The Roamers’ Daughter Lends a Hand

Our daughter Amelia has always had a gift for organization. From early childhood, her room was neat and orderly, with her beloved stuffed animals neatly arranged on her perfectly made bed. She always had her homework done on time, and I started assigning her linen closet organization duties when she was eight or nine years old. Recently, when we cat sat for Dakeeti (Amelia and Nic’s cat), she had cleared out room for our things, left detailed instructions (including maps to places we’d enjoy), and succeeded in her goal of making our two weeks in her home “the best Airbnb experience ever.”

One of many pages of notes, maps, suggestions, and instructions!

Amelia is also multi-talented, to the point that it’s difficult to settle on just one area of expertise. As a generalist, she has: worked as an online marketing executive, been an au pair, started her own business, created beautiful jewelry and home accessories, provided Tarot and spiritual readings professionally, and much more. So on a recent chat when she said, “I love organizing and decorating and think I might be able to turn that into a side gig,” I raised my hand to be her first client.

Our cellier was the one area of our new home that had not been updated or refreshed. Sure, we’d added a washer and dryer, and our contractors had painted it, but we’d left the existing shelving as it was and just piled stuff in. I gave Amelia a quick video tour of the space, and she agreed to take on the project, along with reorganzing Phil’s studio space.

Cellier before: messy and ugly.

Within an hour of our phone call, she had created a spreadsheet and developed a model for the reorganization of the storage room off our kitchen. She included links to recommended purchases (wine fridge, bar cart, etc.), along with photos, and a proposed budget for everything.

Amelia’s model for one side of the cellier

We ordered several items in advance: a wine fridge (yippee!), bar cart, and laundry unit featuring “his and hers” hampers, drawers for supplies, and a folding table surface. Once Amelia arrived, she took detailed measurements and created a shopping list for storage units and other items. 

All of our local shopping was completed at Ikea and Castorama, and we kept receipts so we could return anything that didn’t make the final cut. And then Amelia worked her magic. She would be staying with us for eight days, so we had plenty of time to have fun–shopping together, enjoying coffee, lunch, and cocktails with various friends (our friends love Amelia!), and even hosting a “mommy-daughter” luncheon for three of my friends and their daughters (more on that later). 

So without further ado, below are the before and after photos of our cellier!

I keep opening the cellier door just to look at how neat and orderly everything looks! The trick will be keeping it that way (I’m talking to you, Phil!). And the next day our wonderful contractors, Benoit and Mehdi, came to repair and paint the walls. We still have to hang a rod for clothes drying, but aside from that it’s all done.

Amelia also rearranged Phil’s studio area (he uses the second bedroom, which doubles as our guest room), a very tight space. Amelia couldn’t magically create more room, but she made the existing space more efficient and comfortable. And she organized some drawers, offered advice, and generally made our lovely home homier.

When Amelia and I were chatting at lunch with our coffee group friends, we realized that Linda’s daughter and Sandi’s daughter are close in age to Amelia and that they have a lot in common. So I invited them to bring their daughters to lunch chez Shroyer. The luncheon was simple–just salads–but we had the most wonderful time. After lunch Amelia did a spiritual reading for each of us, we all solved the problems of the world, and most importantly, our daughters formed a bond that I believe will be lasting. Oh, and the lunch lasted SEVEN hours! Our recycling bin was quite full of glass items afterward. . .

Mommies and Daughters

All too soon, the visit was over. We’re not sure when our next meeting will be, but we probably won’t see Amelia and Nic until next year. We’re sad, but we have wonderful memories to savor, and we are so very grateful.


if you will open your eyes. . .

Paying attention.

Thirty years ago, on our first trip to France, we arrived at the Dijon train station, found our rental car, and began perusing the map (this was before GPS) to figure out how to get to the Chateau de Longecourt where we were staying. After trying for several minutes, we heard a rap on the window. It was an elegant Parisian couple I’d noticed on the train, and seeing that we were struggling, they offered to help. In French.

Between my few phrases of long-ago university French and the wife’s few English words (her husband spoke no English at all), we managed to communicate. They apparently thought using a map was not the way to go. “If you will open your eyes,” she said, “you will see the signs.”

Riding the train on our first trip to France, 30 years ago

And she was right, of course. We ditched the map, followed her directions, and made sure to look at all the signs along the way. Looking back after thirty years, I realize this was an important lesson: open your eyes.

