14 September 2011

montpellier

mont01-petithow is it that you find yourself walking the streets of montpellier around 6AM?

mont02-petitit all began in december 2010 when you missed your train from paris back to evreux and were forced to take the midnight train.

mont03-petitbut lucky you, you ran into someone from evreux that also missed his train.

mont04-petita 1AM walk through evreux. a discussion about how the soul of a city is only visible at night.

mont05-petita discussion also about favorite cities in france. then a “cathy, il faut que tu ailles a montpellier. c’est une ville incroyable et je rêve d’y retourner.

mont06-petita few months pass.

sometimes, there are those rare days where there is nobody. everybody happens to be out of town at the same time. your roommate is gone. your neighbors are gone. your friends are gone. there’s only so much movie watching / internet browsing / email checking / book reading that you can do. those days are terrible.

feeling alone is one thing. feeling lonely is another.

mont07-petityou had one of these days back in march 2011. or was it april. you can’t remember. but when you have days like those, you find yourself scouring the internet for travel deals. before you know it, you’ve booked a ticket to montpellier for june.

mont08-petitand now (june 2011) you’re here. the city rents out bicycles for two euros for the entire day.

mont09-petityou don’t resist a tempation that good.

mont10-petityou + bike + bike path + good weather = perfection.

mont11-petitwhy not add in a bit of the mediterranean?

mont12-petitthen you pedal back to the city and finish exploring by foot.

mont14-petitwell… more like giving the feet a little break.

mont13-petityou happily recognize the trèfles. clovers. what you’ve learned from île de ré is never far from your head.

mont15-petitthis space is yours. protect it.

hmm.

english, 1 point. especially texan english.

don’t mess with texas.

there isn’t a better anti-litter slogan than that one.

mont16-petitlately when you travel all you do is wonder.

mont17-petitit’s june now. july is next. then august. then september. then what?

mont18-petitat this moment, you still have no idea and avoid the topic when friends ask you about the future.  when you know, they’ll know, you promise.

mont19-petitgood hosts, good dinner, good discussion.

about french cuisine.

then a “t’as déjà mangé les grenouilles?” [have you already eaten frog legs?]

you think for a moment, about everything you’ve tasted for the past two years.

“en fait, non.” [actually, nope.]

“demain après le travail, j’achèterai les grenouilles et on les mangera pour le dîner!” one host exclaims. he hasn’t had them for two years. [tomorrow after work, i’ll buy frog legs and we’ll eat them for dinner!]

“ok!” is your response.

mont20-petitthe next morning, a cat on the table.

mont29-petitplants on the table.

mont30-petitperhaps one of the most loved gardens you’ve spent time in.

mont21-petitthen the day is spent exploring the city.

mont22-petitthe hôtels particuliers is what you explore today. huge private homes with secret courtyards hidden behind ornate doors.

mont23-petitthere may not be much color, but that doesn’t keep you from gasping each time you step inside.

mont24-petitbefore you know it, it’s time for dinner.

mont25-petitas promised, the frog legs are out defrosting.

mont26-petitpersil is the key herb here. parsley.

frog legs are eaten with your fingers.

so a small dish of water plus a lemon is essential.

mont31-petitthe next day, you’ve decided that you’ve seen enough of montpellier and you decide to go visit georges brassens. or rather, his home. sète.

you know it was the right choice when you spot an immature goéeland.

mont32-petitit’s confirmed again when you visit MIAM. musée international des arts modestes.

mont33-petitarts modestes – the idea that every object, functional or not, trivial or important – is deserving of being considered art.

mont34-petitthe unspectacular. the boring. the dull.

here they are given a home.

that resonates with you.

l'extraordinaire dans l'ordinaire.

besides – collections make you tick.

mont35-petitthen you go and do what you do best: get lost in nature.

mont36-petithere is where you are happiest. standing between intense greens and intense blues.

mont37-petityou climb up, take in the view, then climb down. thanks to a hand drawn map you know where need to go.

mont38-petitthen your heart really jumps. you’ve found an area where the mountains meet the sea.

well. mini mountains. at this point, anything rocky counts.

mont39-petityou run your hands over the rocks and think, “how i’ve missed climbing! april was so long ago…”

mont40-petitthen you perch on one of the rocks and watch the waves come in and out. it’s like sunsets and sunrises – but with instant gratification.

mont41-petitsky. sea. sand. 

mont42-petityour shoes are absolutely destroyed. you vow to invest in a good pair next time because cheap ones can’t handle the torture you put them through.

mont43-petitthe sky is filled with goélands. there must be trash nearby.

mont44-petitthe sun starts to set.

and your tummy starts to grumble.

you’ve got a rdv with your hosts for dinner.

mont45-petitthey point to the row of cute, well-lit, clean, and well-placed restaurants along the main rude.

“là, il y a personne de sète qui mange là-bas. c’est que pour les touristes” [over there, nobody from sète eats there. it’s only for tourists.]

then you follow down a ramp, past the fishing boats, and into a crowded area near the ports with a tiny area lit by fluorescent lights.

“c'est peut-être pas trop propre mais c’est ici que tous les locaux mange. mais surtout, ici c'est authentique” [it is perhaps not very clean but it’s here that all the locals eat. but above all, it is aunthentic here."]

it is la plancha. it may be a spanish word, but sète is close enough to spain to adopt it. grilled seafood.

the rest of the meal is pretty silent. except for the continuous “mmmm! mmm! mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!”

or as the french say, “miam! miiam! miaaaammmmmmmmmm!”

mont46-petiteverything is digested with a walk through george brassens street art.

and it’s back to montpellier.

mont47-petitthe next morning. montpellier. but not for long, as you’ve got a train back to evreux. normal pit stop that you love so much. and this time, there’s an envelope waiting for you.

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