|A view of Montpellier from its Arc de Triomphe|
It was just this time of year a few years ago that I found myself in Montpellier, France (right on the Mediterranean), where I'd gone to study French for six weeks in a total immersion situation. Though I'd been through by train one July, it was my first visit to that city. A non-English-speaking woman gave me a room in her apartment (she cooked, bless her) ... and I went off by tram to the town center to attend a language school three hours a day, five days a week with two hours of nightly homework.
|Where I got off ... and then got back on the tram each day.|
I'd been studying French at home, my thought being to leave New England winters and settle myself into some south-of-France situation. You know--rent a room for a few weeks, try out the cheeses, the tartines, do some sketching, maybe (I hoped) meet some people to pal around with. And finally learn the language!
I figured: the-South-of-France. Sunshine. More warmth, for sure, than the rest of France. But I found the climate disappointingly froid which translates, Cold! That plus occasional bitter winds and too-frequent gloomy skies made me realize that my previous visits had been summer ones. Well, not to be discouraged, I told myself ... though, in fact, I was a little.
I also figured: language school, fellow students to chat with, go for an apertif after class with, maybe even join on some weekend expedition. It didn't occur to me that being a winter student, I'd also be the only student (except for the Asian wife of a Frenchman who rushed home to relieve her baby sitter each day). Nonetheless, I gamely ate my croque monsieur in a little bistro, checked out the historical sites, museums, shops, then got the tram back to the part of town where I was staying.
|One end of the Place de la Comédie ... with the Opéra Comédie there on the left.|
|A café in the Place de la Comédie ... with outdoor heaters positioned here and there.|
I also found my brain becoming saturated with French. Of course, that was the whole point. But sometimes I found there wasn't any space left for all the French I was getting and it started overflowing and not being absorbed. I needed some English relief now and again. French had become a palimpsest underlying everything in my mind. The monkey-chatter that Zen talks about was now in French. The hot mud fumaroles that burst in my mind--ploop, ploop--were now a French word or sound (like the guttural "r" which was giving me trouble).
So how did it all turn out? I'll talk about that in my next posting and also include some photos of that Languedoc Roussillon region of which Montpellier is the main city. For now, here are shots of Montpellier itself.
|This side of the building is all a cleverly executed trompe l'oeil ...|
|... as is this, including the enormous window. Only the vehicles are real.|
|Montpellier's Arc de Triomphe|
|Along the Esplanade|
|A veggie market at the end of the Esplanade|
|The other end of the Place de la Comédie|
(An aside: the capital of Vermont, Montpelier, is spelled with one "l" but the French city has two.)