Joy, Learning, And Hilariousness

The Roamers laugh. A lot.

We have a tradition in our family of choosing a word to guide our intentions for the coming year. For 2023, Phil chose “learn,” primarily related to his determination to learn French. After a year of lessons, he can read French and get around a bit, but he still freezes when he has to speak. I had high school and university French, so I started a bit ahead. Today I can have toddler-level conversations, but it’s going to take a lot of time to get comfortable with the language.

My word for this year is “joy.” At age 70, I’m realizing that my life has an expiration date (fortunately an unknowable one), and it’s up to me to decide how to use my time on this planet. I choose to experience joy whenever and wherever possible, every day, no matter what. When you look for it, joy can come from many sources: natural beauty, a good conversation, social contacts, and even mistakes.

February crocuses spark joy for me

Regular readers may recall that we bought a car last month. A car that is far too big for Montpellier streets. I drove the first few times out, but I don’t like to drive after dark, so when we headed out for our “Franciversary” celebration dinner, Phil drove. Into the underground parking garage we went, only to scrape the side mirror on the wall. “Oh well,” we agreed, “it was only a matter of time before we got our first ding, and now it’s done.”

You can barely see the ding.

We went on to our dinner, at a lovely restaurant called Bistro la Canourgue, which is in an esteemed old hotel. We had a cocktail in the bar, which is the former wedding chapel.

We sat at the table on the left.

We spent the cocktail hour reminiscing about our year in France, retelling the stories and reflecting on the joy of living here. The space was gorgeous, especially the ceiling, which features two phoenixes connectd by a snake. Apparently the significance of that image is related to Montpellier’s history.

Ceiling of the bar

It was a joyful celebration, topped off by chatting with the British couple at the next table. They own an international translation company and perodically spend time at the Montpellier office, so we hope to see them again.

In late January we attended a Sunday brunch organized by the “Americans in Montpellier” Facebook group. That’s a misnomer (as is the British Culture Association, of which we’re members), as all nationalities are welcome. We sat next to French friends for the buffet brunch. After sampling the treats, I ventured to the dessert table, where a small group of French people were gathered, wondering aloud about the giant bowl of what looked like crushed Oreos. There was a large serving spoon in the bowl, so I volunteered to confirm the contents. I spooned some atop my dessert plate and took a nibble. “It’s dirt!” I exclaimed. 

Eating dirt

Yep, I ate dirt. Honestly, it was worth it for the hilarity. And I skipped dessert but made Phil get me a glass of wine. To make up for eating dirt. And it worked. Later during the brunch I noticed that the bowl of dirt had been removed. I wonder how many people ate dirt that day?

Last weekend we attended an “ApĂ©rOpera” at a nearby wine chateau with friends Margi and Michael. We picked them up and drove to the chateau without any major incident (ok, maybe a short jaunt down a one-way street going the wrong way, and a couple of fortuitous U-turns) and arrived right on time. We hung our coats in the lobby and proceeded to enjoy a two-act presentation of opera and operetta pieces by a wonderful soprano and mezzo soprano. During the intermission we were served delicious wine and appetizers. It was a lovely event in beautiful surroundings. We gathered our coats and headed out, with Phil driving (because it was dark). At the first turn we spotted a juggler on a very high unicycle, right in the middle of the intersection, in heavy traffic, wearing all black. Crazy, but hilarious!

Chateau Flaugergues, where the AperOpera was held

Have you ever driven (at night, in a too-big car, on medieval French streets) with a Greek chorus? That’s what Phil experienced as we all provided helpful addenda to the GPS. “Turn right! No, not a sharp right! Stay on that road!” we all shouted. And off we went–right onto the tram tracks! Fortunately, no tram appeared, and after a few blocks Phil was able to get off the tracks and onto a proper road.

Don’t drive your car on the tram tracks.

We finally managed to drop our friends off and head home. When we arrived, I went to the closet to hang up my jacket. Wait–this wasn’t my jacket!! Yep, I apparently stole someone else’s coat. Or someone stole mine and left theirs for me. Either way, it was another hilarious mistake that cracked me up.

This jacket: not mine.

On Sunday we hosted two other couples for a paella party. We love our international friends, and for this dinner we had two Swedes, one Czech, and one American. We had a lovely evening, drinking homemade sangria, eating, and (mostly) telling stories and laughing. There is so much joy in our lives–lovely friends, the beauty of nature, fascinating travel, learning French, making hilarious mistakes–an endless list of joy inducements. My wish for you is that you, too, find joy in every day.

Cheers to joy!