is austin still weird?

The Shroyers investigate.


Despite counting the days until we embark on our French adventure, we are enjoying our time in Austin. We’ve always loved the weird, funky Austin vibe and seek it out whenever possible.

The writing on the wall of an outdoor Austin restaurant and bar

Austin has more to offer than even full-time residents have time to explore, but now that we’re in the city we’ve been venturing out to revisit favorites and discover new ones. We had a wonderful Sunday at the Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller. Mueller is a modern, eco-conscious planned community where we considered moving when we relocated to the Austin area in 2016. Still in development, it’s grown into a robust, vibrant area with mixed-use housing, shops, restaurants, and plenty of green space. The vibe at the Farmers’ Market was hip (is that still a thing?), relaxing, and hyper-focused on local, sustainable goods. We ate, shopped, and chatted with farmers and makers on a gorgeous day.

Farmers took great care to beautifully display their produce

We also enjoyed revisiting our former home, Wimberley. Drawing many artists, creators, and fine folk, Wimberley is a tourist destination known for art, monthly Market Days, and Hill Country attractions such as Blue Hole and Jacob’s Well

A little bit of heaven

On our first visit we had cocktails with dear friends Lynn and Danny, and later we were joined serendipitously by Barbara and Chip and their daughter Courtney at El Jardin, a wonderful Mexican restaurant. A few weeks later we returned to visit our favorite bar, the Long Leaf, where Phil and I enjoyed fabulous burgers and my favorite cocktail, strangely named Rosemary’s Baby.

My Rosemary’s Baby (well, one of two, if we’re being honest)

A gin-based craft cocktail involving creme de violette and smoked rosemary, this is no longer on the menu but they’ll make it for you if you ask. While we sipped, we decided to check on another favorite, community theatre group Wimberley Players. Finding the last two seats for their final production of Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol was like getting the golden egg at Easter! We loved being back in that intimate space and seeing one last production, which was just a great as all the others we’d enjoyed.

After lunch we strolled over to Art on 12, the largest gallery in Wimberley and the one where Phil used to sell his paintings. Along with several wonderful new artists, the gallery was featuring its guest show, so we got to vote for the People’s Choice award with stickers. We also enjoyed chatting with several artist friends who were working or just stopping by. It was Old Home Week!

Art on 12

Back in Austin, we braved the mall for some Christmas shopping for granddaughter Cora. Everything for babies is so sophisticated now! And the clothes are just too cute. 

Holiday outfit for Cora

Our focus on Austin did not preclude planning for France. We secured renters’ insurance and watched via video while our new Renestance consultant Lizzie did a walk-through of our apartment. We now officially have the apartment, complete with our name on the mailbox! We had to pay for December and all of January in order to secure the apartment for our January 23 arrival, which was a budget hit but worth it. Imagine our delight when we learned that it comes not only furnished, but rather well equipped!

Kitchen equipment in our Montpellier apartment

We’ve also applied for a bank account (initially approved, but it won’t be finalized until we come in for an interview with our banker). Apparently in France it takes a lot of effort to get a bank account, and once you have it you’ll pay for each and every service–and you’ll have an actual human being as your banker! Should be interesting. . .

We are winding down our time in Austin Home Number Two, moving tomorrow to our last and final Austin Airbnb. We made a trip to check out the neighborhood where we’ll be living for the next month and were delighted to find it’s very near Zilker Park and highly walkable–and funky!

We can walk to this bar from our next Airbnb!

We’re planning to walk a lot more in the new place. I get bored walking in a neighborhood and find urban walks much more fun.

Is the sidewalk talking to me??

And strolling in Austin always yields interesting sights. Some are a bit vulgar, some are decidedly retro, but all are interesting.

Another restaurant in walking distance

So tomorrow we begin the last chapter in our Austin adventure. We are determined to enjoy every minute. And yes, we think Austin still has some weird!

Austin yarn bombing




A dream is about to come true.

We are officially halfway through our time in Austin. Which is our last place before moving to France. Which means this is really happening!

We are settled in nicely to our second “home” in Austin, a lovely condo in the West Lake Hills neighborhood. While not very walkable, it’s close to everything–grocery store and liquor store 1/3 mile away, lots of restaurants, and best of all, only a half hour to see our granddaughter! This is our second favorite place we’ve stayed (more on that in a future post), and we love it.

