wine.

My dessert: a chocolate-orange mille-feuille

After lunch we walked back to the now-crowded market and strolled around, returning to a few special vendors for goodies. We saw tons of Christmas trees, Santa, and this wonderful book hut.

What’s a holiday market without a hut made of books?!

We finally bade farewell to Aniane, with plans to return when things are back to normal. It’s a gorgeous little village and well worth a trip. Back in Montpellier, one couple hosted us for a delicious meal and a “Love, Actually” viewing to top off the delightful day.

Another lovely Aniane view

Aside from this trip, several fun lunches, French lessons, and errands, our month has been fairly quiet. We’ve enjoyed the festive season in Montpellier and look forward to a quiet Christmas at home with a few close friends. I’ll be making our traditional foods–turkey and dressing, Christmas tree coffee cake, and more–but with a few French twists, including escargots that friends are bringing. And Phil and I will spend some time reflecting on this splendid year, thinking of our dear friends in the U.S. and beyond, and feeling immense gratitude for  our adventurous life.

Roamers in Aniane (photo courtesy of our friend Jana)

The ease of retirement

Learning to enjoy personal freedom is a process.

I came home from our grand November adventure with a lingering cold, which, helped along by our flight home, produced a stopped-up ear (une oreille bouchée, in French). For the first week I only left the apartment for French lessons, and I’m still mostly stayiing home, resting, and taking prescription meds. So I’ve had a lot of time for contemplation.

Having worked full-time for 48 years, traveling weekly, and being “on call” 24/7 (along with raising a family and being a person), I never had a lot of contemplative time, so this is a fairly new experience for me. The sheer luxury of not HAVING to do anything is something I’m still not used to, after almost two years of retirement. And now that the newness of living in France has worn off a bit (although we still occasionally pinch ourselves that this is our life!), I can relax into a slower, more measured pace.

I’m learning, for the first time, to pace myself, to say no occasionally, and to fight my FOMO. I enjoy Thursday coffee with friends, but life goes on if I miss it now and then. Instead of venturing out in the cold with a cold to buy a Christmas tree, I ordered our tree and trimmings online. And you know what? It turned out fine, and it was fun to assemble.

Smallest Christmas tree we’ve ever had, but it’s the right size for our apartment!

We did manage to go out one evening with friends (to see the fabulous Callas Paris 1958 film), where we saw the giant Christmas tree in the Place de la Comedie, but as of December 9 we have not yet ventured out to see the Illuminations or to visit les Hivenales (the outdoor Christmas market). Normally I would have dragged Phil out for both on the first day, but now I realize there will be plenty of time to see everything–and it might be less crowded by the time we go.

Holiday lights on l’Opera de la Comédie

Phil and I enjoy our loose schedule. I usually wake up first, have coffee, and catch up on emails, while he sleeps in. Late mornings are spent in parallel play, me reading or playing on my phone, Phil watching videos and enjoying his coffee and breakfast smoothie. We have French lessons and/or homework most days, and we run errands, do laundry, and chat, before Phil goes to his studio to paint while I read, work on administrative tasks, chat with my daughter, etc. Between 5 and 6 p.m. we reconvene for a cocktail while I make dinner, and we usually watch a movie over dinner. And several times a week we get together with friends.

I’ve recently begun learning to sleep late. For many years my internal alarm has gone off around 6:43 a.m., but since we got home I’ve slept until after 9:00 several times. I do occasionally have sleepless nights (apparently one of the lovely aspects of aging!), but when that happens I can take an afternoon nap!

The view from our apartment this morning, after a night of little sleep. Lovely!

I’m still learning how to do retirement, and figuring out the ideal pace and routine will take time. I will admit to still having occasional work anxiety dreams (workmares, I call them). But the past couple of weeks of quiet have helped me realize how fortunate I am to be in this stage of life, and I plan to take advantage of every sweet moment of freedom!


The Roamers Roam–a Lot!

I had the best of intentions. Truly. “I’ll do a blog post from the ship,” I told Phil. Of course, I also told my French teacher that I would practice every day while we were gone. But despite good intentions, it’s now the end of November, and I have way too much to catch up on.

On 2 November we set out on our “big trip” of the year. We took the train to Barcelona, boarded a ship, enjoyed a two-week transatlantic cruise, flew to Austin, spent a week with our family, flew back to Barcelona, and finally came home. Here are the details.

En route to Barcelona

We arrived in Barcelona and taxied to the Renaissance Hotel near the Gothic District. We were upgraded (with points) to a junior suite on the top floow, where the view was astonishing.

View from our hotel room

The first order of business, of course, was to sample a craft cocktail before dinner. We did venture out, but the Paseo de Gracia crowds were daunting, almost shoulder to shoulder. So we decided to have our cocktail and dinner in the hotel.

One of those cocktails was mine!

The next morning our friend Freda, who was getting off the ship we were about to board, came to the hotel with a friend to spend a couple of hours with us. Freda was supposed to visit us in Montpellier the past two years, but our schedules conflicted (due to my faulty memory!), so we were thrilled to have this opportunity to catch up. She had been on the first part of our ship’s journey so was able to give us tips on how best to enjoy the cruise (onion rings by the pool!). After a fond farewell, we headed to the ship, the Viking Sea. With just over 700 passengers, this cruise would be quite different from the 2500-passenger Princess transatlantic cruise we took last year.

