A perfect day

 

On Sunday as we enjoyed our coffee, we had the inevitable conversation: “What do you want to do today?” Realizing we only have one more weekend in Savannah, we wanted to make the day special. And we succeeded! Here’s how we spent a perfect day.

On the path to a perfect day

On a previous trip to Hilton Head we’d driven through Bluffton, SC, which even in the dark appeared to be a charming town. Later Phil heard that Bluffton has some great restaurants; that’s all we needed to hear! We decided on Cahill’s Market, a working farm, market, and restaurant that’s been in the same family for three generations. Cahill’s was honored as Best Breakfast in Bluffton, so we knew it would be a fun choice. 

 

Cahill peacock

We arrived and were immediately seated outside after greeting one of the Cahill peacocks. Phil had the second-best huevos rancheros of his life, while I opted for eggs with a “chicken biscuit.” Both were great! After breakfast we headed into the market to pick up country ham and Cahill eggs.

These chickens provided the eggs for our breakfast!

 

Full and happy, we headed to Bluffton’s Old Town, where we walked off our breakfast, peeked into a few galleries, and enjoyed the sunny day. Bluffton is a charming town, with lots of art, beautiful parks, and a cherished history. We were reminded of our former hometown, Wimberley, Texas. Where Wimberley has “Bootiful Wimberley,” with huge boots scattered throughout town and decorated by local artists, Bluffton has oversized oyster shells decorated similarly. We felt at home as we strolled across town and into the waterside park. 

Blufftonites who are feeling a bit crabby can relax on this bench.

After our walk we hit the road, heading to Charleston for a final visit. We parked near the historic market and walked over to Harry’s rooftop, where we split a crabcake sandwich and enjoyed the best cocktail ever–a boozy limeade! Next up was a walk through the market, where we picked up a sweetgrass basket and some local items for a gift. We then proceeded to walk the city for hours. Unfortunately, we were too late to tour the Unitarian Church, the oldest UU church in the South, dating back to the 1700s, but we saw too many gorgeous churches to count. Charleston is a beautiful city, with wonders everywhere. We walked eight miles, with Phil taking pictures of churches and street scenes he plans to paint.

The sign at the Unitarian Church

By 5:30 our feet were tired and it was starting to get dark. As we looked out over the water, I asked Phil, “Do you really want to drive home tonight?” “Not really,” he replied. And within minutes I’d used Marriott points to book a room at the Renaissance. We giggled as we explained to the hotel desk clerk that we’d need an amenity kit, since we hadn’t planned to stay over. We checked in and immediately headed out to dinner at Magnolias, a restaurant serving upscale southern cuisine. We didn’t have a reservation so opted for a socially-distanced hightop table in the bar, where Phil had bouillabaisse with a southern twist (it had okra!) and I enjoyed parmesan crusted flounder. 

The next morning I showered, washed my hair (didn’t even have a comb so it was “au naturelle”), and put on yesterday’s clothes. We walked to La Patisserie for coffee and pastries, then headed back to the car for the two-hour drive home. We’d had a perfect day, and we were grateful.

 

 

 

Holidays!

Warning: this post is mostly about food.

Phil and I knew that this holiday would be different, not only because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, but also because we’d be spending it in Savannah, where we knew no one. I asked our kids for suggestions on how to make a stay-at-home-alone holiday special, and they had advice. “We do a lot of planning–the food, the games we’ll play, the movies we’ll watch–and that leads to a special celebration,” our daughter explained. She should know, as she and her husband live in Europe and have often created solo celebrations. Our son had similar advice, sharing his plans to be at home with his wife, smoking meats, watching movies, and hanging out in the jacuzzi.

So after Thanksgiving we began discussing what we could to do make Christmas and New Year’s special, with just the two of us in an AirBnb, with no tree or decorations or family or friends. Food would, of course, be a major component. Phil wanted a traditional turkey dinner, and for Christmas Eve I wanted a cocktail party. Meanwhile we were eagerly exploring our temporary home and taking in the holiday sights.