Our lovely second-of-three homes in Austin

For Thanksgiving we hosted our wonderful friend Patricia, who came from Houston to spend five days with us. She came laden with gifts–a gorgeous, HUGE poinsettia plant, more cheese than we could eat in a year, and way too many gifts for granddaughter Cora. We repaid her with way too much food (and more than a few adult beverages). This year I tried Justin Chapple’s chipotle mayonnaise turkey, with great results.

Mayo turkey’s “before” picture

You might think a 13.5 pound turkey would be a bit much for three people, but you’d be wrong. I finally used up the last of the leftover turkey, making soup for my daughter-in-law. I also made a huge turkey tetrazzini and more turkey-and-olive sandwiches than I care to count. That turkey was moist, delicious, and didn’t taste of mayonnaise or chipotle, just pure wonderfulness. She (I always name our turkeys, and this one was Angelique) was so delicious I forgot to take her picture until we’d started eating.

Glamour Turkey Angelique’s belated “after” shot

Aside from our wonderful visit, Patricia and I got to have a nice long lunchtime catch-up with two of our high school Wild Women, Susan and Anabel. Susan lives in Switzerland, so we rarely get to see her. These long-time friends are one of the best things in my life!

Patricia and Susan: two wacky, wonderful Wild Women

I started counting down the days until my retirement in March. Every day I look at the countdown clock on my phone. Today it’s only 49 days until retirement! I’ve begun thinking about “lasts,” as in last Thanksgiving as US residents, last full month at my company, and “only xx more days until seeing Cora and her parents will be a rarity.” Phil and I have discussed the bittersweet aspects of this move–missing family and friends of course topping the list.

The countdown clock on my phone

We’ve also discussed the importance of being present in each moment, instead of merely counting down the days. And we love Austin, so we’re determined to savor the experience, discovering new places and revisiting old favorites. We had a lovely brunch at 1886 Cafe and Bakery in the historic Driskill Hotel. It’s a popular place; we stood in line for a half hour just to order, but it was worth it!

Inside the Driskill’s 1886 Cafe and Bakery

Of course I had the Paris Texas Benedict! And Phil enjoyed the huevos rancheros, while declaring “This is NOT huevos rancheros.”

Phil and his “not huevos”

We’ve also been very busy with preparations for our big move. Our flight is booked, we have our visas, and we’ve signed the lease for our apartment. We secured a one-year contract for a furnished apartment, and we’ll use that home base to explore France and ultimately decide where we want to settle. We chose Montpellier, in the south of France, for many reasons: it’s a small city that reminds us of Paris but enjoys a Mediterranian climate; it’s a university town so should have plenty of cultural activities; it boasts some of the best healthcare in France; and we’ll have easy proximity to the sea (20 minutes), the mountains (one hour), Spain (we could take the train to Barcelona for lunch), and Italy (about a three or four hour drive)–AND we can be in Paris in three hours on the TGV (Tres Grande Vitesse, the high-speed train).

A street in Montpellier

We’ve also secured international health insurance, a visa requirement. After three months in France we can apply for a Carte Vitale, which is our ticket to the French healthcare system. Of course, France is famous for its bureaucracy, so we have no idea how soon we’ll receive that ticket. But when we do, we’ll buy a supplemental plan that will, combined with the Carte Vitale coverage, cover most of our medical expenses. And we’ll keep our Medicare Part A but drop Part B, Part D, and our supplemental plan. I have a health savings account (HSA) that we’ll use to cover any healthcare expenses we might have while visiting the US (Public Service Announcement: If you’re lucky enough to have an HSA and can afford out-of-pocket copays, dont use it to offset copays. Save it for later, when you can use it for extraordinary prescription drug expenses, nursing home care, etc. The HSA is the ONLY triple-tax-advantaged account: no tax on contributions, no tax on earnings when you invest it–and please invest it–and no tax when you use it on qualified health expenses. End of rant.)

Overlooking Montpellier

We’ve also started the process of securing renters’ insurance, which is required in France, and a French bank account. Fun fact: in France, a woman’s maiden name is always used for official business. Since I took Phil’s last name when we married, and I’d previously taken my ex-husband’s name, I’ve had to provide not only our marriage license, but also my first marriage license and divorce decree. Ah, bureaucracy! It’s already teaching us patience. 

Channeling my inner Maggie Smith

Most of all, our excitement grows daily. I’m grateful for this rather long wind-down at work; I’ve worked full-time for 47 years and my work has been part of my identity, so retirement is in itself a big change, even without pulling up roots and moving to a new country. But I look forward to quoting Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey very soon!