nous sommes arrives

Arriving in Montpellier

We had a wonderful last few days in Texas, selling our car, moving out of our last Airbnb, getting all the final tasks done, and getting our negative Covid tests for travel (yay!). To use up some hotel points we spent our last three nights in three different hotels, allowing us to experience yet more Austin neighborhoods.

We had a special retirement day lunch at one of our favorite Austin restaurants, North. I will definitely copy the beautiful veggie and bean board I enjoyed.

Beautiful and delicious!

You may recall that I’ve had a retirement countdown clock on my phone for almost a year. At last, on Friday afternoon, we counted down the last 20 seconds, just before I joined a Zoom farewell happy hour with my colleagues. I’ve had a wonderful career, and while I’ll miss my amazing work friends, I had no regrets–just a bit of a bittersweet feeling as I said farewell. OK, there may have been a few tears.

Celebrating my retirement with Phil!

And then it was finally time to go! Our flight from Austin to JFK was uneventful, and when we landed with less than an hour before our next flight, we were relieved to find that our connecting gate was very close. We were both excited to experience Delta One, with top-notch service and lie-flat seats in our “suites.” Since this was a one-way trip of a lifetime, I’d splurged with points on first class.

The Roamers in their suites

Although it was quite a treat, we agreed that the experience really isn’t worth the points (it took 120,000 Delta miles EACH for the whole trip!!), and we won’t do it again. 

We arrived at CDG on time and made it through customs without incident. The airport was super crowded, much more so than the US airports we’ve visited since the pandemic began. We boarded our final flight and in about an hour, we were in Montpellier!

Arriving in Montpellier

Our Renestance consultant, Lizzie, had arranged for a taxi to take us to our apartment. The driver was very kind and complimented me on my French! I’m sure he was just being kind; my French is horrible. And then we were home.

Lizzie met us at the gate (you have to go through three locked gates to get to our courtyard; very private!) and welcomed us into our new home. Our landlord, Monsieur Khalil, was also there to greet us and show us how everything works. Lizzie and the Renestance team had prepared a lovely welcome for us, with locally produced olives, tapenades, olive oil, baguette, sausage, herbed salt, nibbles, wine, and coffee.

Beautiful and delicious welcome gift from Renestance

Our first order of business was to secure the passe sanitaire, which verifies that you’ve been vaccinated. The passe is required to enter restaurants, museums, and many other public places. It was Sunday, when many businesses are closed, but Lizzie was able to find an open pharmacy where we could get them. After standing in line 10 minutes to enter the pharmacy, and standing in line 30 minutes to get to the register, we were instructed to stand aside and wait 30 minutes to get the passes. Sure enough, it was 1:30; obviously the person who could give us our passes was at lunch! In France most workers get two hours for lunch. By 2:15 we were able to show our credentials, pay about $80, and get the precious QR code. We immediately walked across the Place de la Comedie to the nearest restaurant to celebrate with a late lunch.

One of the gorgeous buildings on the Place de la Comedie

After lunch we picked up some essentials for the night and took an Uber back home to unpack. We love our apartment! It has everything we need and we’re excited to be in one place for a while. Our landlord and his wife are kind and accommodating (we didn’t have sheets, so they loaned us a set–and Madame Khalil ironed them for us so they’d be fresh!).

We’ve now been in Montpellier for two full days, and both days were packed with errands. We made a rookie mistake by shopping for sheets and towels at Galleries Lafayette, which is super expensive. And as I write this I’m sipping the first cappucino made on our new espresso machine. We have our priorities. and coffee comes first!

One step down from our old Breville, but still wonderful!

Today we will be meeting with our banker to finalize our French bank account. That’s right, in France you have to meet in person before they will approve you! Lizzie will be there to help, as the meeting will be conducted in French. After that, more shopping!

One of many beautiful churches in our neighborhood

We have lots to do–enroll in French language lessons, equip our apartment, learn our neighborhood, and more–but already we feel at home. We are so very grateful to be fulfilling our dream. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Au revoir, austin. au revoir, usa.

The Roamers are ready to fly.

Welp, we have finally arrived at this time: tomorrow is my retirement day, and in two days we are moving to Montpellier, France. Permanently. Here’s how we’re feeling: yikes/omg/can’twait/tummybutterflies/WOW!!! I’ve been counting down the days to retirement for almost a year, and it’s very odd to see “1 jour” on my phone countdown clock (I changed my phone to French to help with language skills).

We’ve really enjoyed our time in Austin. We love this city and have had fun exploring three different neighborhoods in our three Airbnb stays here. Now we’re in a hotel (yes, we’re doing three different hotels for our last three nights) enjoying a coffee before heading out to do last-minute errands. Here are some of the wonderful Austin sights we’ve enjoyed over the last couple of weeks.

Gender diversity inspiration

Unique Austin dog business

Austin cowgirl

Elvis shrine at the original Chuy’s

Our last weekend in Austin was the best! Our dear friends Joni and her new husband Scott came from Dallas for the weekend, staying in the apartment just below our too-small Airbnb. And dear California friends Carmen and Michael made the trip to Austin just to see us again before we leave (they also visited us in Denver when we were there). Joni and Scott arrived Thursday evening just in time for dinner.

Special bottle of wine from friends Paul and Jordan–wonderful!

The next day Joni and I did a little shopping in the SoCo district, and I found something for granddaughter Cora.

 

That evening Carmen and Michael arrived, and we enjoyed a feast on our Airbnb’s balcony. It was warm when we started, but we ended the evening wrapped in blankies!

Our wonderful friends. How did we get so lucky?