Anticipating that high-end hotels would have beautiful decorations, I dragged Phil through every one I could find, both in Savannah and in Charleston. Christmas trees abounded! The most astonishing thing we saw in a hotel, though, was a display of gorgeous gingerbread houses. We were amazed by the intricate detailing, colors, and realistic resemblance to actual houses. I can’t imagine having the patience, much less the talent, to create such a masterpiece.

We try to get out every day just to walk around Savannah and enjoy this beautiful city. With its parks and squares, it rivals Paris as the most beautiful city we’ve ever seen. Everything was decorated! We saw a bronze turtle wearing a Santa hat, decorated monuments, and even decorated trash cans!

Along with all this holiday spirit, we of course had to plan a special cocktail for our holiday. Phil made a delicious take on a cosmopolitan–very similar, but less sweet. The trial run was successful, so we proceeded to the menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner.

How to make a cocktail party for two? Fortunately, having hors d’oeuvres for dinner is something we do regularly. For this feast, we decided on a mix of traditional (queso with ground bison, crudites, hot artichoke dip) and new (martini deviled eggs!). At the farmer’s market I’d found lion’s mane mushrooms, which I’d never seen before, as well as a creamy lemon goat cheese. Voila! With some shallots, a little puff pastry, and some Savannah peach jam, I was able to make a tasty appetizer. We had a lovely evening, watching holiday movies, enjoying our cocktails, and planning for our family video call the next day.

Our Christmas day breakfast is always the same: my mother’s Christmas tree coffee cake, sausages, and soft scrambled eggs. That tided us over until evening, when we had the traditional turkey feast. We ate leftovers for days!

I love to cook, and one of the fun games of Roaming is to figure out how to turn out good meals in all sorts of kitchens. For the holidays, we bought a couple of disposable roasting pans to augment the limited cooking vessels in our AirBnb. We learned to use washcloths as napkins (I abhor paper napkins–terrible for the environment!), and to roll out dough I remove the label from a wine bottle and use the bottle as a rolling pin.

Our repast included roast turkey, my mother’s dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy, made-from-scratch green bean casserole, and my Gaga’s cranberry-orange salad. Oh, and homemade rolls. There was no muffin tin, so they were free-form. As my daddy used to say when something didn’t turn out looking very nice, “But it’ll eat good!”

New Year’s eve was a quiet evening at home, with another special meal: locally-raised bone-in pork chops au poivre, roasted sweet potatoes with more of that lemony creamy goat cheese, and crispy brussels sprouts with local bacon and dried cherries.

So we entered 2021 well-fed and content. Now, on to the new year! My word for 2021 is ADVENTURE.

An elegant Savannah doorway

One of the dozens of hotel trees we saw

Can you believe this is a gingerbread house?!

We spotted this guy on one of our walks.

Even the trash cans are decorated!

Christmas Eve cocktail party for two

Phil’s Christmas dinner plate

 

 

Next up: savannah!

We said goodbye to the Cape

On the day of our departure from Chatham, we rose early; we had to get to Wilmington, Delaware in time for me to make a couple of video calls. We used Waze instead of our car’s integrated GPS and were able to avoid the “lost time” in the D.C. area that we’d experienced on our way to the Cape. I finished my calls and we headed to a socially distanced dinner at the Columbus Inn. Highly recommended! The next morning, a Saturday, our destination was downtown Raleigh. We spent a delightful evening wandering the streets, admiring the art, both in galleries and on the streets, and revisiting the Raleigh Times for dinner; but the best part was an outdoor cocktail/dessert experience at Bittersweet, where we had quite a wait due to a wedding reception. The bride and groom wore matching gold sneakers and their small group had almost as much fun as we had watching them!

Happy couple!

Amazing Raleigh street art; lots of support for Black Lives Matter here!

We arrived in Savannah on Sunday afternoon, just in time to get settled and make a quick grocery run (we’re directly behind Kroger!). Our home for the next month is our favorite so far–a roomy two-bedroom with a dear little balcony and plenty of work space, just two blocks from Forsyth Park!

