Art in Aix

The Roamers pause their time-out for a trip to Aix-en-Provence

Welp, we couldn’t quite make it a whole month without entertaining or travel! On Friday we celebrated the break in the canicules (heat waves) with petanque and dinner in our garden. Friends Ann-lii, Frederick, Jo, and Dennis joined us for a wonderful evening.

Petanque without sweating!

The next morning we caught a train for Aix-en-Provence, a wonderful city I’d first discovered reading MFK Fisher (my favorite writer), which we’d visited on our first trip to France in 1993. It’s changed a bit since then (so have we!), and we couldn’t wait to explore. Our first stop after checking in to our hotel was, of course, lunch, followed by a visit to the Hotel de Caumont, a renowned art museum.

Art exhibit in our hotel

Hotel de Caumont

The catalyst for our trip was a Raoul Dufy painting I saw on Facebook. Unfamiliar with his work, I did a little research and found that there was a rare exhibition of his work in Aix, which is about three hours away by train. Off we went!

The painting that inspired our trip

Located in an aristocratic mansion that is an art exhibit in itself, the Hotel de Caumont displayed room upon room of Dufy paintings. We spent well over two hours there.

Several of my favorites from the Dufy exhibit

While at the Caumont we were able to see a couple of rooms that have been restored to their original splendor. The bedroom below overlooks the courtyard garden.


Courtyard garden

We strolled back to the hotel via the famous Cours Mirabeau, a wide thoroughfare designed in the 17th century. It’s a thriving, plane-tree-lined street offering plenty of cafes, bars, and shops.

Fountain at the Cours Mirabeau

Then it was back to the hotel for a rest before dinner. Phil decided to enjoy an adult beverage, which was pricey (17 euros!) but delicious. Yes, he gave me a sip.

17 euro cocktail!

For dinner, we chose a restaurant mentioned in the Michelin guide, Les Inseparables. Nestled in a lovely courtyard surrounded by trees, we enjoyed the degustation menu and an excellent bottle of wine. As in virtually ever restaurant in France, American music was playing.


Lobster tartare

My favorite: interpretation of tarte citron

The next morning we set out in search of coffee on the Cours Mirabeau. First we stopped to greet the sculpture of Cezanne, which had unfortunately been defaced with paint.


As we paused to take a picture, we heard music, then someone on a loudspeaker. Naturally, we (I) had to investigate. Turns out it was a ceremony honoring the 78th anniversary of La Liberation. The whole thing was very moving. After the speech (I couldn’t understand it well, but what I could get was wonderful) and the laying of flowers at the memorial, we heard the Chant des Partisans., the haunting hymn of the Resistance, followed by a moment of silence. Then we were astonished to hear the U.S. National Anthem, honoring our country’s part in liberating France. Finally, La Marseillaise was played. We were not the only bystanders wiping tears away.

Tribute of flowers

The flowers were laid at the monument des morts, which is inscribed “Aix-en-Provence a ses enfants morts pour La Patrie“–“Aix-en-Provence for its children who died for the country.” The ceremony was followed by a parade.

Tank in the parade

After the parade and lunch, we headed to another museum, the Musée Granet. We wanted to see some of the work of native son Paul Cezanne, and to learn more about his role in the evolution from impressionism to cubism.

Some of Cezanne’s works

Our admission to the Musée Granet included a ticket to their modern art museum, La Chapelle des Pénitants Blancs, “the chapel of the white penitants.” This beautiful 17th century building houses the personal collection of Swiss painter Jean Planque, who befriended many of the artists whose work he acquired. He wasn’t wealthy, but he had a keen eye for discovering great painters before they became known. We saw amazing works by Picasso, Braques, Degas, Klee, and Cezanne, as well as Planque’s own work.

A Bonnard that I loved

I don’t remember ever seeing so many Picasso paintings in one place before–and one of them was inscribed to Planque.

This beautiful painting was signed to Planque by Picasso, his close friend.


The three-story former chapel that housed these paintings was spectacular. The renovation retained the beautiful arched ceilings and other features but created a perfect neutral setting for these modern paintings.

View from the second of three floors in the museum

Beautiful work by Claude Garache

En route to our last museum stop, Gallifet, we encountered a window box cat, whom I befriended. It was both decorative and ready for petting!

