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!


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!



Moving out, Moving in. And Parties!

The Roamers put down roots.

As many of you may know, the French people have been protesting President Macron’s new retirement rules, which raised the retirement age from 62 to 64. In Montpellier, there have been frequent manifestations (demonstrations) and grèves (strikes), mostly quite orderly. So on a recent Thursday morning I was surprised to see graffiti on all the shop windows along my route.

Graffiti on a bank window

Not to worry, though–in Montpellier there are people whose job it is to remove graffiti. The windows were clean well before noon.

Graffiti removal van

If you read my last post, you know that we bought an apartment (!!!). We have so loved our first French home that we decided to throw it a farewell apéro (happy hour party), so that we could celebrate all the good times we’ve had there. About 35 people attended; the weather was gorgeous, allowing us to be both inside and out in the garden; and it was so much fun that we ran out of lemontinis. One of our guests was someone we’d met two days earlier: Zia heard us speaking English at the grocery store and struck up a conversation. He’s from Pakistan, his wife is French, and he was longing for English-speaking friends. He came to the party and now has become a regular at the weekly coffee group!

Wonderful friends who helped us celebrate and say au revoir to our first French home

And the next morning we moved. Yep, that’s right, we’re the Roamers and we move fast! Amin and Fredrick came to help with the few heavy items, and we moved everything else ourselves. It was a busy day, but we were delighted to be in our new home. That evening we enjoyed our first dinner in our new home–party leftovers! 

Party leftovers. And the lilies Phil gave me for my 71st birthday!

We got a third estimate for the apartment renovations. Benoit and his assistant, Midi, were super professional, pointed out some minor repairs that they could include–and a few days later delivered the winning bid! We approved it quickly and were eager to get things started. Meanwhile, we settled in as much as possible.

Coffee on the balcony the first morning

The first week in our new home was BUSY! We ran tons of errands and bought essentials. Because our first home was fully furnished, we needed cookware, brooms, furniture, mops, kitchen utensils (although I had brought the essentials–knives, my super duper garlic press, things like that). And also we had parties! Dear friends Jo and Dennis came to our new place for an apéro before we all headed to a favorite restaurant for a birthday party. The food was fabulous, the company even better–and the cake! The French really know how to do les gateaux! This one was chocolat mousse atop a cake layer and a crunchy layer (kind of like a Rice Krispies treat crust, but far more refined), decorated with fruit and chocolates. Both beautiful and delicious!

Birthday Party!

The next evening we attended an apéro held to honor a friend’s sister (whom we loved!), who was visiting from the U.S. on her first trip to Europe. I was having so much fun I forgot to take pictures, but our hosts made a wonderful turkey chili feast, the wine flowed, and we chatted, laughed, and ate until our stomachs hurt. One of the best parts: we didn’t have to leave early to catch the bus because we can walk everywhere from our new home! And the next day we walked to a birthday lunch celebration for another dear friend–with another gorgeous and delicious cake. I can’t believe we have so many opportunities to celebrate with our friends. 

So, what about the apartment? Well, things are moving forward. . .slowly. I discovered that the oven, which we were planning to keep, doesn’t work (neither does the dishwasher), so we ordered a new one. Cooking without an oven or microwave has been challenging, but in a fun way. On one evening last week I had decided to make chicken pot pie. I had the filling ready to go when I remembered: no oven! So I plopped the puff pastry into my giant new skillet, turned the heat on low, and covered the pan with foil. Voila! Puff pastry, which I plopped on top of the filling like a chapeau! As my daddy used to say when my mother complained that her food wasn’t up to snuff, “But it’ll eat good!” And it did.

Makeshift chicken pot pie. It was delicious!

The renovation team has begun its work, and Phil’s studio/our guest room and the cellier  (pantry) are painted. We’ve purchased furniture and most of the lighting. Tomorrow they’ll run electricity and water to the cellier so we can use the washer and dryer (and get water and ice from the fridge door). And soon we’ll be removing everything from the kitchen so it can be torn out and replaced. In the meantime, we’re enjoying our cozy new nest, and we’re filled with gratitude for our wonderful life in France.

Grayson and Chef Bender, installed in the temporary kitchen



We bought an apartment!

Part One. Probably part one of many.

We really, really love our adopted city, Montpellier. Every time we venture into the Écusson (old town; it’s shaped like a shield, hence the name), we discover something enchanting, interesting, or downright funny. 

This shop window display cracked me up!

And now, since we have a (too big but lovely) car, we can venture outside the confines of public transportation. Recently we decided on a whim to drive to the beach, a 25-minute drive from our home. We parked (for free!) and stopped at a funky beach restaurant for lunch before heading to the sand.

Yes, we often have wine at lunch–especially at the beach!

This beach, unlike another we have frequented, is quiet, with no restaurants or shops, just lovely beach homes and the sea. We strolled a while before proceeding to enjoy a leisurely drive along the coast.

Quiet Mediterranean beach

On Sundays we often visit the nearby brocante (flea market), where we occasionally purchase but always enjoy looking at everything. On this visit we bought a large cut glass flower vase for 15 euros. Walking home, we stopped for two essentials: a baguette and flowers.