 

Finally, room for my monitor!

Our first order of business was of course finding a great cocktail lunch. Treylor Park was the perfect place (we’d discovered it on our first Savannah visit in 2017). We sat outside and shared a wonderful low country flatbread, which came with an assortment of hot sauces. We happily sat out a brief rainstorm, partially sheltered in the beer garden.

Treylor Park hot sauces

 

One of our first day trips was to Charleston, about a two-hour drive from Savannah. We had a wonderful lunch at Rodney Scott’s BBQ before heading to the Public Market area. We walked all over Charleston without an agenda, just enjoying the sights. We headed home determined to make another visit to Charleston before our time here is over.

 So much for a miniature reindeer!

Charleston: making ordinary, utilitarian objects into art.

We really love Savannah. There is beauty everywhere, lots of fun people-watching, and more interesting restaurants than we could ever visit. So far, in addition to walking many miles around the city, we’ve visited Tybee Island, enjoyed a walking food tour (combining favorite things!), and spent an afternoon in HIlton Head. More to come!

Savannah symbiosis

Peeking through iron railings into private gardens is one of my favorite things in Savannah.

One of the sights during our walking food tour. Fancy dress!

There is so much beauty in ordinary things.

Today we’ll visit the farmers’ market in Forsythe Park, walk the city, and begin shopping for special holiday meals. Stay tuned for more Savannah fun!

 

 

 

cape cod II

Counting down to Georgia

We’ve now been on the Cape almost a month, and we’ll be leaving soon. The time has flown, but we’ve been able to do most of the things we’d hoped for despite the pandemic. I took vacation our first week here, and we had the four-day Thanksgiving holiday, so we’ve had plenty of flexibility.

The wild Atlantic coast. This was one of the views on a walk this week.

We did manage to spend a day in Boston. We parked in our old neighborhood, the Leather District, and walked to the North End, enjoying all the sites along our “regular” path. We loved the familiarity and noted the changes since we lived here. We enjoyed strolling the Rose Kennedy Greenway, outdoor cocktails and appetizers at our favorite North End restaurant, Bricco, and of course we hit Mike’s Pastry (how could we miss that?!). We took an Uber back to our car and were impressed with the car’s cleanliness, masked driver, and open windows. I still long to stroll the Common and Public Garden, but the crowds scared us off.

Phil drinking French wine in an Italian restaurant

And suddenly the holidays arrived. We were lucky to spend Thanksgiving with our dear friends the Cummings, part of our “family by choice.” We’d planned to dine on their deck, and they even bought an outdoor heater. Alas, it poured rain all day, so we had a masked, indoor celebration. It actually worked out well, with separate dining rooms that allowed conversation between them. The feast was fabulous, featuring a gorgeous spatchcocked turkey with a maple glaze by our host Sandy.

I may do this turkey for Christmas!

 

We had visited Martha’s Vineyard a couple of times when we lived in Massachusetts, but never with a car. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I managed reservations on the ferry and off we went. This time we were determined to see the whole island!

The Vineyard cliffs in Aquinna–breathtaking!

After grabbing a socially distanced lunch overlooking the ocean (crabcakes!) in Oak Bluffs, we set off for Edgartown. What a beautiful little downtown! We parked by the docks and proceeded to walk the area, getting slightly lost in the process. I love the quirky things we see on our adventures–those unexpected, unusual, strange, and beautiful things easily overlooked–like a pianist sculpture among all the Christmas decorations.

Piano Man, just hanging out in someone’s yard

Gayhead Light

From Edgartown we headed on to Chilmark, Aquinnah, and then back to Tisbury, where we had a fabulous dinner at La Soffitta. We were seated at a cozy table surrounded by palms, well distanced from the two other occupied tables (We hit restaurants at odd times to avoid crowds). Our waiter, who was also the bartender, made fabulous cocktails and served us the best grilled focaccia we’ve ever had. Stuffed but happy, we headed back to the ferry and home.