Leaving Barcelona

The first stop was planned for Valencia, but unfortunately high winds caused the port to close. Phil and I have traveled enough to learn to go with the flow, so we were happy to just stay on the ship–especially when we could visit the Explorers’ Lounge each evening for sunset cocktails!

Sunset + cocktails = no regrets

Before we knew it, we were sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar and getting a splendid view of the famous Rock!

Rock of Gibraltar

Our first stop then was Cadiz in the Andalucia region, where we toured the Bodega Tio Pepe, a gorgeous sherry producing facility that was really more like a village with sherry. Complete with a lovely hotel (where we got chased off the grounds) and the ubiquitous gift shop, where we may or may not have bought a lot of sherry for our kids, it was a fascinating tour.

Tio Pepe barrels

This bodega boasted barrels that had been signed by a broad spectrum of illuminaries, some of whom added sketches to their signatures.

Barrels signed by Winston Churchill (on his 80th birthday), Jean Cocteau, and Steven Spielberg

After the tour we were rewarded with a tasting. The others at our table didn’t enjoy the sherry, but we restrained ourselves from drinking theirs. After the tasting we strolled the grounds, visited the gift shop, and enjoyed the perfect weather.

Beautiful cobblestoned path framed by grapevines

Next up was an amazing, almost never-ending lunch: When we arrived, the tables were set with charcuterie, rolls, wine, and beer. We thought that was it, but next up was a tempura-like potato pancake. Lovely lunch, we thought! But then they brought out roasted meat, potato salad, and other sides. And THEN came dessert, which I’ve forgotten. After this amazing meal we were treated to flamenco dancing. What an experience!

Post-prandial flamenco

One of the reasons we overspent on this trip (did I mention that?) was the cooking classes on the ship. On selected sea days twelve lucky passengers were treated to a hands-on cooking lesson with the delightful Chef de Cuisine. I was impressed with the camaraderie that was evident when he introduced each chef and cook, and even more impressed with the dishes we made.

A beautiful fish main course from our lesson

We were served Aperol spritzes while we cooked, with wine to go with the lunch we prepared–a first course, main, and dessert each time. I signed up for all three cooking classes and enjoyed them thoroughly. The first class featured paella, the second was French, and the third was California cuisine. When we visited our kids in Texas, my son Grayson and I, who love cooking together, made the French main course: a beef filet mignon atop leek fondue, surrounded by a chorizo salsa. Maybe not authentically French, but delicious!

One of the desserts we made, a mandarin orange mousse

A surprise bonus of the cooking classes was a tour of the ship’s galley. There should be a fancier word for this kitchen, or series of kitchens! Our chef instructor introduced us to each worker by name, and the kitchen was amazing. Impeccably clean and organized, it was so impressive I could have spent all day there!

Ship’s galley

This immersion blender was bigger than the cook!

Built on volcanic rock, Madeira has an interesting agrarian approach: because it’s vertical, all the crops (especially grapes) are grown on terraces, and these terraces are served by small irrigation canals called levadas. In the afternoon, we took a bus tour that took us to a high point where we could stand on a transparant platform over the sea. We didn’t have time for a Madeira tasting, but we bought tiny bottles to share with our Texas kids.

Breathtaking view from the top

The day passed quickly, and we returned to the ship just in time to bid farewell to land for the next six days at sea. Because there was so much to do–cooking classes, wine tastings, working out (only twice, I’ll admit) in the well-equipped gym, enjoying the spa, where I tried out the dry-sauna-followed-by-cold-plunge cure, making delightful friends, and of course eating and drinking–we actually looked forward to these days. 

Farewell to Funchal

One of the highlights of the cruise was the Chef’s Table restaurant. It required reservations but had no additional charge, so I jumped on the chance to reserve a table for each of the five menus (the menu changed every three days). A five-course tasting menu with wine pairings (we had the Silver Spirits package, so we enjoyed upgraded wine pairings), each dinner was memorable and delicious. The dinners varied–Chinese, Asian, Californian, British, and spice-focused cuisines.

Chef’s Table menus

We developed a loose routine on the sea days: breakfast together, working out/walking/napping, lunch, afternoon lectures or movies (I especially enjoyed the lectures by Jane Robinson, an erudite and delightful historian who specializes in social history through women’s eyes). Then, each afternoon we watched the sun set from the Explorers’ Lounge, a beautiful glassed-in bar at the front of the ship. After dinner there were shows that we could attend in person or watch on tv in our stateroom. It was a relaxing, pampered time that passed too quickly.

Sunset at sea

Our last stop was the island of St. Martin in the Carribbean. Half Dutch, half French, this island was fascinating–and on the French side I got to speak a little toddler-level French with the market vendors! The next day we landed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where we proceeded to the airport (a six-hour wait!) for our flights to Austin, where we enjoyed special time with our son, daughter-in-law, and wonderful two-year-old granddaughter. 

Carribbean cocktail

We also got special time with friends! Besties Joni (from Dallas) and Patricia (from Houston) drove to see us, and Wild Woman Anabel (along with Patricia, part of my high school friends’ group) joined ua for a girls-only dinner. TexMex, of course! And one day we drove to Wimberley, where we lived before Roaming, to enjoy lunch with dear friends Lynn, Danny, Barb, and Chip.