Now that our French dream is a reality, I have made it a daily practice to “open my eyes,” and I’ve been rewarded with wonders, both simple and profound. Each day offers something new; this morning while I was walking to my French lesson, I passed a man standing on top of a four-foot-tall box. I think he was an electrician, and the box was something electrical–but how he got up there, and how he balanced on a spot barely big enough for his shoes, is beyond me!

People-watching aside, there are sights to be seen around every corner. One example: doors. There are gorgeous doors everywhere in France. 

Isn’t this door beautiful?

And, of course, not just doors; I see beautiful buildings, sculptures, fountains, paths, mini parks (like the one our apartment looks into), and so much more. Recently we joined friends Jo and Dennis at a wonderful restaurant in a tiny village near their home. The food was amazing, the company superb, and even the beams on the ceiling were worth a look. I wondered how old they were, what trees they used to be, and what the workers who constructed them were like. There is a story in everything.

Beautiful restaurant beam

Graffiti is another thing I never tire of seeing. There is so much street art in Montpellier where I live, and most of it is done with great talent, and it often carries a message. 

An amalgam of street art

We have an artist in Montpellier who makes art from bicycles. His name? Monsieur BMX. We first noticed his art on our reconnaissance visit in 2020, and now we see it regularly.

Looking for Monsieur BMX art would make a good scavenger hunt!

There is also an abundance of trompe d’oeil art in France. On a walking tour, our guide told us that the tradition derives from wealthy French families wishing to conceal their wealth, so they often did not have windows facing the street. Many years later, these facades were turned into astonishing trompe d’oeil scenes!

One example of trompe d’oeil art

Sometimes opening one’s eyes yields delighted laughter, like the time my friend Brecka and I turned up at a party dressed almost exactly alike! We had a lot of fun wathing people notice our ensembles.

Unintentional twins!

I didn’t get a picture of this, but it cracked me up: recently Phil and I had lunch on the terrace of a Turkish restaurant next to the marché (outdoor market). There were lots of pigeons around, looking for scraps, and we noticed one aggressive guy who hopped up on a nearby table to munch on the leftovers. When we finished our lunch, while Phil was inside paying, this same pigeon suddenly flew up onto my plate, knocking over a wine glass (fortunately, it was empty!), causing me to squeal in surprise, and giving everyone nearby a good laugh.

We love going to the marchés, as well as the weekly brocante (flea market) near us. There are so many wonderful things to look at, and even if we buy nothing it’s entertaining. One morning I strolled over to an inside farmers’ market (these markets are called les halles) and bought some produce. I was so busy looking at the gorgeous fruits and veggies that I forgot to put the celery root I’d purchased in my bag! Oh well, I only paid ten euros and still got great value, even without the celeriac.

All this for ten euros–plus a celery root I forgot to take!

There are always interesting, beautiful, curious, or amazing things to look at–in France and, I suspect, everywhere. All it takes is opening one’s eyes and taking the time to savor this life we’re so privileged to be living. I will always be grateful to that lovely Parisian woman who urged us to open our eyes!

A beautifully wrapped housewarming gift from friends Margi and Michael


roamer renovation

The Roamers renovate their new apartment

After we bought our Montpellier apartment, we moved right in and immediately started renovating. There was nothing really wrong with the apartment, so it was liveable, but anticipating that this will be the last home we ever buy, we wanted to make it our own. Every time we spend too much money, our mantra has been “This will be the last xxx we ever buy,” and so far it’s workiing!

We  had hoped to keep our kitchen and simply augment it to provide more storage, but when that proved impossible, we ordered an entire new kitchen, keeping only the old cooktop.

Wasted kitchen space to be converted into storage

We interviewed three contractors– since none of them speak English and my French is toddler-level, that was interesting–and signed up with Benoit, whom we have deemed the King of Contractors. Along with painter Mehdi and a team of specialists, they got to work.

Living/dining and part of kitchen, before

Mehdi started with the painting, which surprised us. It took a couple of weeks to get the bedrooms and part of the living room done. We decided to use a flat blue-gray for the entire apartment. Since it’s only 80 square meters (just under 900 square feet), we wanted to keep it simple.

Master bedroom before

Master bedroom after

We didn’t do anything aside from painting and new furnishings for the two bedrooms. But the paint opened up the spaces, and since living in France we’ve realized that no one really needs a huge American-style bedroom.