We have just over a week left on the Cape. I’m working, so we won’t be doing much aside from almost-daily walks. I’d like to hit P-town one more time if possible, and we plan to stroll the downtown Chatham area, which is charming. Then it will be on to Savannah for a month. We’ll be on our own for Christmas, since we don’t know anyone there, and we’re looking forward to learning how to create holiday without a tree or family gatherings. Stay tuned!

Just before sunset at Gayhead Light

 

 

 

Cape Cod I

Our beach! It’s about a seven-minute walk from home.

It was a beautiful drive to the Cape from Raleigh!

Our home for a month is a darling Cape cottage.

Our dear Plymouth friends sent this welcome gift!

Nantucket humor abounds in this charming island!

Nantucket mermaid house. She didn’t invite us in.

 

 

 

We’re here!

We had a lovely night in Wilmington, Delaware, just after the big election victory celebration there, with an outdoor, socially distanced dinner at a restaurant on the river. The next morning we got an early start and were on our way to the Cape. The drive was beautiful, with a fun outdoor lunch stop in charming Fairfield, CT. The closer we came, the more excited we were. The drive was beautiful, and we were thrilled to learn that we weren’t too late for fall color.

Finally we arrived at our Chatham cottage, just in time to make a grocery and wine run before dark. The cottage is perfect–BEST BED EVER, a great kitchen and good shower, along with a comfy sofa and smart tv. After a couple of days exploring our beach, visiting our beloved Provincetown, and trying out some exceptional bakeries, we took the ferry to Nantucket. It poured rain all day, but we had a wonderful time bar-hopping. Two days later my shoes were still damp!

After a lazy stay-at-home day on Saturday, we headed into Boston on Sunday, intending to walk for hours in our favorite city. Unfortunately, there were too many people with the same idea, so we nixed the plan for safety concerns and instead picked up carryout from Sweet Cheeks Q, Tiffanie Faison’s wonderful barbeque restaurant. Yes, we were the people who drove three hours for takeout!

Enjoy a few pictures of interesting sights in our Cape journey so far. More to come!

 

Raleigh

 

We love New England, and spending time on Cape Cod was a priority, before it gets too cold. So we decided to look for our first long stay somewhere roughly along the route to the Cape. Raleigh was our choice, largely because one of Phil’s closest high school friends lives in Durham, and also because I’d spent time there for business and was interested in exploring it more. I would take a week off, my first vacation time this year, so we’d have ample time for adventure.

We began by exploring our immediate neighborhood, an area called Cameron Village. We had chosen this AirBnB because of its walkability, and we weren’t disappointed. We walked ten minutes to the grocery store daily, and I have to admit we’ve explored a number of neighborhood restaurants offering outdoor dining. Our tiny one-bedroom apartment is conveniently located but has a very small kitchen with only a dorm fridge, so storing much food was not an option–nor was having both of us in the kitchen at the same time.

Once my vacation time set in, we began exploring the area. First on our list was downtown Raleigh, which is small and easy to navigate. Our favorite “find” was historic Oakwood, a 19th century neighborhood with a variety of beautiful homes. We explored it initially by car and later on foot. Two things stood out: first, Oakwood is an overwhelmingly liberal neighborhood, with ubiquitous “Black Lives Matter,” “We Believe in Science,” “Hate Has No Home Here,” and political signs. It was a balm after living in a conservative red town during election season. The second interesting thing was that Oakwood residents take Halloween SERIOUSLY!!! Pictures cannot capture the festive and spooky spirit of the area. We  had so much fun, especially after we staved off the hangries by walking to local restaurant The Raleigh Times, where we shared the best Ruben sandwich of our lives (with collard kimchee instead of sauerkraut!) and Phil had a wonderful craft cocktail.