Delightful Wimberley friends

And then, before we knew it, it was time to leave. We had an early Thanksgiving dinner with our kids, featuring the most delicious smoked turkey we’d ever tasted, courtesy of our son Grayson, the champion meat smoker, before heading on Thanksgiving Day to the airport. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the Sky Club was serving Thanksgiving dinner!

Our second Thanksgiving dinner!

The flights to Barcelona were quiet comfortable, despite a 4 1/2 hour layover in Amsterdam. We arrived in time to check into our hotel and take a walk around the Barcelona Sants neighborhood, which was ready for Christmas!

Christmas in Barcelona

We enjoyed a tapas dinner featuring the best dumplings I’ve ever tasted at a tiny restaurant called Lutes–delicious dinner for two, with dessert and a bottle of wine, for less than $60–before strolling back to the hotel. The next morning we had time for another stroll, with stops for coffee and a picnic for the train.

Excellent cappucinos!

For our train picnic we returned to a bakery we’d noticed the evening before, that featured empanadas. If we’d had room in our luggage, I would have bought bread to bring home to France, everything looked so good!

Barcelona bakery

And then, finally, we were home. Traveling is exciting, edifying, and fun, but coming home–especially coming home to Montpellier–is wonderful. We are so grateful for the ability and means to travel, for our delightful friends and family, and especially for our home in France. 

Happy, grateful Roamers

A special anniversary

The Roamers celebrate 30 years of visits to France

One morning in August I remarked to Phil, “Guess what? Next month will be the 30th anniversary of our first trip to France!” That was indeed the trip of a lifetime; we flew to Paris for a few days, took the TGV (high-speed train) to Dijon, stayed in a castle (complete with a countess and a moat!), moved on to a farmhouse bed & breakfast in Provence (where we made a lasting friendship with a British/Scottish couple), giggled our way through mistakes in Bordeaux, and finished the trip back in Paris. I briefly considered recreating that trip but quickly realized that after 30 years nothing would be the same. So we decided to take a short trip to Paris and Dijon to celebrate this anniversary–and Phil’s 72nd birthday! We no longer give each other gifts, because we don’t need any more stuff, so this experience was both birthday and anniversary for us.


We spent our three nights in Paris at the Marriott Courtyard by the Gare de Lyon, using points to offset some of the indulgences we’d planned for this trip. After checking in to our tiny but cute room, we set out to explore the city. Our plan was to visit some museums we’d not seen before, revisit Giverney, and dine in style.

Notre Dame restoration in progress

We were intrigued by the number of beautiful people taking selfies on the Pont Alexandre. We admired their gorgeous clothes but thought they might be missing the views while posing. . .


It was fun strolling, window-shopping, and people watching. It appears that there are some very intriguing souvenirs in some of the shops!

Eiffel Tower dildo, anyone?

After walking our legs off, we returned to the hotel to prepare for our special dinner. Friends Gwen and Tom had raved about Lasserre, so after recovering from the heart attack that the menu prices caused, I booked a reservation. What a treat! It was the most expensive meal of our lives, but indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a gorgeous place with amazingly choreographed service. Oh, and the food? Magnificent.

Phil at Lasserre

Phil was especially eager to revisit Monet’s home in Giverney. We caught an early train, then a bus, then walked to the site–where we were appalled by the number of tourists. The Japanese bridge was packed with people taking pictures, and there was a two-hour wait to get into the house! We quickly decided to get away from all those people and proceeded back to the bus pickup, where we’d just missed the bus. So we waited (stood, as there were no seats available) for two hours to get the bus back to the train and take the train back to Paris. 

Luggage sculpture at the train station: the best thing about our trip to Giverney!

Giverney was disappointing, but that didn’t stop us from having a memorable day. I’d always wanted to visit some of the top Paris hotels, but of course they were way beyond our budget. But what, I wondered, if we simply stopped by for a cocktail? Off we went.

First stop was, of course, the Ritz. At $2300 per night for their least expensive room, we will never, ever stay there–but without a reservation (!) we were a bit reluctantly escorted to a table at le Bar Hemingway, where we enjoyed a delicious cocktail, excellent service, and superior people-watching (everyone seemed to have come from a major shopping trip!).

Phil’s Ritzy cocktail

We paid up and headed to le Meurice. There we were greeted somewhat more warmly and ushered to a cozy corner table at Bar 228, where we enjoyed excellent cocktails and shared a confit duck fois gras, served with farmhouse bread and a quince and pear relish. The tab? Almost $200. You can see why we used points for our hotel!

The next day we spent several hours at le Petit Palais, a wonderful new-to-us art museum. It was magnificent! Here are some of my favorites:

After an excellent, albeit slightly overpriced, lunch at Rotunde de la Muette, we walked on to one of my favorite museums ever: the Musée Marmottan Monet. This gorgeous former home of Paul Marmottan holds the largest collection of Monet paintings in the world, thanks to Monet’s son Michel, who bequeathed all his works to the museum. 

The beautifully restored dining room of the Musée Marmottan Monet

Descending to the basement, we were transfixed by the number and size of the paintings. The quiet, cool space was a perfect foil for these beauties.

I have no words to describe this display!

Here are just a few of the paintings in this part of the museum, dedicated to Monet. Even his pallette is on display! Thanks to my friend Betsy for pointing out the Caillebotte work, a sketch for his famous painting “Paris Street, Rainy Day”, which lives in the Art Institute of Chicago. Caillebotte gave the sketch to his friend Monet.

