Who knew retirement would be so busy?

Roamers: never bored

What happened to May? Since we returned from our trip to Bordeaux, the time has flown by. For our first outing, our friend Laurence suggested the “Summer Garden” event at Domain de Biar, a lovely hotel/event venue between Montpellier and the sea.

Domain de Biar

Laurence picked us up (what a treat, riding in a car!), and upon arrival we were directed to the restaurant, where we retrieved baskets full of gourmet picnic food and a chilled bottle of rose. We chose a table near the live music and dug in.

Our friend Laurence

We decided to stroll the grounds and were delighted to run into friends Jo and Dennis, whom we’d told about the event during our weekly coffee group gathering. They joined us for the rest of the afternoon. Having a lovely social circle has made everything so much more fun!


Domain de Biar is a beautiful setting for weddings and other events, and they regularly host barbeque parties and jazz brunches, so we’ll definitely be back!

Domain de Biar’s wedding chapel

While there, I met a musician who would be playing viola in the opera we were attending the next day. She told me the production was a bit “unusual.” She wasn’t wrong!

Waiting for Tosca to begin

We attended the opera with friends Margi and Michael (a retired opera singer who knows Tosca well). The music was wonderful, but we were a bit puzzled about all the nude men! It was great fun to get the perspectives of an opera expert over cocktails later.

We took pictures of each other after the opera

One of the highlights of our week is coffee with the “Long Duck Ladies’ Gathering” group. Each Thursday our friend Kirsty issues an invitation, and recently our group has grown to include men. For Kirsty’s birthday, I made my mother’s special chocolate cake (which was good but had a different texture; baking is different here!) to celebrate.

Kirsty, who’s responsible for many of the friendships we’ve formed

The “Long Duck Ladies” group on Facebook was the brainchild of Renestance founder Dennelle Taylor Nizoux. After a couple of rain cancellations, Renestance hosted a picnic in a lovely park, where we were taught to play petanque. I must have been having way too much fun, because I didn’t take a single photo that day! 

Evette, another friend we met through Renestance, invited us to the BCA (British Cultural Association) Quiz Night, which was great fun despite the fact that our team came in dead last. There are so many social opportunities here!

Quiz Night–and more!

The Long Duck Ladies also organized a GNO (“girls’ night out”) at a lovely courtyard bar. My friend Gwen has an injured knee, so I had the bright idea of taking an Uber there and back, not realizing that we were headed to a pedestrian-only area. Poor Gwen had to walk about a mile on her bad knee!


We got our second COVID boosters, and my reaction gave us an enforced couple of days’ rest before our next adventure: a wonderful visit from friends Rene and Pilar!

Pilar took this photo of our backyard dinner.

They arrived Thursday in time for an apero, followed by dinner in our garden (Did I mention how much we appreciate our apartment, with its private garden?). The next day, after a lazy morning of coffee on the deck, we headed into l’Ecusson, the old part of Montpellier dating to the Middle Ages. We strolled in, stopping to admire the aqueduct and the Promenade du Peyrou

Rene and Pilar at Peyrou

This was our first opportunity to show off our new city! Our guests loved it, and we enjoyed showing them around.

Selfie at Peyrou

Pilar and Rene were on a leisurely trip through the south of France, and rather than exhausting themselves being tourists, they were interested in our “real” life (which still seems like a fantasy to me!) here in Montpellier. So after strolling a bit and enjoying a VERY long lunch at one of the many outdoor cafes, we took the bus home in time for apero and another al fresco dinner chez Shroyer.

Phil took this al fresco dinner picture.

The next day was special. First (after coffee on the deck; did I mention daily pain au chocolat?) Rene and Pilar DROVE us to do a few errands. What a luxury to drive 15 minutes instead of taking 45 minutes on one bus and two trams! We bought a fan for the guest room, extra clothes hangers, and a new suitcase for Pilar. And, having heard about our petanque adventure, our lovely guests bought us our own petanque set! Phil might not want me to mention that so far I’ve waxed him every time. . .

Our petanque set

But the most special thing about this day was Pilar’s birthday. We rested up after our errands for a Big Night Out. Well, a bit night for us. First stop: our favorite bar, Smash. We LOVE this bar! With silent old movies, American blues and oldies, a beautiful decor, and the most wonderful cocktails ever, it’s a win. But add the warm hospitality and thoughtful service, and it’s over the top.

