Where does the time go?
The Roamers speed along. . .
I barely blinked, and over two weeks have passed since my last post. I’ve heard from many retirees that they don’t seem to have as much time post-retirement as they did while working, and now I know it’s true! Despite not working, we seem to be busy every day. We’ve continued to explore our city, continuously discovering new sights.
Car art? As seen on a Montpellier stroll
I forgot to take a picture from one of the most delightful experiences we’ve had so far: tea with a British couple we randomly met. Jeremy and Clair were at the next table at Paul, a bakery where we had breakfast one day, and as we were leaving they struck up a conversation. They’ve been here almost 30 years and understand what it’s like to be new, so they invited us for tea on Sunday. We took an Uber to their beautiful home in a hilltop village north of Montpellier. The tea was sumptuous, with cakes, cookies, candies, nuts, and muffins. They were so very kind and we loved spending time with them.
Some things in our city have cracked us up (perhaps me more than Phil), such as the condom vending machines. They’re primarily outside pharmacies, but you’ll also see them on random street corners. They give me a giggle every time I spot one!
Condom dispenser outside our pharmacy
We’ve of course continued to sample various restaurants and cafes here, some with unique decor. Many are crowded with memorabilia, which brings me to wonder how often that stuff is dusted!
Chandelier in a restaurant where we might have eaten some dust along with our meal
I’ve also continued to enjoy food shopping and preparing meals. We think the quality of food–freshness, variety, and sourcing–is better here than in the US. If you read my last blog, you might remember the restaurateur in NImes who shared their secret fish preparation. Well, I made it, and it was wonderful! Next time I’ll use more lemon and less tomato garnish, but it was nonetheless a hit!
My version of the famous Nimes fish dish
We ate at home for Valentine’s Day, but a few days later we treated ourselves to a special tapas dinner. I’d reserved a table for 6:30pm, as we’d been told that buses stopped running quite early. When we arrived promptly at 6:30, the host was surprised. “We haven’t eaten yet, so we’re not opening until 7:00,” she told us! She offered to let us sit and have a glass of wine, but we declined. After strolling a bit, we settled on a wonderful bar, Smash. Offering American blues, great cocktails, and friendly service, it will likely become our bar of choice.
Cosy table at Smash
After enjoying our cocktails, we headed back to l’Endroite, the tapas restaurant. By this time, the staff had eaten and were ready to serve us, their first arrivals. We enjoyed a tasting menu with wine pairings as the restaurant gradually filled up. Lesson learned: dine later!
Phil enjoying l’Endroite
Since our shipment has not yet arrived (it’s stuck in Rotterdam waiting for customs clearance), we have very few clothes, and I have only a light jacket. The highs most days are low 50s to low 60s, so I’ve been ok, but for Valentine’s Day Phil surprised me with a beautiful warm scarf.
Modeling my Valentine’s scarf from Phil and my newest Mellie Earrings
The earrings in the picture arrived along with my latest MellieEarrings order, a set of beautiful custom-made coasters. When you’re nesting from scratch, every little thing makes a house feel like home!
My new Mellie Earrings coasters and earrnings
The other thing that feels like home is cooking. We decided not to eat in front of the tv as we did in the US, so now we share meals at the table, comme les francais! My latest dinner experiment came at the suggestion of coffee friends Tracy and Bobby. They introduced us to a lovely cheese shop and restaurant that is unfortunately closing next month. There (after enjoying a raclette lunch) we bought a special cheese called Mont d’Or (means “mount of gold”). You cut a hole in the top and pour a little white wine over it (you can also slip in garlic slivers and dust with pepper) and bake until it’s melted, then serve it with steamed potatoes and charcuterie. It was a hit!
Our first Mont d’Or meal chez nous
In another example of the kindness we’ve encountered, our landlady invited me to coffee at her home (in the apartment above us). Originally from Lebanon, she and her husband have lived here since 2005. She treated me to a lovely coffee, complete with fruit and pastries, as we enjoyed a conversation in Franglish. I loved spending time with her and hope we’ll have more opportunities to get together.
One of my WBL (Women Business Leaders) friends, Leslie, married a Frenchman and now lives in Lausanne, Switzerland. We’ve been staying in touch via both email and her wonderful website and blog, Observing Leslie. She writes about everything–life, literature, travel, etc. and it’s one of my favorite things to read. We’d been planning to get together as soon as possible, and last weekend we had our chance: we met up in Avignon. Phil and I decided to make a weekend of it, so we arrived Friday via train to explore a bit. We’d been to Avignon once before, but it was 29 years ago! This time we decided to skip the Palais des Papes and just wander the streets. We came upon an anti-war, pro-Ukraine protest featuring a young woman singing Ukranian folk songs. It was a sad, somber, dignified, and inspiring event.
Anti-war protest in Avignon. The woman at the microphone was singing Ukranian songs.
After checking in to our guest house (complete with two friendly cats!) we enjoyed strolling around and stopping for a glass of wine. Coffee friend Margi had recommended Carre du Palais for dinner, and it did not disappoint! Our placemats were maps showing the origin of the wines we tasted–all of which were wonderful.
Dessert at Carre du Palais
The next morning, along with Leslie and Arnaud, we met up with Julien, our tour guide for a walking food tour. Julien is an Avignon native and shared fascinating history and stories along with the wonderful food tastings. My favorite bite was a twisted puff pastry covered with sugar and toasted almonds called the sacristan. This delectable morsel, according to Julien, was invented in the middle ages by a baker who felt sorry for the sacristan, or sexton, who because of his duties after mass arrived at the bakery after all the good stuff was sold. So the baker created a twisted puff pastry stick (similar to the stick the sacristan carried) just for him.
Violette, the bakery where we sampled sacristans. Note the long loaves from which you buy a length!
Julien led us to the top of the largest hill in Avignon, to the Rocher des Doms park. It was a climb, but the view was exceptional. Note in the picture below the famous Pont d’Avignon.If you’re not familiar with the children’s song, take a listen here.
The view. The bridge. The Rhone.
Our tour ended at les Halles, the covered market, where Julien assembled a final feast for us. He also introduced us to Papa Poulet, the poultry vendor, who had a special performance for us.
Papa Poulet and his fowl talk. . .
After all that walking and nibbling, it was time for some serious cafe sitting! Joined by Leslie’s friend Camille, who recently moved to Marseilles from Paris, we “enjoyed” edible coffee cups. The idea is good, but the flavor needs a little work.
Edible coffee cup. One bite is enough!
We split up for a while to run errands and roam the streets. In France, street signs are not free-standing but are attached to the corners of buildings. In Avignon, the street names are listed both in French and in Provencal, the ancient Roman derivative language still spoken in some households.
Street sign in French and in Provencal
Julien had explained that statues of the Virgin Mary look over the people of Avignon to protect them. Once he pointed this out, we saw them everywhere!
Mary and her baby Jesus, one of dozens we noticed around town
We met up with Leslie, Arnaud, and Camille for a wonderful dinner at le 46, a cosy and welcoming restaurant near the Popes’ Palace. While we mostly spoke English, part of the conversation was in French, which Phil and I found highly motivating. We made a pact to study every day instead of just relying on our formal lessons. I can’t wait to be able to eavesdrop on neighboring tables in restaurants! Just kidding. . .
Avignon was a memorable trip, partly because the city is filled with wonders, but even more because we got to spend time with friends. We are so very fortunate to have friends in many places, and we’re grateful to Leslie for making this weekend happen. A bientot!
One of the many beautiful doors in Avignon