But wait, there’s more! Back upstairs, we were treated to an entire section dedicated to Berthe Morisot–both her own paintings and her collection. Click the link to see some of her paintings. By the way, both le Petit Palais and le Musée Marmottan Monet are free to the public!

For our last evening in Paris we had planned something special. After a quick dinner at le Coupole, where I had a most interesting artichoke, stuffed with green beans and hazelnuts, we set off for Madame Arthur’s.

Unusual but delicious artichoke

I had read about the Madame Arthur drag cabaret in the New York Times and was captivated by the fact that the performers are not lip synching. In fact, the pianist was magnificent, the violinist excellent, and all the singers were great. But. The Times article also mentioned the 8pm show. Since we had an early train the next morning, we arrived at 7:45, hoping to get a good table. But guess what? There are NO TABLES!!! Just an open space and a bar. We waited patiently for the 8pm show to begin. But guess what? The 8pm show doesn’t start until 9pm! Did I mention that we’re a bit old, and standing for long times is quite uncomfortable? The show was great, but after 45 minutes (we had been standing for two hours) we called it a night. 

Wonderful show. Next time we’ll bring our own chairs.

Early the next morning we were on the train to Dijon, where I’d booked another Marriott property, Vertigo. Our room was super cute but tiny, so after checking in we headed out to explore the city.

Beautiful, charming Dijon

As usual, we wanted to check out the museums, so after lunch we explored the Musée des Beaux Arts, which opened in 1787 and features art from the Middle Ages through the 19th century. It is lovely and has a lot of religious art.

I loved the brilliant colors in this painting.

Astonishing intricacy!

Tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy

We also visited the Musée Rude. I asked my French teacher about the name, and she explained that it was named after the sculptor Francois Rude. A tiny museum, it was both beautiful and interesting. But my favorite Dijon museum was the Musée de la Vie Bourouignionne, or Museum of Burgundian Life. Housed in a monastery, it features a section with lifesized mannequins engaged in everyday life, with scene after scene depicting the various stage of life. I was especially fascinated with the kitchen, of course. After that, we proceeded to a reconstructed small town, with apothocaries, hat shops, groceries, and much more. Fascinating!

Years ago when we lived in Texas, I bought a pottery coffee mug because it reminded me of the Coty Airspun face powder my mother wore when I was a child. Looking at it, I could literally smell the fragrance and remember how elegant I thought she was when she wore her “little black dress” and a pillbox hat with a veil.

My “Coty” coffee mug

Imagine my surprise and delight when, in one of the displays, I spied a Coty Airspun powder box! Instant nostalgia for an Oklahoma girl–in Dijon, France!

Coty powder box

That evening the restaurant we’d hoped to visit was booked, so we ended up at an Alsatian restaurant where we ate flammekueches, which are basically flatbreads. Having walked about eight miles each day of this trip, we headed to the hotel after dinner and crashed.

The next day I was excited to visit le Cite Gastronomie, an international food and wine venue.  Unfortunately, it is more of an event venue, and although it has several interesting shops and restaurants, not much was going on. Actually, virtually nothing was going on. But les halles Dijon, the covered market, was open, and that was a real treat! It’s a huge market, and the entire surrounding neighborhood was filled with vendors–vegetables, flowers, clothing, accessories, leather goods, wine, and more. We loved strolling around and watching the vendors. 

Les Halles Dijon 

We enjoyed more wandering, happening onto a restaurant featuring poulet Gaston Gérard, a dish I love to make. This dish has a history and was created by accident by the Dijon mayor’s wife in the 1930s. You can read about it here. I was eager to compare it to mine, so we returned for lunch. The meal was delicious, but the best thing was the couple who sat next to us. They were Americans, and they were celebrating the wife’s birthday–same as Phil’s! So we all had champagne and lingered a while. I love those “friends for a minute” whom we meet randomly.

After looking into every Michelin-starred restaurant in Dijon, we had reserved a table at Origine, a beautiful restaurant hosted by a Japanese chef and his wife. The food was elegant, the service warm and comfortable. and it was truly a top-ten dining experience. 

Phil’s “extra” birthday dessert

We strolled back to the hotel after dinner, marvelling at how delightful Dijon is. The next day we were happy to return home to Montpellier. Traveling is wonderful, but so is coming home.


The Roamers’ Daughter Lends a Hand

Our daughter Amelia has always had a gift for organization. From early childhood, her room was neat and orderly, with her beloved stuffed animals neatly arranged on her perfectly made bed. She always had her homework done on time, and I started assigning her linen closet organization duties when she was eight or nine years old. Recently, when we cat sat for Dakeeti (Amelia and Nic’s cat), she had cleared out room for our things, left detailed instructions (including maps to places we’d enjoy), and succeeded in her goal of making our two weeks in her home “the best Airbnb experience ever.”

One of many pages of notes, maps, suggestions, and instructions!

Amelia is also multi-talented, to the point that it’s difficult to settle on just one area of expertise. As a generalist, she has: worked as an online marketing executive, been an au pair, started her own business, created beautiful jewelry and home accessories, provided Tarot and spiritual readings professionally, and much more. So on a recent chat when she said, “I love organizing and decorating and think I might be able to turn that into a side gig,” I raised my hand to be her first client.