Enjoying cocktails at Smash

We had told Rene about the absinthe service, so of course our adventurous friend had to try it! We dragged him off to dinner before he could spot the green fairy.


Dinner was special, too. I’d made reservations at J’aime, a lovely little restaurant we’d visited with friends Margi and Michael, who live next door to J’aime. We were seated outside and proceeded to engage in a bit of banter with the playful waiter, who remembered our previous visit. When he learned that Rene and Pilar live in Las Vegas, all bets were off!

Our entree, aka starter at J’aime

The dinner was delicious, the service fun, the company delightful. And for her birthday, Phil let Pilar choose one of the paintings he’s done since we moved to France. Her choice, after deliberation, was a painting of the aqueduct at les Arceaux, which we’d admired on our walk. What a fitting souvenir of a memorable visit!

Pilar’s birthday gift: a Philip Shroyer painting!

And the next day, their visit was over, as they headed on to the Camarge and environs before returning to Rene’s native Switzerland for a few days. We loved every minute of their visit. Tired but so very happy and grateful, we are ready to close out another perfect (and busy!) month in Montpellier.

Loquat tree in our garden


a quick trip to bordeaux

Marriott free nights: use ’em or lose ’em!

We have been traveling a lot. So much, in fact, that we thought we’d take a break and stay home before the arrival of our first house guests in late May. However, I had two Marriott free nights expiring in June, and our only available dates to use them (retirement is BUSY!) were May 8-10. We chose Bordeaux (close enough for a two-night trip, a place we wanted to revisit, and offering an eligible Marriott property). We set off early Sunday morning for the train station.

We made it to Beziers before an unscheduled stop, due to the tragic death of a person who apparently jumped in front of another train. Our train was delayed three hours, and upon arrival in Bordeaux our tram was delayed 45 minutes due to an accident. Phil might want me to add that I walked us across the wrong bridge, causing another 30-minute delay. Hot, tired, and a bit shaken, we finally arrived at the Moxy, where we were greeted with a refreshing cold herbal tea shot. We quickly unpacked and headed to dinner atop the next-door Renaissance.

Sunset dinner: mediocre food, but the view!

The next morning we set out to explore this beautiful place. Bordeaux is a city of Haussman-style buildings, flower-filled parks along the river, and way too many interesting things to explore in two days. 

I was fascinated by the beautiful street lamps of Bordeaux

There were so many interesting things to see along our walk for coffee: monuments, fountains, intriguing shop windows, and historic sights. 

A peek into a floriste

One of four still-standing Bordeaux gates

Just a random beautiful door

We spent the morning strolling the city, stopping for a quick lunch at a salad chain before joining our St. Emilion wine tour group. Hosted by the knowledgeable Sonia, eight guests enjoyed a wonderful afternoon in this esteemed wine region.

Lovely grounds of the Chateau Chatelet

Grand Cru Classe

We enjoyed tastings at two wineries, one Grand Cru and one Grand Cru Classe, where we may or may not have bought wine to take home. We also explored the village of St.Emilion, home to only 300 people but visited by over a million each year.

The Roamers enjoying the view from St. Emilion

St. Emilion has a gorgeous church and cloister. During the French Revolution, Sonia explained, all the priests and nuns were forced to leave, but the cloister has been preserved and is still beautiful.


One of the beautiful church altars

After the tour we stopped for a cocktail while we considered dinner options, which are quite limited in France on Mondays. We opted for BIG Bistro Girondin and outdoor seating, where we enjoyed a delicious meal and excellent people watching. We shared a wonderful and unusual appetizer, oefs parfait aux petits pois et chorizo, Phil had braised pork, and I had skate, we had a couple of glasses of wine each, and Phil had a caramelized pineapple dessert. The tab? $83.44.

The next morning we stored our bags at the hotel and walked to the oldest bakery in Bordeaux, Au Petrin Mosisagais, where owner Serge Combarieu still bakes traditional Gascon bread (we brought a loaf home!) in the original 1765 oven. We enjoyed a wonderful petit dejeuner there, facing the mural of Serge and his family.

Mural of the baker and his family

We watched Serge carefully place dough in the oven, which must always be kept hot, as we munched on his delicious bread and croissants. If you ever get to Bordeaux, this bakery is not to be missed!

The oven

After breakfast we strolled the city, enjoying window shopping and stopping for more people watching at a cafe before heading to the public garden. We watched a man feeding the ducks and geese, calling each by name and feeding them from his hands.


