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A language holiday in Montpellier!

Ah… Just returned from a week in France.  And MAN what a week.  Gorgeous weather, gorgeous people, gorgeous city.  I arrived by train late on a Saturday evening and this was the view from my hotel the next morning:

Hotel view

I KNOW!

I actually groaned with pleasure when I opened the curtains.

I could have flown – it would have been faster – but I took the train because I’m tired of feeling like a criminal for carrying a bottle of water.  It was long (9 hours door-to-door) but it was around the same price, it was DEFINITELY more relaxed, the view was spectacular, and it was so incredible to watch the weather change as we sped south.  Imagine leaving rainy 14 degree misery and gradually making your way to 30 degrees of liquid sunshine.  Si bon!

This was my first time in Montpellier.  I was there for the week for a French course with my friend Christy.

Christy a la plage!

Montpelier is an ancient city situated just a little inland from the Mediterranean.  It’s the 8th largest city in France and essentially made up of two distinct sections, the old and the new.  The old centre is definitely the most interesting part of the city, and that’s where Christy and I spent most of our time.  With winding streets, high walls, unique shops, apartments, franchises, museums, churches, bars and restaurants all mashed together, there was something new to discover around every turn.

View down city street.

I have actually been to France three times before – to completely different regions on each visit – and each time has been amazing.  I’m not sure how it is to live there, but it is probably my favorite place to visit.  The relaxed vibe, the awesome weather (in the summer), the beautiful architecture, the food.

Good LORD the food.

Especially the bread.

Hoo Nelly! On this trip I swear I’ve never eaten so much bread in my life.  It couldn’t be helped: it’s laced with cocaine.

True story.

Every day I would say, “Ok, I really have to stop eating so much bread.  I’m developing a baguette belly”, and every day I would have a pain au chocolat for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and a baguette with my evening meal.  Si savoureux!

Baguette

As for the French course, unfortunately my command of the language was really atrocious, but I managed to fudge (fondant) my way into a medium-level class.  The classes were good: small groups (no more than 10 people), all completely in French – no English allowed – and personal attention when you needed it.  A week is definitely not long enough, but I suspect I’ll try and return in the future.

In fact, it was stupid how much DUTCH I spoke when I was there.  I could smell the old brain gears grinding: “Hm… this isn’t English, so let’s just spit out any old non-English word that comes to mind”.  I was actually quite pleased with how much Dutch I knew… although it fundamentally defeated the purpose of the trip.  Jammer. C’est dommage.

Christy’s French was miles better than mine (my future children will definitely be in an immersion language school), so while she did help me out with vocabulary and such, we ended up speaking English with each other most of the time.  Shame on us.  But, you know, MEH, because the best part of the whole learning experience was that it was combined with VACATION.

Here are some photos of us enjoying Montpellier.  The first is the huge central square, La Place de la Comedie:

Opéra Comédie

Here is their local Arc de Triomphe, the Porte du Peyrou:

Arc de triomphe

Here I am in front of the énorme Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Montpellier:

Me and giant cathedral.

Here is a building that stands in front of the church of Saint Roch (local saint form the 1300s who people still come to to pray for healing).  The amazing thing (besides those silly miracles of course) is that this building is just a flat wall.  The entire surface is painted with trompe-d’oeil technique.  It’s hard to tell where the real people end and the painted people begin.  Très cool:

Trompe-d'oeil

Here I am striking my most natural pose in front of the local dance threatre, the Agora. :

agora

Here is the Saint-Clément Aqueduct.  They built it and never used it.  A medieval make-work project.  Now it’s a parking lot and people play pétanque under the arches:

aqueduct

petanque

Christy and I made it to the beach in Grau du Roi after an hour-long mystery bus ride (Do we get off here? Here? Here?).  We aimed for a beach as far outside Montpellier as possible in order to avoid the crowds.  Unfortunately the crowds had the same idea.  Here’s a picture of me and everyone else in the world:

Me and everyone else in the world.

But the sun was warm and my boobs got to see the Mediterranean.

The night life in Montpellier was pretty spectacular: many happy people from all over the world enjoying the cafes and restaurants.  This is where we ate pizza:

Pizza

This is me enjoying a caipirinha (with tequila) in my new frilly yellow dress – Mom, does this frilly yellow dress remind you of something I had as a little girl?  (Yes, another frilly yellow dress):

Frilly yellow dress

Here is Montpellier’s huge annual summer festival, Les Estivales, filled with food, wine, music, performers, and of course, PEOPLE! Bon temps:

Estivales

Huge thanks to Christy for the great company and for inspiring such a cool holiday break.  À la prochaine fois!

Me and Christy


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