Sunday shopping

We have experienced such joy living in Montpellier, and we decided very early that this would be our home in France. After a half-hearted debate about whether to buy or rent (we already knew that buying would win), we began our home search with Renestance’s founder, Dennelle Taylor Nizoux. Having a buyer’s agent enabled us to actually get appointments for viewings (not easy!), as well as having an expert’s help and advice at every step. Denelle created a spreadsheet to track our wish list and measure each option against our criteria. After viewing countless homes online and nine in person (and being outbid on one place), we settled on a small apartment in our favorite neighborhood, Antigone. 

Our building

We made a full-price, cash offer on December 4 (we are too old to qualify for a mortgage!!!), and on March 7 we finally closed the sale. Have I mentioned that things move slowly in France? Assisting with the closing was Pogo, the notaire’s enormous shaggy dog, who posed with us after the final paperwork was signed.

Pogo is even bigger than he looks in this picture!

We were super excited to be homeowners! Before moving in, we had a lot of work to do. First up was cleaning. We have sold eight homes in our marriage, and each time we have left them spotless, with flowers and a welcome note for the new owners. Apparently that is NOT a thing in France! The apartment was quite grimy, so, armed with rubber gloves and alcohol (our new all-purpose cleaner recommended by our son), we got to work.

This spice rack in the kitchen was gross!

After a thorough scrubbing, the next step was finding someone to do the renovations. We plan to completely replace the kitchen (we bought a new kitchen and a lot of furniture from superstore BUT, where I think they should award us the Best BUT Customer award), reconfigure the bathroom, and repaint the entire apartment. The selling agent’s son came highly recommended, and we really liked him, but there was a catch: he is fully booked until September! We were shocked, so of course after the meeting we headed to a bar for cocktails and frites. By the time we’d consumed them, we had calmed down and realized that we could move in and live with things as they were until September.

CAD image of our new kitchen

And we love the location! On our first day there while we were cleaning, I heard noises and a loudspeaker but couldn’t figure out what it was. Soon the mystery was solved, as an enormous manifestation (protest demonstration) slowly passed our building. There had to be over a thousand people marching, protesting the proposed increase in retirement age from 62 to 64.

We live on the protest path!

After we had the apartment clean, we scheduled deliveries. We received our “American frigo,” washer and dryer, sleeper sofa, and TV, all of which were put in place easily.

Most French people don’t have a clothes dryer, but we’re a bit spoiled.

Suddenly a voice came from our bedroom. “Madame, il n’y a pas de pieds pour le lit,” said the delivery guy. Sure enough, the bed had no feet. We had bought an electric bed with the motor on the bottom, so without feet he could not set up the bed. Back to BUT I went, and 110 euros later our bed had feet!

This bed has no feet!

Phil and I were able to set up the bed, and this week I had a small nap on it. Lovely! While we were roaming throughout the U.S., we experienced a variety of bed quality, some great and some just ok. But we always missed the electric bed we had in Wimberley, so an electric bed was on our “must-have” list.

Later on delivery day a beautiful fox-like dog rushed into our apartment. She let me pet her for a moment, but then she was off to explore our new digs. Her human arrived, she ignored said human’s efforts to collect her, and finally she was cornered, picked up, and carried back home to an apartment down the hall. An hour later, said human knocked on our door and explained that he was moving out that day. I was able to make a joke in French about whether he was moving out because we were moving in (hurray for toddler-level French!), as he held out our first housewarming gift: a bag of frozen french fries. Hilarious!

Housewarming frites!

Yesterday we met with another contractor who may be able to tear out the old kitchen so we can get the new one installed before September. We’ll keep our fingers crossed, and maybe soon I’ll have some before and after photos to share! Meanwhile, we will be busy moving non-essential things over, hosting friends for a last apéro at our old place, and planning our big move.We are beyond grateful and excited for our next adventure!



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 “ApérOpera” 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!

un an plus tard…

The Roamers reflect on a year in France

Wow, today we are celebrating our one-year anniversary of living in France! It’s been quite a year. A year is a long time, and yet it’s hardly any time at all, we’ve learned. One year ago today, we landed in Montpellier, jetlagged and excited. We took a taxi to our new home, which we’d never seen, where we were greeted by Renestance consultant Lizzie, as well as our new propriétaires (landlords), Charbel and Jacqueline, who would become lovely friends. 

Coming home one evening to our beautiful furnished apartment

We arrived on a Sunday during COVID, so after being welcomed to our apartment our first stop was the only open pharmacy, where we obtained our Cartes Sanitaires, without which we could not enter a restaurant terrace. We enjoyed a quick dinner on le Place de la Comédie and crashed in our new space.

Our apartment’s kitchen

Settling in was the first order of business. We bought sheets, towels, and groceries, applied for our TAM senior cards, which entitle us to free public transportation, enrolled in French lessons, met up with other English speakers for coffee, reconnected with the friends we’d made on our reconnaissance trip, and began to explore our new city. 

Our friends Gwen and Tom invited us for coffee when we arrived

After roaming in the U.S. for a year and a half, we were not about to stop traveling! So we kept it up. In our first year in France we have visited Bordeaux, Nice, Avignon, Sète, Aix-en-Provence, Rouen, Honfleur, Bayeux, Nimes, Monaco, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Cannes, and a few others I’ve forgotten. Yes, we have been to Paris several times, but only in transit.

Rouen Cathedral, one of our favorite Roaming sights

We’ve traveled a lot outside of France as well. Over the past year we’ve visited Barcelona, Stockholm (twice), Southampton in the U.K., Norway, Northern Ireland, Ireland, the Azores, Italy, and in the United States NYC, Austin, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and my hometown Ponca City, Oklahoma. We took a 15-day transatlantic cruise that was amazing. Honestly, we are a tiny bit travel-weary and plan to roam a bit less in 2023.

