Postcards from Europe, #17

This card didn’t get to us before we left for our trip to France, but it was terrific to get it with our mail upon our return. We spent lots of time wandering through the rues of Montpellier, in the Centre Ville and the Quartier de l’Ancien Courrier. (If you don’t already, follow me on Instagram at juliemcdermott1 to see photos.)

Being in Montpellier with our daughter was wonderful, and it brought back many memories of my time there, when it was a smaller, quieter town. Back then, I motored around on a mobylette (moped) to and from the apartment I shared with two other students in Palavas-les-flots, the closest beach village on the Mediterranean Sea. Mademoiselle lived with a family in Montpellier, and she got around à pied (on foot) and on the (new to me) tram system.

Mademoiselle and I have a lot in common, and now we each have our time as a student in Montpellier, too. Something I never imagined, when I first wandered around there and began to love the French.



If this gets to you before you leave, consider this your first welcome to Montpellier! I can’t wait to show you and dad around, introduce you to my host mom and our director, and show you all the fantastic cafés we’ve catalogued during our semester here. I spent last weekend with the Williamsons* and they were absolutely wonderful – just like you said. I also have a parting gift of confiture du lait which is delicious. See you soon!

A bientôt, 



P.S. They just turned the Christmas lights on and it’s GORGEOUS!

*The Williamsons are a French family (despite the anglicized last name) who live in Lyon and have been our friends since their son Charles was a summer exchange student chez nous several years ago. Unlike most other French families, Luc and Juliette have 8 (!) children, who are all teens or adults: Marie, Charles, Doriane, Aline, Lucie, Arthur, Blandine, and Astrid. We spent les fêtes de Noel with them this year, and they made us feel very welcome, and a part of the family! We hope they come visit us sometime soon!

Pizza and a Movie: Star Wars, Episode VII – the Force Awakens, in FRANCE!

Our Pizza Toppings at La Piazza Papa in Montpellier, France!

  • Black Olives
  • Ham
  • Mushrooms
  • Red Onions



Star Wars: Le Reveil de la Force


Our final “Pizza and a Movie” for 2015 occurred during our vacation in the south of France for the Christmas holidays. Our first (and last) stop in France was in Montpellier, and on a rainy Sunday afternoon (and evening), we decided to go see Star Wars (in English, but with French subtitles, or the “Version Originale ST”). There were long queues for the Version Française (French dubbed version), but not for the Originale, so we were able to get tickets just before showtime.

What a great movie! I absolutely loved it, and if you saw the first and second movies (episodes IV and V) when they came out in theaters like I did in the 1970s, I believe you will, too. If not, I still think you’ll enjoy it. They seemed to take everything that worked really well in those two movies and do them again in this film.

Le résultat? My favorite movie of 2015.

In my French conversation class, we often talk about movies, and also about how an American film title is sometimes completely changed instead of just translated. This time, I like the translation better than the English title. “Le Reveil de la Force” does mean “The Force Awakens,” but, more literally, it means “The Awakening of the Force.”

That may seem like a small thing, but it’s significant to me, as an author who often agonizes over the exact wording of titles.

Another note: one scene in particular reminded me of the famous line in Episode IV: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” which has become a family saying chez nous. When you see this movie, you’ll know which scene I’m talking about.

The Pizza:

We had a drink first at a café on Place de la Comédie, then walked over to La Piazza Papa and asked to share (partager) this pizza. When the serveur brought it, the pizza had already been divided in two. It seemed fitting for a country that values l’égalité!

Vive la France! et Bonne Année 2016!



The Twelve Days of Christmas, en français – et au disco!

La chanson, “Les douze jours de Noel,” et sa traduction en anglais 

(The song, “The twelve days of Christmas,” and the English translation):



for the Youtube version in French!)


Cutting right to the chase, with the final verse only: 

Le douzième jour de Noel – On the twelfth day of Christmas

Mon amoureux m’a offert – My true love gave to me,

Douze violoneux* qui giguaient – Twelve Drummers drumming

Onze fifres qui jouaient – Eleven Pipers piping

Dix lords qui sautaient – Ten Lords a-leaping

Neuf dames qui dansaient – Nine Ladies dancing

Huit bonnes qui trayaient – Eight Maids a-milking

Sept cygnes qui nageaient – Seven Swans a-swimming

Six oies qui pondaient – Six Geese a-laying


Quatre jacasseurs – Four Calling Birds

Trois poulettes – Three French Hens

Deux tourterelles – Two Turtledoves

Et une perdrix dans un poirier! – And a Partridge in a Pear Tree!


*ou bien, “musiciens”


My favorite Christmas card, so far, and from my mother! 

“A Partridge in a Pear Tree”




Postcards from Europe, #15

Mademoiselle is studying in the south of France, but she happened to be in Paris on November 13, 2015. She returned safely to the city where she lives that weekend, and the following week, her father and I hoped that she would cancel her final trip back to Paris, scheduled for the following weekend. She had planned to celebrate Thanksgiving with two American friends in Paris. But she didn’t cancel the trip, and she decided to go.

We were worried about her, but also glad – especially because she stayed safe and all went well. She did get to see quite a lot, and without crowds of tourists making things difficult.

I am thankful for the French army and the gendarmes.




I made it back to Paris one final time! I’m so glad I came back, there was a notable increase in the number of gendarmes and army, but we saw all of the big sites, went to the catacombs, saw the Eiffel Tower lit up in tricouleur, and the Christmas markets of the Champs-Élysées! Also we had a fantastic Thanksgiving of rotiserie chicken, bread and cheese, green beans, stuffing, and mashed potatoes! And an apple tart, and champagne. This was a fantastic weekend and I can’t wait to see you soon!