Second bedroom before

Second bedroom after (guest area)

When we first moved to Montpellier, our housing requirement was two large bedrooms and two full bathrooms; this was to accommodate house guests. But when it came to purchasing, we realized we should focus on what we need to live; guests are infrequent and often prefer to stay in hotels or Airbnbs so they can have their own space and privacy. Consequently, our second bedroom has a comfortable canapé-lis (sofa bed), but it also serves as Phil’s art studio. And it works!

Studio after: small but functional

We haven’t done much with the entry; at some point I hope to find a stunning piece to replace the bookshelves that were there. But I love that open space, and we found a light fixture that I love.

Entry before (the bookshelves went into Phil’s studio)

Entry after (yes, those are two of Phil’s paintings!

A bonus of our apartment is the cellier, or storage room, right off the kitchen. We didn’t do much, but we did install a washer and dryer. Dryers are fairly uncommon here, but there were two things these spoiled Americans had to have: a dryer and a big fridge with ice and water in the door.

Cellier before; there is a tiny old washing machine in the back right corner

Cellier after, with our much-loved washer AND dryer

Once the painting was done, it was time to do the kitchen. Our cuisinist (kitchen designer; it sounds fancy, but that’s what you get when you go to a kitchen store) took measurements, advised us, helped us select everything, and gave us the CAD rendering below. 

CAD image of our future kitchen

Before it could be installed, though, we had to have the existing kitchen removed, get some plumbing and electrical work done, and have most of the painting done. It was messy, but Benoit and team worked fast–and cleaned up each day! Kind friends and neighbors Betsy and Jacques invited us over for dinner on one of the no-cooking nights.

Kitchen? What kitchen??

Kitchen installation: all in a day’s work!

Before we knew it, we had a working kitchen! It took a bit more time to get the backsplash and final painting done, but soon we had the kitchen we’d dreamed of!

Our new kitchen

Phil took a nice shot that shows the full kitchen, with my desk and the barstools. We love this layout, and it works well for us.

Full view of the new kitchen

Finally, it was time for the bathroom. Our apartment had a salle douche, or shower room, with only a sink and shower, and next door was the WC, with only a toilet. Benoit helped us redesign the bathroom to add a second toilet, and after selecting all the fixtures we got to work.

Bathroom before

The funniest thing in the apartment was the WC, which had, as my friend Gwen called it, a platinum throne, and which featured pink toilet paper wallpaper.

See? I wasn’t kidding!

We decided to simply replace the toilet (with one that features a hand-washing sink; the washing water is reused for flushing!) and wall coverings but leave the tilework. We’ll decide later whether to make any further changes.

See the hand-washing station in the back of the toilet?


The bathroom fixtures were removed, and while we were grateful for the toilet, we had no shower for a few days. Fortunately, we were caring for plants while neighbors Sue and Dave vacationed, and they let us use their shower. Whew!

No showering here!

I’d ordered the bathroom tile first, then forgot I’d ordered it and bought the same tile for the kitchen backsplash. Happy mistake; I love it!

Bahroom after: double sinks with storage, shower, and a toilet: perfect!

I had a bit of a kerfuffle on the dining table; I’d bought an 1800s farmhouse table with drawers, but we couldn’t find chairs low enough to sit comfortably. So I returned it, and now we have a table (and comfy swivel chairs) that we love.

The orchid on the table was a gift from friend Gwen, given shortly after we moved to Montpellier

Living and dining area. Yep, we’re old; we bought a reclining sofa and we love it!

We didn’t do anything with the terrace (except store all the reno stuff; at one point we had two toilets on the terrace!), but it was nice to finally move our outdoor furniture into place. Just this morning we sat in the wicker chairs and enjoyed our coffee. I don’t love the red wall, but that’s not changeable since it’s on the building’s exterior.

Useable terrace!

During this entire renovation project, complete with mess, noise, and strangers here every day, there was not a single negative word or dirty look from our neighbors. So as a fun project, I decided to give them homemade cookies with a note of thanks.

un petit cadeau

Imagine my delight a few hours after leaving these at each neighbor’s door, when I found this note on our door!

Note from our neighbor and her cat

We still have a few punch list items to be done, but they’ll have to wait until after les vacances–most people in France go on vacation for the month of August, so not much gets done. But we are still pinching ourselves when we realize we are living this beautiful life, in our dream apartment. We are so very fortunate and grateful.