Our cellier was the one area of our new home that had not been updated or refreshed. Sure, we’d added a washer and dryer, and our contractors had painted it, but we’d left the existing shelving as it was and just piled stuff in. I gave Amelia a quick video tour of the space, and she agreed to take on the project, along with reorganzing Phil’s studio space.

Cellier before: messy and ugly.

Within an hour of our phone call, she had created a spreadsheet and developed a model for the reorganization of the storage room off our kitchen. She included links to recommended purchases (wine fridge, bar cart, etc.), along with photos, and a proposed budget for everything.

Amelia’s model for one side of the cellier

We ordered several items in advance: a wine fridge (yippee!), bar cart, and laundry unit featuring “his and hers” hampers, drawers for supplies, and a folding table surface. Once Amelia arrived, she took detailed measurements and created a shopping list for storage units and other items. 

All of our local shopping was completed at Ikea and Castorama, and we kept receipts so we could return anything that didn’t make the final cut. And then Amelia worked her magic. She would be staying with us for eight days, so we had plenty of time to have fun–shopping together, enjoying coffee, lunch, and cocktails with various friends (our friends love Amelia!), and even hosting a “mommy-daughter” luncheon for three of my friends and their daughters (more on that later). 

So without further ado, below are the before and after photos of our cellier!

I keep opening the cellier door just to look at how neat and orderly everything looks! The trick will be keeping it that way (I’m talking to you, Phil!). And the next day our wonderful contractors, Benoit and Mehdi, came to repair and paint the walls. We still have to hang a rod for clothes drying, but aside from that it’s all done.

Amelia also rearranged Phil’s studio area (he uses the second bedroom, which doubles as our guest room), a very tight space. Amelia couldn’t magically create more room, but she made the existing space more efficient and comfortable. And she organized some drawers, offered advice, and generally made our lovely home homier.

When Amelia and I were chatting at lunch with our coffee group friends, we realized that Linda’s daughter and Sandi’s daughter are close in age to Amelia and that they have a lot in common. So I invited them to bring their daughters to lunch chez Shroyer. The luncheon was simple–just salads–but we had the most wonderful time. After lunch Amelia did a spiritual reading for each of us, we all solved the problems of the world, and most importantly, our daughters formed a bond that I believe will be lasting. Oh, and the lunch lasted SEVEN hours! Our recycling bin was quite full of glass items afterward. . .

Mommies and Daughters

All too soon, the visit was over. We’re not sure when our next meeting will be, but we probably won’t see Amelia and Nic until next year. We’re sad, but we have wonderful memories to savor, and we are so very grateful.


if you will open your eyes. . .

Paying attention.

Thirty years ago, on our first trip to France, we arrived at the Dijon train station, found our rental car, and began perusing the map (this was before GPS) to figure out how to get to the Chateau de Longecourt where we were staying. After trying for several minutes, we heard a rap on the window. It was an elegant Parisian couple I’d noticed on the train, and seeing that we were struggling, they offered to help. In French.

Between my few phrases of long-ago university French and the wife’s few English words (her husband spoke no English at all), we managed to communicate. They apparently thought using a map was not the way to go. “If you will open your eyes,” she said, “you will see the signs.”

Riding the train on our first trip to France, 30 years ago

And she was right, of course. We ditched the map, followed her directions, and made sure to look at all the signs along the way. Looking back after thirty years, I realize this was an important lesson: open your eyes.

Now that our French dream is a reality, I have made it a daily practice to “open my eyes,” and I’ve been rewarded with wonders, both simple and profound. Each day offers something new; this morning while I was walking to my French lesson, I passed a man standing on top of a four-foot-tall box. I think he was an electrician, and the box was something electrical–but how he got up there, and how he balanced on a spot barely big enough for his shoes, is beyond me!

People-watching aside, there are sights to be seen around every corner. One example: doors. There are gorgeous doors everywhere in France. 

Isn’t this door beautiful?

And, of course, not just doors; I see beautiful buildings, sculptures, fountains, paths, mini parks (like the one our apartment looks into), and so much more. Recently we joined friends Jo and Dennis at a wonderful restaurant in a tiny village near their home. The food was amazing, the company superb, and even the beams on the ceiling were worth a look. I wondered how old they were, what trees they used to be, and what the workers who constructed them were like. There is a story in everything.

Beautiful restaurant beam

Graffiti is another thing I never tire of seeing. There is so much street art in Montpellier where I live, and most of it is done with great talent, and it often carries a message. 

An amalgam of street art

We have an artist in Montpellier who makes art from bicycles. His name? Monsieur BMX. We first noticed his art on our reconnaissance visit in 2020, and now we see it regularly.

Looking for Monsieur BMX art would make a good scavenger hunt!

There is also an abundance of trompe d’oeil art in France. On a walking tour, our guide told us that the tradition derives from wealthy French families wishing to conceal their wealth, so they often did not have windows facing the street. Many years later, these facades were turned into astonishing trompe d’oeil scenes!

One example of trompe d’oeil art

Sometimes opening one’s eyes yields delighted laughter, like the time my friend Brecka and I turned up at a party dressed almost exactly alike! We had a lot of fun wathing people notice our ensembles.

Unintentional twins!

