A couple of years ago I fell in love with a recipe—and a story. The recipe is for “poulet Gaston Gérard”, and the story goes something like this: In the 1930s, the Dijon mayor’s wife was preparing dinner for Curnonsky, the famous food critic, when she accidentally spilled paprika in the dish. She saved it by adding cream, cheese, white wine, and (of course) Dijon mustard, and the great critic loved the result so much he named it after her husband (naturally). On a recent trip to Dijon we had the authentic dish, and I was delighted to discover that mine is just as good.
That got me thinking about adapting to mistakes, and making the best of things that go wrong. I think that making the best of things is a wonderful way to live, and especially to make a success of moving to France. My husband Phil and I recently had a conversation about how we’ve made the best of things since we moved to France, and I think this might inspire those who are considering – or have already made—the move.
So here are our best examples:
1. On a recent trip to a winery, Chateau Castigno, which is really a tiny wine retreat with rooms and a spa, a funky little village, and wine domaine, we arrived only to be told that due to a special group event, we could not do a tasting. We were disappointed, but the woman working there was so gracious we decided to buy a few bottles anyway. She helped us select her favorites, and she even threw in a gift bottle! Plus, she urged us to come back and promised to make room for us if we called ahead. Oh, and we’ve tried one of the wines – it was excellent!
2. We put a bid on a Montpellier apartment we really, really wanted, but someone outbid us. We did not let that discourage us. With Dennelle’s help, we kept looking – and we found the perfect place for us!
3. We bought and renovated that apartment, and I had great fun choosing fixtures, especially the bathroom tile. Later, after I’d chosen the kitchen backsplash tile, I realized it was the same tile as the bathroom! Oh well, now I have two rooms with tile I love.
4. We ordered an electric car, a Hyundai Kona, in April 2022. When it had still not arrived by January 2023, we worked with the dealer to find an alternative, and we ended up buying a Hyundai Ioniq. But the first time we drove it into the garage under our new apartment, we almost scraped he wall before discovering that the car is too big for our garage! So now the garage is our storage room and we park on the street.
5. I thought I remembered that Beziers had a wonderful Saturday market, so we planned a day trip. When we arrived at the outdoor market, we found a few stalls, but nothing of interest; I’d misremembered where the cool market was! So, we decided instead to explore the town and ended up having a wonderful day.
6. On that same trip to Beziers, when I searched for a lunch restaurant, a wonderful one popped up, “O Petit Bontemps”. We arrived to this beautiful space, only to be told they had no tables available. I asked the host (in French!) for a recommendation, and she directed us to nearby “O Kraken”, where we enjoyed a lunch served by the delightful owner who spoke excellent English (to Phil) and slow French (to me). We can’t wait to return! And someday we’ll arrive at “O Petit Bontemps” – this time with a reservation!
7. The next weekend, after I realized the famed Saturday market is in Uzès, not Beziers, we set out for Uzès, which is just over an hour away from Montpellier. After chatting and enjoying the scenery for over two hours, I noticed that things were looking very familiar. It turned out that I’d programmed the GPS for Beziers, and we were almost there! No problem, we just turned the car around and headed to Uzès.
8. Continuing our Uzès adventure, by the time we arrived (after a 3 ½ hour drive), we were starving, so we stopped at the first restaurant we saw, “Le Comptoir du 7”, for lunch. But by the time we finished, the market was over! Since we were there, we decided to explore Uzès – enjoying a medieval fair, a jousting tournament, doing some window shopping, and buying some of the delicious wine we’d had for lunch. And the wine merchant told Phil that “Le Comptoir du 7” is the best restaurant in town! It turned out to be a wonderful day – even without the market.
9. And finally a hilarious example. Have you tried mastering French appliances? After almost two years here, we barely understand how to operate the washer, dryer, microwave, oven, or dishwasher. On a recent evening I had our main course ready on the cooktop and the sides in the oven. When I went to turn the oven off, I accidentally turned on the cleaning function, which locks the oven! We decided to eat our main course on its own, and after the oven unlocked we had our side dishes. An unintentional two-course meal!
My point in all these silly stories is this: if you decide to move to a new country, where you don’t speak the language or understand the culture (although this probably applies to life in general!), not everything is going to go smoothly. You will make mistakes, and things will not always go as expected. But we have a choice about how to handle these things. It’s easy to get upset and have your day, your meal, or your outing ruined, but it’s much more fun to find the humor in situations – and to simply make the best of them.
By the way: the picture shows the “Domaine Viticole Castigno” – we’ll definitely be back!
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In early 2022, Sandy Shroyer retired from her professional career. Her jobs have included cooking for hired ranch hands, serving as a community mental health center staff psychologist, performing various leadership roles in healthcare firms, managing a lot of highly successful sales executives, and selling technology and services to health systems and health plans. The best part of her career was people—those who became lifelong friends, those who irritated her into learning important lessons, and those who taught her things through their kindness and genius. Her superpower is connecting people, whether it’s professional networking, introducing friends who become friends with each other, or just figuring out who might like to know someone she knows. She tried never to miss an opportunity to have fun at work. Sandy and her husband traveled full-time in the United States during the pandemic, and they are spending their retirement in Montpellier, France.
All articles by: Sandra Shroyer