The merry month of may

The Roamers have been busy!

I didn’t realize that May has been that busy until I looked back on it. How did we manage to have so much fun?

On May 3 we joined a group of friends to say farewell to  Ann-Lii and Fred, who are moving back to Sweden. I misread the time, so Phil and I arrived two hours early at O’Carolan’s Irish Pub. But when I texted the honorees, they decided to come early to keep us company. We were the first to leave but heard that SOME people partied until the wee hours!

Phil has been painting most days, and his work continues to amaze me. He is in his happy place when painting in his studio (a tiny corner of our second bedroom), listening to his favorite music.

One of Phil’s recent paintings

One day we drove to Magalas to pick up Jo and Dennis. Dennis had a broken foot and couldn’t drive, so we piled into the car and visited a wonderful restaurant in the tiny village of Montady, where we had a scrumptious lunch with a view. Typically, I forgot to take a picture of the view.

This dessert was shown on the menu as “orange.”

The next week I attended a luncheon organized by Dennelle of Renestance, to honor Ann-Lii before her departure. We had a great time laughing, telling stories, and reminiscing, but we will all miss Ann-Lii and Fred, who bring smiles and laughter everywhere they go. Phil and I are lucky that we’ll be able to see them when we visit our kids in Stockholm!

Ann-Lii’s sendoff

I have been searching in vain for cloth cocktail napkins, which apparently are not a thing in France. My friend Shelia helped me decide to buy handkerchiefs to use instead. The next day I spotted pipe cleaners at the grocery store, and voila!

Handkerchiefs? Pipe cleaners? You decide.

I put them to good use: my former colleague Ben had e-introduced me to his sister Pam, who was planning an extended visit to Montpellier, staying very near us. What a perfect excuse for a party! I invited a few close friends to a tea party (full disclosure: not a single cup of tea was consumed), so that Pam would have some nearby social contacts during her stay. We munched, drank Champagne and white wine (and a little iced tea for good measure), and enjoyed the beautiful day.

Tea table

Pam had a fun time and has already made lots of friends here, including young’uns from her French classes! I hope she ends up moving here, or at least visiting often.

Pam and me: instant friends!

The next day Phil and I had a grand time at the annual Balade Gastronomique, a walking wine and food tour. It’s special because, in addition to all the great food and wine, participants get a look inside some venues normally closed to the public. With our group of 14, we tasted countless wines and delicious foods.

Our wine-N-dine group

My favorite stop, both for the venue and the food, was our local Prefecture (regional administration office). The part we’ve seen  while obtaining our residence permits is not lovely, but the tour afforded us a look at the main entrance and gorgeous interior of this 19th century building. We headed home (after amuses bouches, cold appetizer, hot appetizer, main, cheese, and dessert courses, each served in a different venue) exhausted and full.

Some of our group members admiring the Prefecture ceiling

Next up on our busy agenda was a very special road trip through Provence with friends Margi and Michael. We’d been planning this trip for months, and we happily set off for our adventure, admiring the scenery of the Camargue (famous for its salt, pink flamingoes, and white horses). Our first stop was Les Baux de Provence, a fortified city from the Middle Ages which Phil and I had visited on our first trip to France in 1993. After a delicious lunch with a view, we explored a bit.

Les Baux lunch with a view

The sweeping views from the top of the village are awe-inspiring, and we took full advantage of the photo ops. In the photo below, you can see some of the spectacular view (and a lovely couple!).

Our friends in Les Baux

Our first two nights were spent in the charming village of Moustiers, which is close to Les Gorges du Verdon, a breathtaking area recommended by our French teacher, Elodie of In Situ. This canyon, for me, is even more spectacular than the Grand Canyon, because of the intensely turquoise river and lake.

First view of Les Gorges du Verdon

As the driver for our trip, I could only take photos during stops, and some of the skinny, winding roads were a bit terrifying, but it was all worth it.

My giggly travel companions

Stopping frequently to take in the views, we made “minute friends” with other travelers, including a small Parisian group we saw at several stops. I cannot overemphasize the vast beauty of this place. If you ever have an opportunity to visit Les Gorges, go!!!

We ran out of words to describe the majesty of Les Gorges du Verdon!

Moustiers had its own kind of beauty, tucked into a giant limestone cliff with a waterfall. It’s also a center of faience, and Margi and I had fun choosing a few pottery pieces for our collections.

Moustiers at night, after dinner

After a delightful couple of nights at Les Restanques de Moustiers, we enjoyed the drive to our next stop, Grasse, where we had booked a perfume workshop at Galimard, a perfume company founded in 1747. Lasting about two hours, this workshop was a highlight of our trip.

Phil concocting his fragrance

Each of us was seated at a perfume “organ” where we developed a base note, heart note, and top note using five scents per note. We were instructed not to use the fragrances for three weeks, so that the scents had time to blend–but a sneaky sniff of mine revealed a fragrance almost identical to Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist. 

My fragrance, named for my childhood nickname

The next morning we proceeded to Saint-Paul-de-Vence, which Phil and I had briefly visited in 2022. One of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera, it was home to James Baldwin for the last 17 years of his life. Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner were married there, and Marc Chagall is one of the most famous artists to have lived there.

Phil enjoying a cocktail in Saint-Paul-de-Vence

It’s also a great shopping town, where I found a dress for an upcoming wedding. Each couple bought a gorgeous linen tablecloth there as well! After filling the trunk with our treasures, we headed on to Antibes, the last stop on our adventure. Unable to get two rooms at the same hotel (I blame the Cannes Film Festival), Phil and I stayed at a 10-room B&B, while our friends were at a seaside hotel with a view. 

Petit dejeuner on the terrace of our B&B

We had fun exploring the beach, as well as the old town, where a huge Sunday market was intriguing. We may or may not have done some more shopping there.

Antibes Sunday marché

We spent lots of time outdoors, enjoying perfect weather and the beautiful Mediterranean. Across the water we could see the snow-topped Alps!

The beach near our hotel, with a view of the Alps

We visited a number of bars and restaurants, of course, including a cocktail stop at the Fitzgerald piano bar in the Hotel Belles Rives, where F. Scott Fitzgerald once lived. It’s a gorgeous Art Deco room with (in our olpinion) slightly snooty service.

Bar Fitzgerald

We had read that this bar is the place to see the rich an famous, but we were almost the only guests during our visit, although there were plenty of people on the terrace overlooking the sea. There were some great photos of famous guests, and the decor alone was worth the visit.

I took this photo for Patricia Popham Taylor, who wrote her master’s thesis on Fitzgerald.

On our post-cocktail stroll to dinner, we happened upon the Walk of Jazz Giants, created as part of the Antibes annual jazz festival. We also spotted some very interesting storefronts.

The handprint of Carlos Santana. My foot for scale.

We didn’t visit this store despite its fascinating display.

And then it was time to head home. Our drive was uneventful, and we were all happy to be home, relishing the memories of a wonderful trip. We resumed our French lessons, I attended my monthly women’s circle meeting, and–a real treat–we saw American Roderick Cox, the new (and youngest ever) conductor of the Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier Occitanie conduct La Bohème. 

La Bohème cast and conductor Roderick Cox taking  a bow

Traveling is always exciting, but it’s nice to be back home enjoying our city. On a recent walk home from my French class I spotted several new works of street art.

Poignant and timely street art


We are so very fortunate to be living this life, in this beautiful country, with so many wonderful friends. We regularly pinch ourselves and promise each other to never take this for granted.

Happy and grateful