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bellyful in Montpellier

Montpellier is my new favourite place ever. Not just because my dear friends live here, but because it’s just a great place – exciting but not overwhelming, beautiful with a fantastic climate, the sea nearby, and wonderful street life and shopping – the same sophisticated shops as in Paris, but without Parisians. Palm trees, a relaxed pace, a lot of cinema, art exhibitions and opera, incredible food, that goes without saying – all easily accessible, a step away. Hmm. My dream, now, is to come regularly to Montpellier. When it’s cold in Canada.

On Tuesday night, we drove out of town to have dinner with Denis’s sister Agnes and her husband Olivier, who came for their first visit to Canada last year, to my sixtieth birthday party. As we drank a bottle of champagne as an aperitif, they told us had a wonderful time in Canada, except that they didn’t like Canadian cheese. We protested that they hadn’t thrown their net wide enough. Oka? Cendrillon and many other Quebec cheeses? Aged white cheddar from southern Ontario? Hello?
Agnes had made a gigot of lamb stuffed with Oriental spices and nuts – delicious. And then, yes, force me, God – cheese. And then chocolate mousse. Are you tired of the menus yet? Intense discussion began when we walked in the door and didn’t stop until we walked out, this being a French household and family. We had a lively discussion about French versus American versus British humour, in life and in film. Il faut dire que French humour lost.
Yesterday, Denis drove off for other parts and Lynn went to work, so I did a bit of shopping. Ah, another of the great treats of this country – frothy, lacy underwear. I bought undoubtedly the nicest bra I have ever owned. As I’ve written here before, French women always wear nice underwear, even if no one sees it. So now I feel even more fancy and frothy and French.
The great treat of the evening was dinner at l’Entrecote, which serves only two things: salad followed by steak frites, for 16 euros. The only variation is if you like your steak nearly raw or slightly cooked, and if you want a second giant helping of the superb, crispy French fries or not. I watched others dining as we dined – at the table next to us, two hairy, disheveled men who looked like poets or painters, polishing off two bottles of rosé; opposite, four young men about my son’s age, 26, all so French, neat, trim and slight, wearing clothes that fitted, and when the wine arrived – this place does not serve fine wine – they poured a glass each, and then each picked up the glass and pushed their noses into it and inhaled. Yes, all those very young men automatically sniffed the wine before tasting, because they are French. And then plunged into their steak frites, as did we. And then we trekked the exhausting three minute walk home.
Today, Madame had some time off so we went to town, shopping, looking, swanning about. I bought a pair of Mephisto sandals which are my new favourite shoes in all the world. I know, tell this woman to shut about about her favourite things in the world, jeez. It’s just so easy to shop here, everything close, cheerful, inviting. Later, after work for us both, we decided to take a fast walk, which ended up being a slow stroll along the vast, open Place de la Comedie. The end of a glorious day, hot sun, hundreds sitting at cafés having an aperitif, hundreds walking around, the long rows of plane trees with their powerful branches uplifted, the spring planting of tulips, hyacinth and narcissus wafting our way – spectacular.
A friend came for dinner tonight and Lynn whipped up a little repast, braised chicken breast in cream with leeks, and Julie brought dessert – dark chocolate, whipped cream, biscuit of some kind, eye rollingly good. My eyes have been rolling in ecstasy a lot recently. And tomorrow, very early, my friend and I are taking the TGV to Paris. Where it just may be that my eyes will continue to roll.



5 Responses to “bellyful in Montpellier”

  1. Unknown says:

    Advice is needed, my friend of fromage — I am preparing a birthday dinner for a friend based (a bit loosely) on a book called "Monet's TAble" in which the soup course is followed by salad and cheese. But I know from you that French ideas about salads are strictly monovegetable (with maybe a crouton or two, and some oil and vinegar) and what, oh what, kind of delightful French cheese will I be able to find on Vancouver Island that will do justice to Monet's memorable meals at Givenchy? (prepared, of course, by a small army of women)

    Cheeseless on Gabriola

  2. beth says:

    Greetings, O Cheeseless! What the French believe in most is fresh and local. My friends almost never buy fruit and vegetables out of season. So what I'd advise, cheesewise, to do honour to Monet, would be to buy the freshest and most local cheese you can. I'm sure there's chevre or cheddar from B.C. that would be perfect. He would appreciate that much more than buying a French cheese that has travelled thousands of miles and won't be fresh.

    And as for salads – it's mostly Denis, a very particular Frenchman, who's so strict about salad. Most French are not. Despite their French name, I have, however, never had croutons in a French salad.

    I hope this helps, Cheeseless. Remind me to show you Madame Blin's extremely easy salad dressing next time we meet.

    bises – which means kisses (on both cheeks) – I'm sure your feast will make a big impression (joke)

  3. Anonymous says:

    How did you like the new trams in Montpellier? They are like the proposed Toronto trams that Mr. Ford doesn't want. Our favourite meal on our last visit in Europe was on a terrace opposite the Montpellier TGV station.

  4. beth says:

    The trams are amazing – gliding through town, noiseless, spacious and beautiful. Perhaps we could sponsor Mr. Ford on a European jaunt. Might change his mind about other things too.

    I can't immediately place your restaurant, but I'm sure it was wonderful!

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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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