March: in like a whirlwind

The Roamers have a very busy month

This morning, on the last day of March, I am preparing blanquette de veau for a small Easter dinner with friends. But first, I looked over the calendar to find out why I”m feeling a little worn out–and it’s easy to understand! March has been an unusually busy month. Plus, it’s spring! Allergies! Extreme weather changes! And Ophelia, the orchid my friend Gwen gave me over two years ago (friend Sue named her while plant sitting last year), is in full bloom.

Ophelia is thriving

First up in this busy month was THE FIESTA. Our friends Dave and Sue used to host an annual pre-spring fiesta when they lived in Chicago, and now they’re continuing the tradition here. In January they set the date. “It’ll be on the fourth,” Dave said. So on February 4 we showed up–only to find that we were a month early!!! I often think the funniest stories are about mistakes (especially mine), and this was no exception.

Dave, a professionally trained cook, allowed me, along with friends Anne and John, to help with the food preparation, which was so much fun. We spent the day chopping, cooking, and laughing. And the party was perfect! Thirty-five guests of all nationalities and backgrounds crowded into Dave and Sue’s beautiful apartment for a food-and-fun-filled evening.

The fiesta spread

Less fun, but lasting all month and still not resolved, was the Revolution of the Appliances. First, in February, the dishwasher began leaking. A technician came out and “fixed” it, but it continued to leak water all over the floor. As of today, I have made 23 phone calls (in French!) and two visits, all to no avail–and it’s under warranty! We will try again after our return from an upcoming trip to Texas. Also, the washing machine is making a weird noise (the technician said it will take about two weeks to get the part required for repair), and the shower periodically emits a bad smell. Liviing in France is great, but like anywhere else, it has its frustrations.

Recalcitrant dishwasher

March has been an especially challenging month due to Phil’s cardiac rehabilitation. He’s fine, but he has heart disease, and France takes chronic conditions seriously. So for  three weeks, Monday through Friday, a medical taxi picked him up at 7:30 am and brought him home from the clinic (exhausted!) at 4:30 pm. He spent each day exercising: stationary bicycling, walking on the outdoor track, stretching, and doing weight training. He and the other patients had ten-minute breaks after each exercise session, and they were served lunch each day. We’re both relieved that it’s over (although he can do this annually), but he feels great. And I’m happy to have him back home! Oh, and the cost? Zero. Can you imagine what this would cost in the U.S., even if such a thing were available?

March was also a social whirl. There were lunches with friends Sue and Margi, Jennifer, Jo and Dennis, and Linda and Sandi. There was a wonderful dinner party hosted by Ann-Lii and Fredrick, featuring raclette, a delicious cheese-based dish that we hadn’t had since moving to France. Now I want a raclette grill!

Raclette spread: delicious!

That dinner party evolved into a dance party lasting into the wee hours. The next day my knees were angry, but it was worth it! We also spent a Saturday with friends Jo and Dennis, who live in a tiny village about an hour from us. We drove to their house and they drove us all (including their beautiful, sweet Husky, Denali) to a special restaurant on the Canal du Midi, called le Pourquoi Pas (translates to Why Not?). After an adventure on a narrow, muddy dirt road, we enjoyed a lovely lunch in this cozy restaurant frequented by canal barge travelers.

And we hosted a special-purpose lunch with friends Gwen and Tom, so that Phil could provide some painting tips to fledgling and talented artist Gwen, who is taking up painting. Tom surprised her at Christmas with an easel and paints, along with everything she’ll need to get started, and she brought her first work-in-progress, which is astonishingly good, for Phil’s input.

Gwen & Tom, or, as I like to call them, G&T


March is also my birthday month, and the celebration lasted over several days. Nicholas, the waiter at our Thursday coffee group, must have heard someone talking about my birthday, because along with my coffee he brought a birthday candle. On a saucer. Just the candle. Too cute and funny!

Birthday candle from Nicholas

Then there was a special birthday lunch with Linda, Brecka, and Sandi, gorgeous lilies and a lemon tree from Phil, and a special dinner for two at Chez Delagare. Birthday drinks with Jana, whose birthday was a few days before mine, presents from friends and family, and a surprise dinner with Margi and Michael at Terminal 1 followed, and several days later friend Shelia treated me to yet another delicious birthday lunch!

Birthday lilies!

March also included a very bad haircut for me, renewing our street parking pass (because our car is too big for our garage), obtaining a Metropole pass (for reduced admission to museums and more), French lessons five days per week, another meal with Dave and Sue, and a Sunday afternoon spent addressing “Register to vote!” post cards for Democrats Abroad. Phil and I attended a fabulous and strange contemporary performance of Giselle, and we had a planning call with friends Michael and Sara for their October visit.

Birthday lemon tree; I named her Limoncella

And at the very end of the month we completed the donation of our apartment to our kids (for inheritance tax savings; don’t worry, they can’t kick us out!), attended the funeral of a lovely friend, enjoyed a wonderful apĂ©ro dinatoire (kind of a happy hour that serves as an informal dinner with heavy hors d’ouvres), and hosted an Easter lunch (with the blanquette de veau I mentioned above). Dessert was a gorgeous and delicious chocolate cake made by Linda.

This cake was as delicious as it was beautiful!

See why I’m tired? March was a wild and windy month with so many good things. We are grateful for all the wonderful friends we have here and for the busy, exciting adventure of life in France. Now it’s time for a rest!