I didn’t get a picture of this, but it cracked me up: recently Phil and I had lunch on the terrace of a Turkish restaurant next to the marché (outdoor market). There were lots of pigeons around, looking for scraps, and we noticed one aggressive guy who hopped up on a nearby table to munch on the leftovers. When we finished our lunch, while Phil was inside paying, this same pigeon suddenly flew up onto my plate, knocking over a wine glass (fortunately, it was empty!), causing me to squeal in surprise, and giving everyone nearby a good laugh.

We love going to the marchés, as well as the weekly brocante (flea market) near us. There are so many wonderful things to look at, and even if we buy nothing it’s entertaining. One morning I strolled over to an inside farmers’ market (these markets are called les halles) and bought some produce. I was so busy looking at the gorgeous fruits and veggies that I forgot to put the celery root I’d purchased in my bag! Oh well, I only paid ten euros and still got great value, even without the celeriac.

All this for ten euros–plus a celery root I forgot to take!

There are always interesting, beautiful, curious, or amazing things to look at–in France and, I suspect, everywhere. All it takes is opening one’s eyes and taking the time to savor this life we’re so privileged to be living. I will always be grateful to that lovely Parisian woman who urged us to open our eyes!

A beautifully wrapped housewarming gift from friends Margi and Michael


roamer renovation

The Roamers renovate their new apartment

After we bought our Montpellier apartment, we moved right in and immediately started renovating. There was nothing really wrong with the apartment, so it was liveable, but anticipating that this will be the last home we ever buy, we wanted to make it our own. Every time we spend too much money, our mantra has been “This will be the last xxx we ever buy,” and so far it’s workiing!

We  had hoped to keep our kitchen and simply augment it to provide more storage, but when that proved impossible, we ordered an entire new kitchen, keeping only the old cooktop.

Wasted kitchen space to be converted into storage

We interviewed three contractors– since none of them speak English and my French is toddler-level, that was interesting–and signed up with Benoit, whom we have deemed the King of Contractors. Along with painter Mehdi and a team of specialists, they got to work.

Living/dining and part of kitchen, before

Mehdi started with the painting, which surprised us. It took a couple of weeks to get the bedrooms and part of the living room done. We decided to use a flat blue-gray for the entire apartment. Since it’s only 80 square meters (just under 900 square feet), we wanted to keep it simple.

Master bedroom before

Master bedroom after

We didn’t do anything aside from painting and new furnishings for the two bedrooms. But the paint opened up the spaces, and since living in France we’ve realized that no one really needs a huge American-style bedroom.

Second bedroom before

Second bedroom after (guest area)

When we first moved to Montpellier, our housing requirement was two large bedrooms and two full bathrooms; this was to accommodate house guests. But when it came to purchasing, we realized we should focus on what we need to live; guests are infrequent and often prefer to stay in hotels or Airbnbs so they can have their own space and privacy. Consequently, our second bedroom has a comfortable canapé-lis (sofa bed), but it also serves as Phil’s art studio. And it works!

Studio after: small but functional

We haven’t done much with the entry; at some point I hope to find a stunning piece to replace the bookshelves that were there. But I love that open space, and we found a light fixture that I love.

Entry before (the bookshelves went into Phil’s studio)

Entry after (yes, those are two of Phil’s paintings!

A bonus of our apartment is the cellier, or storage room, right off the kitchen. We didn’t do much, but we did install a washer and dryer. Dryers are fairly uncommon here, but there were two things these spoiled Americans had to have: a dryer and a big fridge with ice and water in the door.

Cellier before; there is a tiny old washing machine in the back right corner

Cellier after, with our much-loved washer AND dryer

Once the painting was done, it was time to do the kitchen. Our cuisinist (kitchen designer; it sounds fancy, but that’s what you get when you go to a kitchen store) took measurements, advised us, helped us select everything, and gave us the CAD rendering below. 

CAD image of our future kitchen

Before it could be installed, though, we had to have the existing kitchen removed, get some plumbing and electrical work done, and have most of the painting done. It was messy, but Benoit and team worked fast–and cleaned up each day! Kind friends and neighbors Betsy and Jacques invited us over for dinner on one of the no-cooking nights.

Kitchen? What kitchen??

Kitchen installation: all in a day’s work!

Before we knew it, we had a working kitchen! It took a bit more time to get the backsplash and final painting done, but soon we had the kitchen we’d dreamed of!

Our new kitchen

Phil took a nice shot that shows the full kitchen, with my desk and the barstools. We love this layout, and it works well for us.

Full view of the new kitchen

Finally, it was time for the bathroom. Our apartment had a salle douche, or shower room, with only a sink and shower, and next door was the WC, with only a toilet. Benoit helped us redesign the bathroom to add a second toilet, and after selecting all the fixtures we got to work.

Bathroom before

The funniest thing in the apartment was the WC, which had, as my friend Gwen called it, a platinum throne, and which featured pink toilet paper wallpaper.

See? I wasn’t kidding!

We decided to simply replace the toilet (with one that features a hand-washing sink; the washing water is reused for flushing!) and wall coverings but leave the tilework. We’ll decide later whether to make any further changes.

See the hand-washing station in the back of the toilet?


The bathroom fixtures were removed, and while we were grateful for the toilet, we had no shower for a few days. Fortunately, we were caring for plants while neighbors Sue and Dave vacationed, and they let us use their shower. Whew!

No showering here!

I’d ordered the bathroom tile first, then forgot I’d ordered it and bought the same tile for the kitchen backsplash. Happy mistake; I love it!