We didn’t have time to fully explore the park, so it’s on our list for the next visit. It’s beautiful, interesting, and a great place to just stop and listen to the sounds of nature. 

Statue of Juno overlooking the pond

Why didn’t we have time? Because we had booked a unique lunch experience: Demystifying Duck! Hoted by the fascinating Kim Freeman in her lovely house, this was a hands-on cooking experience where I prepped as she prepared a special lunch featuring duck, a Bordeaux specialty. Kim is an American magazine editor, designer, and photo stylist who lived and worked in Paris and New York and now lives in Bordeaux. She hosts Airbnb guests, leads food and market tours for cruise passengers, and hosts a variety of culinary experiences in her home and garden.


Our lunch featured duck breast with apples and pears, Thai black rice with leeks and toasted hazelnuts, a tomato salad with duck crisps, and berries with cream for dessert. Everything was delectable, matched only by the fascinating conversation. We left feeling that we’d made a new friend!

Happy Roamers, photo by Kim

And then it was time to go. We left Bordeaux with wonderful memories and plans to return. We continue to be gobsmacked by our good fortune and have to pinch ourselves; we are really living this life in France!

Wonderful words in the St. Emilion church: “All by love, nothing by force.”


spring has sprung!

Our first spring in Montpellier

Upon our return from the Italy trip, we experienced a bit of rain. In Montpellier it tends to pour, but not for long; it’s not unusual to venture out with umbrellas unfurled, only to wish we didn’t have to lug them around in the sunshine. But the damp days were short-lived, and they yielded our first temperatures in the 20s (20 degrees Celsius is about 68 degrees Farenheit). Phil has been very patient with me as I’ve stopped on our walks to take pictures on PlantNet to identify various flora.

European Privet has a light floral fragrance with a note of citrus.

And what better way to celebrate spring than hosting a coffee? I invited a few friends for a mid-morning coffee last week. What an easy and fun way to entertain! The only thing I made was this coffee cake, and setup and cleanup were easy peasy. Several guests had not met before, so new friendships were initiated. I’m so grateful to have friends to invite!

Table set for coffee

One thing I loved about our little soiree was that half the table conversation was in French, and the other half was in English. I tried very hard to follow the French portion, but it was nice to revert to English for a break.

Bilingual coffee chat

My lovely friend Gwen, who loves flowers perhaps even more than I do, brought me the cutest plant. I have acquired six plants now, and all but the chives seem to be surviving fairly well (apparently chives expect regular water. . .). Tomorrow we’re headed out to buy pots and potting soil to give these babies larger homes.

The instructions say “Keep my head dry.”

A highlight of my week is Thursday morning coffee with a lively group of English speakers. This group grew out of the Facebook group “Long Duck Ladies,” which was started by Renestance founder Dennelle Taylor Nizoux. We sit outside on the Place de Marche des Fleurs, at Cafe de la Mer. Last week we stayed until almost 1:00, and then six of us continued on to lunch at a tearoom/restaurant recommended by friends Tracey and Bobby: La Maison des Chats. Six cats reside there for the guests’ petting pleasure. I can’t even describe the decor, you’ll have to look at the website. They serve beautiful tartines (open faced sandwiches).

My tartine, and my friend Nathalie

We were all too full for dessert, but guess what came with Phil’s tea?

Cat Cookie!

Spring is also a wonderful time for outdoor markets, and we have a great one in a neighborhood called Les Arceaux, named for the ancient aqueduct that runs through it. On Saturday we loaded up, because the next day, May 1, is a major French holiday when even the restaurants and grocery stores are closed.

At the market

May first is a double holiday in France: it’s la Fete du Travail (International Workers Day, aka Labor Day), and it’s also la Fete du Muguet (May Day). It’s the only day of the year when workers must all legally be given a paid day off, so almost everything is closed. It’s also the only day of the year when anyone can sell flowers on the streets, tax-free and without a license. The tradition is to give muguets des bois, or lily of the valley, to friends and family. We decided to stroll through the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden founded in 1593 by Henri IV. 

Jardin des Plantes

After walking to the garden and then walking through it, we were tired and thirsty! So we were delighted to discover that our favorite nearby cafe was open. We stopped for an apero before walking home (did I mention the buses and trams were not running on the holiday?).

Outdoor apero on May Day

On the way home, we stopped at our neighborhood florist to buy a muguet plant. Since it’s a symbol of friendship and luck, I gave it to Phil and then he gave it to me. It’s hard to imagine how we could be more fortunate!

Our little good-luck plant