Joni and Scott brought their dog Yogi, who was a hit with this crowd. He is, of course, very photogenic.

Yogi being the center of attention 

The next couple of days were spent walking, dining (mostly outdoors because Omicron), and basking in our friendships. Oh, and there may have been some adult beverages involved.

Joni at the sculpture garden

Carmen and Michael smooching at Z’Tejas

We finally had to say “a bientot” to these fabulous people, but they left with plans for their first visit to Montpellier. Our hope is that we have to keep a calendar just to keep track of many visits from friends and family!

And now we have a busy couple of days: final haircut and pedicure for me, a stop at our kids’ house to drop off/pick up things, shipping my company laptop, a couple of final work calls, COVID tests for flying, a final checklist to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything important, and on Friday evening a virtual sendoff from my colleagues. We leave Austin, and the U.S., with gratitude, and we’ll enter France with excitement and a sense of adventure. I will continue with this blog, which has been great fun for me (and I hope for you!) over the past two years. So, until my first post from our new home in France, a bientot!

Gratitude

 

 

 

 

 

holidays

The Roamers have a barrel of fun

Of course we knew we were leaving, but each time we experience a “last”–last Thanksgiving in the US, last Christmas, last NYE, etc.–it gets a little more real. On a final video call with my workplace women’s leadership group, as we shared our gratitude/focus/let go selections, I talked about letting go of my professional identity. I’ve been working full-time for 47 years and the prospect of relenquishing the professional Sandy made me a bit teary. And at Christmas the fact that we’ll be so far away from our granddaughter and her parents suddenly hit me hard.

But of course we’ve been anticipating this for a long time. Our plan is to recognize all the feels, experience and process them, and maintain a joyful attitude through these last days and weeks in Austin.

Something we’ll miss: a roadside flock of Austin flamingoes

December 19 was a special day. We checked out of our Airbnb, dropped our things off at the new place, and grabbed brunch at Bouldin Acres before heading to San Antonio for our long-anticipated Sarah Brightman concert. 

Lunch with pickleball, playgrounds, and pups

We checked in at the Saint Anthony hotel, which I’d booked using points. At this beautiful luxury hotel we were upgraded to a suite that looked out over a park. It was much more than we needed for one night, but we loved it.

The unused dining room in our suite

We headed out along the Riverwalk, stopping for cocktails and dinner before the show. We had bought Sarah Brightman tickets years ago, but I had a business trip and couldn’t go, so this opportunity to see her was irresistible. And she did not disappoint! She is my favorite singer, and I was on the edge of my seat through the entire concert.

The magical Sarah Brightman

We were walking on air after the concert and not ready to go to bed, so we headed to the hotel bar for a nightcap. The cocktails were creative and delicious, the perfect ending to a memorable evening.

My most interesting man in the world, enjoying his cocktail

We had one more special event planned, a fabulous dinner at Emmer & Rye, a renowned Austin restaurant we’d wanted to try for years. Joni had given me a gift certificate so we finally had our opportunity to go. From the moment we walked in, every person on the staff seemed delighted that we were there. We put ourselves in the hands of our waiters, opting for the tasting menu with whatever wines they recommended for each course.

I can’t even remember what this was, but it was delicious!

This was a seven-course tasting menu served via small, shareable plates. We loved every single thing (although Phil wasn’t crazy about the orange wine, so I drank his). And this was the first tasting menu we’ve experienced that didn’t leave us overfull and miserable! This dinner made our top 20 list for sure!

Amid all these special things, of course the best was being with granddaughter Cora on her first Christmas. We feasted, laughed, and took turns holding the baby, knowing our time with her will be limited. She was all smiles most of the day, saving her fussy time for after Honey and Poppy left!

Poppy with his Cora

 

December flowers in Austin

Our new and final Airbnb is cozy and has a great location near Zilker Park. We’ve taken some great walks in our hilly neighborhood. One morning I was walking behind a couple of gentlement who stopped to admire a garden. When I got to the garden I could see why!

Beautiful Austin garden in December

I caught up with them a bit later and we chatted about the garden and the gorgeous greens growing there. After our chat I wished them a good day. One of them replied, “Have a long and happy life.” I said “same to you!” and he replied, “I already have!” How’s that for a great attitude?

We had some cozy, relaxing days after Christmas–eating leftovers, working our puzzle, and checking more items off our “prepare for move to France” list. There is still a lot to do: selling our car, donating things we can’t take to France, getting COVID tests pre-flight, and more.

The Annual Holiday Puzzle

And then the New Year’s Eve holiday was upon us. Our friend Patricia joined us for a last visit before we leave. We like to stay off the roads on NYE, so I’d planned a special dinner, copying my favorite meal from 1993, at a cozyl restaurant near Dijon. The menu was kir royales, pate de campagne, and olives for appetizers, followed by a first course of morilles a la creme. Then came the coq au vin with haricots verts, a salad course, and the cheese course. Patricia had indicated she was bringing dessert, but we didn’t know she was also bringing a beautiful table setting. We were sent to our room while she prepared.

Patricia posing with her gorgeous table

Since we’ve been living in Airbnbs for almost a year and a half, we haven’t been able to set beautiful tables, something I love to do, so the big reveal was truly a treat! 

And now it’s January 2, with the holidays behind us and only 20 days until we make our big move. In our family, we each choose a word to guide us for the new year. Mine is NEW, and Phil’s is ADAPT. For a couple about to retire and move to France, these seem just right. And our New Year’s wish for you is that you live a long and healthy life, and that you savor every moment. 

Happy New Year!