Bahroom after: double sinks with storage, shower, and a toilet: perfect!

I had a bit of a kerfuffle on the dining table; I’d bought an 1800s farmhouse table with drawers, but we couldn’t find chairs low enough to sit comfortably. So I returned it, and now we have a table (and comfy swivel chairs) that we love.

The orchid on the table was a gift from friend Gwen, given shortly after we moved to Montpellier

Living and dining area. Yep, we’re old; we bought a reclining sofa and we love it!

We didn’t do anything with the terrace (except store all the reno stuff; at one point we had two toilets on the terrace!), but it was nice to finally move our outdoor furniture into place. Just this morning we sat in the wicker chairs and enjoyed our coffee. I don’t love the red wall, but that’s not changeable since it’s on the building’s exterior.

Useable terrace!

During this entire renovation project, complete with mess, noise, and strangers here every day, there was not a single negative word or dirty look from our neighbors. So as a fun project, I decided to give them homemade cookies with a note of thanks.

un petit cadeau

Imagine my delight a few hours after leaving these at each neighbor’s door, when I found this note on our door!

Note from our neighbor and her cat

We still have a few punch list items to be done, but they’ll have to wait until after les vacances–most people in France go on vacation for the month of August, so not much gets done. But we are still pinching ourselves when we realize we are living this beautiful life, in our dream apartment. We are so very fortunate and grateful.


Our home, for which we are so grateful


cat sitting

Roaming to Stockholm

Our daughter has a cat. Well, she and her husband have a cat. Not just any old cat (apologies to all the other cats). This cat is special. He’s magnificent. He’s old, very talkative, and he’s been a bit sick lately. His name? Dakeeti.

Dakeeti, napping

When our daughter first moved to Europe over ten years ago, we kept Dakeeti (along with our son’s part-wolf dog Busa; they became great friends after an initial battle, which of course Dakeeti won). We took him to Europe (he and I watched “Life of Pi” on the plane) and have visited him (and his humans) as often as possible over the years. Recently our kids had planned a trip to the U.S. to visit family and friends, but they couldn’t find anyone to take care of Dakeeti–so we volunteered. We spent two weeks living in their Stockholm apartment, enjoying our time with Dakeeti, exploring Stockholm, and luxuriating in the cool summer weather.

Our daughter, who is perfect, had decided to give us “the best Airbnb experience ever,” and she and her husband did not disappoint. We arrived in the evening and entered the apartment (third floor walkup) to find ten pages of instructions and helpful hints.

Detailed map

These notes were in addition to a lengthy email and–wait for it–a how-to video for the laundry room! They had made room for us in the closet and dresser, provided shower supplies, set out puzzles and crosswords, and much more.

More notes and tips!

Our son-in-law, who is also perfect, left a loaf of his homemade sourdough in the freezer for us. He makes all their bread and proudly wears a t-shirt with his name: Bread Man.

Sourdough boule; we ate every bite!

He also left us a beautiful loaf of banana nut bread. Phil said that with icing, it would taste almost like his favorite birthday cake!

Banana bread

We settled in quickly, slept well, and the next morning we headed out to explore this beautiful city. We walked our legs off, stopping for lunch at an outdoor cafe across from a fountain where tourists were taking selfies (or “ussies,” as that annoying guy on Ted Lasso would say).

Lunch view of fountain and sculpture

We had already visited Stockholm three times, but never on our own, so this was our opportunity to learn and become more independent. We figured out the tram and bus system (sort of), learned some of the neighborhoods (sort of), and saw lots of things we’d never seen on previous visits.

Gorgeous bar we didn’t have time to visit. Next trip!

We decided to buy a pass that would admit us to various tourist activities, which was a pretty good decision. However, we bought the five-day pass, which was a BIG mistake! We are too old and tired to gallavant constantly for five straight days. Lesson learned. Anyway, our first outing was an archipelago tour on a boat built in 1906. The tour was about three hours (we didn’t end up on a deserted island, thankfully!), and it was pretty interesting.

1906 boat

Back on land and after a late lunch, we headed to the K A Almgren Silk Weaving and Museum, which was fascinating. It’s still a functioning weaving facility for artisans, and it dates from the 1800s. The museum profiles many of the women who worked there (the work force was all women, some starting out in their early teens and working their entire careers there), and, of course, the MAN who ran the operation. After the first world war they transitioned to making ribbons for the medals that all the royals and their entourages wore. Each worker had only one job, which must have been mind-numbingly tedious, but the average tenure was many years, and they took great pride in their skills.

An exhibit of a dress made from silk ties

Next we stopped for a delicious cocktail at Exit Lounge, which we’d visited on a previous trip. They have wonderful tapas as well as cocktails, but this time we just wanted a quick beverage before heading home.


Then it was home, dinner, watch Ted Lasso, and sleep fast, because the next day would be equally busy. Have I mentioned that we visited a LOT of museums?

National Museum main hall

We started our day at the National Museum. We didn’t know much about it before our visit, and we were absolutely blown away. What an amazing and beautiful space! And the art is magnificent. Here are a few of my favorite pieces there.

By the time we were ready to leave–after about three hours!–we were famished and ready for a very late lunch. Refreshed, we headed to our next stop, the Nobel Prize Museum. Phil was not enthusiastic about this one, but I really wanted to see it, and we were both glad we did. Our favorite thing was a series of short films highlighting the life and work of Nobel Prize recipients, but we also enjoyed the recreated work spaces for some of the most well-known winners: Marie Curie’s lab, writers’ desks, etc., and also gowns worn to the laureates’ banquets and much more.