Mon ami, le chat

On an earlier stroll we had noticed a tiny art gallery attached to a courtyard restaurant. It was closed, but we decided to return to check it out. I was fascinated by the art, which appeared to be focused on kitchens and interiors. So on Sunday after lunch we returned. The scene made us wish we’d come for lunch!

The Gallifet courtyard restaurant

The exhibit was tiny but beautiful. In the middle of the room was a table draped with a dyed and embroidered cloth, displaying ceramics, and the walls were covered with small paintings of interiors. 

I loved this table!

Later I learned that this wasn’t even the exhibit of the museum! I guess it was just an adjunct to the restaurant. Next time we’ll have to see the entire thing–and dine there!

One of the delightful interior paintings

On our way back to the hotel, we ran into Alfred Hitchcock at a cinema. Orson Welles was on the other side of the door, but he did not allow photographs.

Alfred Hitchcock holding up the wall at the cinema

We also spotted two chefs standing at their windows

Our last sight on the way back was the memorial to the massacred Armenians. I didn’t even know about this before seeing this amazing monument.

Translation: “To the Two Million Armenians Massacred by the Turks during the first genocide of the 20th century, 1894-1922”

And then it was time to go home. We were amazed by how much we had been able to pack into just over 24 hours, but there is so much more to see in Aix-en-Provence. We’ll definitely be back!




The Roamers slow down

Several people have commented recently that they don’t know how we have the energy to do so much–traveling, hosting, exploring, studying French, and generally staying so very busy. Well, we finally realized that it was time to slow down a bit! After our last house guests left, we decided to take the month of August as a break, and so far we’ve done just that!

It’s been very quiet chez Shroyer, partly because of our resolve to slow down and partly because of the canicule, aka HEAT WAVE. It’s been in the high 90s and low 100s daily for several weeks. Without a car, we depend on our feet and public transportation, and the latter has been quite unreliable due to summer construction/expansion projects. I’ve grown tired of taking three showers a day, so we’ve stayed inside much more than usual.

As I mentioned in the last post, we attended a soirée at the end of July, in the courtyard of a Lebanese restaurant. It was HOT but we had a great evening. We are so grateful for our circle of friends in Montpellier!

Hot but fun evening with (mostly) Americans in Montpellier

About all that walking: we ordered an electric car, a Hyundai Kona, which was supposed to be delivered in July. In July it was delayed until August, and now it’s delayed until mid-September. We’ll be out of the country in September, so the earliest we can get it now will be October. But we’re really looking forward to (a) having a car again, and (b) learning how to be electric car people.

The car we ordered

I’ve been reading a lot, mostly fluff/ fun/forgettable novels, but this week I had a special treat: I read the debut mystery novel by my dear friend and Wild Woman Susan Steiner. Susan was one of my best friends in high school, and I’ve always admired her quirky creativity, sense of humor, and comfort in her own skin. Her novel, Murder by Manuscript, is fascinating–not only is it a great read, but the principal characters are based on her grandchildren as she imagines them as adults. What a concept!

Susan’s book: highly recommended!

Another thing I’ve done during this time-out is expand my earring collection. You may recall that our daughter is a jewelry designer whose company is called Mellie Earrings. I spent two days with her in July, “helping”at the fabulous outdoor market in Stockholm, and I bought a few items there. But when I saw she was having a “flash” sale, I couldn’t resist a bit more shopping. I ordered the Mystery Box, which consists of three pairs of earrings that Mellie intuitively selects. I think she nailed it!

My Mellie Earrings Mystery Box!

In addition to the market and her website, she also has an Etsy shop. Now I have my eye on these beautiful Gaia earrings!

And that’s about it for August-to-date. We’re about to head out for our weekly coffee meetup with fellow English speakers. Several of us usually stay until lunchtime and then walk to an outdoor cafe for lunch, after which I’ll walk over to my French class. We are definitely living the sweet life in France!

The Roamers: not roaming this month.


Bye-bye, July

Time speeds up for the Roamers

After returning from our Stockholm trip and hosting a little dinner party, we deliberately slowed things down a bit. We were fatigued from so much travel, so much company! When I finally got a bit stir-crazy, we decided to visit the Montpellier aquarium, Planet Ocean Montpellier. It was remarkable!

Tiny sea creatures greeted us

The exhibits were well done and varied. We didn’t take time to read all the information, as the place was crowded with tons of families and kids. One tiny girl rushed over and hugged my legs–but when she looked up and saw I wasn’t her mommy, she was horrified! Her mom giggled with me as she comforted her disconcerted daughter.