Our home, for which we are so grateful


cat sitting

Roaming to Stockholm

Our daughter has a cat. Well, she and her husband have a cat. Not just any old cat (apologies to all the other cats). This cat is special. He’s magnificent. He’s old, very talkative, and he’s been a bit sick lately. His name? Dakeeti.

Dakeeti, napping

When our daughter first moved to Europe over ten years ago, we kept Dakeeti (along with our son’s part-wolf dog Busa; they became great friends after an initial battle, which of course Dakeeti won). We took him to Europe (he and I watched “Life of Pi” on the plane) and have visited him (and his humans) as often as possible over the years. Recently our kids had planned a trip to the U.S. to visit family and friends, but they couldn’t find anyone to take care of Dakeeti–so we volunteered. We spent two weeks living in their Stockholm apartment, enjoying our time with Dakeeti, exploring Stockholm, and luxuriating in the cool summer weather.

Our daughter, who is perfect, had decided to give us “the best Airbnb experience ever,” and she and her husband did not disappoint. We arrived in the evening and entered the apartment (third floor walkup) to find ten pages of instructions and helpful hints.

Detailed map

These notes were in addition to a lengthy email and–wait for it–a how-to video for the laundry room! They had made room for us in the closet and dresser, provided shower supplies, set out puzzles and crosswords, and much more.

More notes and tips!

Our son-in-law, who is also perfect, left a loaf of his homemade sourdough in the freezer for us. He makes all their bread and proudly wears a t-shirt with his name: Bread Man.

Sourdough boule; we ate every bite!

He also left us a beautiful loaf of banana nut bread. Phil said that with icing, it would taste almost like his favorite birthday cake!

Banana bread

We settled in quickly, slept well, and the next morning we headed out to explore this beautiful city. We walked our legs off, stopping for lunch at an outdoor cafe across from a fountain where tourists were taking selfies (or “ussies,” as that annoying guy on Ted Lasso would say).

Lunch view of fountain and sculpture

We had already visited Stockholm three times, but never on our own, so this was our opportunity to learn and become more independent. We figured out the tram and bus system (sort of), learned some of the neighborhoods (sort of), and saw lots of things we’d never seen on previous visits.

Gorgeous bar we didn’t have time to visit. Next trip!

We decided to buy a pass that would admit us to various tourist activities, which was a pretty good decision. However, we bought the five-day pass, which was a BIG mistake! We are too old and tired to gallavant constantly for five straight days. Lesson learned. Anyway, our first outing was an archipelago tour on a boat built in 1906. The tour was about three hours (we didn’t end up on a deserted island, thankfully!), and it was pretty interesting.

1906 boat

Back on land and after a late lunch, we headed to the K A Almgren Silk Weaving and Museum, which was fascinating. It’s still a functioning weaving facility for artisans, and it dates from the 1800s. The museum profiles many of the women who worked there (the work force was all women, some starting out in their early teens and working their entire careers there), and, of course, the MAN who ran the operation. After the first world war they transitioned to making ribbons for the medals that all the royals and their entourages wore. Each worker had only one job, which must have been mind-numbingly tedious, but the average tenure was many years, and they took great pride in their skills.

An exhibit of a dress made from silk ties

Next we stopped for a delicious cocktail at Exit Lounge, which we’d visited on a previous trip. They have wonderful tapas as well as cocktails, but this time we just wanted a quick beverage before heading home.


Then it was home, dinner, watch Ted Lasso, and sleep fast, because the next day would be equally busy. Have I mentioned that we visited a LOT of museums?

National Museum main hall

We started our day at the National Museum. We didn’t know much about it before our visit, and we were absolutely blown away. What an amazing and beautiful space! And the art is magnificent. Here are a few of my favorite pieces there.

By the time we were ready to leave–after about three hours!–we were famished and ready for a very late lunch. Refreshed, we headed to our next stop, the Nobel Prize Museum. Phil was not enthusiastic about this one, but I really wanted to see it, and we were both glad we did. Our favorite thing was a series of short films highlighting the life and work of Nobel Prize recipients, but we also enjoyed the recreated work spaces for some of the most well-known winners: Marie Curie’s lab, writers’ desks, etc., and also gowns worn to the laureates’ banquets and much more.