Cruise sunset

One thing that amazes us is the circle of friends we have here in Montpellier after only a year. Many are Americans, but we have friends from France, Lebanon, South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, Tunisia, England, Scotland, Ireland, and elsewhere. There are more social gatherings than we can attend, and we have loved entertaining our new friends at home.

Hosting our first French Friendsgiving

One day in January we had two parties, one for the women, co-hosted by Renestance and friend Tracey, and one for the men. I attended the galette party (many king’s cakes were served), while Phil hosted some of the guys.

Galette party. Over 30 women attended!


Guys’ party. They forgot to serve the king’s cake!

We have loved exploring Montpellier. Simply walking through the medieval streets is a treat. We’ve also taken advantage of the many cultural opportunities here, including the amazing Musée Fabre, the photography museum Pavillon Populaire, two operas (Tosca and Aida), a Mozart concert with our local orchestra, and an organ concert in the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Montpellier. We even attended a delightful small piano concert at a local bar/restaurant.

This cathedral, built in the 1300s, offers free Friday evening organ concerts.

We also enjoyed hosting several house guests in our first year. Dear friends Pilar and René spent several fun-filled days with us in May–and they bought us a pétanque set! This lawn bowling game is very popular in our area, and we’ve had great fun playing in our garden. Friends-who-are-family Joni and Scott spent a few days with us in early June, and it was wonderful! Next up were Nancy and Tom, our friends and in-laws (our daughter is married to their son). It was very hot during their visit, so we had to curtail our walking a bit, but we managed to have a wonderful time together. And they brought us Tex-Mex goodies! In July we hosted Phil’s college friends Gayla and Trish for a week. Unfortunately, COVID decided to visit Gayla the morning after they arrived, so the visit was not ideal, but we still managed to have fun. I cooked, Trish loved sketching in the Jardin des Plantes, and on the last day of their visit Gayla was able to do an informal walking tour of the city.

Playing pétanque in our garden

We had planned to buy a car after a month or two, and we hoped to find a used electric vehicle. When that proved impossible, we ordered a new electric car. That was in March. Ten months ago. After countless delays, apparently due to the parts shortage, we gave up and bought a different car, which we just picked up last week. It’s larger than I’d hoped for, and the turn radius is poor, but it’s beautful and should be great for road trips. Already we’ve discovered how narrow many roads are, and don’t even get me started on the tiny parking spots! Phil has received his French driving license, but mine is delayed. Apparently I colored outside the lines on my signature, so of course I have to start over from scratch!

New car!

We arrived in France with a plan to rent our furnished apartment for a year, then decide whether to rent long-term or buy. Buying won out, and with the help of Dennelle from Renestance, we have found our next home. Have I mentioned that things move slowly in France? Our offer (full price, cash) was accepted December 5, and only last week did we sign the compromis de vente, which starts the purchase process (after a ten-day cooling off period!). We’re hoping to close in late March or early April, after which we have some renovations to complete before moving in.

Our new apartment building. That tiny white sign on the left is on our balcony.

Our American friends will be asonished at the size of our new home: less than 900 square feet! We’ve lived in 3600 square feet, and our last house in Wimberley, Texas was the smallest to date: 2200 square feet. But homes in France, for the most part, are smaller than in the U.S. This apartment has two bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms (or it will when the renovations are done), and a large balcony. That’s all we need!

The new apartment

One goal for 2022 that we failed to achieve was living within our budget. We have rationalized that, of course (I tell people that my university minor was rationalization), by realizing that we were actually under budget except for excessive travel expense. For this year we’ve increased the travel budget, but kept it below what we spent in 2022. 

This picture has roamed with us everywhere!

So we are closing out our first French year with immense gratitude, respect for the wonderful, kind people of France, and some new goals: improve our French, move into our new home, visit granddaughter Cora (and her parents), explore more of France, and continue to appreciate and enjoy every moment of this wonderful life we’re so fortunate to be living. My wish for everyone who reads this is that you have the best year yet. Remember: life is short, so do it now!




Christmas in sweden

Our daughter! Our son-in-law! Snow! Food!

Several months ago we booked a ten-day trip to Stockholm for the holidays. What a treat to finally spend Christmas with our daughter and her husband, whom we think of as one of our own. That, incidentally, can be a bit embarrassing when I introduce them as “our kids” to someone who is then puzzled by their hand-holding and snuggling!

We arrived in Stockholm just before midnight on December 16, where we were greeted by -10 degrees Centigrade and SNOW! We spent the next day with Amelia and Nic, strolling, shopping, and of course eating. For dinner at their house we were treated to delicious soups and Nic’s homemade bread, which has been perfected over many months. He is even the proud owner of a t-shirt that says “BREAD MAN.”

Nic’s sourdough loaf, fresh out of the oven

The next day we finished up some stocking-stuffer shopping, strolled the city, and enjoyed each other’s company. Following that was Amelia’s last Christmas market day, so we all bundled up for a very cold day. It was lovely, despite the cold, to watch all the holiday shoppers. Some of us may have commented on one guy in shorts and sandals in 0 degree weather. Amelia’s business, Mellie Earrings, has taken off and the markets have played a big role in her success.