On Sunday we decided to explore the Black Farmers’ Market and the North Carolina State Public Farmers’ Market. Rain was pouring down during the first visit, but everyone seemed happy to be there and appreciative of customers who came out despite the weather. By the time we arrived at the second one, the rain was reduced to a drizzle. We couldn’t buy much (tiny fridge!), but we bought some wonderful espresso beans and a few veggies.  And we tried two North Carolina delicacies: boiled peanuts (YUCK!) and a peach hand pie called a Jack. Jacks are fried in lard. Yep, lard. 

We also had some delightful day trips. On one day we visited the Glencoe Mill HIstoric District (only drove around because it was raining), a lovely historic neighborhood in Burlington, the Duke University campus (I love college campuses), and walked the historic district of Hillsborough.

The North Carolina Museum of Art was exceptional, with an astonishing range of works. They were issuing free tickets on a schedule to avoid overcrowding, and we felt very safe social distancing in our masks.

We were surprised by the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield–much more interesting than we’d imagined. And we spent a couple of hours walking the historic district in Wilmington, which was lovely–but there were too many people not socially distancing, so we spent a lot of time dodging them.

But the best part of our Raleigh adventure has been reconnecting with old friends. We spent a wonderful afternoon with Phil’s highschool friend Lloyd and his wife Janet. Their outdoor entertainment area was beautiful, and they set up beverages and empanadas in separate areas so we all felt safe. At the end of our visit we picked up barbeque and spent another evening with them. We had another wonderful evening with friends Michael and Sara on their patio overlooking the lake. Michael is a wonderful cook and created a well-timed dinner of heavy appetizers–roasted dates with a soft cheese dip, mini-sandwiches, and summer rolls, followed by a spectacular apple crumble. We had not met Sara before, and it was one of those magical “instant friendship” experiences, We’re still talking about what a great evening that was.

And finally we spent an evening with my colleague Norm, his wife Marie, and their daughter Sophia. Norm is a unique blend of actuary and improv performer, and one of my favorite colleagues. We picked up dinner from their favorite vegan restaurant and feasted on great food and even greater conversation on their patio, overlooked by huge trees and stars.

So our first long stay has been a big success by all standards. Exploring a new area, reconnecting with great friends, and sampling wonderful food adds up to our kind of lifestyle. We are so far loving our Roaming experience!

 

Leaf-head Phil in Southborough

Look at this beautiful porch mural in Oakwood!

Liberal Oakwood neighborhood

This home’s Halloween decor was beyond anything we’d ever seen before!

Witches!

Skeleton dog wears a mask for safety!

Look closely. The zebra and the frog are fishing!

Norm’s backyard–“lovely, dark, and deep” woods

 

And we’re off!

Phil and Sandy have left the building.

Wow!  It’s been a very hectic and exciting few weeks.  After our house closing date was confirmed, our next task was to get rid of almost everything we owned, empty the house, confirm our initial roaming plans, and prepare to embark on this big adventure.  We had three weeks to get all this done.

Empty bedroom

I tried to be organized about it, I really did.  I set up my office closet for the “keep in storage” items and the guest room closet for the “take” items.  I made to-do lists and checklists, sometimes adding items just for the pleasure of crossing them off.  But as the date drew closer, all bets were off.  Every spare tote bag was filled with partly organized/partly random stuff.  We sold our two cars and bought a slightly newer hybrid.  I sold most of our furniture on Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace.  We engaged our son, aka our car butler, to help us figure it all out.  In the end, we managed to store all our remaining worldly goods in a 5×5 storage unit and our new hybrid sedan–the latter due entirely to our son’s Tetris prowess.  We closed on our house, made a final visit to Baxter, who was so happy in his new home he hardly noticed us, and we were off.

 

Sunset on the road

We spent our first night in Houston with our dear friend Patricia, who treated us to adult beverages and an elegant dinner.  Early the next morning we headed to our first stop–Laurel, Mississippi, of “Home Town” fame.  We wanted to see the charming town Erin and Ben Napier had shared on their hit home renovation show.

 Laurel!  Ben and Erin’s store!  Cute old pickup!