By this time we were tired, hungry, and ready to go home. Instead of cooking, which I do most nights, we decided to visit a neighborhood bar and restaurant which became our local hangout. It was a pleasant 15-minute walk from the apartment and offered outdoor seating, excellent cocktails, and delicious food.

Parma Kok & Bar, our local hangout. We ate there three times in two weeks.

The next day we headed to a place we’d visited on our first trip to Stockholm: Artipelag. Artipelag is a unique facility: art museum, restaurant, hiking area, and event venue. On our first visit we had a wonderful lunch on the terrace overlooking the water, and we did a bit of hiking, but this time we wanted to see everything. First up was the “Imagine Monet” immersive exhibit. We’d enjoyed the Van Gogh one in San Francisco in 2021, but this one was even better!

“Imagine Monet”

After a delicious buffet lunch (with wine and a fun waiter!) on the terrace, we headed to the regular exhibit, which was much more robust than we’d expected. We also watched a film about the founders of this lovely venue. Here are a couple of my favorite paintings from this visit.

After perusing the gallery, we decided to head out to the hiking paths, which mostly lead to the water. We saw more art along the way and appreciated the picnic tables scattered around for a quick rest.


View from a hiking path

Giant golden egg sculpture

I especially loved this sculpture of a young boy.

We took a very nice bus ride back into Stockholm–much better than the public trains/buses we took to get there–and hit our next sight: the Royal Palace. The guard advised us to move quickly, as the palace was closing in 45 minutes, but that was not a problem; it was HOT in there! 

Royal Palace: very ornate, very hot.

Our final stop for the day was Just what we needed: cocktails at the Grand Hotel, Stockholm’s premiere hotel where Madonna, Justin Bieber, and other luminaries have stayed. The cocktails were delicious but super expensive, but it was worth it; that is a gorgeous hotel!

The next day began with disappointment: we had planned to use our pass (the expensive, five-day one we regret) for a round trip boat ride to Birka, the Viking city. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Birka dates from the seventh century and still has many relics from its Viking days. We tried twice, but they were sold out both days. Ugh! There was nothing to do but figure out how to make it a good day. Off we went–to more museums!

We started with a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the entire city, then stayed on the bus to visit Skansen, billed as the world’s oldest outdoor museum. Honestly? We didn’t love Skansen–but if you had young children to entertain it would probably be great.

Next we walked past the ABBA, Vasa, and Spirits museums (which we’d seen on previous visits) to the Viking Museum. That was fascinating–videos of actors portraying various Viking personas, artifacts, recreations, and lots of information–and horrifying in its focus on how cruel and violent humans can be.

Viking Museum: interesting but disturbing.

After a quick late lunch to forestall the hangries, we visited the Nordic Museum, which was excellent. I was too tired to take many photos, but it featured some amazing exhibits: table settings across the ages, the British influence on fashion over the last two centuries, a recreation of traditions throughout the year, and of course more amazing art. I wish we’d spent more time there.

Nordic Museum exhibit recreating the traditional Midsummer celebration

After all this museum hopping (and walking! We walked 15,000 to 20,000 steps each of these hectic days!) we were ready for. . .meatballs! I’d read about a restaurant called Meatballs for the People that sounded irresistable; you choose what kind of meatballs you want, anything ranging from pork or beef to bear or vegan, and get a standard plate featuring your meatballs of choice. We had a cocktail while waiting, then sat on barstools watching the meatballers at work. It was amazing! Mashed potatoes like clouds, delicious meatballs, and of course lingonberries and pickled cucumbers. I loved it so much I bought a t-shirt!

Meatballs for the People menu

We had a lot planned for the last day of our pass. But the next morning we decided to stay home and rest! It was a good decision and I don’t regret it, except for missing the Drottingham Palace, Prince Eugene’s Waldemarsudde, the Riddarholm Church, and the Royal Canal Tour. Next visit!

After a day of rest, which included our continuing Ted Lasso marathon, followed by a day of laundry (all the machines were in Swedish, so we relied heavily on our daughter’s instructional video!), we were ready to re-emerge. We did a little shopping, strolled the streets of Stockholm, and had a memorable lunch at Lisa Elmqvist, the seafood restaurant at the legendary Ostermalm Food Hall, Stockholm’s 130-year-old foodie institution.

My gorgeous, albeit too rich, sole meunière at Lisa Elmqvist

The next day we spent cleaning the apartment, making soups for the kids to enjoy when they arrived home, and packing. Dakeeti began freaking out and jumped into my suitcase more times than I could count! On the morning of their arrival we did one last batch of laundry and waited anxiously for their arrival.

Happy homecoming!

We ordered out for Thai lunch and toasted their homecoming with a bottle of champagne. Then, far too soon, it was time for us to go. We said happy-sad farewells and headed to the airport, where after checking in we visited the AmEx popup lounge for. . .let’s just admit it. . .our second lunch.

Second lunch: delicious!

We were excited to come home after two weeks away, but the memories from this amazing visit will stay with us. I’ll leave you with a view of the gorgeous flowers that are everywhere in beautiful Stockholm. How lucky we are to be living this amazing Roaming life!