Amelia and Phil at the market

Because our kids have a one-bedroom apartment (and also because we’re spoiled and require a king sized bed), we stay in a hotel when we visit, but for this trip I had booked an Airbnb outside of Stockholm where the four of us could stay together for a few days. We arrived to almost-melted snow and slick sidewalks, but we were charmed by the gorgeous view from the top floor of the house.

Our view upon arrival at the Airbnb

Nic and I headed out to buy food for the next three days, and we all proceeded to have a wonderful time cooking together, working a puzzle, watching old Star Trek episodes, and simply enjoying our precious time together.

A lot of resting was accomplished in the spacious living room.

On our last full day in the Airbnb, we were treated to some SUNSHINE! It was still too cold and slick to enjoy walking outside, so we stayed snugly inside and enjoyed the view. We had only five hours of daylight each day, so this was truly a treat.

A brief sunny view

The next day we all headed back to the kids’ apartment. There, over another yummy dinner, we made plans for our special Christmas Eve event: a “Chopped Challenge” type meal. Chopped, for anyone who has the misfortune not to know this, is a quirky food competition reality show where contestants are given a mystery basket from which they must make a delicious dish. Three of us love to cook, and Phil is a non-cooking bartender, so we assigned him to make cocktails. Amelia would make the appetizer, I’d make the main course, and Nic would create the dessert. We agreed that Nic would provide Phil’s basket, Phil would do Amelia’s, she would do mine, and I’d provide Nic’s. The next day we were off to fight hordes of people at the liquor store and supermarket.

This idea came, of course, from our kids, who’ve done this a couple of times before. We had great fun creating mystery baskets for each other. Nic made an interesting basket for Phil’s cocktail creations, featuring whiskey, champagne, lemon balm, basil, ginger beer, sake, and blood orange cider.

Phil’s cocktail basket, created by Nic

The appetizer basket Phil created for Amelia hinted toward stuffed mushrooms, but of course she was far more creative than that. It included mushrooms, Tex-Mex cheese (because we all came to Europe from Texas!), canned artichoke hearts, green onions, jalepenos (Texas again), and herbed cheese.

Phil’s appetizer basket for Amelia

My main course basket from Amelia included one quite challenging item: green plantains. It also contained entrecote, thai basil, king oyster mushrooms, yellow bell pepper, green onions, fresh pasta, almond butter, mustard, calamata olives, and an orange. Wow!

The main course basket Amelia gave me

And finally, I made a basket for Nic’s dessert creation including fresh cranberries (because Christmas), shortbread cookies, individual tiramisus, sauternes, whipped cream, chocolate cookies, and an orange.

My dessert basket for Nic

Because we were not on TV and could make our own rules, we did some planning that evening. Our daughter Amelia has always been the most organized and creative person ever, and of course she did not disappoint with her sketch and planning.

Amelia’s appetizer plan

Nic also made some elaborate plans. Phil researched cocktails using his ingredients, while I researched what the heck I could do with plantains. I entered the cooking portion of the event with a skeleton of an idea, but it would require significant improvisation.

On Christmas eve, we decided that a rather long meal with breaks after each course for the next chef’s kitchen time would work just fine. Interspersed with breaks for video chats with U.S. family, as well as a few episodes of Ted Lasso, we got to work. And our meal was spectacular!

Phil created two memorable cocktails. Well, I think they were memorable. Not liking whiskey, I took a couple of polite sips before passing mine on to Phil and Nic. Everyone loved both cocktails, and I happily sipped Champagne. So happily, in fact, that I forgot to take a picture of Phil’s work.

Next up was Amelia’s appetizer. She made an “everything bagel” cracker, topped with a mousse made from herbed goat cheese, green onions, artichokes, jalepenos, and mushrooms, garnished with green onion, roasted jalepeno, and mushrom, and topped off with a cheddar tuille. It was fabulous, and we ate every morsel!

Amelia presents the appetizer

I was up next, with two very hard acts to follow. With my basket I made pasta with a sauce of steak, yellow peppers, olives, and green onions, with a side of butter-sauteed mushrooms. I made a second “side”–almost more like a second appetizer–of plantain tostones with a dipping sauce of almond butter, garlic, ginger, orange juice, wine vinegar, and sesame oil. It wasn’t a pretty plate, too much brown, but as my daddy used to say, “it ate good.”

My main course

Finally it was Nic’s turn, and he outdid us all. With his basket he made an incredible cheesecake. The crust was made with the two kinds of cookies, a bit of sauternes, and plenty of butter. The cheesecake had a wonderful tiramisu flavor, enhanced by the addition of some coffee powder. And using the fresh cranberries he topped the cheesecake with a delicious compote. The whole beautiful dish was topped off with whipped cream and cookie crumb sprinkles, with a bit of orange peel. I may or may not have had three servings over two days.

Fabulous cheesecake from Chopped Winner Nic!

Stuffed, happy, and proud, we proceeded to enjoy the rest of the evening, playing Dominion (a first for Phil and me), watching more Ted Lasso episodes (the best tv show ever produced, in my opinion), giggling, and feeling grateful for our time together.

On Christmas morning we headed to the kids’ apartment for a delightful day. We had a video call with our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, exchanged fun stocking stuffers, played with their cat Dakeeti, ate leftovers, watched more Ted Lasso, and enjoyed a relaxed, joyful day.

My stocking held this beautiful amazonite stone from Amelia

We ended the evening with another round of Dominion (Phil and I still came in last) and the beginnings of a puzzle that looked impossible. We gave up and returned to the hotel shortly after it was framed up, but Amelia finished it before bedtime. She is the best puzzler ever!

