How we developed friendships in our first weeks
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that Phil and I arrived in Montpellier on January 23. Less than three months in, we already have a lovely circle of friends. We expected to be a bit lonely the first year here, but that hasn’t been the case at all.
We credit Renestance for much of this good fortune. During our July 2021 reconnaissance visit we met with several of their team members for an apero (the French custom of cocktails and nibbles in late afternoon), and they could not have made us feel more welcome and secure.
We arrived in Montpellier excited to see our apartment and settle in. What we didn’t expect was the warm welcome from Lizzie, our Renestance consultant, and our landlords (propriétaires).
A lovely welcome from Renestance!
Our furnished apartment did not include bed linens, and we arrived on a Sunday when the stores were closed (!), but our wonderful propriétaire, Jacqueline, loaned us freshly ironed sheets to get us through until we could shop. Soon afterward, she stopped by with a delicious cake, which has been followed by another cake and most recently a batch of date-walnut balls. Jacqi is originally from Lebanon, and she has promised to treat us to a traditional Lebanese dinner soon. She also had me over for coffee one morning, and we had so much fun chatting in “Franglaise” that I stayed almost three hours!
Jacqueline’s delicious date and walnut balls rolled in coconut
I had connected with Gwen, who with husband Tom moved from Arkansas in November 2019 (yep, right before everything shut down!) through the “Americans in Montpellier” Facebook group. During our July trip we met up with them for coffee and hit it off. The week we arrived they invited us over for coffee, and we were delighted to find out that our homes are only a half mile apart! Their wonderful dog Bella welcomed us with open arms (paws?), and a great friendship, which may or may not have anything to do with Gwen’s fabulous chili, immediately ensued. One of Gwen’s many talents is making greeting cards, and when we returned from my birthday trip to Nice a custom-made card was waiting.
My custom-made 70th birthday card from Gwen, Tom, and Bella
The high point of my week is Thursday morning coffee with the “Long Duck Ladies” (a play on the word Languedoc, the region where we live), a Facebook group started by Renestance founder Dennelle Taylor Nizoux. We’ve added a few husbands to our group, which this week numbered 11 for coffee! We meet outside (in all weather) at the Café de la Mer, and occasionally some of us continue on to lunch. Anne, who with husband John arrived from Seattle two weeks after we did, is a regular, as is Margi, who with husband Michael moved last October from New York. Tracey and husband Bobby, early retirees from Virginia, have lived here several years and know all the best restaurants. Sandi is from South Africa and speaks French beautifully, and there are others from the UK, Ireland, and other English-speaking countries.
This week’s male contingent of the Long Duck Ladies (thanks to Gwen for the photo!)
There have been other fun times with some of the LDLs—recently we attended practice sessions for the World Figure Skating Championships (more fun than the actual competition and MUCH cheaper!). Margi mentioned she was attending, and soon three of us had decided to join her!
Men’s practice session. It was exciting to be so close to the skaters!
I’m not saying we’re friends exactly, but we have a pair of beautiful black and white birds that frequent our garden. I think they’re magpies. We also have two cats that sneak through the garden, thinking they’re invisible, but they are very camera shy!
We’ve also had friends over for dinner a few times. It was pretty basic at first, but after our shipment arrived I could set the table with my own things.
Our table set for a recent dinner with Margi and Michael
And for my first birthday in France, my lovely Renestance friends treated me to lunch at a sunshiny cafe (complete with wine, bien sur). Who would have thought we’d have great friends in just over two months?! Now we must work hard on our language skills so we can make more French friends!
Beautiful birthday flowers from Renestance