Nesting, renovation, and fun
The Roamers enjoy their new home
Whew! I’ve fallen a bit behind. My excuse? Moving, settling in, living in a renovation project, exploring our new neighborhood, fun with friends, road trips. . .in other words, a lot! It’s all been great, but it’s made our heads swim.
Shortly after moving in, we ran into friends/new neighbors Dennis and Sheri at our neighborhood marché. Held each Wednesday and Sunday in a pedestrian-only promenade, this is a wonderful market selling everything from bread, produce, and meats to–wait for it–mattresses. I wonder how people get them home?
The Sunday market in our neighborhood, Antigone
Sheri and Dennis were hosting U.S. friends, and they invited us to join them for an apéro at their apartment. I wish I’d thought to take pictures of the food! We started with Champagne, paté, and bread, moved on to savory pastries, then Dennis grilled chicken and asparagus, followed by a beautiful cheese tray. The finale was a delicious cake. Each course was paired with wines, of course. Only in France does a casual apéro invitation turn into a delicious five-course meal with delightful company!
Soon it was time to meet Benoit, our contractor, at Castorama, where we would choose the fixtures for our bathroom remodel. Who knew there were so many decisions to make? We managed to select everything in one visit–including an ecologically sound toilet with a built-in handwashing station! The used handwashing water is reused for flushing.
This toilet has a handwashing sink!
We chose a beautiful accent tile for the bathroom. A month later, we’d forget we’d ordered it and would buy the exact same tile for the kitchen backsplash. Oh well, at least the two rooms will be coordinated!
Bathroom tile. Kitchen tile. Both the same.
Our painter, Mehdi, is great and helps me with my French. One day I told him I’d left my sweater at a restaurant, and they saved it for me. But instead of saying “pull,” which means sweater, I said “poule,” so I told him I’d left my chicken at the restaurant. Language goofs are hilarious!
In the midst of all that painting we had a special treat: a visit from bestie Beth and our friend David!
My beautiful friend at the fountain we call “Three Guys Showering”
We packed a lot of fun into the three days of their visit. They stayed in a charming Airbnb in Écusson, the medieval part of Montpellier, and we spent almost all our waking hours together. The first evening we all drove to our local mountain, Pic Saint-Loup, to meet friends Jo and Dennis and their visiting guests at Auberge du Cedre, a lovely hotel and restaurant nestled in a tiny residential area. The food and company were delightful, and Phil drove us all home without incident.
Beth and I were born four days apart in March, so the next night we enjoyed a belated birthday celebration at Le Petit Jardin, a beautiful spot with superior food and service. We spent our days roaming the city, visiting the brocante (flea market), wandering in the Jardin des Plantes (the oldest botanical garden in France), visiting our favorite fromagerie, and practicing our cafe-sitting skills.
Enjoying the brocante!
On the last night of their visit, I decided to cook dinner in our old kitchen, which was serviceable but had no microwave or oven. We invited our good friend Michael, whose wife Margi was in New York. Dinner was asparagus risotto, artisanal bread and cheeses, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Our guests left around midnight after a lovely evening. Shortly after 1:00 a.m. I was awakened by the incessant vibration of my phone. I groggily answered it to hear David saying, “We’re lost! We need you to come get us!” It took us over an hour to get dressed, figure out where they were, and get them back to their apartment, and we finally arrived home around 2:30 a.m. The next morning we took them to the train station and they headed for Paris. Several hours later, jokester David texted me: “WE’RE LOST IN PARIS! COME GET US!!'”
We had other fun meals with friends as our kitchen demolition proceeded: dinner at l’Artichaut with Ann-Lii and Fredrick, a lunch with Gwen and Tom, and a wonderful dinner chez Betsy and Jacques on one of our nights without a kitchen.
Only two days with no kitchen!
And speaking of no kitchen, I may have mentioned that the “before” kitchen had no microwave and no working oven. However. . .after a month of no oven (I made biscuits on the cooktop!), I was fiddling with the dials, and behold–it worked! Perfectly. In a good news/bad news scenario, we had already bought a new oven, but our friends Linda and Brecka had just moved into a new apartment with no oven, so ours found a new home. Win/win, except for how silly I felt.
Partially installed kitchen; we already love it!
Dear friends Barb and Chip had scheduled a stop in Montpellier during their France tour, but an airline change nixed those plans. They were hitting Paris, the Champagne region, and the Dordogne, so we decided to meet up. The final part of their trip, in the Dordogne, was a Martin Walker tour, based in a gorgeous 17th century chateau, so we decided this would be our first big road trip in our electric car. Martin Walker is the author of the Bruno, Chief of Police mystery novels and all his books are based in the Dordogne. Phil and I enjoyed the drive, which took six hours because we lost an hour in Toulouse searching for a high-speed charger. We are learning.
We arrived at Chateau Ladausse and checked in with gracious hosts Diane, an American chef, and Eric, a Belgian sommelier, who met in the U.S. while working in technology. The chateau and grounds were beautiful, and our room had a spectacular view. Our friends were still out on their tour, so we drove over to Monflaquin, a nearby village, to tour the church and buy some Champagne. Back on the chateau grounds, under a huge old tree, we popped the cork to celebrate our reunion with Barb and Chip
The view from our chateau room window
Diane prepared a sumptuous, multi-course dinner for the chateau guests, and we enjoyed chatting with the group as Eric refilled our glasses. We lingered at the table until bedtime!
Ready for dinner at the chateau
The next day was a marvelous, much-needed, restful indulgence. After a bounteous brunch, we spent most of the day catching up with Chip and Barb. My history with Barb goes back to when we were 18-year-old sorority pledge sisters–53 years ago! We’d lost touch after university, only to reconnect in Wimberley, Texas, where we moved in 2017. Barb and Chip had used their beautiful Wimberley home for vacations until Chip retired and they moved there full-time.
In our Wimberley neighborhood was a sign post that we’d seen when we first visited the town. It’s rather famous today, and of course when we bought our house we added our own sign.
Our sign is on the left, in the bottom third.
Well, Chip and Barb announced that they had brought us “a little something.” What they brought was a little bit of Wimberley–our sign! We were thrilled, and the sign will live on the balcony of our Montpellier apartment.
Our dear friends and the treasure they brought all the way to France!
Our last dinner at the chateau was so much fun. We got to help Diane make a garlic soup that was delicious. It was followed by charcuterie, patés, artisanal breads, and desserts from the local bakery.
Last dinner at the chateau
The next morning we said our goodbyes and made the trip home, arriving just in time to attend a lovely apéro at the home of friends Jana and Martin. We had a busy week, with the kitchen delivery and installation, a delicious dinner chez Betsy and Jacques, a visit to a friend who’d had surgery, and the British Cultural Association‘s coronation watch party. And last weekend we made a short day trip with friends Jo and Dennis to the charming town of Pézenas, where we attended the twice-annual brocante. We stopped at one of the many crowded outdoor restaurants, only to find that on Sunday there is only one choice. On that day: Coronation Chicken!
We followed our lunch with an ice cream stop before wandering the streets of Pézenas together. It’s a lovely town and we’ll definitely be back. I’ll leave you with the Coronation Chicken recipe, in case you’re inclined to copy this dish that was invented for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. King Charles’s coronation dish, a bean and spinach quiche, just doesn’t sound quite as good!