Final Dominion game

And the next morning it was time to go home. The kids joined us at our hotel for breakfast and sent us off in the taxi. It’s always sad to say goodbye, but we love knowing we’re not so far away. In the words of A.A. Milne, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” 

Phil and Amelia cherishing those last minutes


I hope everyone who reads this has had a wonderful holiday. Here’s to a promising new year for us all, filled with family, friends, and fun. Cheers!

One week in normandy

The Roamers explore the north

Phil has wanted to visit the WWII sites in Normandy for many years; in fact, one of his regrets is that he never had an opportunity to take his dad there. One December when we were in Paris with our kids, we rented a car and drove there, but by the time we arrived it was dusk and most museums were closed. We had planned a trip in July 2020, but of course that was cancelled due to COVID. Now that we’d been living in France almost ten months, it was time to go–and this time we would stay for a week to ensure plenty of time to see everything. 

Our Rouen hotel

We took the train through Paris to Rouen and checked in to a beautiful old hotel, l’Hotel de Bourgtherolde, where we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast each morning. We arrived late in the afternoon, so we explored the neighborhood a bit, reading menus before deciding on a restaurant for dinner. The next day we spent exploring Rouen, particularly the gorgeous Musee des Beaux Arts and the famous Rouen Cathedral.

Renoir painting, “Girl Looking into a Mirror”

The museum featured a special exhibit of one of our favorite Italian painters, Caravaggio, focused on his large-scale, violent, and disturbing religious works. We also saw many works depicting Jeanne d’Arc, as well as an impressive number of Impressionist paintings.

After two and a half hours we were tired and hungry, so we headed out for lunch and a rest. We then set out for the cathedral, but along the way were mesmerized by the 16th centuray Palais de Justice. Rouen is a beautiful city with more than its share of amazing buildings.

Palais de Justice

Finally we made it to the cathedral. The night before our trip we had watched an episode of our favorite French murder mystery series, “Murder In. . .”  Each episode is filmed in a beautiful French location, and in a lucky accident the one we watched was “Murder in Rouen.” The murder and subsequent investigation centered on the cathedral, so we were especially charmed to see it in real life.

Rouen Cathedral

We’ve seen a lot of gorgeous cathedrals in Europe, but this one is truly amazing. It’s enormous, and it took some time to get even a cursory view of everything. I like to take a seat and soak in the mystery and beauty of these sacred spots.

Inside Rouen Cathredral

After another wonderful dinner (more on that later), we went to bed early, knowing we’d have a long, rainy drive in the dark the next morning. We had to meet our guide in Bayeux before 9:00. After searching many websites and reading dozens of reviews, I’d selected an Airbnb experience by Johann for our WWII all-day tour, and we were not disappointed. A native of Bayeux, Johann is a historian who had worked at the Louvre in Paris until deciding to return to his hometown. He restricts tours to four guests, so we were with another American couple (this New Jersey couple’s blended family included NINE children and two sets of twins!). While we saw all the usual sights, Johann’s tour was special because of  the off-the-beaten-path sites and stories he has discovered over the years.

One of many bunkers we visited

The experience was more emotionally wrenching than I’d even expected. So many young men–kids, really–died there. The stories of Omaha and Utah Beach made me realize what a logistical feat D-Day was. I hadn’t known about the tanks sinking, or the currents that caused errors in the landings, or how the Germans used their knowledge of farmers’ hedgerows to their advantage. 

The American Cemetery

But the most important takeaways for me were Johann’s stories of kindness, compassion, and humanity shown in this brutal time. For example, at the famous Sainte Mère d’Eglise (you’ve probably heard of it; it’s the church where a paratrooper got stuck on the steeple and hung there, playing dead, for three hours), we learned that a German soldier saw him and cut him down. He was captured–not mistreated!–but escaped several days later. Today a dummy is suspended from the steeple, the parachute waving in the breeze, to commemorate Steele’s heroism.

John Steele’s replica hangs from the steeple

We were taken to a tiny village of 56 people where Johann shared a story of kindness and humanity. An American doctor had taken over the small church to use as a hospital for wounded people–American soldiers, an injured girl, and German soldiers–only after he acquiesced to the priest’s demand that no weapons be taken into the church. A German soldier burst into the church, ready to kill everyone, when the priest stopped him and showed him that Germans were being cared for. The soldier dropped his gun and began helping. In that same church, a shell came through the ceiling and hit the floor tile–but didn’t detonate. A piece of debris hit the doctor who was performing surgery and knocked him down; he got up and continued the surgery. The broken tiles and dent in the floor are still visible, as are blood stains of the wounded on the pews.

The tiny village church where kindness prevailed

After the war, we were told, Americans came to the church and told the priest, “We broke it. We’ll fix it.” They were referring to the broken stained glass windows. Many of the replacement windows in this church and others include depictions of American soldiers. And the American doctor who performed surgery in the church? He visited frequently, stayed in touch with the young woman whose life he’d saved until his death, and at his request was buried in the small graveyard at the church.

One of the replacement windows featuring American soldiers, along with the Virgin Mary

By the end our our tour we were emotionally drained, and very glad that we’d booked a hotel in Bayeux for the night. Our guide had recommended a fabulous, tiny restaurant that rates in our top 25 lifetime meals. We highly recommend la Rapier for a memorable meal, outstanding service, and warm hospitality.