 

After exploring the quaint downtown and taking a drive to see some of the beautiful homes in Laurel, we were starving.  As so often happens when we’re on the road, we happened into a restaurant that turned into a memorable experience.  The local Italian and pizza joint made the BEST bruschetta we’ve ever had!  We celebrated with a toast, of course.

Prosecco toast

After a night of tossing and turning in our hotel bed, we grabbed giant coffees and headed to our next stop, Atlanta.  

I thought this random side-of-the-road graffiti was beautiful.

There we had a wonderful dinner with our friends Philip and Erin, who were the most charming hosts.  They served a fabulous salmon (topped with a mix of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and lemon and roasted in the oven–I’m totally copying it!), followed by chocolate cake and ice cream.  What a treat, both the dinner and the company!

The next morning we headed to our much-anticipated, first temporary home in Raleigh.  How we ever got all this stuff in our car is a mystery.  Instead of fully unpacking, we headed to the grocery store!  Our first dinner started with heirloom tomatoes and buratta.  And wine.  Always wine.

First dinner in our little (let’s be honest, it’s tiny) apartment in Raleigh

What a mess!

So here we are, on the road, settling in to our temporary home, and enjoying our new neighborhood.  It doesn’t hurt that there’s a wonderful bakery just a ten minute walk away!  We hope to see a few friends while we’re here, socially distanced of course, but mostly we’re just excited to explore our new surroundings and see what we’ll discover on this first part of our journey.  We packed our optimism, openmindedness, and excitement for what will come.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

. . .and now it’s real!

Things are moving FAST!

My head is spinning, but I’m taking a break to provide this update.  We never imagined things would proceed at such a pace!  Our realtor met with us on September 10, we signed the listing agreement the next day, and on 9/12 the photos were taken.  The listing was set to go live on September 14.  Then came the big surprise:  on September 13 we received a full price offer!  We chose to interpret that as a sign from the universe and signed the contract.  Now we had to figure out how to dispose of a lifetime’s accumulation of stuff!

Our buyer’s last name starts with an S so we’re leaving this “S” stone!

We decided that we would not keep any furniture, instead only keeping things that were truly important to us:  my mother’s china, a few of Phil’s paintings, off-season clothes and shoes we would need while roaming, important papers, memorabilia, and some beloved works of art.  We limited ourselves to two boxes each of books; I dedicated one box to fiction and poetry and the other to cookbooks.

 

One of Phil’s paintings that I can’t part with

The next thing, the really, really hard thing, was finding a new family for Baxter.  I made a bio with his photo and we shared it with friends and family.  Our friends network came through!  Baxter is now the CEO of Silo, a local fused glass studio, and the beloved pet of owners Elissa and Chester.  They loved Baxter on sight, and he warmed up to them right away.  Elissa kindly sent us pictures to show us how well Baxter was adjusting.  He will love going to work with them every day, greeting customers, soaking up attention, and observing activity from his kitty condo that went with him.  I cried most of the day he left, but after several days I feel ok and know it was the right decision for him.

Baxter exploring his new office

 

You might be wondering how we’re managing to dispose of everything that won’t fit into a 5′ x 5′ storage unit.  Just in case you ever have to do this, here are the steps we’re taking:

  1. Had our kids identify what they wanted.  We’re shipping a number of items to our daughter in Europe, and our son who lives close will pick up his things.  We also gave away a number of things to friends in the area. 
  2. Made a list of everything to be sold, with information and pricing.  We gave this to our realtor, and the person buying our home ended up buying a lot!
  3. Listed the rest on Nextdoor.  This resulted in several sales to people in our immediate neighborhood.
  4. Listed on Facebook Marketplace.  I’ve been surprised at how much has sold on this site!
  5. Donations, donations, donations.  We’ll donate primarily to Habitat’s Restore, where they sell items to raise money for home building.

Our home buyer bought almost everything you see in this picture!

We decided against an estate sale due to COVID risk, and we were pleased that everyone who has purchased items has masked up.  The big learning from this experience is that selling all your stuff can be almost a full-time job!  Good thing it doesn’t go on very long.  Also, we priced everything at about 40% of retail, and most buyers paid full price.  We discount things that don’t sell quickly, as our goal is to sell as much as possible.

