how is it that you find yourself walking the streets of montpellier around 6AM?
it all began in december 2010 when you missed your train from paris back to evreux and were forced to take the midnight train.
but lucky you, you ran into someone from evreux that also missed his train.
a 1AM walk through evreux. a discussion about how the soul of a city is only visible at night.
a 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.”
a 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.
you 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.
and now (june 2011) you’re here. the city rents out bicycles for two euros for the entire day.
you don’t resist a tempation that good.
you + bike + bike path + good weather = perfection.
why not add in a bit of the mediterranean?
then you pedal back to the city and finish exploring by foot.
well… more like giving the feet a little break.
you happily recognize the trèfles. clovers. what you’ve learned from île de ré is never far from your head.
this space is yours. protect it.
english, 1 point. especially texan english.
there isn’t a better anti-litter slogan than that one.
lately when you travel all you do is wonder.
it’s june now. july is next. then august. then september. then what?
at 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.
good 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.
the next morning, a cat on the table.
plants on the table.
perhaps one of the most loved gardens you’ve spent time in.
then the day is spent exploring the city.
the hôtels particuliers is what you explore today. huge private homes with secret courtyards hidden behind ornate doors.
there may not be much color, but that doesn’t keep you from gasping each time you step inside.
before you know it, it’s time for dinner.
as promised, the frog legs are out defrosting.
persil is the key herb here. parsley.
frog legs are eaten with your fingers.
so a small dish of water plus a lemon is essential.
the 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.
it’s confirmed again when you visit MIAM. musée international des arts modestes.
arts modestes – the idea that every object, functional or not, trivial or important – is deserving of being considered art.
the unspectacular. the boring. the dull.
here they are given a home.
that resonates with you.
besides – collections make you tick.
then you go and do what you do best: get lost in nature.
here is where you are happiest. standing between intense greens and intense blues.
you climb up, take in the view, then climb down. thanks to a hand drawn map you know where need to go.
then your heart really jumps. you’ve found an area where the mountains meet the sea.
well. mini mountains. at this point, anything rocky counts.
you run your hands over the rocks and think, “how i’ve missed climbing! april was so long ago…”
then 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.
sky. sea. sand.
your 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.
the sky is filled with goélands. there must be trash nearby.
the sun starts to set.
and your tummy starts to grumble.
you’ve got a rdv with your hosts for dinner.
they 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!”
everything is digested with a walk through george brassens street art.
and it’s back to montpellier.
the 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.