Bayoux monuments at sunset


The next day we saw the famous Bayeux tapestry, which depicts the events leading to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Since I was an English major, that date was important to me, and it was fascinating to see the tapestry, which has been described as the earliest known example of propaganda!

One bit of the 70 meter long tapestry

That afternoon we drove back to Rouen, with the memory of an unforgettable experience in Bayeux and the WWII sites. The next day we’d planned something more upbeat–a day trip to beautiful Honfleur.

Omaha Beach. Deceptively peaceful.

We really didn’t do Honfleur justice. It was cold and wet (it rained every day of our trip), and frankly we were a bit tired. So we walked, took photos, and window shopped, stopping for a delightful lunch near the old harbor. That Vieux Bassin has been painted by many famous Impressionists, including Claude Monet and native son Eugène Boudin.

Vieux Bassin, or Old Harbor

Honfleur is in the Calvados region, named for the delicious apply brandy. We wanted to do a tasting, so we left Honfleur to visit the Calvados Experience, a Disneyesque museum/tasting venue/shopping extravaganza. The sole visitors for our English-language experience, we were taken to the entrance and directed to walk through each door when it opened. What we discovered was a multi-media interactive history of Normandy’s apple brandy, centered around the life and legend of Dominique Magloire, an 1800s innkeeper known for serving excellent calvados.

Video depicting Père Magloire serving his guests

The experience was fascinating, fun, and informative. At the end we were treated to an educational tasting, featuring the various types of calvados. And of course the exit took us through the boutique, where we selected one bottle for drinking and one for cooking (for many years I’ve made a chicken dish with apples and Calvados cream sauce. Delicious!). And our guide gifted us with a bottle of excellent cider.

This pile of apples looked real!

The next day we had reservations to visit Mont St. Michele, but at breakfast Phil confessed that instead of driving over three hours each way in the rain, he really just wanted to stay in Rouen. So we had a restful day, venturing over to the outdoor market for cheese, bread, tomatoes, and olives. We popped open the sparkling cider and had a picnic in our room!

Now begins the gourmet section of this post. That evening we had one of my all-time favorite dinners, at CanCan. After a gracious greeting, we were seated and given a heated stone to warm our hands–genius!

I didn’t want to give up my smooth round stone!

We enjoyed a delicious amuse-bouche that I’ve forgotten, followed by our chosen entrees (an entrée in France is an appetizer; the main meal–aka entree in America–is called le plat). I can’t remember what it was, but Phil had ordered something smoked. We were surprised when it arrived with a bed of what looked like hay on the side–until our waiter lit the hay on fire! He then covered it with a glass cloche as it smoked the contents. What a show!

Phil’s smoking appetizer

The meal was exceptional, with each course an interesting and delicious treat. My favorite was my chocolate dessert: “Cratière Choco-Caramelo à la Saveur d’une Tarte Citron Meringuée.” It arrived in a small dish on a large plate, with a disc of chocolate perched on top of the dish. The waiter poured something that looked like dry ice onto the plate below, and we watched the chocolate melt into the dish. Wonderful!

Chocolate melting into the dish

Not all of our meals were as showy, but everything we ate was delicious. The food of Normandy is the best we’ve ever had–from a tiny shop serving only soup and dessert, to several moderately priced places where we were greeted like old friends, to special restaurants like le Rapier and CanCan. Many dishes featured local dairy–cream and camembert–with beautiful vegetables perfectly prepared. And several times we made room for our favorite after-dinner treat, café gourmand.

Phil’s cafe gourmand one evening

Offered at most restaurants in France, a café gourmand is a cup of espresso with three or four tiny desserts. It’s an opportunity to taste several desserts instead of one full-sized one. I can’t handle caffeine in the evening, so usually Phil orders it and I get to taste!

Another cafe gourmand. Phil shared!

For our last day in Rouen, we decided to walk the city, strolling everywhere and marvelling at the beautiful buildings. We also visited the Jeanne d’Arc museum, where we learned much more about this fabled heroine. Housed in the Archbishop’s palace where her trial took place, the tour provides both an in-depth story of Joan of Arc’s life and a detailed tour of the medieval building. 

Chapel in the Archibishop’s palace

We climbed roughly one million stone steps, many in a scary spiral pattern with limited headroom. At the top of the building we were rewarded with an incredible view of the street below.

This view was worth the climb!

And then, after one more spectacular dinner and a final night in our lovely hotel, it was time to leave. We returned home feeling transformed by this experience, one we will never forget.

Normandy rainbow

I’ll leave you with the image below (with our guide Johann passing by), of the American Cemetery monument quote that I loved: “Think not only upon their passing. Remember the glory of their spirit.”




Our first big party!

After returning from a fabulous trip to Normandy (I’ll write about that next month), our thoughts and energy turned to preparing for our first French Thanksgiving. Our favorite holiday, Thanksgiving is an opportunity for us to bring friends and/or family together to feast, tell stories, and have fun together while reveling in our gratitude for the life we have. Since we have no family here, this would be our first Friendsgiving in Europe.

The first order of business, after issuing invitations, was the turkey. While it’s easy to find thin slices, escalopes de dinde, here, I had no idea where to find whole turkeys. Fortunately, my friend Margi consulted the butcher at Les Halles, an indoor farmers’ market, who confirmed he could source them. So, armed wih my terrible French, I managed to order turkey from the lovely, non-English speaking butcher, who explained to me that turkeys in France were not at all like the huge, large-breasted turkeys in the U.S. For 20 people, he said, I would need three turkeys. I paid a deposit and left, only to later receive several calls from him, confirming our plans. The funniest one was when he said his farmer had told him that Thanksgiving was on November 27th, not November 24. I assured him it was the 24th, and that I’d collect the turkeys the day before.