By this time we were tired, hungry, and ready to go home. Instead of cooking, which I do most nights, we decided to visit a neighborhood bar and restaurant which became our local hangout. It was a pleasant 15-minute walk from the apartment and offered outdoor seating, excellent cocktails, and delicious food.

Parma Kok & Bar, our local hangout. We ate there three times in two weeks.

The next day we headed to a place we’d visited on our first trip to Stockholm: Artipelag. Artipelag is a unique facility: art museum, restaurant, hiking area, and event venue. On our first visit we had a wonderful lunch on the terrace overlooking the water, and we did a bit of hiking, but this time we wanted to see everything. First up was the “Imagine Monet” immersive exhibit. We’d enjoyed the Van Gogh one in San Francisco in 2021, but this one was even better!

“Imagine Monet”

After a delicious buffet lunch (with wine and a fun waiter!) on the terrace, we headed to the regular exhibit, which was much more robust than we’d expected. We also watched a film about the founders of this lovely venue. Here are a couple of my favorite paintings from this visit.

After perusing the gallery, we decided to head out to the hiking paths, which mostly lead to the water. We saw more art along the way and appreciated the picnic tables scattered around for a quick rest.


View from a hiking path

Giant golden egg sculpture

I especially loved this sculpture of a young boy.

We took a very nice bus ride back into Stockholm–much better than the public trains/buses we took to get there–and hit our next sight: the Royal Palace. The guard advised us to move quickly, as the palace was closing in 45 minutes, but that was not a problem; it was HOT in there! 

Royal Palace: very ornate, very hot.

Our final stop for the day was Just what we needed: cocktails at the Grand Hotel, Stockholm’s premiere hotel where Madonna, Justin Bieber, and other luminaries have stayed. The cocktails were delicious but super expensive, but it was worth it; that is a gorgeous hotel!

The next day began with disappointment: we had planned to use our pass (the expensive, five-day one we regret) for a round trip boat ride to Birka, the Viking city. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Birka dates from the seventh century and still has many relics from its Viking days. We tried twice, but they were sold out both days. Ugh! There was nothing to do but figure out how to make it a good day. Off we went–to more museums!

We started with a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the entire city, then stayed on the bus to visit Skansen, billed as the world’s oldest outdoor museum. Honestly? We didn’t love Skansen–but if you had young children to entertain it would probably be great.

Next we walked past the ABBA, Vasa, and Spirits museums (which we’d seen on previous visits) to the Viking Museum. That was fascinating–videos of actors portraying various Viking personas, artifacts, recreations, and lots of information–and horrifying in its focus on how cruel and violent humans can be.

Viking Museum: interesting but disturbing.

After a quick late lunch to forestall the hangries, we visited the Nordic Museum, which was excellent. I was too tired to take many photos, but it featured some amazing exhibits: table settings across the ages, the British influence on fashion over the last two centuries, a recreation of traditions throughout the year, and of course more amazing art. I wish we’d spent more time there.

Nordic Museum exhibit recreating the traditional Midsummer celebration

After all this museum hopping (and walking! We walked 15,000 to 20,000 steps each of these hectic days!) we were ready for. . .meatballs! I’d read about a restaurant called Meatballs for the People that sounded irresistable; you choose what kind of meatballs you want, anything ranging from pork or beef to bear or vegan, and get a standard plate featuring your meatballs of choice. We had a cocktail while waiting, then sat on barstools watching the meatballers at work. It was amazing! Mashed potatoes like clouds, delicious meatballs, and of course lingonberries and pickled cucumbers. I loved it so much I bought a t-shirt!

Meatballs for the People menu

We had a lot planned for the last day of our pass. But the next morning we decided to stay home and rest! It was a good decision and I don’t regret it, except for missing the Drottingham Palace, Prince Eugene’s Waldemarsudde, the Riddarholm Church, and the Royal Canal Tour. Next visit!

After a day of rest, which included our continuing Ted Lasso marathon, followed by a day of laundry (all the machines were in Swedish, so we relied heavily on our daughter’s instructional video!), we were ready to re-emerge. We did a little shopping, strolled the streets of Stockholm, and had a memorable lunch at Lisa Elmqvist, the seafood restaurant at the legendary Ostermalm Food Hall, Stockholm’s 130-year-old foodie institution.

