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Montpellier

Bliss bliss bliss. She must be in France, folks. And over jet-lag. This time, it was the worst ever – like getting kicked in the head. After a lot of walking and fresh air, I took a sleeping pill at about 9 p.m., woke at 5 a.m. and managed to drift in and out of sleep till 8. Nearly 12 hours sleep, and voila, I’m on French time and as bouncy as can be. Un miracle.

Went out for breakfast, along the freshly washed streets, watching the children being whizzed to school on bicycles and mobylettes, to the Place Medard at the start of the rue Mouffetard for a grand creme and a croissant – they’d just run out of croissants so the waitress ran over to the bakery and came back with a big bag. Ooooh, a big cup of hot strong frothy coffee and a fresh croissant, pulled apart slowly, please God, make this moment last. I watched the women at the next table, both fashionistas, one in fishnet stockings and stilettos, eating their croissants too. Incomprehensible, as you can say in both French and English.

One of the most wonderful things about Paris is … benches. There are benches everywhere, with people sitting on them, taking in the sun or the view or both. I try to imagine benches in, say, New York, and can’t. Why would you sit in the middle of the frantic chaos that is NYC?Whereas here, there’s so much to see, so much of beauty and interest, there’s enjoyment in stopping to look.
Another interesting thing – very stylish men who are not necessarily gay. And well-dressed elders, and elderly men driving motorcycles. A male cyclist this morning in yellow pants and a velvet jacket and – of course – scarf, peddled past with a baguette in the child’s seat at the back. There seem to be more beggars than ever – gypsy women, people sitting everywhere on the sidewalks with their empty cups.
After the heavenly breakfast, I went up the street to my favourite bakery – it’s not even in a building, it’s sheltered but outside, just sublime, and bought a half-baguette, then to the deli to buy a big slice of ham. Voila – lunch for the train. I packed, got the bus to the station, and got the train to Montpellier, no problem, even with my 60 pound suitcase. Ate my sandwich jambon watching France flash by, sand-coloured villages tucked into the landscape with, always, the church and steeple at the highest point, amid green fields dotted with cream-coloured cows. Even the cows – picturesque and colour-coordinated. All they needed to look truly French was scarves.
Arrived in Montpellier, sunny though not hot with its palm trees and Mediterranean air – trundled through the narrow streets to Lynn’s and there was the key under the mat. Home! For now. She came home early from work and I was able to unload her gifts, including a cherry red Gerard Darel jacket – he’s very expensive and exclusive in France though not known in Canada – that fitted her perfectly, from Goodwill, $20. What are the chances that I’d find her favourite brand in her not easy to find size and a perfect colour? And yet there it was. And a pot of her favourite peanut butter, a Tide stick and other North American wonders. Her daughter Sarah, whom I’ll visit in Lyons, asked for strawberry Twizzlers. Missing in France.
Madame and I walked around Montpellier, such a marvellous city, the whole central part une zone pietonne, with only delivery trucks and ambulances allowed; we shopped at the market – I listened to a woman instructing her husband on the kind of carrots to buy – “pas trop grandes!” she ordered, as he picked them out – and stopped at her favourite outdoor cafe, on one of the biggest squares, for an aperitif. My treat – I ordered us une coupe – a glass of Moet et Chandon champagne, to celebrate our latest reunion. Madame and I have been best friends from the moment we met, in Modern French Literature class at Carleton University in September 1967. I was 17 and she was 18. I never let her forget that she is a whole year older. Much, much older. And, as she likes to emphasize, she is a very hot Ph.D.
Who has just opened a bottle of wine and is making supper. As I said, bliss bliss and yet more bliss.

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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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