Phil and I arrived on November 23, a bit nervous about whether the turkeys would indeed be waiting for us; my backup plan was to serve chicken. But M. le boucher, good to his word, had them ready–WITH HEADS INTACT! “Pas de tête pour moi,” I exclaimed, and he proceeded to remove the heads and cut the turkeys into pieces small enough for my oven. He even threw in a gift of sausage! He now has a customer for life.


Tables ready

With the turkey sorted, rolls made, dressing prepped, and green bean casserole (from scratch; no canned soup enters this food snob’s house!) ready for the oven, we proceeded to set up. Our furnished apartment has a table for six, and we brought our garden table for six inside. Our friend Jackie loaned us a third table with folding chairs, and our friend Jo loaned us a white tablecloth, so we were all set for our 18 guests.

Gorgeous flowers from Gwen and Tom

Special friends Gwen and Tom couldn’t come, as Gwen is down for the count with a badly broken ankle. But the day before the party, gorgeous flowers arrived from them! See what I mean when I mention our wonderful friends?


Amazing friends make for a great party!

The party was so much fun! Great food, wonderful company, and Phil’s famous pomegranate martinis made the day. We had guests from the U.S., France, Scotland, Lebanon, the Czech Republic, and Sweden, and both French and English were spoken. It was a Thanksgiving we’ll never forget.

The next day we stayed at home, putting the apartment back together, stuffing ourselves on leftovers, and resting. But on Saturday we were eager to get out. We attended our first session of Franglais, a language gathering where French speakers help others learn French, then enjoyed a stroll with friend Betsy. We decided to have a glass of wine, so I texted friends Anne and John, who met us at the bar near their home. After drinks we headed out to see the Coeur de Ville en Lumière. These events are held all over France, with gorgeous animated light shows projected onto monuments and buildings and set to music.

Christmas lights on Rue Foch

The light shows were incredible! The first one, Moustache le Chat, was at the Prefecture. We loved it! The second one was more serious, highlighting important women taking their rightful place among important men. My favorite moment was when Marie Curie broke the glass ceiling.

Shattering the glass ceiling

But my favorite was at the Promenade de Peyroux, where the water tower featured opera arias–and fireworks! It was a magical night.

The next day, Sunday, we decided to check out the Christmas market, which was unlike any holiday market we’d seen. Foie gras, vin chaud, gifts for everyone, and several Santa photo ops were on offer, along with food–oysters, aligot, sausages, crèpes, frites, sandwiches, and much more.

Hot wine. It’s better than it sounds.

There were probably about 75 or so vendors there, selling all kinds of wares–handmade jewelry, art, knives, puzzles, preserved foods, pottery, beauty products, cashmere shawls, and much more. We only bought one small item, but we’ll be back!

Foie Gras booth

But my favorite sight was the cotton candy booth. Apparently in France cotton candy is called “daddy’s beard.” Brilliant!

Barb de papa, aka cotton candy

And so we end this perfect Thanksgiving weekend feeling such gratitude for our lives in France. This beautiful city, Montpellier, is our home, and we are so fortunate to live here. Thanks for coming along for the ride!





Speaking of home. . .

The Roamers are making some big plans!

We love our beautiful furnished apartment–it’s spacious, comfortable, affordable, and comes with a rare large private garden. But after living here almost a year, we feel the urge to have something of our own, something permanent. And yes, Montpellier has become home for us. We plan to continue Roaming, traveling as much as possible, but after our year and a half of living full-time in Airbnbs, one month at a time, we value the notion of having a place of our own. So, we’ve decided to buy an apartment!


Our private garden, a rarity

There are two things, and only two things, we don’t like about our current furnished apartment. First, the location is far from everything we want to be close to. Want to go to a cafe for a coffee? Walk 25 minutes. How about a quick burger? 20 minutes. A trip to a restaurant will take 35 minutes walking or slightly less time via bus. Since we have no car (yet!) we depend on public transportation, which can be inconsistent.

Dining at home, because no restaurants!

The other thing we don’t like about our apartment is that it’s hidden behind THREE locked gates! The electric driveway gate gives access to the parking area. The next, a heavy iron gate, leads to a tiny courtyard with an unoccupied casita. And the third is the entry to our private garden. Very secure, but definitely a hassle for deliveries and hosting guests!

The last of three locked gates. Just try to get in!

Phil and I have had many conversations about whether to rent long-term or buy, and in the end we decided we really want to buy. Despite the damage to our funds courtesy of the stock market, the dollar is currently at equity with the euro, so it’s not a bad time to buy. In an ideal world, here’s what we’d like: three bedrooms, a large covered terrace, a high floor, little or no renovation needed, a walk-in shower, room for a washer and dryer, air conditioning, parking with electric car charging, and a quiet but close-to-everything location. Oh, and a great kitchen. The kitchen in our rental is perfect.

Wish we could replicate our kitchen!

We signed with Dennelle of Renestance, who represents buyers. In France there is no multilist, and agents often fiercely protect their listings–to the point that it can be difficult to even view an apartment! And agents work only on behalf of the sellers, so through Renestance we will have an expert in our corner. With Dennelle’s help we’ve now visited six apartments: one awful, one in dire need of renovation, and several nice ones.

