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Montpellier in the rain

There was a moment on the train yesterday, when intense, noisy people got off and sleekly well-dressed, snooty people got on; we’d crossed from Spain to France. Okay, shoot me for racial stereotyping, but the difference made me laugh.

We spent part of yesterday celebrating once again the miracle of European train travel – the comfortable, quiet and prompt high-speed trains. I read “The Guardian” most of the way – another treat in Europe, the always-accessible superb British newspapers – a long article about how writers write. We sailed through stunning countryside, dusty forests, old stone villages pressed into the hills, fields of grey vineyards just beginning to stir, and then the Mediterranean and clouds of pink flamingos.
At exactly 1.15 p.m., as scheduled, we pulled into the Montpellier train station. Those of you who’ve followed this blog perhaps remember what happened two years ago, when my train pulled into the Montpellier station, and I got off with my backpack and suitcase and left my handbag behind on the train. Just walking through the building reminds me of the terror of that evening. But this time, Bruth and I did our usual check, one, two, three, we have it all – and there in the station was my beloved Lynn, who’s been a best friend since Carleton University in 1967. This year, she and her French husband Denis will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Imagine.
When I stayed with Lynn here 2 years ago, she had a small apartment above a noisy bar, but now Denis has retired and lives in Montpellier too, so they’ve found a dignified, bright apartment in a very old building a stone’s throw from the station. After exclamations and greetings and lunch – the best bread with ham and a salad and guess what – CHEESE – cheesecheesecheesecheesecheese – that’s all I ever need, with a sip of wine – we went for a stroll around town. The old inner city of Montpellier is usually full of people, but yesterday, the vast Place de la Comedie was overflowing – it was Carnival, which has to do with breaking the fast of Lent, and there were thousands of people, many of them in costume, women on stilts …
We went to the small local museum which turned out – of course – to be housed in a gorgeous little mansion filled with treasure, from rooms full of Greco-Roman antiquities to the jazzy modern 1700’s. And then wandered and wandered, up and down ancient cobbled streets falling into dusk, as the citoyens gathered in cafés to take the aperitif. The inner city has a human dimension – the buildings, even the big churches, are relatively small, and so the people aren’t dwarfed. We all fit.
At home, we talked and talked and talked and dined and talked – Denis has just been through open-heart surgery, Lynn is immersed in French academe and there’s always fierce comparison of customs and countries, so lots to discuss – and finally went to bed. Today our weather luck ended – there’s a dark sky and a cold rain. Lynn went out to get fresh bread and croissants for breakfast; we ate the croissants with jam and the bread with the pot of “Nuts to You”peanut butter that I brought from Canada for Madame; France can provide many things but not excellent peanut butter. We’d planned to go to a nearby village brocante – a flea market – and can’t because it’s raining! Misère! So instead, the plan is to talk and eat and talk and go to the art gallery and eat some more. And perhaps a little bit of talk, and some wine, and some cheese.
What suffering.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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