My gorgeous, albeit too rich, sole meunière at Lisa Elmqvist

The next day we spent cleaning the apartment, making soups for the kids to enjoy when they arrived home, and packing. Dakeeti began freaking out and jumped into my suitcase more times than I could count! On the morning of their arrival we did one last batch of laundry and waited anxiously for their arrival.

Happy homecoming!

We ordered out for Thai lunch and toasted their homecoming with a bottle of champagne. Then, far too soon, it was time for us to go. We said happy-sad farewells and headed to the airport, where after checking in we visited the AmEx popup lounge for. . .let’s just admit it. . .our second lunch.

Second lunch: delicious!

We were excited to come home after two weeks away, but the memories from this amazing visit will stay with us. I’ll leave you with a view of the gorgeous flowers that are everywhere in beautiful Stockholm. How lucky we are to be living this amazing Roaming life!




The Roamers celebrate an anniversary

Last December I received a reminder that I had an expiring credit card benefit: a $200 credit toward a hotel stay. After a quick conversation, Phil and I agreed to use it for a trip to Lyon, France, to celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary. Lyon is known as the French food capital, so be forwarned; there’s a lot of food in this post! Our anniversary arrived last week and off we went on a new adventure.

On the train to Lyon!

We would be staying two nights at an Intercontinental, part of the IHG group. Being a Marriott loyalist, I wasn’t very familiar with this chain, so we really didn’t know what to expect. We pulled our bags on the 35-minute walk to the hotel (That reminds me of the old days when luggage didn’t have wheels and I rushed in heels through airports, carrying my bag!). We paused on the Rhone River bridge to take the picture below. “What a gorgeous building!” I said to Phil.

The beautiful Hotel Dieu

Imagine our surprise when we discovered that this was indeed our hotel! A former hospital, the Hotel Dieu is now a complex of shops and restaurants anchored by the Intercontinental Lyon Hotel Dieu. We were greeted graciously, upgraded to a river view room, and given an 80 euro credit. We used that at the bar, of course.

Our home for two nights

Room with a view

We quickly settled in, freshened up, and headed out to find lunch. Unfortunately, it was almost 2pm, so we were turned away from several restaurants before we found one that was still serving (in France, most restaurants serve lunch from 12-2 and then close until dinner). We were hot, hungry. . .and thirsty!

Phil enjoyed a cocktail and I had a rosé piscine (rosé with ice)

L’arquebuse turned out to be a find, albeit an expensive one. Our lunch was delicious! Phil’s (top of photo) was fish over lobster sauce and veggies, topped with puff pastry and a pesto mousse, and mine was veal topped with a veggie-stuffed cabbage leaf and decorated with pea puree. We had dessert too, but I forgot to take a photo.


We walked off our lunch and decided to take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. But after waiting over an hour past the scheduled departure time, there was no hopping off. The tour was fascinating, and we saw things we’d never have seen otherwise. My phone had died, so I didn’t get any shots of the amazing views. Oh, and we walked over eight miles that day.

Beautiful and HUGE fountain, snapped just before my phone died

Lyon has a fascinating history and ideal position at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers. It’s larger than Montpellier (over 500,000 population) and features both medieval and very modern sectors. It was hot, but we really enjoyed roaming the streets. We also strolled through Les Halles Lyon Paul Bocuse, a not-to-be-missed food hall, but for once we didn’t buy anything. That evening we opted for an early meal near our hotel, at La Mère Jean, a tiny bouchon (a family-run Lyon restaurant serving hearty fare), where I tried the salade Lyonnaise. We ordered a bottle of wine before we noticed that everyone else was drinking the house wine from a carafe. Tourists!

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast (included in our room rate) at the hotel. What a delight! We opted for the garden, where they had tiny chairs for purses.

The garden of our hotel restaurant


My purse’s tiny chair

After breakfast we walked to the Musée de la Résistance et le Déportation to learn about Lyon’s history during the war. We walked through a delightful multi-ethnic neighborhood, browsing through a huge Japanese food hall and studying restaurant menus featuring a wide range of cuisines. Phil and I are always amazed at the life force of plants growing out of concrete, out of buildings and walls, where there seems to be nothing to sustain them. We saw one of these that was so beautiful Phil thinks he might paint it.

This beautiful flowering plant is growing from concrete and stone.