And now we have 2 1/2 weeks to wind up everything and hit the road.  We’ve decided on Cape Cod for our first destination, with a three-week stop in Raleigh.  We’ve booked AirBnBs in both locations, with a few hotel stops along the way.  I’ll be working, aside from a few vacation days, so we won’t be spending long driving days.  We’ve been pleased to see the extra cleaning our hosts (both AirBnB and Marriott) are doing to protect guests from COVID, but we’ll be bringing along plenty of disinfectant supplies and masks.  

The cozy cottage that will be our temporary home on the Cape

Seeing our house emptying a little each day feels weird–not bad, just strange.  And of course we miss Baxter (I haven’t broken my habit of closing the bathroom doors to prevent him from playing with the toilet paper rolls!).  And it’s definitely stressful handling inquiries, keeping track of everything, and managing transactions with strangers (all of whom have been lovely so far!).  But mostly?  We’re excited about this new experience.  We’re so glad we’re taking this step.  Here’s to the next adventure!

 

 

 

we’re selling the house!

This is getting real. . .

The pandemic experience has caused us to look at just about everything differently.  We’ve always believed that life is short and moments are not to be wasted, but recently we’ve come to realize that our time on this planet is limited and we must not wait to start our next adventure.  So. . .we decided to sell the house we love.

 Our little piece of heaven

A real estate agent came over this morning to look at the house and discuss the listing.  She sold us this house and was eager to see all the improvements we’ve made in our three years here.  No major remodeling was needed, but we added a large patio and pergola, installed custom window treatments, had all the cabinetry painted, installed new lighting, and had a lot of landscaping work done.  This is our favorite house (keep in mind, we’ve moved 18 times in our marriage!) and it will be hard to leave.

My raised bed garden.  The sign cracks me up!

But the pangs of giving up our house are coupled with excitement about this next adventure.  Since Americans are not allowed into France, where we plan to begin our roaming, we’ve decided to take this opportunity to roam the U.S.  My job allows me to work from anywhere in the country, which is a huge privilege.  So we’re planning to spend some extended time in some of our favorite places, and to discover some new ones.

 

  • Since it’s likely that our in-country roaming will begin in late fall or early winter, we’re looking at some warmer locations to start.  We love Savannah, Asheville, Charleston, and Raleigh-Durham, so one or more of those locations might be first on our list.  We’ve started researching AirBnB options and would plan to spend several weeks or a month in each locale.
  • Our son had the brilliant suggestion to spend some time in Dallas, where many of our oldest and dearest friends live.  That’s where we raised our kids and where we lived the longest (including our record:  11 years in one house!).  The COVID situation will likely dictate when we do that, as we’ll want to see our friends and not be isolated there.
  • Our original idea, before we decided on roaming, was to do a “grand retirement tour” in a couple of years, visiting friends and family throughout the country and making stops in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, and New Mexico.  We’ll incorporate those locations into our U.S. roaming–at least we could have some socially distanced visits with dear ones.
  • And, assuming we have sufficient time, we’ll want to visit our beloved New England, where we spent eight wonderful years.  Moving to Boston in 2008 was the best adventure of our lives so far, and it’s where we learned that home can be anywhere as long as we’re together.  We love the entire area and look forward to returning to Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont as well as Massachussets, where we’ll also see dear friends.

We are going to miss this adjustable bed!  But not as much as Baxter. . .

So, these are exciting plans.  But a major obstacle remains, one that almost brings me to tears every time I think about it:  Baxter.  We love him and don’t want to give him up.  We debated bringing him with us, especially since he’s very chill and has even done a road trip with us.  But we know cats hate change, and putting him through constant changes, moving every time he gets comfortable somewhere, would be selfish.  So we’re going to have to find him new humans.  That will be the hardest part of this.

 How can we part with this fellow?