Postcards from Europe, #14

Mademoiselle went to Paris for 3 consecutive weekends in November: the 6th-8th, the 13th-15th, and the 20th-22nd. This carte postale is from her 1st trip, when she stayed with family friends.

Their daughter Petronille stayed with us as a teenage summer exchange student for 3 weeks one year, and Mademoiselle stayed with them on the same program a year later. That was Mademoiselle’s very first trip to Paris (they live in a suburb, Montrouge), and it was before she had taken any French classes! But ever since, we have always credited Mademoiselle’s fabulous French accent to Petronille and her family.

Merci beaucoup!


I visited Petronille and her famille this weekend and it was charmant! We walked around the 6th arrondissement, went shopping, went to the Monet museum, and got sushi for dinner in Montparnasse with her friends! It was so cool to see them all and be able to speak French with them. Plus I forgot how good their cooking was! Both lunches were the most French things I’ve ever done!



In case this arrives very late, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Love you all and miss you! CONGRATS JACK!!! YOU ROCK! *


*Mademoiselle’s brother Jack (whose journey with cancer is told in ALL THE ABOVE) had just been offered and had accepted a job in NYC, to start next year!

Postcards from Europe, #12

I’ve never been to Copenhagen (or Denmark), but I hear that visiting it is in vogue. One thing Mademoiselle and I have in common is that we both love royalty, and jewels – well, me more than her on that last one, possibly.

I was a bit troubled by the commune visit, but I trust that visiting Copenhagen has been educational for Mademoiselle. As I keep telling her, “Have fun, but stay safe, and well!”




We have so far walked 9 miles and it is only 5 pm. We woke up, got much needed coffee and pastries and ambled around Amalienborg Palace until the “changing of the guard” at 12 pm (apparently they have a queen!) We walked by an old military compound, walked through Rosenborg Slot Gardens, and explored the palace and CROWN JEWELS!

After, we made our way over to Christianshavn and walked through the commune Christiana (so many hippies, so much weed, so little time). Tomorrow we plan on going to the National Museum and Tivoli Gardens! 3/4s of the way done with fall break!

Hope all is well,




Postcards from Europe, #11

Before Mademoiselle sent this postcard, we talked via Face Time Audio, as we have done several times this fall. She knew that I was going to be at the Killer Nashville writers conference during the last weekend of October, and that I was going to be on a panel there. She’s been a strong supporter of my writing and my books, but so far she’s only read one of the three I’ve written.

Guess which?

Oh, and her birthday is this Sunday, December 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas. Her middle name isn’t Nicole, but she says she loves it. Three guesses on what that is, too!


Surprise postcard from Amsterdam! Only sending you this because we stumbled upon the Basilica of St. Nicholas (aka my birthday) just a hop skip and a jump from the Red Light District, haha. Basically Amsterdam is a city full of contradictions, also foodie heaven. I hope you had a great time at the Nashville conference!




Postcards from Europe, #10

I think Mademoiselle knows this (and I’m not sure she cares), but when I visited Amsterdam in late 1979, I stayed on a boat in a canal with about 20 other “students.” It was cold and wet, but there was plenty of beer. One thing I did in the city was visit the Heineken brewery; another was seeing the place where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II. I think Mademoiselle told me on the phone that she and her friend (the other “grandma”) did the latter.

What a cool city.

FullSizeRender 2


There are two ways you can do Amsterdam: Sampling cheeses and seeing the sights, or going to the Red Light District and getting high. Us grandmas chose the former. Our meals included a beer tasting and appetizers in the dark, hamburgers at a secret speakeasy, sandwiches at a former pirate radio station, and Indian food. All things aside, Amsterdam is awesome. I’m never going to be cool enough for this city, but it was fun trying.

Happy early Halloween!




Postcards from Europe, #9

A friend of mine visited Bruges, Belgium last year with her daughter; I’ve never been. Evidently, it’s quite charming, and there’s lots to see (and to eat and drink) there.

It was the first stop on Mademoiselle‘s week+ long “fall break” tour of Europe at the end of October, and she went with another jeune fille from UNC. Stay tuned for their other stops.

FullSizeRender 4


Things we did in Brugge*:

  • Boat Tour
  • Visited Basilica of the Holy Blood
  • Window shopped
  • Walked along canals
  • Climbed the Belfry

Things we ate in Bruges:

  • waffles!
  • chocolates!
  • mussels!
  • fries!
  • BEER!

In conclusion, Bruges is the most lovely town and Flemish sounds like Old English.



26-10-2015″ **

*spellings vary

**not sure of the date, I couldn’t make out her writing. But it was in late October.

Postcards from Europe, #8

You may notice that I’m posting the “Postcards from Europe” series frequently….That’s because, so far, I’ve received 14 cartes postales, and I don’t know how many more are on the way. I want to make sure I get them all published before I leave for France myself, soon…

Mademoiselle had planned 3 more trips to Paris (in November) when she wrote this postcard (two days before my birthday in October, haha).

This past weekend, November 20-22, she took her third trip to Paris to celebrate Thanksgiving with two American friends.* She posted a photo of their table on instagram and commented, “Frenchgiving (noun): when three Americans meet in Paris in late November.”



This is from my first trip to Paris, haha. We went to the Sacre Coeur, saw the sights, explored small neighborhoods, and had Moroccan food! I hope you have a fantastic birthday week!

Love you lots!



*Mademoiselle in front of La Tour Eiffel:


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