After a 40-minute walk, we came to our destination. The museum is part of an educational complex, and we spotted student groups of all ages. We’ve often noted that in France the memory of WWII is kept alive for all to learn, much more so than in the U.S.

Museum entrance

The backs of our tickets

It was a somber experience, but we were glad we’d seen it. The most fascinating thing for me was a video of a couple who were Resistance members. He was arrested while trying to attend a secret meeting, and everyone knew he’d never come out of prison alive. So his wife dressed up (“I was young, and I put on some makeup, which I didn’t normally wear, and earrings”), went to the Gestapo headquarters, and demanded to meet the leader. That leader was Klaus Barbie, known as the Butcher of Lyon for his horrific torture of Jews and Resistance members, and who did not impress her with his diminutive height and casual dress. She told Barbie she was pregnant and needed her fiancé released so he could marry her before the baby arrived (This was a lie, as they were already married with a child). Barbie told her to find someone else, as she would never see her fiancé again. So she arranged an ambush while her husband was being moved to a different prison, killing several Germans and getting him cared for after he was shot in the face. They were both so very matter of fact about it, Amazing.

After a light snack, it was time to rest and refresh before the big event of our trip: dinner at Restaurant Paul Bocuse! This would be, we knew, a once-in-a-lifetime meal in a time-honored restaurant. Paul Bocuse was credited with popularizing nouvelle cuisine and with being one of the first celebrity chefs. 

Paul Bocuse was born and died in an upstairs room.

We arrived in style–our Uber driver had a Tesla–and were warmly greeted. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the gorgeous kitchen where exciting things were happening!

Paul Bocuse kitchen before service

Every person on the staff–and there were many–greeted us as we were led to our table in the upstairs dining room. The place was beautiful, with paintings, lighting, and every detail designed to enhance the gracious setting.

Anniversary couple. I loved the painting behind Phil.


Fanciful charger plate

And now the feast began. First up was a glass of champagne, to be enjoyed with the three amuses bouches we were served: a radish cream served atop a savory cracker; corn three ways–polenta chip topped with corn mousse, topped with a piece of popcorn; and a cucumber mousse served in a crispy shell.

Les trois amuses

But wait, there’s more! Another beautiful amuse bouche was served next. Along with the wine list, I mean super heavy wine book. After a cursory look, we asked our sommeliere to recommend wines for each course, and she did a fabulous job.

A beautiful pea purée was the last amuse bouche.

Phil pretending to study the wine book

We both chose the same menu, which featured a fois gras entrée served with a perfect warm croissant. Decadent and filling! I gave half of mine to Phil.

Fois gras entrée

Before our plat (main course) was served, we were offered bread. It, of course, was house-made and wonderful. Then came the main course, the Bresse chicken prepared two ways and served with a morel cream sauce. I was excited about this, because I’ve been making morel chicken for many years–it’s our family’s favorite dish–and I wanted to see how mine compared to the master’s. And honestly, theirs was of course fancier, but really not that different in flavor!

Morel chicken, with a perfect veggie side in puff pastry

Next came the cheese. We tried a few, all of which were wonderful. Have I mentioned how kind, fun, and not-at-all-intimidating the servers were?

This cheese guillotine cracked me up!

You might think that dessert came next, but you would be wrong–sort of. Before dessert we were served a pre-dessert dessert, a tiny concotion featuring raspberries and chocolate!

Dessert before dessert

And then came the dessert chariot. Yep, that’s what they called it, and for good reason; way too many choices!

Dessert chariot

So after all of this, and two desserts, we thought we were done. But no! The servers wheeled out a funny-looking box on wheels that started playing music as they cranked a lever. Turns out it’s a mechanical pipe organ by Gaudin, the only one of its kind, and it’s used to celebrate special occasions.

Mechanical pipe organ

As the organ played, each table celebrating an anniversary or birthday was served a special chocolate concotion lit with a candle. Brilliant!

Our celebratory chocolate plaque, served on a chocolate easel. We’re still nibbling on it!

Finally, we were given farewell chocolates and the check. It was expensive, but we agreed the experience was worth it. Surprisingly, we were full but not stuffed!

Paul Bocuse kitchen after service: immaculate!

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast in the garden again and strolled through the Hotel Dieu. It’s truly a gorgeous building.

