7.15.2005

Montpellier

Backtracking a little, I'd like to say a few words about Montpellier, where I spent two weeks (one of them, as you know, sick as all get out) taking french courses, going to the beach, and eating more baguette and duck liver mousse than is good for one person.

As French cities go, Montpellier is not the most beautiful, nor the most exciting, but that's not to say I regret going. The size of the university there guarantees an enormous population of students and, consequently, a huge number of relatively inexpensive cafes and kebab shacks. I did eat at a couple nice restaurants there, but nothing that blew me away. Some of them were overpriced but had nice atmosphere. On the west side of St. Anne's cathedral is a charming salon de thé (I believe it's called Le pré verre) that serves a wide variety of teas as well as some breakfast and lunch dishes. The outside dining area is very peaceful, falling as does in the shade of the cathedral and a huge tree. Expect to pay for this atmosphere though. However lovely the presentation, 6 Euro was a little much for a cup of tea and what was essentially a glorified pancake.

The real highlights of my time in Montpellier involved perusing the local markets. I lived in a student residence very close to the center of town, and within a very small radius I could walk to a fish market, a butchery, several produce stands, and a number of patisseries, where you can buy a fresh baguette for .60 Euro or a perfectly breakfast-sized quiche lorraine for 2 euro.

The room where I stayed had its own kitchenette, and I had a great time cooking for some of the other students at the Institut Linguistique. One night I made a honey glazed salmon dish, another night I made lamb stew provencal. Much pate, saussicon, and cheese was eaten. Much wine was drunk.
I got a bit of a tan at the beach, Palavas les Flots, but after living in Sarasota for several years you start to demand a lot from your beaches, and crowded beaches with sticky grey sand don't really cut it. For all the natural beauty, I could have been at a beach in New Jersey, except that every once in a while a vendor would walk by selling beignets. On top of this, the only semi-naked people were fat, old, or both. Not that I begrudge them their nudity; I very much look forward to the day when I am too old to care about such nonsense as "dignity".
Still, we did find a nice seaside restaurant that served huge steaming pots of moules mariniere (more about this when we get to Paris).

And because it looks cool, here is a picture of the Roman aqueduct in Montpellier.

Tomorrow, a visit to a beautiful Loire valley chateau, and some wicked good wild boar sausages.

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