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Season’s Greetings to Family and Friends, 2023

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

In early January we knew things weren’t right when Shelagh saw what looked like a bat, fly across our living room. I didn’t believe her at first, then out of the corner of my eye I saw a dark speck whoosh across the room.  And there it was, the first of 3! Une chauve-souris. Ein Fledermaus.  It turned out we had bats in our belfry…well, up the chimney at any rate.  After the 3rd sighting, we called in the experts who sorted the problem out for us.


After that, the year progressed more-or-less smoothly.  We welcomed our first B&B guests in February and since then our rooms have been occupied whenever we have been at home.

We loved having Paul & Kirsty as our neighbours in Rustrel for 2 months, which allowed us the opportunity of going on many outings of discovery together, one for 3 days to Marseille, where we actually ran out of time to fit in all we had scheduled…and this in February!

We’ve had many enjoyable trips this year, taking in the fabulous Johannes Vermeer exhibition in Amsterdam, the Mark Rothko at the Fondation Louis Vuitton and the Nicholas de Staël at The Museum of Modern Art of Paris, to name but three.

We drove to Barcelona in May to see Bruce Springsteen, still giving excellent performances at 73, and playing with an 18-piece band.  Michelle Obama joined him on stage to play tambourine and backup vocals – the Obamas and their good friends the Steven Spielbergs had flown in for the concert and watched the show from the front stalls.

On the way back we discovered the delightful town of Girona where we had lunch with our friends Terry and Paula at the Rocca Brothers Normal.

Our week in Turkey with Alan and Jane to visit the Graeco-Roman ruins at Ephesus and other beautiful sites was only slightly marred when Shelagh fell down the stairs on the boat where we were staying and broke her collarbone.  Undaunted, strapped up by the local doctors and feeling little pain thanks to heavy-duty painkillers she was able to accompany the group on every single outing.  

A pleasant weekend in London followed, where we saw the marvellous Nicholas Hytner production of Guys and Dolls, the Lehmann Brothers Trilogy and the Berthe Morisot exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. My brother, Clive, flew back with us to spend a week in the Luberon.

Peter & Isobel came from Switzerland in June during the daily rainstorms.  We do need the rain but this was flash flooding and not much good done to the environment by it.

In July we decamped to an hotel in Aix-en-Provence, partly to attend the Aix Festival opera and concerts, and partly to linger for a few days by a welcome pool and escape the excessive heat. We managed to muster enough energy to make it to the Vasarely Museum outside the city and loved it.

Later in the same month we were in Nice to catch up with our Danish friends, Lisbeth and Jens, and watch the Sir Tom Jones and Herbie Hancock concerts.  Neither disappointed!  While there we visited both the Matisse and Chagall museums.

At the end of the month, the wedding of Max and India was celebrated in St Saturnin, with 130 guests attending the ceremony in the garden of Peter and Victoria’s sumptuous former convent home.  We loved every minute of that weekend, including the excellent restaurants that served us all with dinner the evening before the wedding and brunch the day after.


Chantal and Michel, our friends of more than 35 years, came down from Paris and accompanied us to Mougins where Picasso spent his last years. We also discovered the excellent Fondation Léger in Biot and rode on a steam train which runs on pinecones!  


In September we took our annual Escapade with the French Wives’ Club (3 French women married to English men – Shelagh almost counts as French!) to Tours, Angers and Nantes.  In Angers we discovered the extraordinary Tapestry of the Apocalypse which by itself, is worth a visit.

Soon afterwards we flew to Ottawa to visit Shelagh’s uncle who turned 100 on Oct 9th.  The perfect excuse for a big birthday bash! We sang Happy Birthday to him in English, French and Arabic! While there, we tagged on a side trip to Chicago, then went on to Bozeman/Yellowstone National Park, which was very beautiful.  (We have now visited 43 of the US States, only 7 left to go!)


The seemingly interminable Rugby World Cup kicked off in France just before we left for Canada and was still on for 3 weeks after we came home!  Friends Al and Catherine, came to spend some time with us in order to enjoy the atmosphere of being in France during a RWC.  We spent a lot of time shouting at the referees during the matches we watched together on television.

While they were with us, we took our friends visiting from London, Brussels and Girona to Chateau La Coste and introduced them to its wonderful sculpture garden.

Now, as we approach the end of the year, I have entered full training mode for an adventure I am hoping I will be able to accomplish. As a prelude to the Paris Olympics, the French Cycling Federation has invited cyclists from all over the country to meet at the Paris Velodrome on June 2, 2024. 15 of us from our local cycling club in Apt have answered the call and will be covering the 860 kms in 9 days!  Shelagh has bought me sessions with a personal trainer and a physiotherapist for the next 6 months to raise my chances of success! I will be posting my daily progress on this site, so tune in from May 23rd.

As we look back on 2023, we are thankful our health and energy levels have allowed us to live a full and enjoyable life, spend time with good friends, and discover new wonders of the world.  

We hope this year has been good to you too and wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Mike & Shelagh




Here are some of the events and exhibitions we saw this year.

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