Cloister at the Hotel Dieu

Beautiful hotel grounds

Then we were off to the Musée des Beaux Arts, billed as “second only to the Louvre.” While we didn’t agree with that description, we thoroughly enjoyed the visit. This museum is a must-see on a visit to Lyon!

My favorite painting: Monet’s “L’Entrée de la Grande Rue à Argenteuil, l’hiver, 1875”

After a short stroll, we stopped for one last lunch, at our now-favorite bouchon, Le Musée. An authentic Lyonnais bouchon, it’s family-run and totally a fun experience. The proprietor is a jokester who treats guests as if they were old friends. There is no menu; instead the proprietor sits at your table to explain the day’s offerings. He speaks some English, but we were able to joke a bit in French. 

We ordered a carafe of white wine and dug in to our entrées. Mine was a simple salad surrounded by sautéed mushrooms. Delicious!

My entrée

I can’t remember what entrée Phil had, but his plat was pig cheeks. Huge serving, and he could only eat half of it. My plat was pike quenelle, which I’d never had before. It was served in a lobster cream sauce, with potatoes and veggies on the side. Way too much food, but delicious! We couldn’t do dessert after attempting those plats.

My quenelles avec sauce homard; I’ll definitely copy this dish!

Stuffed and happy, we bade farewell to our hosts and headed back to the hotel to pack. On the way we passed by the Lyon Opera House, which we hope to visit on a future trip.

Lyon Opera

As we left the restaurant, we passed through one of Lyon’s traboules, or secret passageways. These have a fascinating history dating to the fourth century. We didn’t have time to see any others, or learn much about them, but we definitely plan to explore them on a future trip!

The traboule we discovered

And finally we returned home, after a wonderful and memorable trip. Yes, it was very food-focused, but that’s the draw of Lyon. I’ll leave you with yet another dinner photo, this time of the delightful dinner party we enjoyed after our return, hosted by dear friends Ann-Lii and Fredrick. One of the guests brought an original Sachertorte from the Hotel Sacher in Vienna to share: more chocolate for us!

Friends, laughter–and Sachertorte!

Am I a heroine? Are you?

A Roamer Interview

The very best thing about my 48-year career was the wonderful, lifelong friendships I’ve made. And one of the best of those is the friendship with my dear friend Jeanne, who was my first “corporate” boss. She is ethical, kind, brilliant, and funny, and we hit it off instantly. We have been close friends for almost 40 years, and even when we haven’t seen each other for a long time, there is no re-entry period when we finally get together; it’s as if we’d just picked up from the day before.

So imagine my delight when she introduced me to her friend and fellow coach Susanna Liller. Susanna is an author, school founder, and life coach who helps women find the confidence to get more out of life and to become the heroines of their own stories. By reimagining the archetype of the Hero’s Journey as the Heroine’s Journey, #theheroinesjourney, she provides a framework for women to, in the words of Joseph Campbell, “find their bliss.”

My lovely new friend Susanna

Jeanne had shared this blog with her friend Susanna, who became interested in learning how a couple from Oklahoma ended up living in the south of France. We had an introductory Zoom chat and hit it off immediately, so Susanna invited me to be interviewed for her YouTube channel, The Heroine’s Journey. 

I agreed, and we set a date. It was an informal interview, and it felt just like a conversation between new friends. I mean, who doesn’t like to tell their story?! When it went live, I’ll be honest, my first thought was that I didn’t like how I looked. But then as I watched and listened, I realized that it’s actually a rather compelling story. Phil and I have succeeded in “finding our bliss,” and if that can inspire anyone else, we’re happy.

So. . .here is the video.


I don’t feel at all like a heroine–but as Susanna teaches, we each are the heroes/heroines of our own stories. In the comments section, I’d love to hear your thoughts about your own Hero’s or Heroine’s Journey!

Montpellier Music

Shared with permission

Last year in my French class I met David, an American who spent weeks in Montpellier studying French. I invited him to join our Thursday coffee group, which he did once or twice, and we connected on Facebook.

Imagine my delight when he sent me a message saying he was returning for a couple of months to resume his language studies! Phil and I met him for lunch, and he played hooky one day to join our coffee group. And just before he left for a few weeks in Nice, we had him over to our construction zone home for lunch. We had a great time, and we’re working on convincing him to make the move to France.

With David’s permission, I’m sharing a link to a wonderful video he created, featuring the random street music of Montpellier. Enjoy!



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!