A nice possibility, but no terrace

We narrowed our search to a specific Montpellier neighborhood called Antigone. Close to everything–shopping, restaurants, train station, and l’Ecusson (the old town)–this area was created in the 80’s and features neoclassical architecture. We love the leafy pedestrian lanes, multiple cafes, and fabulous outdoor and covered markets here!

The Sunday market at Antigone

You know how in the United States people who are selling their homes stage them? And clean them? Not in France! We’ve been surprised at how messy the homes can be. Honestly, who wants to see someone else’s detritus?

Messy laundry area in the bathroom of one of the apartments we visited

Yesterday we found what we think might be “the one.” On the 13th floor, with a beautiful view, it’s close to everything and has most of what we want. Stay tuned to find out what happens next!


home again, home again, jiggety jog

The Roamers happily head home

What a wonderful trip we had! We saw so many of our loved ones, had quality time with our darling granddaughter and her parents, and attended my twice-postponed 50th reunion, which celebrated “70 at 70” since we graduated in 1970 and are now 70 years old! After Dallas, we spent a couple of nights in Oklahoma City, where I mostly stayed in bed nursing a bad case of bronchitis while Phil saw several of his old friends. Then we met my brother and sis-in-law, Larry and Lea, for a lovely brunch in Tulsa, followed by introducing them to The Gathering Place. We spent that night with bestie Beth, and as a special bonus her sister Jenni joined us for dinner. It was a short visit, but any time we get together is a treasure. The next morning we drove to Stillwater and Oklahoma State University, where I spent four years. It was almost unrecognizable after all this time! After a quick lunch, we were off to Ponca City, my hometown.

We checked in to the Osage Casino, where the reunion was being held, before heading to dear friend and Wild Woman Linda’s childhood home for an apéro (but we don’t call it that in Oklahoma!). The time has come to sell the house, so this was a bittersweet gathering at a home that holds many fond memories.

Wild Women + Phil at Linda’s

After apéro, we all headed to Odie’s, an outdoor sports bar, for the welcome reception. It was SO COOL to see all those old friends! The best surprise for me was seeing my junior prom date Benjie and meeting his lovely wife; I hadn’t seen him since 1970! We had about 20% of our class in attendance, which I think is great for 52 years after graduation!

Natalie and Gracelyn, amazing reunion organizers

The next morning we enjoyed a drive down memory lane, visiting all four homes my parents had in Ponca City. I was happy to see that all of them have been well maintained. Then we visited Cann Gardens, a favorite of my dad’s, and we were blown away by the beauty. My dad was active in the community, a loyal Lions’ Club member, Cann Gardens supporter, and key participant in Ponca City’s holiday Festival of Angels.

Cann Gardens–gorgeous!

Next we had a reunion picnic at Lake Ponca, the site of many dates, escapades, water skiing adventures, and more. The weather was perfect, and the company even better!

Po-Hi Picnickers

Phil has known and loved my Wild Women (a group of high school friends who gather annually) for many years, so unlike many spouses, he enjoyed seeing friends at my reunion, especially Gracelyn’s husband Ralph.

Phil and Ralph at the picnic

That evening we strolled to the casino’s ballroom for the big event. I really didn’t want it to end, and despite my best efforts there were a few friends I missed chatting with.

Official reunion photo. I’m at the back.

The following morning we had one last visit at Linda’s house, for breakfast. Tina made eggs, Linda made her fabulous and famous paleo muffins, and we sadly said goodbye to the house and each other, with plans and promises for our next time together.

The gang at Linda’s house

Then it was off to Dallas for one last dinner with dear friends Marsha and Bob. The next day promised two flights and a train ride, then a taxi home! On our flight from JFK to CDG, a flilght attendant shared her favorite book list with several of us. I haven’t yet ordered any of the books, but they’re on my list.

How kind of her to share her book list!

And then. . .we were home! Admittedly we were a bit jet lagged, but it was so good to be back after five weeks. While we enjoyed our time in the USA, we have realized that we truly think of France as our home, despite our struggles to learn the language.

A favorite street in Montpellier, making a stand against breast cancer

I was still a bit under the weather, so to cheer myself up I went shopping–online at Mellie Earrings! And some of what I ordered was from the Etsy shop.

My shopping haul

We’ve enjoyed seeing our Montpellier friends again–our coffee group, the Quiz Night gang, and others. Recently friends Margi and Michael alerted us to a wonderful piano concert at an intimate cafe. It was such a fun event, and we’re hoping to attend the entire season.

Enjoying the piano conert–with cocktails!

And last Sunday we finally explored another market, in the Antigone neighborhood. It was great–lots of vendors with new things to try. We enjoyed aligot, a rich dish made with potatoes, cheese, and cream, dipped to order out of a huge vat. And I was fascinated by all the varieties of mushrooms, although sadly there were no morels. But we bought a giant cèpe that I’m going to stuff tonight for dinner. And we discovered a delicious new mushroom, the Lactaire delicieux, pictured below. The green part is not mold, but is caused by being touched. I sauteed them in olive oil with herbes de provence and flaky salt, and they were indeed delicieux!

Delicious mushrooms

And so, we are home again. We feel deep gratitude for our fabulous trip, and even more for being able to come home to such a wonderland. Montpellier is, for us, home indeed.

Montpellier’s Arc de Triomphe in autumn