June 1, 2008
As usual, I’ll try to distract you from the lack of actual writing on my blog with fancy! shiny! pictures! You can see all our pictures from Montpellier (with a running commentary, of course) here. In the next few days, I’ll be trying to get up some stories from our Montpellier reunion 2008! But fortunately for me, Elizabeth is coming up for her last visit to Paris while we’re still here, so her arrival on Tuesday may mean that I need to venture back into the great outdoors, instead of putting my feet up and blogging. Isn’t life an adventure!
Apparently, I had the foresight to book first class tickets from Paris to Montpellier and then the good sense to forget all about it. So when Allen and I arrived at car number three and found it was a first-class car, we were very excited. “Just a little early anniversary present,” I joked.
Three hours into the trip, the TGV has finally slowed, and we’re pulling into the train station in Nimes. Somehow “I’ve been here before” is almost a physical reaction. My skin is tingling with anticipation of the heightening of that feeling in Montpellier. We’re twenty minutes away.
It didn’t seem to make sense to travel very much in the fall, when I was settling in to Paris, and Allen and I were adjusting to inhabiting a shared space again (and a small one at that) after two months apart. And then I found work, and we had visitors, and I flew back to the States in December, then Allen did in January, and there was dreary February, and then half the people we know came to Paris seemingly at once. Now with five weeks left in France and fifteen minutes left on a train, I’m asking myself why we waited so long.
I’ve been back to Montpellier since studying here, in 2003 with my mother and my friend Sara. But this time will be so different. Last time my friend Adam was studying abroad in Montpellier with the William & Mary program (I like to think I had a hand in it), and he was living in our building. So we stayed two floors down from my old apartment. This time, we’re farther removed, staying in a chambre d’hotes. But this time is a reunion, with Allen and I meeting Debbie and Elizabeth. We’re about a fifth of our study abroad group right there. (And it’s worth noting that by luck – or a predictable sequence of events, depending on how you view it – we’re two pairs that lived together that year. Allen and Debbie were in the same dorm hall at Boutonnet, while Elizabeth and I shared a charmed apartment on rue Eugene Lisbonne.)
As the trip drew closer, and our discussions and plans more frequent, I started to notice the ways in which that year had been different for all of us. Our daydreams about the trip were revealing. Debbie was prepared to spend every day at the beach, as was Elizabeth. Allen and I hadn’t even given a thought to taking the bus to Palavas and the Mediterranean. Allen expressed an interest in visiting our old campus. I was entirely focused on listing all the places I hoped to eat.
I came to Montpellier when I was 19, and I’ve turned 27 this week. It will be different (and I would want it to be different). And yet – we’re pulling into the station now, and I can see the familiar orange and green tiles. I’m scanning the crowd for Debbie and Elizabeth; we haven’t planned to meet, but I somehow know they’ll be there. And it will all be just exactly the same.
May 31, 2008
Days of walking in the French mountains: 5
Distance travelled: 107 km/66.5 miles
Total hours of walking: approximately 35
Pictures taken: 315 (Montpellier and hiking)
Blisters formed: 10+ (combined four feet)
Hours of sleep we’re about to get tonight: A LOT
Look forward to further posts with pictures about our trip to Montpellier (3 days) and hiking through the midi-Pyrenees (5 days).
Unbelievably enough, we only have 30 days left in France!
April 14, 2008
The most exciting part of our year in France is coming soon: a visit to the South! Paris is nice, but I absolutely long for the South of France; now that I’m in the country, it’s just beyond my reach. I loved everything about Montpellier – the pleasantly mild weather, the pale yellow buildings that made the city sunny even in the (rare) rain, the fountains all of moss, the Occitan street signs, the cobbles and pedestrian thoroughfares, the slower way of living. The way I feel about Montpellier is the meaning of yearning for me.
Still, it’s more than just Montpellier. It’s the South! It’s the Mediterranean! It’s Montpellier, and it’s the mountains. And we’re going back.
This week I’ve been planning our trip back down to Montpellier and then to the Sentier Cathare. From Friday, May 23 to Monday, May 26 (Memorial Day weekend), we’ll be in Montpellier with Elizabeth. I expect a drink at O’Carolan’s in the Place du Petit Scel (our former home), a dinner at the Creperie de la Comedie (for which I may starve myself all day), a visit to the Esplanade and reminiscences near Jenna’s fountain, and a wide grin on my face all weekend.
On Monday, when we leave Montpellier, life gets even better. Instead of returning right away to Paris, we’re heading through Carcassonne to Quillan to hike the Sentier Cathare. This is the ancient (13th century) trail of the Cathars, leading from castle to castle. Sometimes I think I love the city, but the way I feel about the mountainside of the Midi-Pyrenees must be what heaven feels like. Of course, I’m conveniently forgetting the pain of hiking right now. I’ll remember soon enough. From Quillan, we’ll hike through Puivert (castle) to Espezel. The next day (our third wedding anniversary) will take us high into the mountains to Comus. Then we’ll descend and ascend again, in a short but grueling day, to Montsegur. (We won’t even sit down when we arrive at the hostel there because the ruined fortress of Montsegur will await us on the hill. We’ll climb the hill with refreshed tourists, feeling altogether like we’ve been given a great reward for our efforts to arrive at Montsegur. Then we’ll sit in the fortress and soak in the history.) After Montsegur, we’ll hike to Roquefixade, where we’ll take a detour after checking in to the hostel, to ensure that we see the ruined castle of Roquefixade itself. (I’ll flashback to Rebecca climbing on to the very top of the ruins and navigating it as if on a balance beam.) From Roquefixade the path itself becomes less interesting on the way to Foix, where we’ll board a train back to Paris.
Ah, le Sud! Le Midi! Montpellier et les Pyrenees! Vous me manquez!
November 6, 2007
And thus Elizabeth arrived at the Gare de Lyon on Friday, October 26! For those who don’t know, Elizabeth was my roommate in Montpellier. We decided to room together after we discovered that we could spend hours wandering around the city without talking to each other. We figured that was a good basis for a peaceful living arrangement. Fortunately, we were right (though I’m sure I drove her nuts often enough).
Even before Allen was offered the job here, we knew Elizabeth was going to be in Grenoble for the year. She’s working with her university’s study abroad program, guiding around all of the young, lost students (like we used to be!). In the meantime, she’s researching for her dissertation, which necessitates a trip to Paris every other month or so. We couldn’t have been happier to be here at the same time as she is! Seeing her come off the train gave me a rush of the familiar; we were in France together again, and she’d know just how I was feeling about everything.
I’m afraid we did too much complaining during her visit – at least, I know I did. Primarily this is because you really have to carefully choose who you complain to when your worst problem is a stale baguette. I’ll leave the door closed on my complaints here because my problems are the type I’m happy to have. Still it was nice to have a friend whose perspective on living in France came from a similar place. (For the record, we both miss Montpellier, except the constant harrassment of creepy guys, which is strangely absent from Paris and Grenoble.)
Happily, we also did a huge amount of walking while she was here. But Friday night we just relaxed at L’Epicerie Fuxia (our Italian restaurant that we like so much) and caught up over a bottle of red wine.