 

So the first part of our adventure is about to begin.  We’re excited, anxious, sad, and frankly a bit stressed.  But mostly?  We know that now is the time to do new things.  We’re ready.

 

 

 

where will we stay?

 

Wlhen we begin Roaming we plan to stay in each location at least one month.  I’ve never taken more than twelve days off work so this will definitely be a new experience!  We have some comfort with AirBnB and have been dreaming over apartments on that site for our first ventures, mostly in France, Italy, and Portugal.  Having vacationed in rentals six times, we decided to review each place and look for lessons learned.

Our first vacation apartment experience was on a trip to Paris with our kids.  We had a wonderful Palais Royale location, two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, and a tiny kitchen.  It was a splurge, but we loved it!  We discovered a lovely bistro at the end of the block and became friendly with the owner.  We’d love to visit again, but it’s too expensive now!  We used the same company a couple of years later, booking a smaller two-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking the Sacre Coeur.  It was just a touch shabby, but it was affordable and had everything we needed–two bedrooms, one bathroom, and beds for all five of us–and a tiny Parisian elevator so we didn’t have to lug our bags up several flights of stairs.

For our next vacation apartment adventure, I decided we didn’t need luxury and looked for something very affordable.  This was our first real lesson (and our first AirBnB experience!).  The ground floor apartment in Berlin looked cute in the pictures–crisp, bright colors, and compact.  When we arrived, however, it was a different story.  The bed, which looked big, was way too small, so I had to sleep on the sofa.  The bathroom turned out to be a wet room, and the shower drain was plugged and flooded the bathroom and part of the living room.  And when we opened the freezer, we found some horrible, very old, frozen food.  The first night, a drunken, angry man serenaded us outside the open windows, which we couldn’t shut because of the heat.  We paid well below $100 per night but spent as little time in this apartment as possible.

So, what happens after an experience like ours in Berlin?  You overcorrect, of course!  Our next trip was to Stockholm, and I was determined to find us a pleasant place–and I did.  Located a stone’s throw from the Old Town, our apartment on the top floor of an elevator building boasted two bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a huge dining room with a piano, and a wonderful kitchen with an espresso machine that I spent an hour on youtube videos to master!  It was more expensive than a hotel, but it was wonderful!  In fact, it was much larger than we needed for only two people.  But it was definitely an overcorrection.

Our next adventure was in California, where we stayed with our daughter and son-in-law.  The place was close to the beach, old, and quaint.  We loved it!  However, we didn’t know that the owners  lived above us and shared the garden, and they REALLY enjoyed spending time with us, popping in unannounced just to visit.  We, however, craved privacy and family time.  Eventually I found myself hiding in my bedroom to avoid chatting.

Our most recent AirBnB experience was on a trip of a lifetime to Tuscany, in April 2019.  We flew to Rome for a couple of days, then met our kids for the drive to our villa.  The landscape was gorgeous, our host was charming but gave us privacy, the four-bedroom, two-bath villa was larger than we needed but very comfortable, and while it was too chilly to swim, we enjoyed both sitting by the pool and warming up by the fireplace.  And perhaps the best part was cooking together and eating in the spacious kitchen!  But we had to drive 20 minutes to get to any store or cafe.

So. . .what have we learned?  To shoot for a mix of luxury and frugality.  To focus on location.  To look for gracious hosts who are friendly but don’t want to spend lots of time with us.  To make sure the basics (a clean, workable kitchen, a comfortable king-sized bed, a bathroom with a good shower) are there.  And, when it’s booked and we’ve arrived, to remember that no place is perfect, to roll with the punches and make the most of our precious time in each temporary home, and to remember our sense of humor.  And most of all, to cherish the memories!

 

This beautiful Palais Royale apartment has been completely renovated since we stayed there.  Much pricier now!

 

Sacre Coeur view!

 

 

This Berlin bed is much smaller than it seems in the picture!

 

 

I fell in love with the red fridge in our Stockholm apartment–and the espresso machine!

 

The living room of our temporary California home

 

At “home” in Tuscany