One of the permanent residents

When our son Grayson was little, he was obsessed with penguins. He had a stuffed penguin whose beak he’d chewed to bits, and for a long time we gifted him with penguins of all sorts (except live penguines. We didn’t give him any of those). We still think of him every time we see a penguin, so at the aquarium he was with us in spirit!

Penguins! Lots of them! A bit stinky!

We enjoyed the aquarium and recommend a visit there. As a bonus, they have a couple of funhouse mirrors, probably designed to entertain kiddos. We loved the one that made us look thin!

The only way we’ll look skinny!

One of our favorite things to do on Sundays is visit the brocante (flea market) at the Promenade de Peyrou. I never tire of seeing the interesting, odd things people are selling there. 

This hat is for sale!

Sometimes bizarre, sometimes charming, often compelling, the wares of the vendors at the brocante vary from china/crystal/silver to vintage clothing, from original artwork to furniture, from toys to treasures. We’ve made a few purchases but mostly we just enjoy browsing and people-watching.

Delightful doll clothes

After our self-imposed break from living at breakneck speed, we greeted house guests Gayla and Trish, college friends of Phil’s. He and Gayla, an amazing artist, worked together and have stayed close, but he hadn’t seen Trish, who lives in New Jersey, in years, and I’d never even met her.

Gayla showing her work at a shop in Oklahoma

They arrived after spending a few days in Paris, and we were eager to show them our beautiful city.

Trish, Gayla, and Phil, waiting for le bus

The evening they arrived, we joined other friends for an organ concert at the Cathédral Saint-Pierre de Montpellier, which has the most beautiful organ I’ve ever seen. Afterwards, our group of eight strolled to la Coquille for a lovely outdoor dinner. 

Light show at the organ concert, courtesy of the stained glass windows

It was a great first night. The next morning we visited the Les Arceaux marché, a wonderful organic outdoor market where we stocked up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Olives at the marché

Phil schlepped our purchases home while I took Gayla and Trish to see the Arc de Triomphe and the statue of Louis XIV on his horse at the nearby Promenade de Peyrou. 


A friendly tree on our path; wonder who lives in there?

Gayla, who had felt tired all morning (we all assumed it was the pace of travel), ran out of steam, so we headed home to rest. Unfortunately, she tested positive for Covid. We all worked to make the best of the situation, with Gayla isolating in the guest room, Trish “sleeping”on the living room sofa, and all of us staying in for the required three days until we could test. After testing negative, Trish, Phil, and I were able to get out (wearing masks inside). We took Trish to the brocante, where she bought gifts (including a gorgeous set of champagne flutes for us!).

Brocante vendors enjoying an elegant lunch

Trish trained as an artist and has resumed her creative work, working in pastels. She was excited to visit the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden founded in 1593. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place where she spent a day sketching.

Water lilies at Jardin des Plantes

On the last day of their visit, with Gayla cleared to get out, I took Trish and Gayla on a walking tour of the beautiful medieval pedestrian streets of Montpellier. We poked into shops where they bought souvenirs and gifts before meeting Phil at le Kiosk Fabre, the outdoor cafe near the famed Musée Fabre. After lunch I headed home for a video call with friend and former colleague Sally, while Phil took our guests to the Fabre, which they both loved. That evening, their last night with us, we headed back into lÉcusson for drinks and dinner at our favorite bar, Smash Bar. On the way, of course we had to peek into the shop windows

Is this the bed from “The Princess and the Pea”?

We had a delightful dinner outside, with the usual exceptional hosting from the family who run Smash Bar. After dinner we strolled around the neighborhood before heading home.

Happy, healthy diners!

The next morning we said goodbye to our friends and settled in to relax for the weekend. I’ll be honest: I didn’t even get out of my pajamas until Saturday, when it was time to head to our second monthly dinner soirée. Facebook group Americans in Montpellier organizes it, with sponsorship from Renestance, the company that helped–and continues to help–us move to France. I’m a guest blogger for Renestance, and you can see all of their blogs, including mine, here

The second lovely dinner soirëe

So that’s a wrap for July! After so much travel, house guests, and HEAT, we’re looking forward to a quiet August before we head to the U.S. in September. Time to get back into a daily routine!